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An early paper copy of John Hardyng's 'Chronicle.' (15th century English author)

Seven articles on Hardyng's Chronicle have appeared since 1980, which in relative terms, describes a positive renaissance in the field.(1) Unfortunately, this new level of interest has not been accompanied by an edition of the second version of Chronicle, a work which survives in eleven manuscripts, one early printed text and a few fragments and extracts.(2)

In 1987, A. S. G. Edwards suggested that the second version of Hardyng's Chronicle does not exist in anything like a 'stable form',(3) and hinted that it might not be 'in any final sense editable'.(4) Edwards reached this conclusion after discovering that the eleven manuscripts he examined disagreed vigorously with one another and were usually deficient at certain moments of what could be called textual stress at the third b rhyme of the rime royale stanza, for example? Citing the biography of Hardyng and the 1819 compiler of the Lansdowne catalogues, Edwards argued that 'there is no clear evidence that Hardyng did complete his text'.(6)

If this is indeed the case, then the various manuscripts of the second version of the Hardyng's Chronicle could represent snapshots of a work in progress.(7) Therefore, with all of the manuscripts showing signs of scribal improvement and with no one manuscript favoured above others, any editor of Hardyng will have to pay close attention to the codicology of each manuscript.

When Edwards examined the manuscripts of Hardyng's Chronicle, he did so in microfilm.s He classified them in terms of a 'hierarchy' of quality and placed those produced on membrane and with accompanying illuminations above those 'lacking significant decoration or evidence of the same sort of careful attention to layout'.(9) Unfortunately, a manuscript's physical quality has little to do with the desirability of its text. As is seen in the work of famous scribe D, highly professional scribes tampered with their texts in highly unprofessional ways,(10) and as was the case when W. W. Skeat chose a beautiful but inferior copy of Piers Plowman as the base text for his edition of the C-version,(11) it may be acknowledged that a manuscript's polished deportment often conceals hidden faults.

With an unfinished work like Hardyng's, perhaps the safest base text would be one which is as early as possible and so perhaps less subject to scribal interference. Obviously, therefore, dating and locating the manuscripts becomes a critical exercise.

One of the copies of Hardyng's second version of his Chronicle is the University of Glasgow's Hunterian library's manuscript MS 400 (V.2.20).(12) It is one of the paper manuscripts which Edwards relegated to the second level of his hierarchy, but its 'less elaborate'(13) composition provides important information regarding its early history.

The Hunterian catalogue, from which Edwards took his data, gives a general fifteenth-century origin for MS 400 and aside from noting some sixteenth-century provenance, makes no claims for the manuscript's earliest history. Unfortunately, the Young and Aitken catalogue predates most modern studies of fifteenth-century paleography, watermarks, and Late Middle English dialectology.(14) All three of these areas provide data from which MS 400 may be assessed.

First, it is clear that MS 400's scribes paid great attention to their manuscript's physical attributes. It was written on excellent quality paper, in a professional bastard secretary hand, and is quite typical of a high-grade mid-fifteenth century product. MS 400 was elaborately rubricated and annotated, with at least 383 marginal notes which provide a variety of reading aids, summaries, and comment. MS 400 was extensively corrected and was provided with ample margins. Due care was provided for its physical safety, with half a quire's worth of blank paper folios at the front and back of the manuscript: all flyleaves were contemporary to the manuscript's original construction.

Secondly, as far as a date for MS 400 is concerned, it was written on three types of Italian paper, all of which date from the 1450s to 1470s. The first few folios have watermarks comprising two crossed swords (Briquet 5159, Florence 1459), the majority of the rest of the manuscript have watermarks of two crossed arrows (Briquet 6270, Venice 1457), and the last few folios have watermarks of a crescent (Briquet 5206, Milan 1475). Since it is known that Hardyng began the second version in 1457, it is possible that MS 400 was made during the final years of his life.

Thirdly, as far as dialect is concerned, the manuscript's dialects are relatively easy to locate. A complete analysis of the marginalia and a partial analysis of the main text, suggests that MS 400's exemplar probably showed a strong Northern dialect, while MS 400's main scribe was probably from the NE Midlands. According to the Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English, some of the Northern features relict in MS 400 include the following forms: 7:THEY <thaie>, 8:THEM <thaim>, 9:THEIR <thaire>, 51:THERE <thore>, 240:TWELVE <twelf> and so on.(15) Forms found in the marginalia which were common in the NE Midlands include 2:THESE <thies>, 7:THEY <thai>, 8:THEM <theim>, 9:THEIR <thair>, 54:THROUGH <thorogh>, 82:BETWEEN <bi-twene>, 255:WHOSE <whoos> and so on.(16) Certainly, such strong signs of Northern dialect point toward Hardyng, whose upbringing and abode would have implied such usage.

