Christine M. Rose

title.none: Edwards, Gillespie and Ralph Hanna, eds., The English Medieval Book (Christine M. Rose)

identifier.other: baj9928.0206.005 02.06.05

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Christine M. Rose, Portland State University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2002

identifier.citation: Edwards, A.S.G., Vincent Gillespie and Ralph Hanna. The English Medieval Book: Studies in Memory of Jeremy Griffiths. The British Library Studies in the History of the Book. London: The British Library, 2000. Pp. 264. L45. ISBN: 0-712-34650-3.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 02.06.05

Edwards, A.S.G., Vincent Gillespie and Ralph Hanna. The English Medieval Book: Studies in Memory of Jeremy Griffiths. The British Library Studies in the History of the Book. London: The British Library, 2000. Pp. 264. L45. ISBN: 0-712-34650-3.

Reviewed by:

Christine M. Rose
Portland State University

This work is a tribute to Jeremy Griffiths, an important manuscript scholar whose death in 1997 at 42 constitutes a serious loss to the community of palaeographers, codicologists, book historians, collectors and lovers of medieval manuscripts, many of whom have offered essays in this handsome volume. In fact, a look at the table of contents reveals that the editors have engaged a real "dream-team" of eminent manuscript scholars, a Who's Who of the English medieval manuscript establishment. It is no surprise, therefore, that the offerings here are first-rate pieces on various aspects of English manuscript study, all of which, as the authors note, Griffiths seems to have had a hand in inspiring.

The volume begins with a tribute to the life and influence of Griffiths by Vincent Gillespie, a eulogy he gave at Griffiths's memorial service on 8 November1997. It is a moving piece, making those of us who knew Jeremy only through his work and reputation rue not having met him and drunk with him, and had those long discussions which seem to have borne so much fruit for his interlocutors. Griffiths shines throughout this volume as someone brilliant, galvanizing in his enthusiasm, fun to know, and extraordinarily gifted in working with scribal hands and manuscripts, among his other talents. The volume ends with a bibliography of Griffiths's works compiled by A.S.G. Edwards, and the lament among the scholars here seems to be how much more there would have been, and how ground-breaking all his thinking was.

Many of the papers collected here are developments of ones presented in honor of Griffiths in November, 1997 at a meeting devoted to English medieval manuscripts of "The Oxford Seminar in the History of the Book" at St. John's College. There are no weak links here. Some of the contributions are succinct, such as Christopher de Hamel's identification of a new Bohun manuscript; or A.I. Doyle identifying the same scribe in two hitherto unconnected works: fragments of the Prick of Conscience now at Ushaw College, Durham, and a B-text of Piers Plowman at Oxford (Corpus Christi College, MS 201). Derek Pearsall's concise contribution is the excellent description of the Rede (Boarstall) Gower manuscript slated for inclusion in the ongoing project of the descriptive catalog of Gower's works. Here Pearsall promises the completion of the catalog, originally a collaboration of Jeremy Griffiths, Kate Harris and himself--but sadly without Griffiths's expertise at this end of the project. Linne Mooney writes in brief of the discovery by Griffiths of a new manuscript by the "Hammond scribe", adding her own findings connecting this scribe with officers of Arms.

Others do their scholarship at length and in great detail, such as Stephen Partridge's work on the manuscript evidence of Chaucer's "Cook's Tale" and "Squire's Tale", or N.F. Blake on Caxton's second edition of the Canterbury Tales, a meticulous study of the possible genesis of that edition in Caxton's composing room. Partridge's learned essay argues intriguingly that the tradition of leaving blank spaces after the Cook's and Squire's tales in manuscripts must antedate even the earliest extant MSS of the Canterbury Tales, and may in fact be an actual Chaucerian gesture to show where he ended, to authenticate his own words, and to indicate that continuations and scribal additions were not his.

Kathleen Scott presents her usual masterful evaluation of late- medieval manuscript decoration, this time of the decoration of the Luton Fraternity of the Holy Trinity register, especially its splendid frontispiece, and its relationship to other English manuscripts of the period. Editor Hanna offers in his essay that "past study of later medieval English literature, however profitable, has concentrated far too narrowly on the activities of one religious order" (the Carthusians). He urges a reassessment of the involvement of the Augustinian canons in English medieval literary composition and presents a strong range of evidence to convince readers of this Augustinian authorship and influence. Hanna, as other essayists in the volume do, calls attention to a neglected area of English literary/manuscript scholarship. "Deliberate assemblages and presentation as authorial collections" is the context of A.S.G. Edwards' fascinating foray on a important and little-explored topic. He questions to what extent authorial status was understood in this period and examines the codicological evidence of manuscripts which are collections of literary works to advance his point that only slowly was there any developing consciousness of the Author, providing a multitude of examples from corresponding late-medieval literary manuscript compilations. He concludes that only with the advent of print, and in fact with Thynne's 1532 edition of Chaucer's works, does a "systematic consolidation of a vernacular author's achievements" start to appear (109). In her discussion of just such a literary compilation of Scottish and Chaucerian verse, Julia Boffey analyzes Bodleian Library MS Arch. Selden. B.24, (a fine facsimile of which she and Edwards have recently collaborated on--D.S. Brewer, 1997) proposing that it might be referred to as a sort of "household book". Scrutinizing that taxonomy and the evidence of other books in the genre, Boffey adds an interesting element to the study of the secular compilation. In many ways, says Boffey, to nominate Selden to the status of a "household book" depends less upon its inclusion of the ordinary materials of the genre (treatises on agriculture, medicine, recipes, pious reading, etc.) and more on its having been used and useful to a household or group of households. Its texts, united by a kind of family piety content, also represent the nationalistic sentiments of a family.

The three essays which conclude the volume together explore the bookholdings and collecting activities of various institutions and individuals: Gillespie's on the lost library of Syon Abbey, Andrew Watson on the books of Robert Hare, and Kate Harris on the collection at Longleat House. All three are extraordinarily interesting for the study of late-medieval libraries, books and book-collecting at the time of the changeover from script to print. Each essay provides telling portraits of the collections under discussion, and they recreate now-lost or dispersed assemblages to fill out the notion of what Bridgettine religious, or antiquarians like Hare, or aristocrats bought, owned and read.

The British Library has produced a handsome volume, on fine paper, along with 22 plates added thanks to a subvention courtesy of Professor Toshiyuki Takamiya of Keio University. The plates are particularly necessary in a book such as this where authors refer to the mise-en-page or the scribal hands. They are especially welcome in Kathleen Scott's essay on the Luton register, comparing various manifestations of an artistic image.

This volume was a pleasure to read and review, not only for the wealth of new manuscript and codicological material presented, but for the lively sense of engagement on the part of all of the authors in what still lies to be done in the field, but alas, without the urging and able assistance of Griffiths.