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Female readers, passion devotion, and the history of MS Royal 17 A. xxvii.

Introduction: Diachronic History

James Simpson's article "Diachronic History and the Shortcomings of Medieval Studies" articulates a possibility that cuts against the grain of medieval intellectual tradition: a way to push back on what he sees as the nostalgic, melancholic posture of philology. Philology, he claims, "characteristically treats its objects as definitively entombed and dead." The scholar's work is set: the task of recovering "the pristine wholeness of segments of the past." (1) Within this argument's scope, the agendas of periodization--particularly the break between the medieval and early modern--represent the rhetoric of revolutions. Revolution engenders ruptures; philology requires rupture "in order to legitimate and justify its own project of restoration." (2) The upshot of his argument places a high value on what he terms "diachronic historicism"--one in which scholars articulate a consciousness of how "the medieval" cannot be divorced from Classicism and Protestantism, "the powerful counters by which it was aggressively formed." (3) This article--at leagues and in conversation with these imperatives--performs a version of diachronic historicism centered on an object: a manuscript in the Royal collection at the British Library.

In critical parlance, my article evaluates the history of one manuscript from its inception to its potential and speculative use and meaning upon its seventeenth-century entrance into the Royal Library at St. James's Palace. I am tangling with new--albeit really old--ideas about how objects function through time. At its core, my work is enmeshed with often-imagined, traditional subjects: bibliography, philology, and material culture. These traditional disciplines and their aim--material analysis and contextual history--also intersect concomitantly with new theoretical discussion in the critical arena of object-oriented ontology--the philosophical study of existence centered on things. (4) Although obj ect-oriented ontology developed from critical work in philosophy by Graham Harman on speculative realism and what he terms object-oriented philosophy or guerilla metaphysics, medievalists Eileen Joy and Jeffrey Jerome Cohen have taken object-oriented ontology into the field of medieval studies. In medieval studies, object-oriented ontology has taken a different direction to focus on what Cohen and Joy term "speculative medievalisms" to think about the deep history of objects. (5) In effect, these discussions have reasserted what history-of-the-book scholars and material-culture specialists have been addressing: the breakdown of periodicity, the evaluation of material objects and their effects on readers and producers, and the effects of readers and producers on the material book.

But wading into philology also unearths the theoretical double specter of origins and nostalgia. In 1990, Stephen Nichols refashioned manuscript studies as a new critical mode in a special edition of Speculum on "The New Philology." (6) In "New Philology," manuscript studies take center stage and are posited as a "postmodern return to the origins of medieval studies" that ruptures the early modern centering of history through "humanism, the Reformation, and the invention of the printing press." (7) The manuscript matrix and its detailed analysis encourage an interdisciplinary and diverse approach that mirrors the conditions and situation of the manuscripts studied. Thus manuscript studies, the "new philology," reveals how "medieval culture did not simply live with diversity, it cultivated it." (8) Although the manuscript matrix is a site of radical contingencies, "of chronology, of anachronism, of conflicting subjects, of representation," the pitfall in moving backward to pure origins rests on an inescapable obstacle--the past can never be pristinely recreated. (9) Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, while discussing the modern invention of medieval music, exposes this fantasy with the unattainable hope of a "faithful" recreation of the original medieval performance. (10) Instead, our historical excavations will always be mediated through a slightly skewed lens of nostalgia; the modern world will always participate in shaping the past's narrative.

Additionally, philology itself has its own shadowed theoretical past in which the study of origins became the method of distinguishing racial superiority. (11) Geoffrey Harpham points to the recent interest by a wide range of contemporary critics--including Edward Said and Paul de Man--who have invoked a return to philology as a way to pure critical spaces where methodology and narrow detail will open new theoretical vistas. He warns us not to see scholarly virtuousness in smallness, nor to jettison methodology or the quest for comprehensive knowledge; rather, Harpham argues, we should use philology as a "revealing mirror" that exposes scholarship's "highest aspirations and darkest fears." (12) Our duty lies in distinguishing them.

The backward-glancing and genealogical mode of philology has hampered critical discussions of philology's potential utility. Instead of returning to the originary moment, object-oriented ontology moves in the other direction--forward and into the future. Object-oriented ontology can also displace the genealogical stemma and diagram to introduce a system of interlinked spheres in which objects touch and affect each other in relational rather than directly linked ways.

Levi Bryant's recent post and comment on Eileen Joy's Swedish Twitter University lecture crystallizes how object-oriented ontology revisits the scholarly arenas of bibliography, philology, and material culture: (13) "Object-oriented criticism for its part ... begins from the premise not of the meaningfulness of the text, but of the materiality of the text. The text is something." (14) He highlights a text's circulation in the world and how "texts have the capacity to affect other bodies'" (1) His thesis posits that "criticism is a production based on the affectivity of the text ... the question is no longer the question of what the text means with the aim of closing the text, but rather is the question of what the text builds" (16) The forward rather than backward motion of object-oriented ontology permits the unloosening of tight and narrow philological and genealogical lines and opens a rupture into historical scholarship that allows a more capacious and relational view focused on living, dynamic objects.

This article charts a diachronic history of an unassuming devotional manuscript in the British Library through five centuries of circulation. I consider how textual materiality builds, transforms, and travels through the hands of scribes, readers, book owners, and others who have affected the book's production, accretion, and use. Ultimately, the question I am answering is how this object--this composite manuscript--circulates, builds, and negotiates meaning in three distinct historical moments: its early thirteenth-century production, its fifteenth-century repackaging and additions, and its seventeenth-century purchase and employment. How does female devotion to Christ's Passion surface and transform in speculative female hands through five centuries?

MS Royal 17 A. xxvii: The Object

Two scholarly communities--one interested in the thirteenth-century early Middle English Katherine Group and Wooing Group texts, (17) the other centered on its fifteenth-century illuminated Arma Christi and the multiple lyric Passion verses in the manuscript's second section--have cultivated interest in London, British Library, MS Royal 17 A. xxvii. Both groups, part of a growing constellation of critics, have centered scholarly attention on anchoritic texts, early women's literary history, and religious literature. Between the manuscript's covers, readers discover the indescribable horrors of hell, the naked and vicious torture of young virgins, the mass conversion of pagans, the knife of Christ's circumcision and the whip of Christ's scourging, and a textual amulet that promotes safe births. The interpretive options for this book are myriad and require separate study. Instead, this article will concentrate on the object itself and its multilayered journey to the British Library's Royal collection.

The British Library catalogue description of MS Royal 17 A. xxvii very tentatively suggests, with a question mark, (18) that the manuscript's two parts were bound together after the Middle Ages--perhaps during the seventeenth century. (19) This article reevaluates the physical, historical, and internal evidence in these two manuscript sections to consider how and why they may have been bound together in the late Middle Ages and how these devotional pieces--separated by two centuries--could become a cohesive devotional text. Rather than being a haphazardly bound volume, MS Royal 17 A. xxvii had a late-medieval readership that could have potentially utilized this manuscript, with its thirteenth- and fifteenth-century parts, as a comprehensible devotional text centered on Christ's Passion. In addition, this article tackles another set of probable readers in the seventeenth-century world of Charles II's court: How could this manuscript, as an identifiable object of female Catholic devotion, be employed by or imagined for Catherine of Braganza, Charles II's barren wife?

Part I. The Material Book: Manuscript Contents and Physical Description

MS Royal 17 A. xxvii, well known to Middle English scholars interested in the thirteenth-century Katherine Group, stands as one of a handful of manuscripts that includes the sermon Sawles Warde; the vitae of St. Katherine, St. Margaret, and St. Juliana; and a Wooing Group text, Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie (also known as On Lofsong of Ure Lefdi). Three hands copied these thirteenth-century pieces on folios 1 to 70v. Hand A copied folios 1r to 8v and 11r to the end of the first paragraph on folio 45v; Hand B worked on folios 9r to 10v and 58v to 70v; and Hand C penned the beginning of paragraph 2 on folio 45v to the end of 58r. (20) An early fifteenth-century hand emerges as the candidate behind the fifteenth-century Latin and Middle English sections. (21)

Ann Savage and Nicholas Watson conjecture that at least the Wooing Group texts in general, and possibly the Royal manuscript's Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie, would have been circulating on their own on single leaves or in small booklets. (22) Savage and Watson propose that the Royal manuscript originally contained the entirety of Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie. This text currently fits on two sides of one leaf and stops abruptly near the end of a sentence, at "sunfule willeliche," about halfway through the piece. (23) Catherine Innes-Parker further refines Savage and Watson's point by writing that "Unlike Ancrene Wisse and the texts of the Katherine Group, the Wohunge, and the prayers which together form the Wooing Group likely originally circulated on scrolls or individual leaves." (24) In a recent volume devoted to the Wooing Group, Nicholas Watson speaks of the "portmanteau" qualities of the Wooing Group texts in content and argues for their inherent portability. (25)

I take the idea of portability further by using MS Royal 17 A. xxvii as an example of a category of manuscript portability in which units of texts comprise "booklets" that can be gathered together to form a composite volume. The idea of booklet compilation is not unusual, but MS Royal 17 A. xxvii may attest to a practice of circulating booklets of material separately before intentionally assembling them together to form a bound manuscript. Pamela Robinson explains the property of the booklet when she defines three different units in a manuscript: quire (the basic physical unit), pecia (mainly in universities), and the booklet. The booklet is a "self-contained unit" that "originated as a small but structurally independent production containing a single work or a number of short works." (26) She cautions us not to imagine that booklets would be made up of only a quire (a small unit); rather they could include several quires. In the case of MS Royal 17 A. xxvii's first segment, a number of the criteria that she delineates to identify booklets precisely matches this manuscript's physical shape.

