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Scholar, teacher, collector and bibliophile, Toshiyuki Takamiya has been a central figure in the study of medieval English literary texts for almost four decades, not only in his native Japan but also among Western literary scholars worldwide. This exciting collection of essays, centred on late medieval English manuscripts and their texts, honours the contributions he has made in this field. It includes essays by internationally known scholars, offering new insights into the works of canonical literary writers such as Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, William Langland, Walter Hilton and Nicholas Love, as well as lesser-known or anonymous texts and manuscripts. Some articles offer new readings of texts, or new evidence in response to important questions about the authorship, transmission or use of medieval English texts. Others offer new insights into medieval books, their producers, readers, and collectors. This collection of ground-breaking essays is thus a fitting tribute to one the foremost scholars of the history of the book, Professor Toshiyuki Takamiya, whom it honours.
As both scholar and collector, Professor Takamiya's life and career have been devoted to the study of medieval manuscripts and their texts. In another volume dedicated to him, The Medieval Book and a Modern Collector: Essays in Honour of Toshiyuki Takamiya, its editors Takami Matsuda, Richard Linenthal and John Scahill in their Editors’ Preface (pp. xiii–xvi) summarized Takamiya’s illustrious career, from boyhood schooling through professorship at Keio University, Japan’s oldest and most revered university: two being his colleagues at Keio, and the third his book-collecting advisor and agent, they knew more of the facts about his life and career than I. What I would add, that also comes out in individual tributes in both that volume and this, is the gratitude of many scholars for the warmth and generosity of Takamiya’s personality that have led us to wish to pay further tribute to him. No other modern collector or owner of medieval manuscripts has befriended the scholars working in the field as Takamiya has done, none is so well known as a frequent presence at international gatherings of scholars, none has so willingly enabled scholars to conduct studies of the books in his collection as he has done.
This chapter will focus on production of vernacular literary manuscripts in the London area during the period after 1350 and to the early sixteenth century. Throughout this period, London seems to have been both origin and centre of secular vernacular literary book production, and many of the scribes we find copying the works of the poets William Langland, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, Thomas Hoccleve, John Lydgate and others appear to have been doing so within the city or in its immediate environs. This is not to say that they were all commercial producers of books: in fact there is only very limited evidence for commercial literary manuscript production before the third quarter of the fifteenth century, near the end of the period under question. One must be careful to draw distinctions between scribes copying vernacular literary texts (who seem to have done so in addition to other jobs involving writing), those copying other kinds of texts, principally in Latin, for high demand, such as school books, works studied at universities, bibles and liturgical manuscripts (who might make up the members of the Mistery or Guild of Textwriters) and those importing books from the continent or re-selling books produced in England. Those producing copies of literary texts in London in the late fourteenth and first half of the fifteenth centuries were professional writers, in the Middle English sense of ‘scribes’, but they do not appear to have made their living principally by copying vernacular literary texts.