The R/F MSS of Piers Plowman and the Pattern of Alpha/Beta Complementary Omissions: Implications for Critical Editing.
MSS. Oxford Rawlinson Poetry 38 (R) and MS. Oxford Corpus Christi 201 (F) (the alpha pair) share numerous, sizeable, and unique variations of the degree not seen in any other pair of manuscripts of the B version. However, neither MS. can be said to have been copied from the other. Several scholars (Skeat, Blackman, Taylor, etc.) have shown the importance of this pair for a critical edition of B. The notable lacunae in both copies make it difficult, however, for either to be used. Additionally, the presence of some 170 lines in R/F not found in the beta tradition of B has led to the hypothesis that the R/F shared text may represent a discrete version between A and B or between B and C. The relationship between alpha and beta would also need to be determined before editing B, as R/F might represent a “slightly different authorial text ‘state’ of B,” as opposed to a different version. Simple mechanical error, as posited by K-D, does not explain satisfactorily the omissions in alpha and beta. A “coherent but flexible theory” regarding the use of R/F is required before beginning to edit PPl B. A satisfactory hypothesis is that the second half of the B archetype (Bx) was “extensively emended and corrected from an authorially revised scribal copy.” Pace Hanna, the complementary omissions in alpha and beta are not a result of temporal sequence, but would mainly seem to reflect “the relative luck of the alpha and beta scribes in locating L’s marginalia and addenda slips” and incorporating them correctly from such “foul papers.” Thus R/F will need to be considered, as with K-D but for different reasons, as an independent and important branch from Bx and “weighed equally” with the beta witnesses. Appendix I summarizes the causes for beta omissions of R/F readings and R/F omissions of beta readings. Appendix II lists variations between R and F. Appendix III lists agreements of beta and Cx against alpha (pass?s 10–20) and agreements of alpha and Cx against beta (pass?s 10–20).