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An Unnoticed Fragment of the Anglo-Norman Miroirbj Robert Gretham in Marsh's Library, Dublin.

Marsh's Library, Dublin, was founded in the eighteenth century by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713) and currently houses over 25,000 books. (1) Collections in the library include those of Marsh, Elias Bouhereau (1643-1719), and Edward Stillingfleet (1635-1699), all of whom were renowned book collectors in their time. The books in the collections are largely early-modern print publications that cover a wide range of topics, including theology, philosophy, medicine, science, and literature. As one might expect in a library that holds such a large collection of early printed books, one also finds a significant number of medieval manuscript fragments used as book bindings, fly leaves, or limp covers. The majority of the fragments consist of Latin liturgical and theological material, but in their midst I recently discovered a small fragment of parchment containing thirty-three lines of AngloNorman verse. The fragment contains four excerpts from Robert Gretham's Anglo-Norman Miroir, from the sermon to be preached on the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, based on the pericope from Matthew 6:24. (2)

Robert Gretham's Le miroir ou les evangiles des domnees is a collection of sixty homilies that was composed in the mid-thirteenth century. The Miroir offers a complete sermon cycle, written in octosyllabic rhymed couplets, based on the Sunday Gospels according to the Use of Sarum. Gretham wrote the sermons for a patroness, Aline, but references to "seigneurs" and "seigneurs, barons" suggest a wider audience was also intended. (3) The Miroir, which was intended for an aristocratic audience, was translated into Middle English in the late fourteenth century, probably in response to the growing demand for vernacular religious material among the urban bourgeoisie of London. (4) According to Thomas Duncan and Margaret Connolly, the editors of the first of several volumes to contain the entire Middle English Mirror, none of the extant Anglo-Norman Miroir manuscripts "was the English translator's exemplar." (5)

There is no complete edition of the Miroir, although the Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts compiled by Ruth Dean and Maureen Boulton lists a number of partial editions, redactions, and transcriptions. (6) To Dean and Boulton's list, we can now add Duncan and Connolly's transcription of the Anglo-Norman text in their edition of the English Mirror for the Middle English Text series. (7) Duncan and Connolly's Anglo-Norman transcription is based on Nottingham, University Library, Mi Lm4 ([W.sup.2]). The published volume, however, covers only the twelve sermons from Advent to Sexagesima and is not, therefore, a match for the Marsh's fragment, which is from a later Sunday in the liturgical year. The 1967 edition listed by Saverio Panunzio is also unhelpful in providing a means of identifying Marsh's fragment because it is limited to the sermons for the Nativity, Epiphany, Palm Sunday, Passion Sunday, Easter Sunday, and the first, second, and third Sundays after Easter. (8) If it were not for M. H. Aitken's 1922 edition, which contains a selection of sermons and a complete set of the exempla, the Marsh's fragment might have gone unidentified, but as it happens, lines 10 to 33 of Marsh's fragment correspond with sections of the thirteenth exemplum found in that edition. (9)

It is worth noting at this point that the extracts of the Miroir found in the Marsh's fragment are written in two columns on the verso and recto side of a single scrap of parchment and therefore are not continuous. Consequently, the Marsh's fragment offers four discreet blocks of text, each approximately eight lines long, rather than a single block of continuous text. The exempla in Aitken's collection are extracted from longer sermons, as was common practice in the Middle Ages. If the Marsh's fragment were part of a collection of exempla, lines 1 to 9 of the Marsh's fragment should have corresponded with lines from the previous (twelfth) exemplum in her collection. This is not the case; they are part of the sermon text coming shortly before the sermon. (10) We can conclude, therefore, that the Marsh's fragment is from a full sermon, possibly a complete cycle." An examination of a complete cycle in Cambridge, University Library, Gg.I.i, confirmed that all thirty-three lines of the Dublin fragment correspond with sections of the Miroir text found on folio 240r-v of the Cambridge manuscript, thus confirming that the Marsh's fragment is a series of short extracts from the forty-fourth sermon or Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity of Robert Gretham's Miroir.