In MS Royal 17 A. xxvii's first section, dated between ca. 1220 and 1230, several scholars have speculated that the lack of Hali Meidhad indicates that this book is a very early manuscript of the Katherine and Wooing groups. (27) Thus it is probable that Hali Meidhad was produced later or possibly may have been made contemporaneously but did not circulate in concert with these other materials. (28) One piece of evidence bolsters the theory about the chronological order in which these Wooing and Katherine Group texts were composed: another Wooing Group text, On Lofsong of Ure Louerde, is almost certainly a source text for a piece of Hali Meidhad. (29)

Meg Laing dates the manuscript to ca. 1220 to 1230 and locates the language in the West Midlands. She believes it is similar but not identical to the language of Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Bodley 34 (the early Katherine Group manuscript) and the early manuscript of Ancrene Wisse, Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 402.30 In her catalogue of early Middle English manuscripts, she does not mention the presence of the fifteenth-century material on folios 71 to 95. This section contains several devotional pieces, including a Latin form of confession; Arma Christi verses with color images and an indulgence; two hymns to the Virgin; a vision of St. Thomas of Canterbury concerning the Seven Joys; a hymn on the eight verses from the Psalter that will save one from damnation if one says them daily, as revealed by the Devil to St. Bernard; the Fifteen Oes in Latin, with a long rubric that tells of a "femina quedam solitaria et reclusa" to whom the number of Christ's wounds was revealed; and a prayer with a 6,000-year indulgence granted by Pope John. (31)

The fifteenth-century material is linguistically located by A Linguistic Atlas of Late Medieval English in the northwest Midlands, (32) and the dialect of "the prose introduction to a poem in this section (ff. 86v-88v)" is thought to be that of Staffordshire. (33) The volume--whether bound together in the late Middle Ages or in the seventeenth century--is regionally associated with the West Midlands. Although two centuries apart, the manuscript's two sections are from the same geographic location (see Map 1). (34)

The geographical connections between Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, and Shropshire (see Map 1) place the activities surrounding MS Royal 17 A. xxvii within a specific area of the West Midlands region. As shown in the following table of the manuscript's contents, the thirteenth-century portion is primarily in English, while the fifteenth-century part is a mixed English and Latin compilation.

I have examined one of the last pages of this manuscript (fol. 97r) under ultraviolet light. Unfortunately, due to former chemical treatments on the manuscript after 1921, it was impossible to see what the 1921 catalogue refers to as "an erased chronological note referring to 1403." (35) This date gives a threshold point for picturing when the fifteenth-century Passion materials, including the Arma Christi, would have been generated and began independent circulation. However, by examining the manuscript's physical shape and its parts, I believe I can discern how MS Royal 17 A. xxvii may have been used and compiled by its readers in stages through a system of booklets.

Quires

All of MS Royal 17 A. xxvii's leaves measure around 160 mm to 163 mm in length. Quires from both the thirteenth-century and the fifteenth-century sections also show pricking marks at the edge of their outer vertical leaves, while all the gatherings are approximately the same size and shape. This similarity may indicate that the vellum was shaped as standard eight-leaf quires or that it was cut at the same time, but the fifteenth-century content was not added until later. (36) Although both sections probably circulated separately before they were bound together as a manuscript, the quires create a composite system of booklets that would make it easy in the fifteenth century to add another section to an already portable book.

Robinson has identified several features that indicate when a manuscript was assembled as a collection of booklets. A number of the features, she explains, are quite obvious, but several other booklet features cannot be discerned from regular catalogue descriptions or without a collation of the book. (37) For MS Royal 17 A. xxvii, the following features are present in the manuscript: catchwords within a booklet; its own series of quire signatures; soiled outer leaves that suggest independent circulation before being bound together; the number of leaves in a quire is not uniform throughout; and a modified quire structure that adds or subtracts extra leaves. (38) Her criteria do not suggest that a manuscript with only one or even two of these features would definitely be recognized as a booklet compilation. Rather, the presence of several of these criteria--she identifies ten--would dramatically increase the probability of a manuscript's being a booklet compilation.

Ralph Hanna has revised Robinson's booklet hypothesis by adding three more potential criteria: variation in material (shifts between paper and vellum and quality of vellum); variation of sources that the manuscript copies; and variation in subject matter in different parts of the manuscript. (39) He also refines Robinson's criteria by ranking the most important features that indicate a booklet system. He places "independent systems of signatures in different parts of a manuscript" as primarily important; after this criterion, the variation in size of final quires, whether longer or shortened by cutting, is ranked second in significance. (40)

Hanna's refinement of Robinson's original work also attempts to separate the owners/vendors and producers of books (41) by taking into account the more commercial production that had become standard in the late Middle Ages. Hanna's refinements operate very well with a number of fourteenth-and fifteenth-century examples that he evaluates. However, for MS Royal 17 A. xxvii, his enhancements do not necessarily fit.

Early Katherine Group and Wooing Group manuscript production information is quite sparse. The volumes, (42) including MS Royal 17 A. xxvii (fols. 1-70v), were produced locally, probably by religious scribes near their patrons. They were not products of commercial ateliers in book-producing centers in either university towns (Oxford) or London. The contextual background of the early Ancrene Wisse manuscripts is the clearest example. We do know that one of the early readerships for Ancrene Wisse was a group of three female anchoresses, and the production of this guide seems to have been through the request of its early readers. (43) As for the texts in the Bodley 34 manuscript (Katherine Group), there is no absolute consensus on their readership other than that they were women--whether religious, anchoritic, or lay. Their dates are fixed by language as between approximately 1200 and 1250.44 The texts are dated after the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) but before around 1250 on both paleographic and linguistic grounds. (45)

The early manuscripts of Ancrene Wisse, (46) the Katherine Group, and the Wooing Group are part of a matrix of vernacular religious material produced in the West Midlands between 1200 and 1250 originally for female readers. I also believe that these manuscripts, including MS Royal 17 A. xxvii, are products of a book production model in which readers/patrons and scribes had a close, hands-on book-producing relationship. (47) These works were also in their early production (i.e., original composition and compilation moments), so the identification of exemplar sources (one of Hanna's criteria for booklet production) is quite difficult.

Thus the producers and the readers/owners of the codex and the booklets would have had an enmeshed production relationship. The female readers may have requested specific booklets for use at different times but also wanted an entire book of booklets bound together. Ralph Hanna discusses what he terms the "bespoke" model of production that he sees as having occurred with the Auchinleck Manuscript (Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland Advocates, MS 19.2.1). In his speculation about this incredibly large manuscript's production, he imagines that once it became "bespoke" (a client's special request), there was probably a series of requests for specific items--this week I ask for a Beves; two weeks from now I want a Sir Orfeo. He believes it possible that at several points during the Auchinleck Manuscript's production, book sections may have been given to the patron for use and then returned. (48) This kind of production relationship for the Auchinleck Manuscript is how I see production working in MS Royal 17 A. xxvii.

Both physical and textual portability would have been the key for this system to work. The manuscripts are all on the smallish size. (49) If the Wooing Group texts were originally imagined by the patron as circulated pieces on scrolls or leaves, it would also mean that these little units of vernacular religious material would have been used immediately after production for reading and--as the form of scroll or leaf production suggests--for oral recitation. Gathering the booklets together into a codex and binding them as a volume may have been the last stage of a flexible cycle of booklet use and selection. This proposed scenario suggests the close direction and intimacy of reader/patron with the scribal book producer. Thus reader and scribe would have had ongoing contact--from requesting a booklet (for instance, a Wooing Group text) to establishing the manuscript's textual order and commissioning the binding of the entire booklet group.

