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2 - Anglo-Norman Religious Instruction in MS Digby 86: Echoes of Lateran IV

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2019

Maureen Boulton
Affiliation:
University of Notre Dame
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Summary

THE volume preserved in Oxford, Bodleian Library, as MS Digby 86 contains an extremely important collection of insular texts in all three of the languages of medieval England. The contents of the codex are highly varied, including Latin psalms, prayers (in French and Latin), a French medical text, English lyrics, as well as (in both French and English) religious and secular instruction, religious and secular narrative, proverbs, fabliaux, charms and medical recipes. Most of the book, which has been dated to the last quarter of the thirteenth century, was copied by a scribe (Scribe A, the ‘Digby scribe’) who incorporated two quires (fols. 81r–96v) written by a second scribe (Scribe B). On the basis of obits added on fol. 71v and shields entered in the lower margin of fol. 68r, the volume is associated with Worcestershire. Because this trilingual anthology was largely copied by a single scribe, who also made additions after the main texts were completed, it is assumed that the Digby scribe made it for his own use, and scholars have speculated about the scribe-owner and the use of the book, mainly on the basis of the contents. It has been described as a personal book copied by a lawyer or a chaplain or, alternatively, as a commonplace book for family use.

Scholars have wrestled with the volume's diversity of content, language and genre. Marilyn Corrie has argued convincingly that the Digby scribe organised his material by form (prose, short verse or long verse), reflected in the layout in long lines (fols. 1r–74v), double columns (74v–168v) or single columns (fols. 169r–201v). French items, of both Anglo-Norman and Continental origin, constitute nearly half of the codex. Religious texts in French occur in all three sections. The first eight leaves of the books contain a group of prose treatises on sin, the sacraments and confession; two poems in octosyllabic couplets – Raoul de Houdenc's Songe d'Enfer (art. 28; fols. 97vb–102rb) and an extract from Robert Grosseteste's Chasteau d'amour (art. 39; fols. 116vb–118vb) – are included in the second (bicolumnar) section, while the third (single-column) section contains Herman de Valenciennes's Assumption de Nostre Dame (art. 61; fols. 169r–177v) and an extract from Guischart de Beauliu's Romaunz de temtacioun de secle (art. 63; fols. 182v–186v), both written in the alexandrine laisses characteristic of the chanson de geste.

Type
Chapter
Information
Interpreting MS Digby 86
A Trilingual Book from Thirteenth-Century Worcestershire
, pp. 25 - 41
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2019

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