Updating Piers Plowman Passus 3: An Editorial Agenda in Huntington Library MS Hm 114.
The copy of PPl in MS HM 114 (Ht) has been the subject of intermittent interest because of its eccentric textual qualities: mainly its conflation of the different versions of the poem and its pervasive linguistic interventions. Here passus 3 is given the close scrutiny that discussion of Ht has hitherto lacked. This is the earliest passus of the poem where the full character of the scribe/editor’s interventions becomes evident. Study reveals a developing coherence in his editorial approach to the poem. A nucleus of special interests, emphases and evasions emerges. Ht creates a synthesis of the known versions of the poem, working his way as an early ‘parallel reader’ through a series of textual paradigms. There is an ‘antiquarian’ aspect to his task, as well, perhaps, as a sense of producing a definitive and linguistically accessible text for a new readership with new interests. These interests can be characterized by a particular focus on matters of law, governance and commerce. The text appears to be the result of a sophisticated and exacting commission, although as a book MS HM 114 is a humble product. The study sheds some further light on the poem’s shadowy reception in the fifteenth century.