MS Royal 17 A. xxvii has five of the features Robinson discusses as hallmarks of a booklet compilation structure. It also contains the top three criteria that Hanna distinguishes as the most important to define a booklet compilation: "independent systems of signatures in different parts of a manuscript," "variation in size of possible final quires," and "blank leaves at the end of quires, often cut away." (50)

Quire Structure

The 1921 Gilson and Warner catalogue description suggests the following for quire structure: "Gatherings of 8 leaves, (ii (2), ix, x (6)), the numeration beginning with iii (art. 2). Artt. 6-12 are in an early 15th cent. hand. Gatherings of 8 leaves (last (3))." (51) I have reassessed and reordered the quire structure.
   Thirteenth-Century Section

   Quire 1: quire (4 sheets folded) + a bifolium/2 single leaves (52)
   Quire 2: quire (4 sheets folded), 11r
   Quire 3: quire (4 sheets folded), 19r
   Quire 4: quire (4 sheets folded), 27r
   Quire 5: quire (4 sheets folded), 35r
   Quire 6: quire (4 sheets folded), 43r
   Quire 7: quire (4 sheets folded), 51r
   Quire 8: quire (3 sheets folded), 59r
   Quire 9: quire (3 sheets folded), 65r

   Fifteenth-Century Section

   Quire 10: quire (4 sheets folded), 71r
   Quire 11: quire (4 sheets folded), 79r
   Quire 12: quire (3 sheets folded + 1
   leaf+1 bifolium), 88r


Most of the quire structure in MS Royal 17 A. xxvii consists of eight-leaf quires, with a few exceptions. In the thirteenth-century section, the beginning quire contains ten leaves and the section ends with two six-leaf quires. Likewise, the end of the manuscript's fifteenth-century part has an unusual nine-leaf quire. The compilation of the quire information, the contents, and the scribal hands together reveal a more solid picture of how this manuscript could have been produced in booklets and circulated as smaller devotional texts before being bound together.

If we examine the thirteenth-century section of this chart and its textual collations, the most unusual quire is the first one. Quire 1 is a ten-leaf quire that contains all of Sawles Warde. It also has a scribal inscription at the end of Sawles Warde after a large "AMEN" on folio 10v. In it, the scribe identifies himself by name as John and writes:
   Par seinte charite bidded a pater noster for iohann pet fteos boc
      prat
   Hpa se bis prit haved ired. Ant crist him haved spa
   isped. Ich bidde par seinte charite. bet ze bidden ofte
   For me. Aa pater noster. Ant ave marie. pet ich mote pet lif her
   drehen. Ant ure lauerd pel i cpemen. I mi zuhede
   1 in min elde. pet ich mote ihesu crist in saple zelden.
   AMEN: (53)

      [For St. Charity requires that whosoever this writ
      (legal document) has read, must say a Pater Noster
      for John that this book wrote. And Christ has made
      him so prosperous. I say a prayer for St. Charity. That
      you pray often for me. Continually a Pater Noster.
      And an Ave Maria. That I may this life endure here.
      And our Lord well please (serve). In my youth and
      in my old age. So that I may yield my soul to Jesus
      Christ. Amen.] (54)


This scribal note is written by Hand B (whom I now call Scribe B), who completed the text on two extra leaves at the end of the first booklet. He is also the scribe of the last folio in the manuscript's thirteenth-century portion. I believe that Sawles Warde and quire 1/booklet 1 were written after St. Katherine, St. Margaret, and St. Juliana partly because of the evidence of this note. The other famous scribal note in the Katherine Group material occurs in Bodley 34. At the end of St. Juliana in Bodley 34, the life finishes with the following verse purportedly written by the vita's translator:
   Hwen drihtin o domes dei windwed his hweate. Ant
   [weopd] pet dusti chef to hellene heate. He mote
   beon a corn i godes guldene edene. pe turnde pis of
   latin to engliSche ledene. Ant he pet her least. On
   wrat swa as he cude. AMeN. (55)

   [When the Judge at Doomsday winnows his wheat,
   And drives dusty chaff into hell's heat,
   Make him a seed in God's golden Eden,
   Who translated to English this story from Latin.
   And also the one who last wrote this as well as he
   could Amen.] (56)


These scribal notes--asking for God's and Christ's prayer--separate potential units in the manuscript. In the case of Bodley 34, it appears that readers should see St. Katherine, St. Margaret, and St. Juliana as one cohesive unit. Similarly, in MS Royal 17 A. xxvii, Sawles Warde should be imagined as a separate unit because the scribe ends it here with a personal prayer--rather than at the conclusion of either St. Juliana or Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie. The existence of this separate unit also makes it plausible that Sawles Warde could have circulated separately from the Katherine Group vitae. But the quire evidence suggests that the Sawles Warde booklet may have been requested when the volume was bound, because the scribal note is included at the end of this quire.

Scribe B (as the chart above shows) has his hand in all the thirteenth-century quires. It would make logical sense for him to put this note at the end of the final quire that he finishes. In addition, the added two-leaf section (either two separate leaves or a bifolium) allows him to complete this odd first quire. (57) The first quire fits into Robinson's discussion of booklet feature 8: "A scribe may have had difficulty in fitting a text into the quire structure of a 'booklet' and, consequently, have modified that structure ... the gathering may have an extra leaf (or leaves) in order to accommodate the conclusion of the text." (58) These extra leaves, and the fact that a different scribe finishes them strongly with a personal note, implies that this was the las1t booklet to be composed in MS Royal 17 A. xxvii's thirteenth-century section. It also bolsters the theory that Scribe B was probably the volume's main scribal contact and organizer for the female reader.

Further structural evidence demonstrates that readers (and definitely the scribes) saw quire 1 and Sawles Warde as separate from the Katherine Group vitae. (59) Quire 2 begins with the Life of St. Katherine and at the top of folio 11r is a note, "auit p.u.m." At the bottom of quire 3 is the quire signature "ii" on folio 19r. These quire signatures continue with "iii" at the bottom of folio 27r (quire 4); "iiii" at the bottom of 35r (quire 5); "v" at the base of folio 43r (quire 6); and "vi" at the base margin of folio 51r (quire 7). These quire markings vigorously support the hypothesis that the Katherine Group saints' lives were imagined as separate from Sawles Warde and were probably the manuscript's first booklet.

I believe that the entirety of the Katherine Group vitae, from St. Katherine through St. Juliana, was imagined as one reading unit--one booklet. There is no quire signature for Sawles Warde (quire 1). These quire signatures stop when the quires become six-leaf rather than eight-leaf quires. However, the base of folio 58v has the catchword "del" (with a slash across), that corresponds to the first word of the new quire on folio 59r, "deles." The evidence of a catchword here may reveal that the organizing scribe miscalculated how many quires were necessary to finish this booklet. Nonetheless, Scribe B continued finishing the rest of St. Juliana and used a catchword to link the last two six-leaf quires to what appears to be a planned unit that included all three saints' lives.

Nevertheless, Scribe B's estimate of what it would take to finish the Katherine Group in all probability had him remove a bifolium from each of the two eight-leaf quires. But he overestimated what he actually needed--or possibly underestimated. If he overestimated, the addition of the first half of Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie becomes the filler for the blank page at the end of this booklet. If he underestimated, then Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie was an integral part of the booklet unit. Either way, the choice of this text corresponds with the reading interests of the female readers as seen in other Wooing Group manuscripts--including Ancrene Wisse and the Katherine Group materials. If Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie was a later addition, then it was left incomplete because the booklet was already formed and there was no more room. However, this latter scenario does make much more likely Savage and Watson's suggestion that the intention was for this manuscript to include all of Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie. But unlike what seems quite standard for many of the other Wooing Group texts--the circulation first as separate scrolls and on individual leaves--I believe that Pe Oreisun was conceived, although probably after the completion of the three vitae, to be part of this booklet unit. As I discuss later in this article, Pe Oreisun can be read as a comment on the Katherine Group Lives and especially on the end of St. Juliana.

