Title Background

Studies in the Manuscripts of <i>Piers Plowman</i>.

Studies in the Manuscripts of Piers Plowman.

Part One of this essay offers a detailed description of MS. H (C text), a bifolium corresponding to C.1.200-2.21, 1.22-44, 3.123-48, and 3.149-74. The pages have 26 or 27 lines each; the fragment most nearly resembles in size MS. X, Huntington Library HM 143. The hand is a large Anglicana formata of c. 1400, similar to that of the Ellesmere and Hengwryt MSS. The dialect shows three specifically southwest Worcestershire features described by M. M. Samuels as typifying WL’s dialect: “she” as heo, a; “yet” as @ut; OE y as u(y). MS. H is a member of the i group of C MSS. Part Two of the essay offers a critique of Rigg-Brewer’s claims regarding MS. Bodley 851, which is here argued to have been compiled in the Benedictine abbey of Ramsey (not Oxford) as a community product. Probably only the original core of this MS. (some Anglo-Latin texts) belonged to John of Wells, who is identified as the book’s owner. Later, c. 1400, a booklet containing a copy of PPl derived from an East Midland A-text archetype (and spot-conflated against B and sometimes C) was added. The MS. history of the A text, showing only three MSS. (including Bodley 851) earlier than 1425, suggests that A circulated as the latest version, and that its text was constantly subject to accretions from B and C. The A text never achieved concentrated circulation because “it could always be perceived as a text incomplete and superseded.”