Title Background

The ‘Z Version’ of <i>Piers Plowman</i>.

The ‘Z Version’ of Piers Plowman.

Rigg and Brewer have failed to establish that the passages unique to Ms. Bodley 851 reflect a separate “Z-version” of PPl written by WL prior to the A version. The important argument for John Wells’s ownership of Bodley 851’s PPl text prior to 1388 also lacks adequate support. The hand of the PPl text in Bodley 851 may well be a fifteenth-century hand. The text of A represented in most parts of passus 1-8 of Bodley 851 is one shared with mss. M, E, A and H³ and is at least several steps removed from archetypal A. A major reason for the “Langlandian” quality of some of the 200 unique lines is that more than half of them contain authentic phrases or echoes from the three authorial versions of PPl. This unique material is frequently untranslatable on account of grammatical deficiencies. In addition, these lines often “lack the intellectual force which Langland’s PPl never fails to communicate. Their ‘doctrine’ is puerile, not that of a man whose mind penetrated to the essential irrationalities of his religion.” The unique material in Bodley 851 shows the activity of a mediocre imitator, someone with a retentive memory and verbal fluidity for short patches, but a person of inferior education and qualities of mind.