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An eighteenth-century concordance of 'Piers Plowman.'

As of late, interest has been growing in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century reception of Middle English prose and poetry. While recent articles have focused on the critical, interpretative, and social aspects of eighteenth-century reading patterns, very little work has been conducted on the more specialized forms of scholarship existing at the time.(1) Such specialized forms would include bibliographical and text-based works such as concordances, collations, compilations of sources, indexes, added tables of content, glossaries, etc.

Glasgow University Library MS Hunterian 311 presents one such eighteenth-century bibliographical work, in this case, an incomplete concordance to William Langland's fourteenth-century alliterative poem Piers Plowman.(2) This manuscript is undocumented by DiMarco and has remained unpublished since its creation.(3) Since Hunterian 311 differs substantially from its entry in the Hunterian catalogue. The following is an updated description.(4)

MS 311. Unknown Author, Press Mark U.7.5. Concordance to William Langland's Piers Plowman.


Description: Paper 195 x 160 mm, fos 64, written in ink in single columns of 10-12 lines, each 195 x 45 mm, pricked at intervals of 20 mm, margined with pencil, not ruled, untrimmed, no signatures, catchwords, pagination, or marginalia.

Binding: Original, pasteboards backed with coarse blue paper, repaired with grey paper, rough edges, much-damaged spine, pasteboards attached with four lengths of coarse twine threaded through holes cut in the cover, title (ink): M.S. | P

Collation: [1.sup.2], [2.sup.4]-[16.sup.4], [17.sup.2]. [16.sup.3-4] have been prepared but are blank. 1 is on a watermarkless 7-chain paper; 2-16 are written on two types of 7-chain paper, one bearing the Hanover arms, and one bearing a small rose motif; 16 is on a 7-chain paper watermarked with a rough fleurde-lis.

Contents: Unknown author's concordance to Piers Plowman:

Begins (fo. [3.sup.r], lines 1-4): A.b.c. 7:148. | Abate, 6:219. | Abeane, 11:163. | Abellow, 11:348.

Ends (fo. [62.sup.v], lines 9-10): Yoten, 1:152. | Ysamen, 5:171.

Remarks: On fo. [1.sup.r] in the manuscript hand: a concordance to The Vision of Piers Plowman. | The number before a colon ((:)) refers to the passus; the others refer to the lines, while pr. stands for the prologue. On both boards are pasted slips of white paper on which are written in gothic letters: Piers Plowm.

The two following MSS (312, 313) are bound in the same way and have similar titles on their boards; MS 312 is a concordance of the works of Chaucer, and MS 313 is a concordance to the Chronicle of Pierre de Langtoft.

Although Hunterian 311 is undated, it is possible to suggest a mid-eighteenth-century origin. Of the manuscript's four types of paper, one bears a watermark of the coat of arms used by Kings George I-III from the year 1714 to 1801.(5) This watermark closely resembles one used by Clement Taylor and son from 1781-91.(6) Since the manuscript was part of Dr William Hunter's collection, and as such became part of the University of Glasgow's permanent collection in 1783, it is safe to date the concordance to between 1714 and 1783.

Cursory examination of the concordance's word list and line numbering for the Prologue shows that its source was certainly a B-text,(7) and, while some readings appear which are shared by the second and third impressions of Crowley's 1550 editions of Piers (hereafter [Cr.sup.2,3]),(8) content unique to [Cr.sup.3] seems to indicate that the concordance's base text was probably Crowley's third impression.(9)

The author has normalized the text. Any variants from [Cr.sup.3] can be explained by the author's lack of familiarity with Crowley's standard text font. Typically, the author had trouble with many of Crowley's ligatures, and, for example, occasionally mistook 'ct' for 'n'. The author has normalized some spellings (e.g. 'i' or 'e' have been sporadically substituted for 'y', thorn and yogh have been haphazardly converted to their equivalents, some doubled consonants have been omitted, and most verbs have been changed to past perfect form), but, for the most part, the spelling is Crowley's.