Perhaps one day MS 400 will provide the text for an edition of the second version of Hardyng's Chronicle. Given the current understanding of the rest of the manuscripts, it seems as good a candidate as any. At the present time, however, all such speculation is in vain: not enough is known about all eleven copies; more research needs to be conducted on Hardyng and his Chronicle.(17) The finished product might be of limited poetic value, granted, but it would be of some interest to medievalists, social historians, and Elizabethan literary and textual critics.

CARL JAMES GRIDLEY University of Glasglow

1 See: Gilian West, 'Hardyng's Chronicle and Shake-spear's Hotspur', Shakespeare Quarterly, xli (1990), 348-51; A. S. G. Edwards, 'The Manuscripts and Texts of the Second Version of John Hardyng's Chronicle', in England in the Fifteenth Century, ed. D. Williams (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987), 75-84; Edward Donald Kennedy, 'John Hardyng and the Holy Grail', in Arthurian Literature VIII, ed. Richard Barber (Woodbridge: Brewer, 1989), 185-206; A. S. G. Edwards, 'Troilus & Criseyde and the First Version of Hardyng's Chronicle', N&Q, ccxxxiii (1988), 12-13; Sue Ellen Holbrook, 'Malory's Identification of Camelot as Winchester', in Studies in Malory, ed. James W. Spisak (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1985), 13-27; A. S. G. Edwards, 'Hardyng's Chronicle and Troilus and Criseyde', N&Q, ccxxix (1984), 156-8; and J. Sturrock, 'John Harding and Geoffrey of Monmouth: Two Unrecorded Poems and a Manuscript', N&Q, ccxxv (1980), 202-5.

2 Edwards, The Manuscripts, 84.

3 Edwards, The Manuscripts, 83.

4 Edwards, The Manuscripts, 84.

5 Edwards, The Manuscripts, 83.

6 Edwards, The Manuscripts, 83-4.

7 This metaphor has been used by E.T. Donaldson to describe the recensions of Piers Plowman.

8 Edwards probably did not intend for his brief article to represent a comprehensive guide to the manuscripts of Hardyng. If Edwards had been working from manuscripts and not from microfilms, the discoveries made here would have been made by him.

9 Edwards, The Manuscripts, 77.

10 Unpublished work by Kathryn Kerby-Fulton and Steve Justice on scribe D's copying of Piers Plowman C-text London V.88 (Ilchester).

11 Skeat's base text, Huntington Library Manuscript HM 137 is a particularly beautiful copy of the C-recension of Piers Plowman, but has been subject to much scribal interference. Relatively unassuming manuscripts such as Huntington Library Manuscript HM 143 and British Library Manuscript Additional 35157 present much better copies of the text.

12 John Young and P. Henderson Aitken, A Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library of the Hunterian Museum in the University of Glasgow, 2 vols (Glasgow, 1908), I, 319-20. 13 Edwards, The Manuscripts, 77.

14 Of particular use to the bibliographer are: M. B. Parkes, English Cursive Book Hands: 1250-1500 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969); Hilary Jenkinson, The Later Court Hands in England from the Fifteenth to the Seventeenth Century, 2 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1927); C. M. Briquet, Les Filigranes Dictionnaire Historique des Marques du Papier, 2nd edn, 4 vols (Leipzig: [n.pub.], 1923); and A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English, ed. by Angus Mcintosh, M. L. Samuels, and Michael Benskin, 4 vols (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1986).

15 A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English, IV. The complete dialect survey analysed some 300 spellings for over 200 isoglosses.

16 A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English, IV. The complete dialect survey analysed some 150 spellings for nearly 100 isoglosses.

17 Edwards remarked in 1987 that James Simpson of Westfield College, University of London was working on an edition of the first version of Hardyng's Chronicle. Edwards, The Manuscripts, 76.
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Author:Grindley, Carl James
Publication:Notes and Queries
Date:Mar 1, 1997
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