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John Scattergood. Manuscripts and Ghosts: Essays on the Transmission of Medieval and Early Renaissance Literature.

John Scattergood. Manuscripts and Ghosts: Essays on the Transmission of Medieval and Early Renaissance Literature. Dublin: Four Courts, 2006. 320 pp. $65 cloth.

John Scattergood's Manuscripts and Ghosts brings together a selection of eleven previously published essays (2-10, 12, 15), most of which have been updated in light of new research, and five new chapters (1, 11, 13, 14, 16), all written in his characteristic, accessible but informative style. Overall this is a thoroughly researched collection, covering topics ranging widely from Anglo-Saxon riddles to the early modern literary texts and manuscripts.

The opening chapter, "The Copying of Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts," is a substantial and detailed review of the processes by which a variety of well-known manuscripts were produced and disseminated, including a survey of the activities of famous scribes and collectors like John Shirley, William Ebesham and Thomas Hoccleve, among others. This chapter provides a very useful introduction to the collection, which will benefit those who teach and study the history of late medieval book production. In "Eating the Book: Riddle 47 and Memory, Scattergood uses the subject of the poem, the image of a worm eating a book, to examine the important function of memory as a source for power, from classical models to Anglo-Saxon times. As its title suggests, "Political Context, Date and Composition of The Sayings of the Four Philosophers" contains a reevaluation of the poem in the light of political allusions to Edward II and Piers Gaveston, while "An Unpublished Middle English Poem from London, Public Record Office Manuscript SC 6/956/5" contains a brief discussion and edition of "ffro this worlde be-bynyng...," a previously unknown short (70 line) poem on the topographical and historical description of Rome. In chapter five Scattergood returns to Chaucer's Wordes unto Adam, His Own Scriveyn, suggesting that a more profitable investigation of this poem might be not the identity of the scribe, but Chaucer's choice of genre and style; Chaucer seems to have preferred complaint poetry as a model for his poem, thus placing himself in a long tradition, from Strabo and Cicero to Jerome, Petrarch and Dante.

"Two Medieval Book-Lists" consists of a brief investigation of surviving evidence about two fourteenth-century libraries, of Sir Simon Burley and William de Walcote; their books included, alongside at least one Bible, the Brut chronicle, the prophecies of Merlin, and some unidentified Arthurian romances. "The Authorship of The Boke of Cupide" was Scattergood's first published journal article, prior to the popularity John Clanvowe's work was to enjoy. The following chapter discusses the origin of folio 90 in Dublin, Trinity College Library MS 212, which represents a previously unrecorded fragment of the prose Lancelot; the chapter contains both an examination of the origin of the manuscript to which this folio was added and an edition of the text.

In "Dublin, Trinity College Library MS 75: A Lollard Bible and Some Protestant Owners," Scattergood writes, with Guido Latre, about the fascinating history of a miscellany well-known as a witness to the Lollard movement. Although the detailed examination of John Purvey, one of Wyclif's followers, his connections with book production and his ownership of books cannot provide any clear evidence about his connection with TCD MS 75, the authors of the chapter suggest that the composite nature of the manuscript and its contents indicate a strong association with Protestant readers in the sixteenth century, Sir Henry Gates and his friends.

In chapter ten Scattergood returns to issues of ownership and circulation of medieval manuscripts in a fascinating analysis of the connection(s) between the Massy family of Cheshire and the writing of Middle English alliterative poetry (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the alliterative St Erkenwald in BL MS Harley 2250). Here Scattergood proposes a further association between a certain John Mascy and Dublin, Trinity College Library MS 155, in which the interest of the book owner, possibly also a copyist and an author, was in devotional material in Richard Rolle's tradition. Chapter eleven focuses on the linguistic, stylistic and palaeographical features of another Dublin manuscript of the later Middle Ages, Royal Irish Academy Library MS 12 R31, a deluxe copy of a book of hours for Sarum use produced in Rouen around 1444 for the marriage of Sir Thomas Hoo and Eleanor Welles. Errors introduced by the scribe in the English text seem to indicate, according to Scattergood, his "comparative unfamiliarity with the English language and with English cursive hands" (212). Chapter twelve contains an analysis of "Some Illustrations of the Unicorn Apologue from Barlaam and loasaph", written with the late Ruth Pitman, in which careful attention is paid to illuminations in manuscripts now in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, Bibliotheque Royale, Brussels, and the British Library, London.

Another new contribution is "'The Eyes of Memory': The Function of the Illustrations in Dublin, Trinity College Library MS 505," in which Scattergood returns to the topic of memory and the impact of the style in which crucial places are visually represented at key points in the narrative of the Middle English Brut chronicle contained in this manuscript. Alongside the vividly coloured, elaborate genealogical descent of the English kings from Noah (accompanied by an illustration of Noah's ark) to the Yorkist Edward IV, which features in Part I of the manuscript, illustrations of major events in Christian history appear, like the Nativity at Bethlehem, followed by the foundations of New Troy or London, York, Carlisle and many other English towns. Here Scattergood identifies an interest on the part of the illustrator to work as Rous and Worcester, that is "he regarded topography, on however fragmentary a level, as an essential part of the writing of history", and in particular national history (251).

Two out of the last three chapters in the book are new (fourteen and sixteen); they focus on a late medieval English poem on London in its manuscript variants, and one of the representative manuscripts of humanism in Ireland, Dublin, Trinity College Library MS 160, respectively. In chapter fourteen Scattergood identifies London merchant interests in the composition of the poem for a particular civic occasion, while in chapter sixteen he examines the palaeographical evidence in TCD MS 160 to suggest that "humanistic culture of a reformist and Protestant kind had taken root in Ireland around Dublin in the late 1550s" (303). Chapter 15 contains palaeographical and dialectal analyses of the impact of two short poems inserted into the well-known copy of the Middle English Brut chronicle contained in Dublin, Trinity College Library MS 490 for the Kentish origins of the manuscript.

Complete with a list of manuscript and an index of places and proper names (though not of characters in literary works), this collection provides the specialist as well as the young researcher with models for research into the intricate web of relationships between scribes, authors and producers of manuscripts.

Raluca L. Radulescu

Bangor University
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Author:Radulescu, Raluca L.
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Date:Dec 22, 2008
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