The Marsh's fragment, though removed from the original binding, looks as if it were used as a strengthener for the end leaves. The original leaf measures 40 mm by 150 mm and has been folded over along the top line of text to act as a hook around the end leaves. (15) The text is written in double columns over 130 mm on the recto side and 120 mm on the verso side of the leaf. The parchment is in relatively good condition, although there are some stains on the verso side of the fragment, possibly because it was the side that was folded outwards. The text is legible, apart from the top lines of the recto side, where the parchment was folded and is now almost cut through. On the left-hand side of the recto side, the margin and beginnings of the words have been cut away, leaving the first column of text incomplete. The remaining three columns--approximately eight lines of text each--are intact. The remaining margins measure 40 mm on the right of the recto side, and 10 mm on the right and 20 mm on the left of the verso side. The parchment has been ruled in double columns, with each horizontal line measuring 5 mm. It is impossible to be certain of the original size of each folio. It is equally impossible to calculate the precise number of lines per folio, given that the extant Miroir manuscripts exhibit uneven line numbers. For example, Nottingham, University Library, Mi LM 3 has 20 to 28 lines per page, with the greatest variation in line numbers occurring in San Marino, CA, Huntington Library, HM 903, with 36 to 43 lines per page. (16) That said, if we calculate the line difference between the end of the first columns and the end of the second columns of text on each side of the Marsh's fragment, we reach an average difference of thirty-five lines per page.

The script is a late-thirteenth-century or early-fourteenth-century rotunda anglicana hand. The beginning letter of each line measures 3 mm to 4 mm, is touched with red ink, and sits towards the left margin, slightly separated from the remainder of the word. (17) The Marsh's fragment is too brief to offer a full description of the script, but some notable features include double compartment "a," often oversized in relation to the rest of the letters. The ascenders of "b," "1," and "h" are distinctly clubbed. Most letters sit on the line, including long "1," "s," "f," and "g." The minims exhibit ligatures rather than clubbing. The "i" has a notable slash above the line (equivalent of modern-day dot). There are two forms of r, regular and 2-shaped; the latter is normally used after "o." Long "s" is generally used in initial position, and 8-shaped "s" is found in medial and finial positions.

Duncan and Connolly list ten manuscripts of the Anglo-Norman Miroir. These are: Nottingham, University Library, Mi LM 3 ([W.sup.1]); Nottingham, University Library, Mi LM 4 ([W.sup.2]); Oxford, Bodleian Library, Holkham Misc. 44 (O); London, British Library, Additional 26773 (L); Cambridge, University Library, Gg.1.1 (U); San Marino, CA, Huntington Library, HM 903 (Hm); Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, na fr. 11198 (F); Columbia, MO, University of Missouri, Ellis Library, Fragmenta Manuscripta 135 (Mo); Cambridge, Trinity College, B.14.39 (T); and York, Minster Library, XVI.K.14 (Y). (18) A brief survey of the physical features (script, written space) of the extant manuscripts suggests that the Marsh's fragment is most likely an eleventh witness to the Miroir cycle. (19)

According to Duncan and Connolly's "Checklist of Sermons and Additional Material" of their edition, [W.sup.1] and O are the only manuscripts to lack the sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity. (20) A brief examination of a sample of script from Wl suggests that the Marsh's fragment is not a missing portion of the [W.sup.1] manuscripts. The minims of [W.sup.1], for example, are more distinctly clubbed; "k" is more compact; the tail of "q" descends from the side of the bowl of the letter, rather than appearing horizontal as it does in Marsh's fragment; the initial letters ofWl also lack the red "touch" found on the initial letters of each line in the Marsh's fragment. Moreover, the written space (168 x 136 mm) as described by Duncan and Connolly suggests that it is slightly larger than that found in the Marsh's fragment. (21)

The script of Bodleian Library, MS Holkham misc. 40 (O) more closely resembles the Marsh's fragment, but there are enough differences to suggest these are distinct witnesses; for example, the "m," "s" and "e" of the initial letters in O have more exaggerated extenders to the left than those found in Marsh's. Again, the description of the written space in Duncan and Connolly's description suggests that O might be larger (220 x 138) than the written space in the Marsh's fragment. The Huntington manuscript is written in a later hand than that of the Marsh's fragment, a bastard anglicana hand, and is not, therefore, a likely match for the Marsh's fragment. (22)

A brief examination of the fragments of the Miroir also suggests that the Marsh's fragment is a distinct fragment. T and Y are collections of sixteen and nine (respectively) exempla extracted from the sermons and are unlikely ever to have contained a full copy of the forty-fourth sermon. (23) The fragment found in F has a rounder script and other features, such as more frequent use of single-compartment "a" and long "s," that suggest it is distinct from the Marsh's fragment. (24) The script of the Missouri fragment (Mo) is also different, appearing more clubbed and compressed than the script of the Marsh's fragment. (25) The Marsh's fragment is most likely, therefore, an eleventh witness to the Miroir sermon cycle.

