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7 - Sir Tristrem, a Few Fragments, and the Northern Identity 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

THERE is little mystery about the history and ownership of Edinburgh, NLS, MS Advocates 19. 2. 1, commonly known as the Auchinleck manuscript, from the early eighteenth century onwards – that is, from around 1740, the year in which Alexander Boswell, Lord Auchinleck, wrote his name on a paper flyleaf of the book. That, however, leaves us with a period of approximately four hundred years during which the book apparently lay in a kind of limbo from the 1330s, when it was copied and put together in London, until it fell into Boswell's hands. In general, the assumption has been that the Auchinleck manuscript's original ownership was as London-based as its production. Laura Hibbard Loomis's argument for Chaucer's familiarity with some of the romances found in the book depends on that premise. Ralph Hanna's discussion of the Northern affinities of some of its texts in London Literature, 13001380 likewise assumes that, although the manuscript's first owner had close ties to the North, he was living in London at the time he commissioned the manuscript, and that he stayed there after he took delivery of it. In this chapter I take the question of those Northern affinities considerably further than Hanna allows. I argue not only that the book's first owner had ties to northern England, but that, in terms of its owner and its earliest readers, the Auchinleck manuscript is a Northern book, copied and compiled in London for a regional client who brought the manuscript home with him on its completion.

Location and identity

Even those scholars who take the presence of Northern texts in the manuscript as evidence that the book's patron came from the north of England assume that he had by then settled in London. That assumption has the advantage that it restricts the grounds for determination of the book's identity to the hard evidence provided by the manuscript itself. It is, after all, hard to quarrel with such facts as the dialect of the book's texts; its affinities of layout and copying style with other large books produced in London in the same period; and the resemblances between Auchinleck's miniatures and the illuminations produced by the London-affiliated artists of the Queen Mary Psalter.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2016

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