Thus the manuscript and textual evidence in MS Royal 17 A. xxvii indicates that the manuscript was probably planned with a booklet structure in which the Katherine Group saints' lives (plus Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie) were one separately circulated booklet. The other booklet, produced later, would be quire 1, containing Sawles Warde. The scribal note at the end of the quire suggests that this was the last piece finished and that it was by Scribe B--the organizing scribe. However, I do not think this indicates that the booklets have been sewn out of order. Instead, the odd quire structures in the thirteenth-century portion's last two quires demonstrate that when the thirteenth-century part of MS Royal 17 A. xxvii was bound together (both booklets), the position of Sawles Warde--as the first text--was a choice on the part of the reader(s) who probably commissioned this section.

The practice of gathering portable booklets into a single volume is not an unusual phenomenon. Rather, as Robinson writes, "medieval readers frequently assembled together a number of 'booklets' to form a composite volume. Many manuscripts demonstrate that the practice of forming such a collection was current in the middle ages." (60) Robinson also affirms that the prevalence of booklet compilations could also explain the use of the term "quarterno/quarternus" and "libellus" in medieval library catalogues. She argues that the use of these terms in "inventories and in titles ... must indicate a 'booklet' (though in other contexts they may have had a different sense)." (61) She gives an example of this from the catalogue of the Lanthony Priory library, which lists the volume as Psalterium Ivonis, parvus quaternus, corresponding to London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 540. (62)

With the larger thirteenth-century portion of the manuscript functioning as portable booklets, it is not a far stretch to imagine that the fifteenth-century section would have fit in appropriately as another booklet added to this volume. The first page is darker and more faded than the previous thirteenth-century verso. The vellum of the fifteenth-century section is also darker, rougher, and appears to be of a different quality from the leaves of the earlier sections, although of approximately the same size. None of the texts or groups of text in this section makes up several booklets, but rather the entire fifteenth-century portion is itself a separate booklet. The quire structure shows that no single quire ends a text except for the last quire. Undoubtedly, from the last quire's odd nine-leaf structure, the extra leaf and bifolium were supplemented to finish the booklet volume with an indulgence--the last item in the manuscript. The fifteenth-century booklet probably circulated separately in the fifteenth century, but its parts were clearly imagined as a structural unit. I discuss below the textual and internal evidence supporting this argument that the manuscript's last section was a separate anthology of devotional texts.

The last pieces of physical evidence that we may evaluate for potential clues to this manuscript's life are the sewing holes. Unfortunately, the history of the binding is very uncertain. The British Library records that the manuscript's last binding was completed April 19, 1956. No information or notes about this binding exist. But because of the manuscript's portable and composite nature, it is difficult to say with absolute certainty if the sewing holes would help identify the volume's pre-seventeenth-century binding. Yet the note mentioning 1403 on the manuscript's last leaf suggests a tantalizing time frame for speculation about this manuscript and its readers. (63)

Manuscript Provenance and Manuscript History

Other than the geographical locations vis-a-vis linguistic analysis, our information about this manuscript really begins after the Reformation, with a Gloucestershire family in the seventeenth century. The Royal Library catalogue places the thirteenth-century section of the manuscript in John Theyer's library; it also positions the fifteenth-century material as possibly being in the same library. However, the catalogue questions whether it was already bound together or extant as separate manuscripts when the Theyer collection entered King Charles II's Library at St. James's Palace in 1678. (64)

John Theyer (1598-1673) was a lawyer whose family was from Brockworth, Gloucestershire. (65) Anthony Wood, his contemporary, records this information in his Athenae Oxonienses:
   John Theyer was born of genteel parents at Cowpers-hill
   in the parish of Brockworth, near to, and in the county
   of, Glocester, began to be conversant with the muses in
   Magdalen college an. 1613, aged 16 years or thereabouts,
   where continuing about three years, partly under the tuition
   of John Harmar, retired to an inn of chancery in London
   called New Inn, where spending as many years in obtaining
   knowledge in the common law, (66) he receded to his patrimony,
   and, as years grew on, gave himself up mostly to the study
   of venerable antiquity, and to the obtaining of the ancient
   monuments thereof (manuscripts) in which he did so much
   abound, that no private gentleman of his rank and quality
   did ever, I think, exceed him. He was a bookish and studious
   man, a lover of learning and the adorers thereof, a zealous
   royallist, and one that had suffer'd much (in the rebellion
   that began 1642) for the king's and church's cause. ... In
   the same year (1643) our sauthor Theyer was adorned with
   the degree of master of arts... About which time he the said
   Theyer being discovered to be a man of parts, was persuaded
   to embrace the Roman-catholic religion by father "Franc."
   Philips a Scot, confessor to Henrietta Maria the queen
   consort. He hath also written, A friendly Debate between the
   Protestants and the Papists--MS. But before it was quite
   fitted for the press the author died, and what became of it
   afterwards, I know not. His death hapned at Cowpers-hill
   on the 25 th of Aug. in sixteen hundred seventy and three,
   and two days after was buried among his ancestors in the
   church-yard at Brockworth before-mention'd, particularly
   near to the grave of his grandfather--Theyer who had
   married the sister of one Hart the last prior of Langthony
   near Glocester. He then left behind him a library of ancient
   manuscripts consisting of the number of about 800, which
   he himself had for the most part collected. The foundation
   of it was laid by his grandfather who had them from prior
   Hart, and he from the library of Langthony when it was
   dissolved, besides houshold stuff belonging to that priory.

   Afterwards Charles Theyer (grandson to our author
   John Theyer who in his last will had bequeathed them to
   him) did offer to sell them to the university of Oxon, but
   the price being too great, they were sold to Robert Scot
   of London bookseller, who soon after sold them to his
   majesty king Ch. II. to be reposed in his library at S. James's,
   he having first, as I have been informed, cull'd them. (67)


Theyer was known to have an extensive and valuable library of manuscripts, a family collection. A large portion of this collection purportedly came from his grandmother's brother, Richard Hart (or Hempstead), the last prior of Lanthony Secunda (1534-1539)--a house patronized by the de Lacys and the Bohuns. Lanthony Secunda was an Augustinian house just outside Gloucester (established 1136). (68) Lanthony Prima was founded by Hugh de Lacy in 1108 in Monmouthshire, and both houses were dedicated to the Virgin. By the time of the Dissolution, Lanthony Secunda had become the main priory, and their possessions in 1535 included manors and rental income in Brockworth and Hempstead. Richard Hempstead (Hart), the last prior, signed the priory over to the Crown and received a pension of 100[pounds sterling] a year, with pensions from 4[pounds sterling] to 8[pounds sterling] a year for the other twenty-four canons. (69)

Upon John Theyer's death, his collection went to his grandson Charles Theyer, who originally tried to sell it to the University of Oxford. Edward Bernard evaluated the collection in 1673. He made an inventory--a list that has been preserved in the Bodleian Library--in which he briefly describes 312 manuscripts and "adds a note that there were some others of less value." (70) The suggested sale price was too steep, and the collection then went to a London bookseller, Robert Scott, who valued the collection at 841[pounds sterling] and 12 shillings. A Mr. Beveridge, rector of St. Peters Cornhill, and a Mr. Will Jane, canon of Christ Church, Oxford, reassessed the collection for the amount of 572[pounds sterling], 3 shillings, and 6 pence. It was the last large collection to be folded into the King's Library at St. James's Palace; the King's Library eventually became one of the main British Library collections. (71)

It is tantalizing to suppose that the manuscript's two separate sections were at Lanthony Secunda, because that definitively would localize these devotional texts to a house in the West Midlands. However, the Theyer collection's history is not as straightforward as it appears. We have received the bulk of our contemporary seventeenth-century information from Anthony Wood's description in the Athenae Oxonienses, quoted above, in which he gives us the information that "He [Charles Theyer] then left behind him a Library of ancient Manuscripts consisting of the number of about 800." Wood also supplies us with the tantalizing tidbit that this collection was "cull'd" by Charles II before 312 manuscripts entered into his library.

M. R. James addresses these inconsistencies in number and the questions of the collection's provenance and circulation, not to mention where the other approximately 488 manuscripts might have gone, in The Manuscripts in the Library at Lambeth Palace, published by the Cambridge Antiquarian Society in 1900. (72) In regards to a timeline, apparently by 1673 the Theyer collection contained 334 manuscripts. (73) They had been acquired from around "twenty different monastic houses, particularly from the west of England," including manuscripts from Gloucestershire (Minchinhampton, Painswick, Meysey Hampton), Worcester, Hereford, and London. (74) Reginald Poole believes that Anthony Wood's number of 800 is completely inaccurate. (75) But Woods' family appears to have had more personal ties with the Theyers. (76) Evidence from the collecting habits of early modern antiquarians, such as Theyer's contemporary, Henry Savile, shows that large antiquarian collections were often broken up and sold. (77) One wonders if these phantom missing manuscripts may have been part of the collection before 1673 but were dispersed or sold to another large library.

