Title Background

<i>Scribal Correction and Literary Craft: English Manuscripts 1375-1510</i>

Scribal Correction and Literary Craft: English Manuscripts 1375-1510

This book is a study of habits of correcting in late Middle English manuscripts. It counts the more commonplace trends in correcting, by examining a sample comprising all the Middle English codices in the Huntington Library, and it offers close readings of various case-studies, to illustrate that practice and to suggest some exceptions to it. Three manuscripts of PPl appear in the broad sample (one of them studied more thoroughly in this regard in previous articles in YLS), and the book also comments on a few manuscripts of PPl further, albeit briefly: it notes the high degree of accuracy in the copying of MSS BmBoCot; it notes in passing the well-known marginalia in HEHL, MS HM 143. Otherwise, the book offers more general arguments which might be tested against the textual tradition of PPl: that scribes were more interested in obtaining a correct text than is suggested by longstanding editorial reproofs or by the recently scholarly emphasis on variance; that scribes were, while wildly erroneous, aware of error in copying and intermittently effortful in trying to correct it – more careful craftsmen than they are sometimes given credit for; that, in the kinds of errors which scribes do and do not bother to correct, we get some sense of scribes’ taste and concerns in English language and literature. Though the book sometimes comes to different conclusions about scribes than those of the great editor of PPl, George Kane, the book is heavily indebted to his insights about scribal practice. (He is the modern scholar whose work is most often discussed in this book.)