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Another new fragment of Speculum vitae.

In the Beinecke Library, the printed book with the shelfmark 2008 2479 is a copy of the De regulis iuris of Dinus de Mugello (b. 1254) printed at Lyons in 1562. Two strips of vellum cut to about 25x165mm were used as endpaper guards in this copy. The front endpaper guard contains fragments of a Vulgate Bible in a fifteenth-century Gothic book hand. The back endpaper guard contains fragments of a hitherto unrecorded copy of the fourteenth-century Middle English poem Speculum vitae. The text is copied in a workmanlike late fifteenth-century anglicana script, in prose format rather than in verse lineation. A somewhat inelegant two-line blue initial p with red flourishing appears at the beginning of the fragmentary text. The first line of each couplet is closed with a red virgule, and, after the opening initial, each couplet is headed by a red paraph and a red slashed-line initial.

The recent editio princeps of Speculum vitae by Ralph Hanna lists forty-five complete or fragmentary copies of the poem. (1) In addition to its intrinsic value as a new copy of Speculum vitae and the only one written as prose, the Beinecke fragment suggests that this copy of the De regulis was imported to England and bound there. (2) The Beinecke text corresponds to fines 4039 to 4046 and 4097 to 4111 in Hanna's edited text, with scribal omission of fines 4103 to 4108, apparently due to eyeskip between two fines with identical openings, Hanna's 4105 and 4109 Pe meke him lawes to serue. Extrapolating from the dimensions of the strip and the fines lost between recto and verso gives an original writing area of about 150x120mm, thirty-sixto thirty-seven manuscript fines in one column, noticeably squatter than all of the other extant copies.

The Beinecke text preserves four substantial variants not found in any of the five texts collated by Hanna: line 4045 has dysese for Hannas and assayse; line 4097 has dung for Hannas barly; 1. 4098 omits Hanna's gase; and line 4102 has semely for Hanna's semy. The first alteration simplifies the syntax of Hannas lines 4045 to 4046 and renders the sense redundant, replacing "He suffers for the love of God and makes trial of/ Hunger and cold and other hardship" with "He suffers hardship for the love of God/ Hunger and cold and other hardship." The substitution may also have a metrical explanation, for Hanna's line 4045 must be scanned with the more innovative monosyllabic Goddis, whereas the line in the Beinecke fragment shows the more conservative disyllabic Goddis.

The second alteration may likewise have a metrical explanation if a scribe missed the elision between Hanna's 4097 barly, "barley," and als, "as," and scanned a metrically difficult two-syllable dip there. The substitution also serves to intensify the contrast between the two hypothetical loads carried by "pe asse pat beres off heuy," "the ass that often bears heavy (loads)" (Hanna's 1.4096; cp. Hanna's 4099 stanes, "stones," and brede, "bread"). The third alteration may also have been made metri causa, since Hanna's line 4098 begins with a metrically difficult two-syllable dip (And als). The verb for the quasi-adverb fast in line 4098 (both texts) must be beres, "bears," understood from the previous line (1. 4097, both texts). The fourth alteration, semely, "seemly," for semy, "?quick," probably indicates confusion with the online Middle English Dictionary's "semi" (a) ('seemly'), but compare with the Middle English Dictionary's "semi" (b), glossing subtilis, and Hanna's note on line 4102.

In the following diplomatic edition, lineation, capitalization, and (lack of) punctuation are editorial; manuscript line boundaries are indicated by a vertical stroke (|); italics indicate the expansion of scribal abbreviations, including the Tironian note as and; and illegible or partly legible letters are enclosed in angled brackets. In order to achieve the correct textual sequence, I pair 4) the lines visible after the endleaves, on the outside of the strip, with l) those visible before the endleaves, on the outside of the strip; and 3) those visible after the endleaves, on the inside of the strip, with 2) those visible before the endleaves, on the inside of the strip. The numbering 1), 2), 3), 4) represents the physical order of the fragments as they now exist in Beinecke 2008 2479, front to back.


Thanks are due to Christopher Clarkson, Ralph Hanna, Aaron Pratt, and Barbara Shailor for consultation on paleographical and codicological matters and to JEBS editors Linne Mooney and Daniel Wakelin for helpful suggestions.

Boston College


(1.) Ralph Hanna, ed., with Venetia Somerset, Speculum Vitae: A Reading Text, 2 vols., Early English Text Society Original Series 331 and 332 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 1:xiv-lx. Ibid., 1x-1xii, expressing serious skepticism about the traditional attribution of Speculum vitae to William of Nassyngton (d. 1349). For two other fragments, see Ralph Hanna, "Two New Manuscript Fragments of Speculum Vitae," Journal of the Early Book Society 16 (2013): 193-198.

(2.) The copying of verse in prose format was the norm in England before 1250 and persisted sporadically afterward. See A. S. G. Edwards, "Editing and Manuscript Form: Middle English Verse as Prose," English Studies in Canada 27 (2001): 15-28,17-19, reporting that the copying of verse in prose format was rather more common in the West Midlands than elsewhere 1250-1400, but rare overall by the fifteenth century. Ibid., 21-2, notes that considerations of space could lead to prose format. The format of the Beinecke Speculum vitae fragments thus gives no secure evidence for the provenance of the lost codex. The binding decoration of Beinecke 2008 2479 closely matches David Pearson, English Bookbinding Styles, 14S0-1800: A Handbook (London: British Library, 2005), 62, Fig. 3.46 (a book printed 1575). An ex libris note in English secretary script, name blotted out, appears on the title page, and other notes in secretary script appear on the endleaves. The latter are brownish and speckled, of poor quality, with no discernible watermarks.

(3.) An indistinct letter form follows p, perhaps a correction.

(4.) Erasure after y.
Beinecke 2008 2479, back endpaper guard

               be fowrte b<r>aunche as men ma<y> proue
4040           Is when a | man will povert (3) loue
               So <d>oope be verray mek | in hert
               On fowre maneres he loues pouert
               He loues | <...> co <...>
               And haldis &lt;b&gt;e manere of <...> h<a>lly |
4045           <H>e tholes for goddis loue dysese4
               Hunggyr and cald and....
               ....beres as blythly dung as whete
               And as <f>ast for smale | as for grete
               And as blythly beres stonys as brede
4100           And | l<ee>d and ime as gold rede
               be meke hym lowes to serue | w<y>ghtly
4102           As he pat is lyght and semely
4109           be meke hym low |
4109 cont'd    es to ser<u>e lastandly
4110           As he bat is neuermore wery
               To bow|...
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Title Annotation:Nota Bene: Brief Notes on Manuscripts and Early Printed Books: Highlighting Little-known or Recently Uncovered Items or Related Issues
Author:Weiskott, Eric
Publication:The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jan 1, 2014
Previous Article:Queen Mary I's books at Lambeth Palace Library.
Next Article:Katherine Acheson: Visual Rhetoric and Early Modern English Literature.

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