James refers to Edward Bernard's Catalogi librorum manuscriptorum Angliae et Hiberniae in unum collecti (CMA; 1697) and its list of 312 manuscripts belonging to Charles Theyer of Gloucestershire. (78) The list conforms, with a few exceptions, to David Casley's Catalogue of the Manuscripts of the King's Library, (79) now in the British Library. But James points out that the Theyer collection as catalogued in the CMA in 1697 is not consistent with what we know of the library at Lanthony Secunda. We have a handlist of the library from 1380 in Harley MS 460. Henri Omont printed this list in 1892. (80) He writes:
   Catalogue des manuscrits du prieure de Lanthony (glocestersire).
   (xive siecle.)

   Le Prieure de Lanthony, de l'ordre de S. Augustin, fut
   fonde, en 1136, par Milon, comte de Hereford, a
   Hyde, pres de Glocester. (81) C'etait une colonie du
   prieure de Lanthony (Monmouthshire), etabli
   quelques annees auparavant, en 1108, (82) et qui lui
   donna son nom.

   La bibliotheque du prieure de Lanthony, beaucoup plus
   importante que les precedents, comptait pres
   de 500 volumes au debut du XIVe siecle, quand
   l'inventaire en fut dresse, non plus a la fin d'un volume,
   mais sur un cahier separe, qui est maintenant
   conserve sous le no 460 du fonds de Harley, au
   Musee Britannique. (83)

   [The manuscript catalogue of Lanthony priory (Gloucestershire).
   (14th century.)

   The Lanthony Priory, of the order of St. Augustine, was
   founded in 1136 by Milon, Count of Hereford,
   in Hyde, near Gloucester. It was a colony of Lanthony
   Priory (Monmouthshire), which was established
   some years beforehand in 1108, and from
   whom the former was given its name.

   The library of Lanthony Priory, which is very much more
   important than its predecessors, consisted of nearly
   500 volumes at the beginning of the fourteenth
   century, when the inventory was drawn up, not at
   the end of a volume but in a separate notebook,
   which is now preserved within MS Harley 460, at
   the British Museum.] (84)


The list enumerates nearly 500 volumes, but Omont lists only 486 items. (85) James's own examination of the Theyer manuscripts led him to place only a handful at Lanthony Secunda. What he discovers instead is that quite a number of Lambeth Palace Library's manuscripts were from Lanthony Secunda. (86) The bulk of the British Library's Theyer collection, then, was probably manuscripts collected by the Theyer family from their location in Gloucestershire. But if the Lanthony Secunda library was at one point part of the Theyer family collection, a number of the manuscripts seem to have entered Lambeth Palace Library. James cannot identify the date in which these manuscripts became part of Lambeth Palace Library after the Dissolution. However, the lack of Lanthony Secunda manuscripts indicates that John Theyer's collection probably consisted of his own and his family's personal library together with an active collection from the areas in and around Gloucestershire.

In this way, John Theyer's and his family's post-Dissolution collection may parallel that of another early seventeenth-century collector, Henry Savile of Banke. Henry Savile and his family were based in Yorkshire, and he was known for his collection of manuscripts. (87) Savile's collection, like Theyer's, was a multigenerational family affair--he appears to have inherited some of the collection from his father and grandfather. He augmented this family collection with his own acquisitions, particularly the collection of John Nettleton, another Yorkshire collector, who seems to have acquired thirty-one manuscripts with the hope of a return to Catholicism. (88) The Savile collection drew heavily on the dissolved monastic collections of northern England, including the libraries at Fountains, Rievaulx, and Byland. (89) Vickie Larsen points out that although Savile's collection held an inordinately large number of English religious manuscripts--including the works of St. Brigit, St. Catherine, Richard Rolle, and Walter Hilton--Savile himself was an antiquarian collector rather than a religious reader. (90) With the parallel example of Savile in mind, John Theyer's collection of manuscripts may have also exhibited similar tendencies: drawing from local sources in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire but also collecting anew on the private market.

A perusal of the CMA along with the Royal manuscript catalogue and the Theyer sale catalogue reveals that several manuscripts hail from this region and from several cathedral libraries. For example, MS Royal 4 C. II, a twelfth-century commentary on Jerome, belonged to Worcester Cathedral library, as did MS Royal 6 C. vii, a twelfth-century collection of Gregory's epistles. (91) James also points out that many of them are Gloucester and Worcester manuscripts. The geographical connections between Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, and Shropshire place the activities surrounding MS Royal 17 A. xxvii within a specific area of the West Midlands region.

In addition, several manuscripts in the collection also contain notes that show Theyer's book-buying habits in the mid-seventeenth century, including prices for purchasing books from specific individuals. For example, MS Royal 7 B. VII contains a note by John Theyer on folio 2: "Fer this and 9 MS. more marked onely with this [Theyer monogram], in all ten in number, to pay seaven poundes at Michaelmas terme 1650." (92) Theyer acquired volumes from the collections of several famous early book collectors, such as John Lumley, (93) Henry Savile, and even Matthew Parker's library at Cambridge. MS Royal 7 B. XI and 7 B. XII contain the collected works of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, from Matthew Parker's library; by September 4, 1659, John Theyer owned both Cranmer volumes. (94)

Although it would be fantastic to trace MS Royal 17 A. xxvii's direct provenance, it is currently impossible to connect this manuscript to the library at Lanthony Secunda. But we can place the manuscript in the local environs of the Theyer family in Gloucestershire and with the family's book connections in Worcestershire. And I believe we can trace the family's collecting interests back to the Dissolution, at the very least, if not earlier.

As for the question of when the thirteenth- and fifteenth-century sections of the Royal manuscript were bound together, I would direct our attention back to the CMA to evaluate the evidence we have from Bernard's catalogue. The Royal manuscript catalogue description of MS Royal 17 A. xxvii asserts the likelihood that they were bound together after the Theyer collection became part of the King's library. The catalogue tentatively states (with a "?") that MS Royal 17 A. xxvii probably corresponds to two potential entries in the CMA: catalogue nos. 6435 and 6662. In other words, the Royal catalogue has connected these two CMA entries as the most likely matches to MS Royal 17 A. xxvii:

6435.199: "An English Exposition on the Gospel" (95)

6662.292: "Verses on several texts of Holy scripture" (96)

On folio 22r of the Theyer sale catalogue, MS Royal app. 70, is the following entry:

243 "A booke of ye passion of Jesus Xt in English verse wh Pictures"

The catalogue description of this item states that "Another list of the same collection (omitting 24 unimportant items) is in Harley MS 695, f. 313, and is printed, with some corruptions, in Bernard's Catal. MSS. Angliae"' (97) Item 243 is not in Bernard's catalogue but is clearly identifiable as MS Royal 17 A. xxvii because the description directly corresponds with the manuscript's fifteenth-century Arma Christi. Theyer's monogram is visible on an opening flyleaf and on folio 70b--the latter being at the top of the last leaf that contains Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie. Thus the thirteenth-century portion of the Royal manuscript is also certainly a part of Theyer's collection. However, the description of item 243 in the sale catalogue is most apt: this volume does contain Passion verses and meditations in English with pictures.

I do not believe that CMA items 6435 and 6662 actually refer to this manuscript. Almost every other CMA description that is connected to a Theyer sale-catalogue item has a much closer catalogue entry correlation than the example of MS Royal 17 A. xxvii. If not, the CMA description mirrors the Theyer sale-catalogue entry. For example, MS Royal 10 B. XI corresponds to the CMA entry 6559 "Gubernatio regni secundum justitiam as Ed. III. Reg." The Theyer sale-catalogue entry for this item is "67 Gubernatio Regni Secundum Iustitiam, ad Edwardu 3tium." (98) The close correspondence between the CMA entries and the Theyer sale catalogue is standard throughout. (99) Therefore, if one examines both the Royal manuscript catalogue's identified CMA entries with the identifiable Theyer sale-catalogue item, there is no means to connect them to each other. Several entries in the Theyer sale catalogue do not occur in Bernard's CMA--this is undoubtedly another example.

The mark of Theyer's monogram on the thirteenth-century portion of the manuscript with this clear description from the sale catalogue of the fifteenth-century portion--243 "A booke of ye passion of Jesus Xt in English verse wh Pictures"--strongly supports the theory that the two sections were bound together before the volume came into the King's Library at St. James's Palace. In addition, they were probably bound together, at the very least, when in the hands of the Theyer family, after the Dissolution. Beyond the manuscript's physical evidence and its possible provenance, the internal evidence of the texts in MS Royal 17 A. xxvii--the way in which this portable, devotional volume functions--constitutes the strongest evidence for the likelihood that the volume may have also been brought together earlier in the late Middle Ages, possibly in the fifteenth century.

