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Two Leicestershire romance codices: Cambridge, University Library MS Ff.2.38 and Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 61.

In analyzing the history of Middle English books, it is rare to find extensive connections between surviving manuscripts, and thus, when we alight on such connections, they can be quite telling. For example, scholars have recently drawn attention to the host of scribes active in London during the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, many of whom copied multiple manuscripts of Middle English literature. From such analyses, a picture of loosely affiliated freelance copyists has emerged as the model dominating London book production in the century before Caxton. (1) Ralph Hanna also depicts Yorkshire scribes active in copying out multiple manuscripts, signaling an active literary culture far from the capital. (2) And the region of Bury St. Edmunds is known to have produced a series of high-end Lydgate manuscripts, providing us with a picture of yet another provincial book-producing locale--this one apparently specializing in the literature of their local luminary. (3) Yet individual manuscripts of Middle English romance--which was demonstrably a popular genre, with more than a hundred extant manuscripts--survive as almost completely discrete entities, with few identifiable connections to other manuscripts or to wider patterns of scribal dissemination. (4)

I wish here to draw attention to previously overlooked connections between two of the most important compilations of Middle English romance: Cambridge, University Library MS Ff.2.38 (hereafter CUL) and Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 61 (hereafter Ashmole). As I argue below, both manuscripts share a paper stock, and both were copied out by a scribe from Leicestershire. Thus, both of these codices were almost certainly provincial productions for a provincial readership, made around the same time in the same locale for a similar sort of reader. But as I also argue, both manuscripts evince different production models--CUL being more organized and bearing the signs of production by a provincial professional, Ashmole being comparatively miscellaneous and amateur. Examining the connections between these manuscripts shows that romance was often produced by remarkably ad hoc procedures, making its production quite different from the more organized and cooperative ventures of London scribes. (5)

Containing nine romances, CUL represents one of the genre's most important compilations: in terms of the number of its romances, it is second only to the Auchinleck Manuscript (Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland MS Advocates 19.2.1) and equal to the Lincoln Thornton Manuscript (Lincoln, Cathedral Library MS 91). (6) It is entirely in a single hand (a mixture of Anglicana and Secretary), which can be conservatively dated to the late fifteenth-early sixteenth century; however, given the many features it shares with Ashmole and the consistent dates offered by its four paper stocks, we should almost certainly locate CUL on the earlier end of this date range, roughly the last quarter of the fifteenth century. (7) It is entirely on paper and divides its texts into two roughly homogeneous sections: religious and didactic texts (fols. 3r-63r) and romances (fols. 63r-261v). Its didactic texts include Pety Job, "The Long Charter of Christ," "How the Good Man Taught His Son," and vitae of Margaret, Mary Magdalene, Thomas Becket, and Katherine. Its romances include the popular Robert of Sicily, Guy of Warwick (the unique fifteenth-century version), Northern Octavian, and Sir Eglamour of Artois.

Ashmole is best known for its unusual format--tall and narrow--which led many earlier scholars to presume this was a minstrel's holster book. (8) Ashmole bears many broad similarities to CUL: this manuscript, like CUL, is copied entirely by a single scribe and is datable to roughly the second half of the fifteenth century. (9) Like CUL, Ashmole is entirely on paper. (10) Also like CUL, Ashmole contains numerous examples of didactic and religious literature, as well as romances; unlike CUL, however, Ashmole does not divide its romances and its didactic literature into separate sections. Instead, the texts are scattered throughout in seemingly random fashion, likely following whatever exemplars were at hand for the scribe. The didactic/ religious texts in Ashmole include The Northern Passion, Lydgate's Dietary, Maidstone's Seven Penitential Psalms, and The Stations of Jerusalem. The romances include Sir Isumbras, The Earl of Tolous, Sir Cleges, and Sir Orfeo.

Both watermark and linguistic evidence point to a common origin--both time and place--for these two manuscripts. CUL contains four stocks of paper, while Ashmole has three, but most important to the present purposes, my analysis of the paper indicates that they both share a stock. That is, the fourth stock present in CUL and the third stock present in Ashmole are identical to one another, and both are quite close to Briquet 11194, a hand surmounted by a flower (Savoy, 1485). (11) Analysis of the marks is much easier in CUL, which is a folio manuscript and thus has its marks in the center of the leaf; Ashmole, by contrast, is a quarto, and the gutters thus obscure the marks. However, my measurements of the marks show that they are identical in size: from the bottom of the hand to the top of the flower, measuring right along the chain line, the mark is 77 millimeters tall, while the widest part of the mark (viz., between the outer edge of the hand's thumb and pinky) measures 24 millimeters. (Beta-radiographs of the watermarks in Ashmole, made when the manuscript was disbound, are kept in a file with the manuscript, and analysis of these allows measurements of the width of these marks, otherwise impossible due to the manuscript's binding.) (12)

