Title Background

The Prophecies of <i>Piers Plowman</i> in Cambridge University Library MS Gg.4.31.

The Prophecies of Piers Plowman in Cambridge University Library MS Gg.4.31.

“The bibliographical codes” in MS. Gg.4.31 (MS. G) are unique, significant, and more than eccentric: they “construct a reading of the text that is often different from . . . L’s intention.” The apparatus provides a picture of the scribe/planner of MS. G as an early sixteenth-century reader working between manuscript and print and who, because he was “largely satisfied” with his exemplar of the B version of PPl, chose “to exercise his editorial vigor on the periphery of the text” to produce a “performance of the poem,” a performance dissonant with L’s intentions as manifest in the C revisions of B. The apparatus, which seems to straddle both “traditional manuscript practices and the innovation of print,” comprises not only marginalia but also a four-leaf index co-ordinated with these and the litterae notabiliores that mark the beginning of each section described discursively in the index. Likewise, the interpretation of PPl evident in this compilatio is also “situated near a crux in the history of ideas in England.” The planner attempted to construct an allegorically stable reading of the text as is evidenced by the critical notes, particularly on the later parts of the poem. “The fundamental appeal . . . was its predictive value”; yet, while the planner brought “the strategies of the Christian humanist” to bear upon his reading of PPl, he was not “so radical a reformer as to question the ultimate authority of the Church.” G reveals the “material and intellectual influences” upon the planner’s reading and the MS. were designed to make frequent coherent perusal possible.


Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study ofManuscripts and Printing History 5 (2002): 15–36.


Davis, Bryan P.