Part II. Late-Medieval Women Reading the Passion

The evidence within the manuscript that suggests the two portions were bound before the seventeenth century comes in both its physical makeup and its internal contents and cues. Beyond the bibliographic and physical evidence in MS Royal 17 A. xxvii, the strongest case for the circulation of the two sections as one manuscript in the sixteenth century and possibly the late fifteenth century comes from the correlations evident in the manuscript contents. The Theyer sale-catalogue entry describes this manuscript as a book on the Passion of Christ; all of the pieces in the shorter fifteenth-century portion fit this description, but several of the thirteenth-century items do as well.

For a devotional readership, the manuscript functions seamlessly as a devotional object. Scholars have imagined the devotional readership for the thirteenth-century as religious women; in the fifteenth century, the readers were probably lay and/or religious women. The pieces form a linking--although flexible and composite--devotional program that focuses on Christ's Passion.

For example, the most prominent visual signature in the first half is the opening of St. Margaret. The colorful rubrication and elaborate penwork highlight the importance of St. Margaret. The first line after the distinct rubrication is: "Efter ure lauerdes pine. ant his passiun. ant his ded on rode" (After our Lord's pain. And his passion. And his death on the cross). (100) This line links specifically with the central passages of Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie: the meditation on the Passion and Christ's body and a discussion of bodily pain. Until the publication of a recent volume on the Wooing Group, devotion to the Passion and an interest in meditation on the pain, suffering, and dismembered parts of Christ's Passion, had been discussed only as a late-medieval focus. However, Catherine Innes-Parker rewrites this history of affective devotion to Christ's Passion. She recognizes that the Wooing Group materials, especially Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie, make up perhaps the earliest "'stand-alone' Passion meditation in Middle English, and thus the first of a genre which would come to dominate the vernacular theology of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries." (101)

In the full text of Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie, the prayer begins by invoking Mary through the Passion:
   Swete lefdi seinte marie meiden ouer meidnes pu bere pat blissful
   bern. pe arerde mon cun pat wes adun ifallet purh adames sunnen.
   ant purh his hali passiun weorp pen deouel adun ant herehede
   helle. (102)

   [O sweet Lady, holy Mary, maiden beyond all other maidens, who
   bore that joyous child, who raised up all humanity which had
   fallen down through Adam's sin, and who through his holy passion
   threw the devil down and harrowed hell.] (103)


The invocation of the Lady and the Holy Passion is just a small example of how the Passion becomes a large, focused object of devotion in the poem's second half. As Innes-Parker points out, this is the first stand-alone Passion meditation but also one that is similar to "those that accompany the later Arma Christi images." (104)

In the poem's second half, the text breaks down the Passion into identifiable body parts and tactile objects:
   bi pe herde hurtes and pe unwurde wowes det he for us sunfule
   willeliche polede. bi his deadfule grure. and bi his blodie swote.
   bi his eadi beoden in hulles him one. bi his nimunge. and
   bindunge. bi his ledunge ford. bi al pet me him demde. bi his
   clodes wrixlunge. Nu red. nu hwit. him on hokerunge. bi his
   scornunge. and bi his spotlunge. and bufettunge. and his heliunge.
   bi pe pornene crununge. bi de kinezerde of rode. him of scornunge.
   bi his owune rode. on his softe schuldres. so herde druggunge.
   bi pe dulte neiles. bi pe sore wunden: * bi pe holie rode. bi
   his side openunge. bi his blodi Rune pet ron inne monie studen.
   in umbe keoruunge. in his blod swetunge. in his pine pornene
   crununge. erest in his one hond and seoSSen in his oSer. olast in
   his side purlunge wiS-ute sore wunde. (105)

   [by the hard injuries (hurts) and by the unworthy wrongs that he
   willingly suffered for us sinful creatures; by his mortal agony,
   and by his bloody sweat; by his blessed prayers in the hills by
   himself; by his capture and binding; by his leading forth; by all
   that he was doomed to; by his change of raiment, now red, now
   white, (put) on him in mockery; by his scorning, and by his
   spitting and buffeting, and by his blinding; by the crown of
   thorns; by the scepter of reed given him in scorn; by his own
   cross, so hard dragging on his soft shoulders; by the blunt nails;
   by the sore wounds; by the holy rood; by the opening in his side;
   by his bloody stream that ran in many places, in his circumcision,
   in his blood-sweating, in his pain through the crown of thorns;
   (through the nails) first in his one hand and then in his other;
   lastly in the piercing of his side, beside (other) sore wounds.]
   (106)


The litany of the Instruments of the Passion in MS Royal 17 A. xxvii's Arma Christi (within the second fifteenth-century part) is prefigured in pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie. The "clodes wrixlunge. Nu red. Nu hwit" (his change of raiment, now red, now white) identifies the "Tunica inconsutilis et vestis purpuria" (indiscreet coat and purple garments) on folio 75r of the Arma Christi. (107) The three items, "his scornunge. and bi his spotlunge. and bufettunge" (his scorning, and by his spitting and buffeting), correlate with several sections of the Arma Christi. These comprise the "Manus depillans et alapans/The hond, lord, pat tare of pyn here" (Slapping and pushing hand /the hand, Lord, that tears out your ear) on folio 74v; the "Virge et flagella" (rods and whips), the perdes" (clubs/sticks), and the "scourges" (whips) used to scourge Christ on folio 75r; and the "Iudeus spuens in facie Christi/ pe iewe pat spit in goddus face" (The Jews spitting in Christ's face/the Jew that spit in God's face) on folio 78r. (108)

Further correspondences include the "heliunge" (blindfolding) with "Velamen ante oculos/pe clothe be-fore pin ine to" (the covering before the eyes/the cloth before your two eyes) on folio 74v; (109) the "pornene crununge" (the crown of thorns) with "corona spinea" (crown of thorns) on folio 75v; (110) the "kinezerde of rode" (scepter of reed) and "Him of scornunge. bi his owune rode. on his softe schuldres" (given him in scorn; by his own cross, on his soft shoulders) (111) with "Arundines/Crist had a stroke with a rede" (The Reeds/Christ had a blow with a reed) (112) on folio 74v; the "dulte neiles" (blunt nails) with "Clavi / pe nayles porow fet and handus to" (Nails /the nails through two feet and hands) on folio 76v; (113) the "holie rode" (holy rood/cross) with "Christusportas crucem in humero/pe cros be-hind his bakbon" (Christus at the gates with the cross on [his] shoulder/the cross behind his backbone) on folio 78r; (114) and the "umbe keoruunge" (circumcision) with "Cultellus circumsicionis. /pis knif be-tokenep circumsicion" (the little knife of circumcision/this knife that signifies circumcision) on folio 73r. (115)

The poetic imagery of pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie is a precise enumeration and itemization of Christ's Passion, pain, and Instruments. It acts as a bridge between the thirteenth-century materials and the fifteenth-century texts in MS Royal 17 A. xxvii. Additionally, the Passion devotion in both the thirteenth- and fifteenth-century texts is funneled through objects (reed, nails, whips, clubs, circumcision knives) that allow the layering and building up of religious meaning two centuries apart. The manuscript allows Passion objects to multiply and in the Arma Christi visualizes them with colored images of each Passion item. Thus, the manuscript's Passion devotion--its affective program for its female readers--occupies the true center of discursive concerns concretized in material practice. Although Innes-Parker notes the correlation between the Wooing Group Passion meditations and the Arma Christi, she does not make the direct correlation between these two texts in MS Royal 17 A. xxvii. (116)

The Arma Christi Booklet

The Passion of Christ, and especially the litany of his Arms, Wounds, and material and verbal/visual objects becomes the focal point of the fifteenth-century booklet in the Royal manuscript. The fifteenth-century section begins with a Latin text on confession, which in function mirrors the first portion of the pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie. It continues to a full Arma Christi text with detailed colored images of each Instrument of the Passion--concluding with an indulgence. The final texts, Marian lyrics, also center on Christ's Passion and the utility of prayer to resist Hell. In these lyrics, Christ's Passion is invoked:
   ffor his woundes fyue: pat Ronnen alle on blood,
   ffor pe loue of swete Ihesu: pat dyede on pe Rod,
   Get me heuene blisse: Ladi feir and god. (117)

   [For his wounds five: that run all with blood,
   for the love of sweet Jesus: that died on the cross,
   Get me heaven's bliss: lady fair and good.] (118)


Visually, the reference to the five wounds has an iconographic history linked to the Arma Christi: its earliest expression was accompanied by the Instruments of the Passion. Flora Lewis highlights this connection and describes how both traditions "epitomize the desire to encompass and anatomize the Passion" through the consistent fragmenting and reassembling of Christ's body. (119) Lewis also discusses how the Passion meditation invites readers to imagine themselves in the scene of the Passion (120) and to take up the arms of Christ as a way to help their own fight against the Devil. (121) In the Royal manuscript's fifteenth-century portion, the link between Hell's horrors and the Devil's temptations, on the one hand, and the objects and symbols of Christ's Passion, on the other, becomes a repeated body of salvation discourse--but grounded as an object-oriented or materialist discourse.