It should be noted that there are two slight variations in Ashmole's version of this mark: in one, the flower on top of the hand is symmetrical, with three leaves on each side of a center spike, while on the other a leaf emerges vertically from the center spike, leaving two leaves on the left of the spike and three on the right. This slight variation is no doubt due to the twinning of watermarks in paper mills of the period. (13) In a 1985 essay Friedrich Hulsmann first tentatively noted the commonality between CUL's and Ashmole's paper stocks, arguing that "both scribes used similar sorts of paper," which my own work with the manuscripts confirms. (14) However, given the common linguistic evidence uniting both manuscripts, and given the identical size of the mark in both manuscripts, I think it more than justified to identify these paper stocks as identical, not just "similar"--imported, that is, from the same mill, and, as I argue below, likely acquired from the same paper-seller in Leicester.

Although watermarks must be treated cautiously when used as evidence for dating, the stocks in both manuscripts point to a date in the last quarter of the fifteenth century, one that is consistent with the script employed by both scribes. My own analysis of the stocks in both manuscripts confirms Hulsmann's watermark identification on all points. (15) Since each watermark can be dated to the last quarter of the fifteenth century, we can consider such evidence as a reliable guide to the dating of both codices--a case strengthened by the appearance of one of the watermarks in both codices, while the association of the two manuscripts is further strengthened by the evidence, which I now address, that they are from the same region.

A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English (LALME) reveals that the scribe of CUL hailed from Leicestershire, just west of the city of Leicester. (16) Of course, the Linguistic Profiles in LALME are merely a best fit for the data and are not meant to be taken as exact locations. Moreover, these data indicate only where the scribe learned to write, not where he copied out the manuscript itself--scribal mobility, that is, must always be kept in mind. (17) For the present purposes, the key point to note is that LALME also locates the scribe of Ashmole in Leicestershire, just to the northeast of the city of Leicester--that is, from the same region as the scribe of CUL. (18) Internal evidence from Ashmole further supports a connection between this manuscript and the city of Leicester: the scribe copied into his manuscript a uniquely surviving verse legend on the founding of the Feast of All Saints and All Souls. As it happens, Leicester's Corpus Christi Guild marked All Saints' Day as one of its three principal festivals. (19) Moreover, the scribe of Ashmole signed his name, Rate, on nineteen different occasions throughout the manuscript, a name that shows up in Leicestershire wills and among the freemen of the city in the Leicester archives. (20) Thus, it is almost certain that Ashmole was produced in Leicester for a Leicester readership. The facts that CUL's scribe has a similar linguistic profile and used paper from the same source urge us to examine these two codices side by side.

The linguistic and watermark evidence uniting these two manuscripts strongly suggests that both scribes purchased their paper in Leicester, which would form the most proximate and only nearby commercial center, one that could serve the scribes of two such books. There is, in fact, evidence of book production in Leicester during this period, so importation and distribution of paper to service such a market should not be a surprise. (21) The Abbey of St. Mary de Pratis, an Augustinian house located just outside the city walls, was one of the primary educational sites for the children of city elites; in the period when CUL and Ashmole were produced, the abbey held more than 1,100 manuscripts. The abbey definitely had a scriptorium, though evidence ofvernacular literary production there is quite limited. John Manly and Edith Rickert do, however, make the case that London, British Library MS Harley 7333, a compendium containing a host of Middle English texts, including The Canterbury Tales, was likely produced at St. Mary de Pratis. (22) Moreover, the abbey's collection of books did contain a smattering of "romances and other texts in Anglo-Norman." (23)

Given that the abbey's 1492 catalogue lists books that the precentor, William Charyte, "scribi fecit," we can be confident that around the time of CUL's and Ashmole's production, its scriptorium was active--though this catalogue mentions no Middle English texts. There was also book production within the city: parchment makers are attested as early as the end of the twelfth century, while a street in Leicester came to be known as Parchment Lane. The late fourteenth century provides evidence of scribal activity in the city, as well. In 1389, Archbishop Courtenay visited Leicester in an attempt to crack down on Lollardy, and while there he questioned two men, Michael Scrivener and William Parchmentmaker, both with trade names pointing unambiguously to book production.