In general, concordance entries take the form:

cote/tugurium.cotes pl. 8:16


Eyght/oculus. 13:348

where the word is not immediately familiar to the author, and:

fel, 1:15.3:354.5:172.9:77.11:336

where the word listed was readily understood.

The concordance contains listings for well over 2000 words, the majority of which being nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs. The author seemed to have little or no interest in providing listings for pronouns, conjunctions, and other parts of speech. 10

Although Hunterian 311 is not an overly ambitious manuscript, it does provide yet more raw data on the reception of Piers Plowman, and shows that eighteenth-century readers had bibliographical and linguistic interest in medieval printed texts.

C. J. GRINLEY The University of Glasgow

1 For two articles on related topics, see Vincent DiMarco, 'Godwin on Langland', YLS, vi (1992), 123-36, and A. S. G. Edwards, 'Piers Plowman in the Seventeenth Century: Gerard Langbaine's Notes', YLS, vi (1992), 141-4.

2 Extracts from Hunterian 311 are published with the permission of the Librarian of Glasgow University Library.

3 Vincent DiMarco, Piers Plowman: A Reference Guide (Boston, 1982).

4 John Young and P. Henderson Aitken, A Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library of the Hunterian Museum in the University of Glasgow (Glasgow, 1908), 249-50.

5 Cyril Davenport, English Heraldic Book-Stamps (London, 1909), 171-8.

6 Alfred H. Shorter, Monumenta Chartae Papyraceae Historiam Illustrantia, vol. vi, Paper Mills and Paper Makers in England 1495-1800, (Hilversum, 1957), 359.

7 For identification purposes I have used: Piers Plowman: The B Version, ed. George Kane and E. Talbot Donaldson, (London, 1975); Piers Plowman, ed. Derek Pearsall, (Berkeley, 1982), and The Vision of Piers Plowman, ed. Robert Crowley, (1st edn, London, 1550). I have normalized the concordance's line numbering to agree with Kane and Donaldson.

8 For example: lines similar to A:Pr:90-5 inserted after Pr:216; the omission of Pr:187; variants, kitling for kitoun Pr: 194, reuke for renk Pr:197, bight for beighe Pr: 165, 176, wrath for wratheth Pr: 174, cought for laughte Pr: 150, leue for lene Pr: 126, couetous for coueitise Pr: 61.

9 Pr: 126 lenly for leaute; I: line 17 omitted; II.40 maughed for mansed; III.48 witdow for wyndow; V: 181 knoth for coughe.

10 The concordance's word list for the Prologue of Piers Plowman is as follows (line numbers are from Kane and Donaldson):


absoyle 70 asketh 19, 120 bakester 224 beknowen 204 bidder 40 bighes 161 bight 165, 176 blered 74 bouched 74 breuet 74 broches 75 bugge 168 bymenen 208 carpen 203 casten 117 catell 204 chaffer 31 clenge 189 clergialy 124 coler 203 costed 203 couetons 61 cought 150 demen 96 destroy 197 fayry 6 ferly 6, 65 greuen 153 gris 232 halse 170 hangan 170 beauenrich 26 hight 102 boued 210 howne 210 iangle 130 iangeler 35 iaper 35 kingriche 125 kitling 189 lake 172 laten 129 leauti 122 lede 126 lenty 126 leue 34. 126, 163 leued 72 lewde 129 libbing 228 liquerous 30 lop 220 lopen 220, 228 losel 77 lowde 129 lyg 49 lykam 30 lyken 163 maze 196 metels 208 meten 11 mumme 215 ouerleapt 150 pardoner 68 pleiden 20 pleinen 83 pleten 212 plight 46 preuen 38 quod 167 ragman 75 rattons 146 raughte 75 rebaudry 44 renable 158 renne 235 reuke 192 rit 171 rost 235 route 146 segges 160 selde 20 shope 2, 58, 122 shrewe 196 sithen 84 sithes 236 strayeuss 94 suen 45 sweuen 11 vncoupred 162 wit 16,207 wrath 174 yede 40
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Author:Grindley, C.J.
Publication:Notes and Queries
Date:Jun 1, 1995
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