It is doubtful that such a tiny sample of thirty-three lines could provide any further information to aid the construction of a stemma that already seems elusive. Duncan and Connolly were searching for an exemplar that was closest to the English Mirror and chose [W.sup.1] as the base text for their transcription of the Miroir because it is "not only the best complete manuscript of the Miroir but also, in all probability, the best witness to the translator's copy of the Anglo-Norman text even if its readings by no means always represent those of that version." (26) Aitken could not devise a convincing stemma for the Anglo-Norman tradition, and Duncan and Connolly are dubious about Laird's conclusion, in his study of Hm, that it "was related to W and U rather than to [W.sup.2] and L." (27) A successful stemma, therefore, has yet to be established for the Anglo-Norman Miroir manuscripts, and the Marsh's fragment will hardly provide sufficient evidence to begin to construct one, although it may provide some further clues.

In my comparison of Aitken and the Marsh's fragment, for example, I note that there are some notable points where the Marsh's fragment agrees with U (and occasionally L) instead of [W.sup.2]. In lines 29 to 30 of this transcription (11.15526-15527 of Aitken), the Marsh's fragment has "durement" in the first line, rhyming with "tendrement" in the second line; Aitken (using [W.sup.1] as her base text) has "tendrement" in the first line, rhyming with "amerement" in the second line. The Marsh's fragment on this occasion agrees with L and U. In a second example, however, Marsh's and U disagree; notably, "faite" on line 23 of Marsh's reads "fort" in U. In such a short extract it is difficult to determine the relationship of the fragment to the extant witnesses. It is possible to claim, however, that the Marsh's fragment is another witness to the Anglo-Norman Miroir, representing another point in its textual history. As an eleventh witness, it is further evidence, if it were needed, of the popularity of the text in the Middle Ages.

The Anglo-Norman fragment presented here is but one of the many fragments to be found in the book bindings of Marsh's Library, though it should be noted that not all of the binding fragments are, of course, from medieval manuscripts. In a box containing fragments removed in the early twentieth century by the then-master of the library, Newport Benjamin White, there are 110 fragments. Seventy-seven of those are print fragments, and the remaining thirty-three are from manuscripts, two of which have been dated to the sixteenth century. The fragments range from letters or word fragments to whole pages; they are in Latin, Anglo-Norman, and Middle English and cover a vast array of topics. Some can be linked with the early-modern book in which they were bound; others, including the Anglo-Norman fragment discussed, can no longer be traced to their original place in the library. Work has begun digitally to reproduce the disbound fragments and make them available to interested readers on the library's Web site. There remains, however, a significant number of the fragments still in situ in the covers and bindings of the collection.

University College Dublin


The following is a transcription of the text as it appears in the fragment. Ellipses between square brackets indicate illegible sections in the text. Abbreviations have been expanded and the expansion indicated by underlining. Square brackets indicate a reconstruction based on Dr. Duncan's understanding of Anglo-Norman language and readings in other manuscripts. (29) The numbers on the side refer to line numbers of Marsh's fragment.


(1.) For further reading on the history of Marsh's library, see Muriel McCarthy, Marsh's Library: All Graduates and Gentlemen (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2003). See also the Marsh's Library Web site at

(2.) "Anglo-Norman Miroir,"

(3.) For a discussion on the identity of Gretham and of his patron, Dame Aline, see K. V. Sinclair, "The Anglo-Norman Patrons of Robert the Chaplain and Robert of Greatham," Forum for Modern Language Studies!! (1992): 193-208.

(4.) There are also some indicators that the ME Mirror may have some "tentative links" with monastic production and, more specifically, the Augustinian and/or Praemonstratensian orders. See Thomas Duncan and Margaret Connolly, The Middle English Mirror: Sermons from Advent to Sexagesima, Middle English Text Series 34 (Heidelberg, Germany: Universitatsverlag Winter, 2003), lvii-lviii. I wish to acknowledge here the generous assistance of Margaret Connolly and Thomas Duncan in the preparation of this article.

(5.) Ibid., xxxvii. For a more detailed discussion on the relationship between the Anglo-Norman Miroir and its Middle English translation, see ibid., xxxvi-li.

(6.) See Ruth Dean and Maureen Boulton, Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts, Anglo-Norman Text Society Occasional Publication Series 3 (London: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 1999): 325-326.

(7.) See Duncan and Connolly, Middle English Mirror.