Beyond sharing a common paper stock and a scribe from the same region, there is no indication that the scribes of these two manuscripts were connected in any way. Thus, after likely acquiring their paper from the same place, both scribes went about their separate copying endeavors. There are six texts common to CUL and Ashmole, though in none of the cases are both manuscripts' copies derived from the same exemplar: first, the so-called Stimulus consciencie minor; (24) second, the religious lyric, "With Sharp Thorns That Beth Keen"; (25) third, "How the Wise Man Taught His Son"; (26) fourth, "The Lament of Mary"; (27) fifth, "The Adulterous Falmouth Squire"; (28) and sixth, the romance known as The Earl of Tolous. (29)

So in both CUL and Ashmole, we meet scribes working in the same vicinity at the same time and acquiring at least one stock of paper from the same source. But from there, both scribes took different routes to creating their compilations: the scribe of CUL crafted a relatively well-organized volume with evidence of a good deal of forethought invested in the manuscript's layout and appearance--the signs of a professional book producer. As Felicity Riddy comments about CUL, "The most obvious assumption is that the manuscript was commissioned for urban domestic use from a local professional." (30) I think Riddy is correct that this manuscript was produced on commission--though the evidence affords us only speculation on this point. The CUL-scribe divides the codex into two main thematic sections: the opening series comprises religious texts and moral exempla (fols. 3r-63r), while the subsequent series contains exclusively romances (fols. 63r-end). (31) Even within these larger units, the scribe manages to create sub-units: the manuscript opens with a series of moral-didactic texts (fols. 3r-35v), followed by a series of hagiographies (fols. 35v-47v). After a few more didactic texts, the scribe places two texts about adultery (fols. 56r-59r). And then there is a large span of romances at the end of the volume. Moreover, he employs a uniform mise-en-page throughout, using a double-column format and leaving several inches of blank space between each text, which he usually fills in with an explicit or a title for the following text. (32) He also compiles his manuscript into twenty-leaf quires: such a regular collation would fit with a scribe who sat down to copy out a series of texts which he had before him from the start, or at least a scribe who could count on reliable access to texts.

The CUL-scribe also regularly employs catchwords and quire signatures. Of the manuscript's thirteen surviving quires, only one--the second--has multiple stocks of paper. One would expect this state were the scribe to have been a professional, with access to a large supply of paper from the beginning of his copying. A scribe working in such conditions would be able to sit down and produce the manuscript as a single unit, working with large batches of homogeneous paper.

By contrast, Ashmole 61 is remarkably haphazard. To begin with, the manuscript is tall and narrow, the paper folded vertically rather than horizontally, measuring 415 millimeters by 137 millimeters, which left space for only one column. Beyond the idiosyncratic format of the book, we can also find evidence for peculiar production patterns in the scribe's repeated inscription of his name. On nineteen different occasions he signs "Rate," "Amen quod Rate," or some variation on this phrase, as mentioned above. Moreover, this Rate has drawn, at seemingly random intervals, a series of fish and roses at the conclusion of texts throughout the manuscript. (33) Beyond their usual occurrence at the end of texts, there is no discernible pattern to these drawings, meaning they were likely added according to Rate's whimsy. A professional scribe producing a book would hardly have signed his own name repeatedly or drawn a series of what are presumably esoteric illustrations in a volume meant for someone else, suggesting that Rate probably made this for his own household's consumption. Finally, unlike CUL, there is no generic organizational pattern to the manuscript.

Our knowledge of book production in late medieval England is in general quite limited, but within this limited field of knowledge, the lion's share of scholarly attention, as well as the most fruitful speculation, has gone to books produced in London by commercial scriptores. With late medieval vernacular books, it is only those produced in London about which we can construct a narrative of production tying manuscripts together into a bookmaking industry, with cooperation between scribes and thus connections between individual manuscripts--however decentered and germinal such production efforts were. But one suspects--and such a study has never been undertaken, though it is clearly a desideratum--that most books of Middle English in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were not produced by someone with experience in producing multiple codices: more like Rate, less like Adam Pynkhurst, that is.

As Curt F. Buhler writes about the fifteenth-century book, "The professional production of manuscripts was dwarfed, I am convinced, by the quantity of books produced by the enterprise which, for want of a better term, one may call the 'every man his own scribe' movement. There was nothing, of course, to prevent anyone from writing his own manuscripts." (34) The vast majority of England's literate middle class and minor aristocracy lived far from London, and thus it would have been most natural for such consumers to look to local scribes to copy out books for them. Such is likely the case with CUL. And if Ashmole were indeed made by Rate for use in his own household, this would afford us yet another production model lying outside of the circuit of London production: the homemade miscellany. As Michael Sargent comments, "[W]e need to know much more about the non-centralized production of non-canonized books." (35)

Connections between books produced by such "non-centralized" procedures tend to be elusive--such products were not invested with the cultural capital that came with book production in the capital, and thus they were more susceptible to the ravages of time. But in recovering the literary and cultural significance of Middle English romance, we need to be attentive to the connections between surviving manuscripts, however scant. The more such connections emerge, the sharper our picture will be. My intuition is that by the fifteenth century, romance had been pushed to the margins, relegated to an inferior cultural position compared to Chaucer, Gower, and Langland, whose works occupied London copyists in the century before Caxton. As the canon took shape in the city, romance remained in the provinces. But until scholars take up further connections between romance manuscripts of the period, such must remain only an intuition.