The vision of St. Thomas of Canterbury also focuses on Christ's Wounds, and the hymn about St. Bernard and the Devil centers once more on help to repudiate Hell and damnation. The second hymn to the Virgin and the hymn about St. Bernard and the Devil employ similar language to solicit aid against the Devil and Hell. In the second hymn to the Virgin, the reader is asked to pray to the virgin to:
   schilde us from helle pyne.
   Shilde me lady fro(m) worldes schame.
   And fro alle wicked fame.
   Schilde me lady from villani.
   And from wicked companye. (fol. 83r)

   [shield us from Hell's pain.
   Shield me, Lady, from the world's shame.
   And from all wicked fame.
   Shield me, Lady, from villainy.
   And from wicked company.] (122)


The verse emphasizes the term "schilde" as the verb "to protect/save," but the verb also means to provide with a shield or arms. (124) In this way, the term forges a link between the Arma Christi text and the iconographic tradition of envisioning the Arma Christi and also the Wounds of Christ as Christ's heraldic shield. (124) It carries the reader into a courtly and military milieu of vernacular devotion and builds the devotional focus on another object. In the hymn about St. Bernard and the Devil, a similar image is recalled:
   I[long green letter]llumina oculos meos ne
   umq(uam) obdormia(m)
   zyf lizt unto myn eze sizt
   pat I nouzt slepe whan I schal dye
   lat nouzt my fo in gostly sizt
   seyn I haue ou hym pe maystrie
   but shilde me fro pat foule wizt. (fol. 86v) (125)

   [Give light to my eyes, lest I never sleep
   Give light unto my eyesight
   That I shall not sleep when I shall die
   Let not my foe in ghostly sight
   I have seen him alas the power
   But shield me from that foul creature.] (126)


The St. Bernard text again divulges a lexical and textual layering that shifts from direct Passion narrative to explications of how the Passion items can be used to help "schilde" readers from the foulness of Hell, the Devil, and damnation. The verse's emphasis on seeing also links ocularly to the Arma Christi item of the blindfolded Christ (fol. 74v) and to the first item in the Arma Christi--the "vernicle," the cloth that held an impression of Christ's face after St. Veronica used it to wipe Christ's face on the way to Calvary.

The verse about Veronica's cloth functions as a mini-Arma Christi. The poetic section breaks up Christ's face into different objects visualized on the vernicle: "His moth, his nose, his ine to, /His berd, his here did al so" (his mouth, his nose, his two eyes, /his beard, his ear did also). (127) The devotional poem then petitions Christ, through the object of Veronica's veil, to "schilde" the reader from all her or his life's sins with the "wittes fiue." (128) The poem asks for forgiveness of the sins of the devout through looking at the "syht" of Christ's likeness on Veronica's veil. Thus the veil performs as a heraldic relic--an unfurled cloth rather than a vellum roll--that grants an indulgence: forgiveness of sins for all who gaze upon this image (see Figure 1). An illustration on folio 72v depicts two angels who have unfurled the vernicle's image for the reader's visual consumption. In this manner, the devotional texts in MS Royal 17 A. xxvii builds female affective devotion onto material objects, transforming the nonpresent object--the mimetic visual image of Veronica's cloth--into a material object with power that can affect the reader.

One of the last items in the Royal manuscript, the popular fifteenth-century text the Fifteen Oes, is "devotional prayers memorializing Jesus's Passion," usually containing fifteen sections that begin with "O," followed by an accompanying verse. (129) Similar to the Arma Christi, the Fifteen Oes required not only recitation of the Passion meditation, but also looking at and reading the physical text. (130) The Fifteen Oes concentrate explicitly and graphically on Christ's physical suffering and torment. For example, the second "O" discusses how the Jews "fastened your [Christ's] blessed hands to the cross with blunt nails" and then pierced Christ's feet, stretched his body, and dislocated and broke his bones. (131) Each of the Fifteen Oes encourages the reader to visualize the Crucifixion, with Christ's wounds, blood, and suffering, in graphic detail. An indulgence prayer follows the Fifteen Oes. The text was also a popular late-medieval indulgence prayer that would often offer salvation for multiple family members. In this way, the Fifteen Oes is another set of popular female religious devotion that transforms the text into an object "carrying talismanic significant" that could promise salvation, miracles, and defense against Hell. (132)

All the pieces in the second section of MS Royal 17 A. xxvii correspond to Kathleen Kamerick's discussion of the Arma Christi image, text, and popular use in late-medieval devotional culture in Popular Piety and Art in the Late Middle Ages. (133) In particular, she emphasizes the links between the texts devoted to the Passion, the Arma Christi, intercessions, and prayers against Hell and the hour of death with the occurrence of indulgences. These indulgences banked time away from Hell and Purgatory by the very looking at or reciting of the Arma Christi and these other texts. Significantly, the Royal manuscript has three sets of indulgences: two in the Arma Christi and another at the manuscript's end.

The Arma Christi indulgence, the first, promises aid from St. Peter and Pope Innocent. It pledges to give whoever sees it every day for a year an indulgence of "Hap vi. M. vii C. v. and fifti zere/ And half zere and dayes pre" (fol. 81r) (Have six thousand seven hundred five and fifty year/and half a year and days three)." (134) Within the Arma Christi, there is a separate indulgence, the second, just for gazing at the vernicle: "And ich bischop sayd to-for-hand/For syzt of pe vernacul hath graunt/xl dayus to pardon" (And I, the bishop who said earlier/ for the sight of the vernacle shall grant/ 40 days to pardon). (135) The last item, the third indulgence, granted by Pope John, promises a separate 6,000-year indulgence.

These multiple indulgences transform the manuscript from a series of texts that stand as a remembrance of Christ's Crucifixion and suffering to an object of power. The Instruments of the Passion are used in the poems as the reader's shield against the battle with the Devil and the fires of Hell. And finally, as the indulgences attest, the manuscript itself has become an object--a talisman, a textual amulet, a physical shield protecting the reader from Hell and the Devil. (136) The indulgence from the Royal manuscript's Arma Christi speaks to its female readers as a gendered talisman: "to wymen hit is meke and mild/When pey trauelne of her chi[l]d" (to women who are meek and mild/when they travail [labor] of their child) (fol. 80v).137 Hence the book became a charm against dangerous childbirth.138 The manuscript layers multiple smaller objects within the composite cupboard of devotional texts for potential female readers and transforms itself into a material object that affects female devotion: it is a reliquary holding smaller material relics that can be deployed for the benefit of its female audience. The qualities of its materiality--the ability to see and touch--have now become the conduits in which it exercises its material force.

The "Scourgen"

Up to this point, I have endeavored to bring into relief a larger picture of the manuscript. I am shifting my gaze now to take one item from the Arma Christi and one detail in the Life of St. Juliana to consider how an object permits a late-medieval female reader to contextualize both the book's thirteenth- and fifteenth-century devotion. How could she adapt these materials into a composite devotional practice? There are other connections and narrative strands from the two parts of this manuscript: an interest in charity, lexical interest in the term "bon/ban," and an emphasis on the Jews. But I would like to concentrate on one detail in the Life of St. Juliana and its connection to the Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie and the Arma Christi. This link demonstrates how materials two centuries apart can present a visual, meditative, and object-oriented exercise for late-medieval and even early modern readers.

The early Middle English Life of St. Juliana is known for its violence--especially in its detailed description of the virgin saint's torture of the Devil. Both the Latin vita in Bodley 285 and the early Middle English Life in MS Royal 17 A. xxvii explain that Juliana uses her chains--her bonds--to punish the Devil. There is only one set of images that take the cues of the early Middle English Katherine Group Lives (St. Katherine, St. Margaret, and St. Juliana) and visualize these vernacular lives: illustrations in Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum MS 370. Unlike St. Katherine and St. Margaret, who have quite an extensive iconographic tradition in thirteenth-century English manuscripts, Juliana's image in this manuscript is unique because it is the only one--the only identified visual evidence--that has survived from thirteenth-century England.