(8.) Robert de Gretham, Le miroir ou Les evangiles des domnees: Edizione di otto domeniche, Studi e testi di lettteratura francese, 2nd ed., ed. Saverio Panunzio (Bari, Italy: Adriatica Editrice, 1974). This edition is considered derivative and inaccurate by a number of reviewers. See, e.g., L. Marshall and W. Rothwell, "The Miroir of Robert of Gretham," Medium Aevum 39 (1970): 313-321.

(9.) M. Y. H. Aitken, Etude sur le "Miroir" ou les "Evangiles des domnee" de Robert Gretham (Paris: Champion, 1922).

(10.) Thomas Duncan informs me that lines 1 to 9 begin eleven lines before the start of the exemplum and are from the sermon text that precedes the exemplum. There are two further lines of the sermon text (not in the Marsh's fragment) before the exemplum begins.

(11.) It is worth pointing out that all thirty-three lines also show some correspondence with the forty-fourth sermon in another Middle English edition, produced by Kathleen Blumreich in 2002. See Kathleen M Blumreich, ed., The Middle English Mirror: An Edition Based on Bodleian Library, MS Holkham misc. 40, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 182, Arizona Studies in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance 9 (Turnhout. Belgium: Brepols, 2002), 375-378. For corresponding line numbers, see the table below.

(12.) Cambridge University Digital Library,

(13.) Aitken, Etude, 166-168.

(14.) Blumreich, Middle English Mirror, 350-378.

(15.) "Book structures were commonly strengthened by incorporating strips of parchment around the endleaves"; David Pearson, "English Centre-Piece Bookbindings 1560-1640," in Eloquent Witnesses: Bookbindings and Their History, ed. Mirjam M. Foot (London and Delaware: Bibliographical Society of London and Oak Knoll Press, 2004), 114.

(16.) The line numbers per page for the remaining manuscripts are: W 20-28; L 29-42; U 37-40; Hm 36-43; F 38-40; Mo 39-41; T32-34 (Duncan and Connolly, Middle English Mirror, xx-xxviii).

(17.) See Figs. 1 and 2 below.

(18.) Here I am following the sigla found in Duncan and Connolly, Middle English Mirror, x; for a list of the same manuscripts, without the sigla, see also Dean and Bolton, Anglo-Norman Literature, 325-326.

(19.) I am grateful to Margaret Connolly, who supplied and checked images from O, and to Jayne Amat, who supplied images from W (1). See also the image database of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts hosted at Berkeley: Digital Scriptorium, http://bancroft.berkeley edu/digitalscriptorium/; see also Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Gallica,

(20.) Duncan and Connolly, Middle English Mirror, 171-172.

(21.) Ibid., xx-xxi.

(22.) See images from Hm and description in the Digital Scriptorium, at

(23.) According to Dean and Boulton, Trinity College, Cambridge MS, B. 14.39 (T) has two exempla not found in Aitken and lacks three found in her edition; Dean and Boulton, Anglo-Norman Literature, 325. They suggest that York, Minster Library, XVI.K.14 (Y) is a fragment of 880 lines, containing the first six exempla and the beginning of the seventh as they appear in T; ibid., 326. See also R Meyers, "Les manuscrits franqais de Cambridge," Romania 32 (1903): 18-120; and Duncan and Connolly, Middle English Mirror, xxviii.

(24.) See images of the fragment and description online at Miroir fragment in Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, na fr. 11198. Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Gallica.

(25.) For a description and images of the Missouri fragment online, see the Miroir fragment in Columbia, MO, University of Missouri, Ellis Library, Fragmenta Manuscripta 135. Berkeley Digital Scriptorium, (;smode=basic;shelfmark=135;docsPerPage=l;startDoc=3;fullview=yes)

(26.) Duncan and Connolly, Middle English Mirror, xxxvii.

(27.) They describe Laird's evidence as "limited and inconsistent"; ibid., xxxvii.

(28.) Maria O'Shea, Librarian, Marsh's Library, in correspondence, July 4, 2015.

(29.) I am grateful to Thomas Duncan for his help with the transcription.

(30.) This line is cut through and is illegible.
Table for Line Correspondences

Cambridge, UL, Gg.I.i (U) (12)   Marsh's    Aitken (13)   Blumreich (14)

fol. 240r,col. 1,ll.21-27        ll.3-9                   ll. 150-153
fol. 240r, col. 2,ll.16-23       ll.10-17   ll. 15455-    ll.166-170
fol. 240v,col. 1.ll.12-19        ll.18-25   ll. 15489-    ll. 179-184
fol. 240v,col. 2,ll. 7-14        ll.26-33   ll. 15523-    ll. 192-193
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Author:Pattwell, Niamh
Publication:The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Jan 1, 2016
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