Purdue University

Acknowledgments

I wish to thank the Huntington Library and the British Academy for their Fellowship for Study in Great Britain, and the Bibliographical Society (London) and Bibliographical Society of America for their Fredson Bowers Award, which underwrote the costs for much of this research. I also wish to thank Ralph Hanna and Robyn Malo for their comments on drafts of this essay.

WORKS CITED

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Beadle, Richard. "Prolegomena to a Literary Geography of Later Medieval Norfolk." In Regionalism in Late Medieval Manuscripts and Texts: Essays Celebrating the Publication of A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English, ed. Felicity Riddy. Cambridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 1991, 89-108.

Blanchfield, Lynne S. "'An Idiosyncratic Scribe': A Study of the Practice and Purpose of Rate, the Scribe of Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 61." PhD diss., University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, 1991.

--. "Rate Revisited: The Compilation of the Narrative Works in MS Ashmole 61." In Romance Reading on the Book: Essays on Medieval Narrative Presented to Maldwyn Mills, ed. Jennifer Fellows et al. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1996, 208-220.

--. "The Romances in MS Ashmole 61: An Idiosyncratic Scribe." In Romance in Medieval England, ed. Maldwyn Mills, Jennifer Fellows, and Carol Meale. Cambridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 1991, 65-87.

Bliss, A. J., ed. Sir Orfeo. 2nd. ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966.

Buhler, Curt F. The Fifteenth-Century Book: The Scribes, the Printers, the Decorators. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1960.

Doyle, A. I., and M. B. Parkes. "The Production of Copies of the Canterbury Tales and the Confessio Amantis in the Early Fifteenth Century." In Medieval Scribes, Manuscripts, and Libraries: Essays Presented to N. R. Ker, ed. M. B. Parkes and A. G. Watson. London: Scolar Press, 1978, 163-210.

Guddat-Figge, Gisela. Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Middle English Romances. Munich, Germany: Wilhelm Fink, 1976.

Gullick, Michael, and Teresa Webber. "Summary Catalogue of Surviving Manuscripts from Leicester Abbey." In Leicester Abbey: Medieval History, Archaeology and Manuscript Studies, ed. Joanna Story, Jill Bourne, and Richard Buckley. Leicester, UK: Leicester Archaeological and Historical Society, 2006, 173-192.

Hanna, Ralph. "Yorkshire Writers." Proceedings of the British Academy 121 (2003): 91-109.

Harris, Kate. "The Origins and Make-up of Cambridge University Library MS Ff.1.6." Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 8 (1983): 299-333.

Hartopp, Henry, ed. Calendar of Wills and Administrations Relating to the County of Leicester, Proved in the Archdeaconry Court of Leicester, 14951649, and in the Peculiars of St. Margaret Leicester, Rothley, Groby, Evingston, and the Unproved Wills, etc., Previous to 1801: All Now Preserved in the Probate Registry at Leicester. British Record Society 27. London: British Record Society, 1902.

--. Register of the Freemen of Leicester, 1196-1700: Including the Apprentices Sworn before Successive Mayorsfor Certain Periods, 1646-1700. [Leicester, UK]: Edgar Backus, 1927.

The Heege Manuscript: A Facsimile of National Library of Scotland MS Advocates 19.3.1. Introduction by Phillipa Hardman. Leeds Texts and Monographs n.s. 16. Leeds, UK: Leeds Studies in English, 2000.

Hinks, John. "The Beginnings of the Book Trade in Leicester." In The Moving Market: Continuity and Change in the Book Trade, ed. P. Isaac and B. McKay. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2001, 27-38.

Horobin, Simon. "Adam Pinkhurst and the Copying of British Library, MS Additional 35287 of the B Version of Piers Plowman." Yearbook of Langland Studies 23 (2009): 61-83.

--. "The Edmund-Fremund Scribe Copying Chaucer." Journal of the Early Book Society 12 (2009): 191-201.

--. "Mapping the Words." In The Production of Books in England, 1350-1500, ed. Alexandra Gillespie and Daniel Wakelin. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011, 59-78.

Horstmann, Karl, ed. Yorkshire Writers: Richard Rolle of Hampole and His Followers. 2 vols. London: Sonnenschein, 1895-1896.

Hulsmann, Friedrich. "The Watermarks of Four Late Medieval Manuscripts Containing The Erle of Tolous" Notes and Queries n.s. 230.1 (1985): 11-12.

Johnston, Michael. "A New Document Relating to the Life of Robert Thornton." The Library 7th ser. 8.3 (2007): 304-313.

--. Romance and the Gentry in Late Medieval England. Forthcoming. Keiser, George R. "Lincoln Cathedral Library MS. 91: Life and Milieu of the Scribe." Studies in Bibliography 32 (1979): 158-179.

