What do the Numbers Mean? A Textual Critic’s Observations on some Patterns of Middle English Manuscript Transmission
Analyses the surviving manuscripts of eight major Middle English works, including PPl, for what they can tell us about the extent of early transmission. In general, ‘the numbers of surviving manuscripts do correlate approximately with the number of manuscripts originally copied’ (p. 212). The discussion of PPl (pp. 221–28) suggests that the production of manuscripts of the three versions follows a pattern of rising, then falling demand. The A and B versions, whose manuscripts are relatively late, ‘did not circulate widely before scribes became aware that there was more of the poem to be had elsewhere, and supplemented their copies accordingly’ (p. 225). Discusses the pertinence of dialectal and codicological evidence to this line of enquiry.