Fitzwilliam 370, a manuscript containing eighteen full-page miniatures with accompanying notes in Lombardic capitals at the top of each page, (139) is a "picture book" with only nine surviving folios. Four separate descriptions were made of this book over the last century: Lucy Sandler's entry in Later Gothic Manuscripts (1986), Wormald and Giles's description in the Fitzwilliam Illuminated Catalogue (1982), (140) M. R. James's article in the Walpole Society (1937), and Paul Binski and Stella Panayotova's commentary for the recent Cambridge Illuminations catalogue (2005). (141)

In the last image of Fitzwilliam 370, St. Juliana is using a knotted whip--a "scourgen," with a solid handle--not her chains (see Figure 2). This whip is not only the type of weaponry used in St. Katherine, the previous vita, to flagellate the virgin saint, but is also a visual marker of the weapons used by those who tortured Christ: one of the Instruments of the Passion. By switching the torture weapons, Fitzwilliam 370 disturbingly transforms this difficult moment in the English St. Juliana into a scene where Juliana becomes a persecutor of Christ. Does it allow the possibility for a reader during this two-century period to understand her positionality within the semiotics of Jewishness?

Fitzwilliam 370's iconography of St. Juliana is also exceptional because it does not seem to continue in other later manuscripts. In an illuminated manuscript of the Legenda aurea, San Marino, Huntington Library MS HM 3027, the iconography of St. Juliana is shown in two scenes in a single decorated section (fol. 34). This manuscript, a Parisian product of the late thirteenth century, was in England by the last quarter of the fourteenth century. (142) On the left side, St. Juliana is binding the Devil with her bonds inside her prison cell; on the right side, she kneels and waits for her executioner to behead her. (143) The executioner's pose is eerily reminiscent of St. Juliana's stance in Fitzwilliam 370--he holds his female victim with his left hand while he raises his sword with his right. (144) This image does not follow the iconographic cues in Fitzwilliam 370, which indicates that the visual program in Huntington Library MS HM 3027 must be following the text of the Legenda aurea rather than a vernacular version.

The inclusion of one of the Arma Christi in this unique St. Juliana picture is not done ex nihilo. In Fitzwilliam 370's fourth image (fol. 2v), we have the scene of the Judgment, which includes several interesting details: four angels hold Instruments of the Passion (top left, green cross; top right, lance; lower left, three nails; lower right, crown of thorns). Christ sits in judgment in the center of a mandorla wearing only a piece of blue cloth. We can see his wounds on his side and on his feet. (145) This early visual expression of the cult of the five Wounds and the Instruments of the Passion becomes, in the later Middle Ages, part of Christ's heraldic shield. The "scourge" is not in this image but has been "lent" to St. Juliana.

This late-thirteenth-century manuscript, Fitzwilliam 370, becomes the linchpin that links the thirteenth-century St. Juliana with the fifteenth-century Arma Christi in MS Royal 17 A. xxvii. Given that the Royal manuscript's thirteenth-century portion includes Katherine, Margaret, and Juliana, and finishes off with one of the Wooing Group texts--focused on Christ's scourging and buffeting--bringing in an Arma Christi text fits an interpretive devotional logic. Instead of ending with images of Juliana gleefully torturing the Devil, the Arma Christi tradition allows the readers to revise this ending and reimagine Juliana as a warrior who has taken the Instruments of the Passion to fight the Devil and the demons. She has been rehabilitated from torturer to soldier of Christ.

In MS Royal 17 A. xxvii, the Arma Christi text is accompanied by visual images of the instruments. The visual iconography's purpose is to be a meditative visual template. For the "scourgen," this visual meditation encompasses a descriptive poem and image of the "scourgen" (fol. 75r), now shown as a cat-o'-nine-tails or knotted whip. The reader is urged to ruminate on the following verse:
   Virge et flagelle.
   With zerdes grete pow were to-dachud,
   With scourges smert al to-lachud,
      pat peine me soker of sinnus,
      Of slouth and of idelnes. (146)

   [Rods and Whips.
   With great rods you were to be beaten,
   With scourges sharp all to be lashed,
   That pain my succor of sins,
   Of sloth and of idleness.] (147)


Jeffrey Hamburger's work on the Rothschild Canticles and Flora Lewis's work on devotional images explain the prominence and function of the Arma Christi tradition in text and iconography. (148) Widely popular among female religious readers and especially nuns, the Arma Christi (although often in codex form, in roll for specific use) could allow women--as exemplified occasionally by the Virgin Mary--to take up the weapons of Christ to help fight demons and the Devil. Thus female readers could become Christ's warriors and were depicted as such. However, almost all the depictions show a passive, defensive fighting female figure using these arms, these Instruments of the Passion. Juliana rewrites this role and stands as an active pursuer of Christ's enemies; the active stance corresponds to a model of active devotion encouraged by the mendicant orders (Dominican and Franciscan).

As a thirteenth-century devotional unit, the Katherine Group Lives and Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie--combined with the background of the only visual tradition in existence of St. Juliana--become a holistic devotional unit. One can see how a female religious reader would have been able to extract a unique devotional reading about Christ's Passion and the role of saints and women in fighting the Devil. This combination of both the thirteenth-century and the fifteenth-century booklets permits MS Royal 17 A. xxvii to become a full exploration of Passion meditation and reach its devotional apogee as a literary, visual, and tactile object of devotion.

By reading the two parts together, the Royal manuscript allows its female readers a way to revise the end of the vitae in the Katherine Group: to transform Juliana from a violent torturer to a soldier taking up the weapons of Christ (scourge) to fight the Devil. She is still an oddity, even in the Arma Christi tradition, because she is aggressively active. But for our manuscript's late-medieval and early modern readers--particularly the women--the inclusion of the Arma Christi usually signaled a pastoral, public viewing, with importance placed on the power of visual meditation. In most Arma Christi manuscripts (especially in rolls), the point is that the daily looking at the Arma Christi (manuscript, scroll, images) will gain an indulgence against sin. (149) This would permit the focus of devotion to incorporate the earlier works but shift the prominence onto this visual and oral relic. And thus our "scourgen" demonstrates how religious texts two centuries apart can be rewritten, reread, reused, and reconceived by later devotional readers.

The Boundaries of a Female Audience

The audience for the thirteenth-century material has always been imagined as female religious readers. The fifteenth-century section has texts corresponding to another manuscript, British Library, MS Additional 37787, a Worcestershire miscellany produced in the late fourteenth century by John Northwood, a monk at Bordesley. (150) Although produced in a monastic setting, MS Additional 37787 has several signs of female lay ownership in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Goditha Peyto, wife of Sir Edward Peyto, owned the manuscript in the fifteenth century; she subsequently passed it on to another woman. Manuscript notes also show female ownership in the sixteenth century. (151)

Nita Baugh suggests a connection between this Worcestershire miscellany, MS Royal 17 A. xxvii, and the Vernon manuscript (Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Eng. Poet a. 1). The overlap of materials and what she perceives as similarities in hand and mise-en-page indicate to Baugh that all three may have been produced at Bordesley. I do not see quite the same hand in these two manuscripts--the Worcestershire miscellany and the Royal manuscript--and several of the pieces are differently laid out and are occasionally in different languages. Nonetheless, they are neighboring manuscripts with textual overlap and a geographical proximity; they may speak to different ways in which female readers may have read and used these texts--in a cloister or out in the world.

In the case of MS Royal 17 A. xxvii, although our information about its earlier pre-1600 circulation is tentative, looking at connected and related local manuscripts from the same period can help fill out a picture of circulation and readership. The devotion to the Passion of the late-medieval female readers of this manuscript allowed for a flexible and portable reading and religious practice. One can imagine a late-medieval reader of MS Royal 17 A. xxvii meditating on the horrors of Hell and damnation as described in both the first text, Sawles Warde, and the fifteenth-century hymn about St. Bernard and the Devil. She could trace the reenactment of the passion through the Life of St. Juliana, Pe Oreisun of Seinte Marie, and the Arma Christi. She had myriad ways to use the book: as a reader, as a meditative reciter and practitioner, and finally as a believer in its effectiveness as a devotional talisman. Our female reader was the ultimate composite reader for a composite and mutable book.
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Title Annotation:p. 153-184
Author:Kim, Dorothy
Publication:The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2012
Words:12923
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