--. "More Light on the Life and Milieu of Robert Thornton." Studies in Bibliography 36 (1983): 111-119.

--. "MS. Rawlinson A. 393: Another Findern Manuscript." Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 7 (1980): 445-448.

Ludtke, Gustav, ed. The Erl of Tolous and theEmperes of Almayn: Eine englische Romanze aus dem Anfange des 15. Jahrhunderts. Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1881.

Manly, John M., and Edith Rickert, eds. The Text of The Canterbury Tales: Studied on the Basis of All Known Manuscripts. 8 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940.

McSparran, Frances, and P. R. Robinson. "Introduction." In Cambridge University Library MS Ff.2.38. London: Scolar Press, 1979.

Mooney, Linne R. "Chaucer's Scribe." Speculum 81.1 (2006): 97-138.

--. "Locating Scribal Activity in Late-Medieval London." In Design and Distribution of Late Medieval Manuscripts in England, ed. Margaret Connolly and Linne R. Mooney. Woodbridge, UK: York Medieval Press, 2008, 183-204.

Mooney, Linne, Simon Horobin, and Estelle Stubbs. Late Medieval English Scribes. Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York, 2011. http:// www.medievalscribes.com.

Riddy, Felicity. "Temporal Virginity and the Everyday Body: Le Bone Florence of Rome and Bourgeois Self-Making." In Pulp Fictions of Medieval England: Essays in Popular Romance, ed. Nicola McDonald. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2004, 197-216.

Robbins, Rossell Hope. "The Findern Anthology." PMLA 69.3 (1954): 610-642.

Sargent, Michael. "What Do the Numbers Mean? A Textual Critic's Observations on Some Patterns of Middle English Manuscript Transmission." In Design and Distribution of Late Medieval Manuscripts in England, ed. Margaret Connolly and Linne R. Mooney. Woodbridge, UK: York Medieval Press, 2008, 205-244.

Scott, Kathleen. "Lydgate's Lives of Sts Edmund and Fremund: A Newly-Located Manuscript in Arundel Castle." Viator 13 (1982): 335-366.

Shuffelton, George, ed. Codex Ashmole 61: A Compilation of Popular Middle English Verse. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, 2008.

--. "Is There a Minstrel in the House?: Domestic Entertainment in Late Medieval England." Philological Quarterly 87.1-2 (2008): 51-76.

Stevenson, Allan H. "Watermarks Are Twins." Studies in Bibliography 4 (1951-1952): 57-93.

Taylor, Andrew. "The Myth of the Minstrel Manuscript." Speculum 66.1 (1991): 43-73.

Thompson, John J. Robert Thornton and the London Thornton Manuscript: British Library MS Additional 31042. Manuscript Studies 2. Cambridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 1987.

Webber, Teresa. "The Books of Leicester Abbey." In Leicester Abbey: Medieval History, Archaeology and Manuscript Studies, ed. Joanna Story, Jill Bourne, and Richard Buckley. Leicester, UK: Leicester Archaeological and Historical Society, 2006, 127-146.

--. "Latin Devotional Texts and the Books of the Augustinian Canons of Thurgarton Priory and Leicester Abbey in the Late Middle Ages." In Books and Collectors, 1200-1700: Essays Presented to Andrew Watson, ed. James P. Carley and Colin G. C. Tite. London: British Library, 1997, 27-41.

NOTES

(1.) See, e.g., A. I. Doyle and M. B. Parkes. "The Production of Copies of the Canterbury Tales and the Confessio Amantis in the Early Fifteenth Century," in Medieval Scribes, Manuscripts, and Libraries: Essays Presented to N. R. Ker, ed. M. B. Parkes and A. G. Watson (London: Scolar Press, 1978), 163-210; Linne R. Mooney, "Chaucer's Scribe," Speculum 81 (2006): 97-138; Mooney, "Locating Scribal Activity in Late-Medieval London," in Design and Distribution of Late Medieval Manuscripts in England, ed. Margaret Connolly and Linne R. Mooney (Woodbridge, UK: York Medieval Press, 2008), 183-204; and Simon Horobin, "Adam Pinkhurst and the Copying of British Library, MS Additional 35287 of the B Version of Piers Plowman" Yearbook of Langland Studies 23 (2009): 61-83. See also Linne Mooney, Simon Horobin, and Estelle Stubbs, Late Medieval English Scribes, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York, 2011, http://www.medievalscribes.com, who catalogue the scribes active in copying multiple codices of Chaucer, Gower, Langland, Trevisa, and Hoccleve.

(2.) Ralph Hanna, "Yorkshire Writers," Proceedings of the British Academy 121 (2003): 91-109.

