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2 - Codicology and Translation in the Early Sections of the Auchinleck Manuscript

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 May 2021

Susanna Fein
Affiliation:
Professor of English, Kent State University.
A. S. G. Edwards
Affiliation:
Professor of Medieval Manuscripts, School of English, University of Kent
Helen Phillips
Affiliation:
Professor of English, Cardiff University
Derek Pearsall
Affiliation:
Professor Emeritus of English, Harvard University, Honorary Member, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York
Cathy Hume
Affiliation:
Visiting Scholar at Northwestern University, Illinois.
Ralph Hanna
Affiliation:
Emeritus Professor of Palaeography, University of Oxford
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Summary

THE early sections of the Auchinleck manuscript – that is, roughly the first hundred or so leaves – differ markedly in content from the later, predominantly romance sections that have been the chief focus of the attention the manuscript has received from literary critics.

These early sections comprise poems on religious subjects that are assembled in several distinct booklets, differentiated to varying extents by scribal stints and quire boundaries from each other and from the later booklet divisions in the manuscript. The organization of these booklets, their contents, and what they may signify about the overall conception of the manuscript are questions that invite greater consideration than they have received. As I will suggest, the details of physical construction and content in these sections indicate that the achievement of the Auchinleck manuscript is more wide-ranging than scholarly discussion has generally indicated.

The opening six quires of Auchinleck (fols. 1r–38v) form the surviving part of the first of these booklets. Preceding sections of an indeterminable length are now lost, as are also ten leaves from different points in the surviving sequence of these quires. This booklet includes nine texts, all relatively brief: even allowing for lost leaves, no single work seems likely to have exceeded about twelve hundred lines in length. These works are: item 1, The Legend of Pope Gregory (beginning imperfectly, fols. 1r–6v; NIMEV 209); item 2, The King of Tars (fols. 7ra–13vb; NIMEV 1108); item 3, The Life of Adam and Eve (beginning imperfectly, fols. 14ra–16rb; NIMEV 1873.5); item 4, Seynt Mergrete (fols. 16rb–21ra; NIMEV 203); item 5, Seynt Katerine (21ra–24vb; NIMEV 1159); item 6, St Patrick's Purgatory (beginning imperfectly, fols. 25ra–31vb; NIMEV 303.6); item 7, The Desputisoun bitven þe Bodi and þe Soule (fols. 31vb–35ra; NIMEV 351); item 8, The Harrowing of Hell (fols. 35vb–37ra; NIMEV 185); and item 9, The Clerk Who Would See the Virgin (beginning imperfectly, fols. 37rb (?)–38vb; NIMEV 282.5). These works are all copied by Scribe 1, who is the principal scribe of the manuscript.

These poems are all religious narratives, possibly, but not certainly, linked in some instances by common authorship.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2016

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