Elaine Whitaker

title.none: Zettersten and Diensberg, eds., The English Text of the Ancrene Riwle (Elaine Whitaker)

identifier.other: baj9928.0207.017 02.07.17

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Elaine Whitaker, UAB,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2002

identifier.citation: Zettersten, Arne and Bernhard Diensberg, eds. The English Text of the Ancrene Riwle: The 'Vernon' Text. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. Pp. vi, 130. ISBN: 0-197-22314-1.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 02.07.17

Zettersten, Arne and Bernhard Diensberg, eds. The English Text of the Ancrene Riwle: The 'Vernon' Text. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. Pp. vi, 130. ISBN: 0-197-22314-1.

Reviewed by:

Elaine Whitaker

With the publication of Original Series 310, EETS has completed its sequence of diplomatic editions of Ancrene Riwle/Ancrene Wisse. The scholarship presently under review results from editorial efforts undertaken over a thirty year period. The EETS commitment to bring out Ancrene Riwle/Ancrene Wisse spans approximately sixty years, in the following sequence:

1944 Cotton Vitellius F. vii EETS 216 and 219 Merton College 44 EETS 216 1952 Cotton Nero A.xiv EETS 225 1954 Gonville and Caius College 234/120 EETS 229 1956 Royal 8 C.i EETS 232 1958 Trinity College R. 14.7 EETS 240 1962 Corpus Christi College 402 EETS 249 1963 Cotton Titus D.xviii EETS 252 1972 Cotton Cleopatra EETS 267 1976 Pepys Library 2498 EETS 274 2000 Bodleian Library Eng. poet. a.i EETS 310

These diplomatic editions are intended to culminate in a critical edition, now under the direction of Bella Millett and George Jack. The high quality of Millett's previous work with Hali Meidhad [1] presages the success of this culminating volume. In "Mouvance and the Medieval Author: Re-Editing Ancrene Wisse" Millett has described the difficulty of her assignment to produce a single form--the "critical" edition--of a work so comfortably adaptable and adapted to each successive audience. [2] Happily, Hope Emily Allen's bequest to EETS has underwritten the enormous Ancrene Rule/Ancrene Wisse project.

Not only is EETS 310 the last diplomatic edition of known copies of this rule; it is also the apparent penultimate edition of the various religious instructions in Part Four of the Vernon MS, the late fourteenth-century coucher or ledger book best known for its heft (almost 50 pounds and similar in size to the lid of the boxes that contain multiple reams of copy paper). Hilton's Scale of Perfection--sometimes cited as the only unedited text of a work from Part Four of the Vernon MS--is available in Tom Bestul's 2000 edition. [3] Bestul has also put his edition, from London, Lambeth Palace, MS 472, on the Web as an e-book. The abundance of available materials connected with the Vernon MS facilitated an extraordinary-sounding course designed and offered by Michael Sargent last fall at CUNY.

Readers familiar with the placement of the Ancrene Riwle within the Vernon MS will be aware of the facsimile publication of the Vernon, brought out by D.S. Brewer in 1987. [4] This scholarly tool not only brought to fruition one of the numerous crucial contributions made by A. I. Doyle but also occasioned considerable additional interest, as witnessed by the essays in Studies in The Vernon Manuscript. [5] The first essay in Pearsall's collection is an updated version of Doyle's 1972 observations on relationships between the Vernon and Simeon manuscripts. The facsimile itself begins with Doyle's definitive introduction to the Vernon, a manuscript named after its donor and catalogued as Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Eng. Poet.a.i. Indeed, one of the most helpful and well-conceived components of EETS O.S. 310 is H. L Spencer's introduction, based on Doyle's as well as the Ancrene Riwle editors' observations.

The editorial labors for the EETS volume under review have been long and seriously undertaken. The editors also acknowledge the prior work of Kikuo Miyabe, who is credited with having completed about a fifth of a transcription prior to his death. It is no understatement to say that scholars have given their lives to transmit Ancrene Riwle/Ancrene Wisse to us. A Roule of Reclous situated in "the book that is cald in latyn tonge Salus anime and in englyhs [sic] tonge Sowlehele" merits such attention.

My greatest reservation is that the few, random lines I transcribed from the NYPL copy of the Vernon facsimile differed in small ways when subsequently compared to the text of the diplomatic edition under review. Most likely, these differences reflect the editors' greater experience with this hand and the haste of my own transcriptions. As to editorial problems and practices in EETS O.S. 310, I agree that it is difficult to tell when thorn is intended as upper case and that some characters are ambiguous (xxiv-xxv). In a diplomatic edition, however, it seems questionable to raise m's in Marie, while leaving other proper names as transcribed (xxv). It might have been helpful at this point to continue the editorial methods of EETS predecessors, since the aim is utility in preparing a culminating critical edition.

Put differently, the value of the present edition lies not so much in producing copytext for the critical edition, as this would involve applying a theory from an earlier time to a text not qualified for this status, as well as to a work that does not lend itself to traditional critical editing. Rather, the value of this edition lies in making widely available a text of an important work, preserved in an important book.


[1] Hali Meidhad, ed. Bella Millett, EETS 284 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982).

[2] Late Medieval Religious Texts and Their Transmission: Essays in Honour of A.I. Doyle, ed. A. J. Minnis (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1994), 9-20.

[3] Walter Hilton, The Scale of Perfection, ed. Thomas H. Bestul (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2000).

[4] The Vernon Manuscript: A Facsimile of Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS.Eng.Poet.a.1, with an Introduction by A. I. Doyle (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1987).

[5] Studies in The Vernon Manuscript, ed. Derek Pearsall (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1990).