(3.) Kathleen Scott, "Lydgate's Lives of Sts. Edmund and Fremund: A Newly-Located Manuscript in Arundel Castle," Viator 13 (1982): 335-366; and Simon Horobin, "The Edmund-Fremund Scribe Copying Chaucer," Journal of the Early Book Society 12 (2009): 191-201.

(4.) A few exceptions should be noted. We know, for example, that both Lincoln, Cathedral Library MS 91 and London, British Library MS Additional 31042 were copied out and owned by Robert Thornton, an esquire from the North Riding of Yorkshire. We also know that the Findern family of Derbyshire, who owned Cambridge, University Library MS Ff.1.6, also owned other manuscripts. On Thornton and his manuscripts, see George R. Keiser, "Lincoln Cathedral Library MS. 91: Life and Milieu of the Scribe," Studies in Bibliography 32 (1979): 158-179; Keiser, "More Light on the Life and Milieu of Robert Thornton," Studies in Bibliography 36 (1983): 111-119; John J. Thompson, Robert Thornton and the London Thornton Manuscript: British Library MS Additional 31042, Manuscript Studies 2 (Cambridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 1987); and Michael Johnston, "A New Document Relating to the Life of Robert Thornton," The Library 7th ser. 8.3 (2007): 304-313. On the Finderns and their manuscripts, see Rossell Hope Robbins, "The Findern Anthology," PMLA 69.3 (1954): 610-642; Keiser, "MS. Rawlinson A. 393: Another Findern Manuscript," Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 7 (1980): 445-448; and Kate Harris, "The Origins and Make-up of Cambridge University Library MS Ff.1.6," Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 8 (1983): 299-333.

(5.) For more on the connections between Middle English romance and provincial gentry households, see Michael Johnston, Romance and the Gentry in Late Medieval England (forthcoming).

(6.) For descriptions of the manuscript, see Gisela Guddat-Figge, Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Middle English Romances (Munich, Germany: Wilhelm Fink, 1976), 94-99; and Frances McSparran and P. R. Robinson, "Introduction," in Cambridge University Library MS Ff.2.38 (London: Scolar Press, 1979), vii-xxv.

(7.) Guddat-Figge, Catalogue of Manuscripts, 94, suggests the middle of the fifteenth century, while P. R. Robinson, "Palaeographical Description and Commentary," in Cambridge University Library MS Ff.2.38, xii, suggests the late fifteenth-early sixteenth century.

(8.) For this debate, and a resounding refutation of the minstrel connections of such manuscripts, see Andrew Taylor, "The Myth of the Minstrel Manuscript," Speculum 66.1 (1991): 43-73. For a valuable reframing of this debate, see George Shuffelton, "Is There a Minstrel in the House?: Domestic Entertainment in Late Medieval England," Philological Quarterly 87.1-2 (2008): 51-76.

(9.) George Shuffelton, ed., Codex Ashmole 61: A Compilation of Popular Middle English Verse (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, 2008), 3-5, suggests a rough date of 1500 for this manuscript, noting, however, that the scribe's hand is closer in appearance to the script of the mid-fifteenth century. Likewise, Guddat-Figge, Catalogue of Manuscripts, 249, dates the manuscript to the late fifteenth-early sixteenth century.

(10.) The most thorough work on Ashmole is Lynne S. Blanchfield, "'An Idiosyncratic Scribe': A Study of the Practice and Purpose of Rate, the Scribe of Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 61," PhD diss., University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, 1991. See also Blanchfield, "The Romances in MS Ashmole 61: An Idiosyncratic Scribe," in Romance in Medieval England, ed. Maldwyn Mills, Jennifer Fellows, and Carol Meale (Cambridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 1991), 65-87; and Blanchfield, "Rate Revisited: The Compilat ion of the Narrative Works in MS Ashmole 61," in Romance Reading on the Book: Essays on Medieval Narrative Presented to Maldwyn Mills, ed. Jennifer Fellows et al. (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1996), 208-220. For an edition of the entire manuscript and further discussion of its make-up, see Shuffelton, Codex Ashmole.

(11.) In all aspects, this mark matches Briquet 11194, except that Briquet's version has an -R on the palm of the hand, something lacking in this mark as it appears in CUL and in Ashmole.

(12.) Oxford, Bodleian Library Refs. LXXIV.27.

(13.) Allan H. Stevenson, "Watermarks Are Twins," Studies in Bibliography 4 (1951-52): 57-93.

(14.) Friedrich Hulsmann, "The Watermarks of Four Late Medieval Manuscripts Containing TheErle of Tolous" Notes and Queries 230 (1985): 12.

(15.) Ibid., 11-12. The watermarks in CUL are, in the order in which they appear within the manuscript, good matches with Briquet 14237 (Namur, 1474), 22 (Soleure, 1478), 11323 (Palermo, 1479-84), and 11194 (Savoy, 1485). The watermarks in Ashmole, in the order in which they appear within the manuscript, are good matches with Briquet 694 (Palermo, 1479), 11194 (Savoy, 1485), and 10116 (Deville, 1488). P. R. Robinson, "Palaeographical Description and Commentary," in Cambridge University Library MS Ff.2.38, xii, notes only three watermarks in CUL. For another identification of the watermarks in Ashmole, see Bruce Barker-Benfield's unpublished notes at Oxford, Bodleian Library Refs. LXXIV.27. Barker-Benfield's analysis modifies that ofA. J. Bliss, ed., Sir Orfeo, 2nd. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966). Coincidentally, Phillipa Hardman, "Introduction," in The Heege Manuscript: A Facsimile of National Library of Scotland MS Advocates 19.3.1, Leeds Texts and Monographs n.s. 16 (Leeds, UK: Leeds Studies in English, 2000), 4, notes that one of the watermarks in Advocates 19.3.1 is "identical to Briquet's pattern 22," a mark also found in Ashmole 61. No one has yet followed up on the potential connections between these two manuscripts. Angus McIntosh, M. L. Samuels, and Michael Benskin, eds., A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English (Aberdeen: University of Aberdeen Press, 1986), 3:608-609, analyze the dialect of the main scribe of the Advocates Manuscript as LP 29, located to Grid 400 412, in the far southwest corner of the West Riding of Yorkshire, just over the border with Lancashire and just north of the border with Derbyshire.

(16.) McIntosh, Samuels, and Benskin, eds., A Linguistic Atlas, 3:244-45 analyze the dialect as LP 531, located to Grid 445 305.

(17.) Richard Beadle, "Prolegomena to a Literary Geography of Later Medieval Norfolk," in Regionalism in Late Medieval Manuscripts and Texts: Essay Celebrating the Publication of A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English, ed. Felicity Riddy (Cambridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 1991), 90-91, expresses what I think is a healthy skepticism about positing too much scribal mobility. On the usefulness and limitations of LALME, see Simon Horobin, "Mapping the Words," in The Production of Books in England, 1350-1500, ed. Alexandra Gillespie and Daniel Wakelin (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 59-78.

(18.) McIntosh, Samuels, and Benskin, eds., A Linguistic Atlas, 3:233-34 analyze the dialect as LP 71, located to Grid 478 318. See also Shuffelton, ed., Codex Ashmole, 4.

(19.) Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards, eds., New Index of Middle English Verse (London: British Library, 2005), #1685. Shuffelton, ed., Codex Ashmole, 198-211; fols. 73r-78v. This connection is noted in Blanchfield, "Romances in MS Ashmole," 85.

(20.) Henry Hartopp, ed., Calendar of Wills and Administrations Relating to the County of Leicester, Proved in the Archdeaconry Court of Leicester, 1495-1649, and in the Peculiars of St. Margaret Leicester, Rothley, Groby, Evingston, and the Unproved Wills, etc., Previous to 1801: All Now Preserved in the Probate Registry at Leicester, British Record Society 27 (London: British Record Society, 1902), 10, 32. A William Ratt also shows up in an arbitration involving the city of Leicester from 1493. See Mary Bateson, ed., Records of the Borough of Leicester, Being a Series of Extracts from the Archives of the Corporation of Leicester, 1327-1509, rev'd. W. H. Stevenson and J. E. Stocks, vol. 2 (London: J. C. Clay and Son, 1901), 441. See also Henry Hartopp, ed., Register of the Freemen of Leicester, 1196-1700: Including the Apprentices Sworn before Successive Mayors for Certain Periods, 1646-1700, ([Leicester, UK]: Edgar Backus, 1927), 54, 61. For a thorough discussion of this scribe's identity, see Blanchfield, "Idiosyncratic Scribe," 146-69. The variations in spelling of the scribe's name should not be surprising, for he even spells his own name variously within the manuscript. He usually records "Amen quod Rate," but on fol. 107r, he writes "Amen quod Rathe."

(21.) In what follows, I draw from the excellent discussion found in John Hinks, "The Beginnings of the Book Trade in Leicester," in The Moving Market: Continuity and Change in the Book Trade, ed. P. Isaac and B. McKay (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2001), 27-38. See also Teresa Webber, "Latin Devotional Texts and the Books of the Augustinian Canons of Thurgarton Priory and Leicester Abbey in the Late Middle Ages," in Books and Collectors, 1200-1700: Essays Presented to Andrew Watson, ed. James P. Carley and Colin G. C. Tite (London: British Library, 1997), 27-41; and Webber, "The Books of Leicester Abbey," in Leicester Abbey: Medieval History, Archaeology and Manuscript Studies, ed. Joanna Story, Jill Bourne, and Richard Buckley (Leicester, UK: Leicester Archaeological and Historical Society, 2006), 127-146. For a further attestation of manuscript production in Leicester, see Michael Gullick and Teresa Webber, "Summary Catalogue of Surviving Manuscripts from Leicester Abbey," in Leicester Abbey: Medieval History, Archaeology and Manuscript Studies, 189-192.

(22.) John M. Manly and Edith Rickert, eds., The Text of The Canterbury Tales: Studied on the Basis of All Known Manuscripts, 8 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940), 1:214-218. Cf. Gullick and Webber, "Summary Catalogue," 189, who suggest that Harley 7333 was produced locally, but not in the abbey itself.

(23.) Webber, "Books of Leicester Abbey," 129.

(24.) Boffey and Edwards, eds., New Index of Middle English Verse, #244; fols. 14va-19rb (in CUL); fols. 120r-128r (in Ashmole). See Shuffelton, ed., Codex Ashmole, 310-330. This moral-didactic verse treatise survives in seven total manuscripts, though no critical edition of the text exists that accounts for all of the manuscripts. A full collation of the texts lies beyond the scope of the present essay, but a simple comparison of the two versions demonstrates that these could not have come from the same exemplar--the frequent changes in phrases alone suggest different textual traditions, not scribal substitutions or emendations. The poem is in Karl Horstmann, ed., Yorkshire Writers: Richard Rolle of Hampole and His Followers, 2 vols. (London: Sonnenschein, 1895-1896), 2:36-45, presenting an edition from London, British Library Royal MS 17.B.xvii, for which Horstmann also consulted readings in London, British Library Additional MS 10053.

(25.) Boffey and Edwards, eds., New Index of Middle English Verse, #4200; fol. 33ra (in CUL); fol. 150v (in Ashmole). See Shuffelton, ed., Codex Ashmole, 385-386. In this case, the stanzas are in a completely different order in each version.

(26.) Boffey and Edwards, eds., New Index of Middle English Verse, #1877 and 1985; fols. 53ra-54rb (in CUL); fol. 6r-v (in Ashmole). See Shuffelton, ed., Codex Ashmole, 32-34.

(27.) Boffey and Edwards, eds., New Index of Middle English Verse, #2619 and 1447; fols. 55vb-56rb (in CUL); fols. 106r-107r (in Ashmole). See Shuffelton, ed., Codex Ashmole, 274-77. The version in CUL lacks what are the first three stanzas of the version in Ashmole, and there are numerous textual variants between them.

(28.) Boffey and Edwards, eds., New Index of Middle English Verse, #2052; fols. 56rb-57va (in CUL); fols. 136v-138v (in Ashmole). See Shuffelton, ed., Codex Ashmole, 351-356.

(29.) See Gustav Ludtke, ed., The Erl of Tolous and the Emperes of Almayn: Eine englische Romanze aus dem Anfange des 15. Jahrhunderts (Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1881), 1-23, whose collation of the extant manuscripts shows that Ashmole lacks a number of verses present in the three other surviving manuscripts of this romance. As Ludtke demonstrates, Ashmole and Lincoln, Cathedral Library MS 91 compose a textual family that is discrete from CUL. In particular, Ludtke shows that manuscripts "A und B [i.e. CUL and Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 45, respectively] einerseits und C und D [i.e. Lincoln, Cathedral MS 91 and Ashmole, respectively] anderseits stehen sich als gesonderte gruppen gegenuber AB = x, CD = y" [A and B, on the one hand, and C and D, on the other hand, stand as separate groups where AB = x, CD = y]; ibid., 5.

(30.) Felicity Riddy, "Temporal Virginity and the Everyday Body: Le Bone Florence of Rome and Bourgeois Self-Making," in Pulp Fictions of Medieval England: Essays in Popular Romance, ed. Nicola McDonald (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2004), 199.

(31.) The only possible exception to this division is the appearance of The Seven Sages of Rome in the second section. This is a text that while not, strictly speaking, a romance, narrates the importance of counsel to secular lordship, which is certainly a central romance motif. Thus, it fits relatively comfortably within the second section of this manuscript, provided we maintain a flexible understanding of genre.

(32.) On rare occasions he employs a single-column format, comprising only nine leaves of the whole manuscript.

(33.) For a reproduction of one such drawing, see Shuffelton, ed., Codex Ashmole, 18.

(34.) Curt F. Buhler, The Fifteenth-Century Book: The Scribes, the Printers, the Decorators (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1960), 22-23.

(35.) Michael Sargent, "What Do the Numbers Mean? A Textual Critic's Observations on Some Patterns of Middle English Manuscript Transmission," in Design and Distribution of Late Medieval Manuscripts in England, ed. Margaret Connolly and Linne R. Mooney (Woodbridge, UK: York Medieval Press, 2008), 244.

Michael Johnston is an Assistant Professor of English at Purdue University. He is working on a book about the circulation of romance within households of the fifteenth-century English gentry.
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