May 12, 2017

Latin Glosses and Commentaries: The Prick of Conscience

The Prick of Conscience is an early thirteenth-century didactic devotional poem and is one of the most circulated English verse texts with over 178 witnesses (manuscript copies of the poem). The poem itself follows the cura pastoralia tradition of producing edifying texts for a lay Christian audience: it is a religious text which could be easily accessible to an audience that was unable to read Latin, the language that most religious literature of the time was written in.

Wellesley College MS 8, p. 61. This gloss announces to the reader that a list is beginning.
One witness of the poem is contained in Wellesley College MS 8. This late fifteenth-century copy contains an unexpected feature, however. While most of the text is in English, the manuscript also contains glosses. These glosses, unlike the main text, are composed in Latin. This poses an interesting question: why are the glosses in Latin if the main text is in English?

Mar 7, 2017

Troy Book Comparisons

The last of Hailey Mullock's series on decoration in manuscripts of Lydgate's Troy Book.

Cambridge, Trinity College MS O.5.2, fol. 38r
The Hierarchy of Decoration within the Troy Book text in British Library MS Royal 18 D II appears to be integral to the text. In order to determine how integral the decoration was to the text or if it was integral at all, I compared Royal 18 D II to other manuscripts that contain the Troy Book text. There are currently twenty-three manuscripts that contain John Lydgate’s Troy Book, eight of which are illustrated, “and a basic visual program can be detected in each of them” (Whitehead v). Of those twenty-three, only three digital facsimiles are available on the Web at this time: of British Library MS Royal 18 D II; Cambridge, Trinity College, MS O.5.2; and Cambridge, Massachusetts, Houghton Library, Harvard University MS Eng 752.

In examining these three manuscripts, it appears that the hierarchy of decoration is not consistent or integral to this particular text, as the manuscripts vary in decoration. However, further research into the inaccessible manuscripts shows that most of the time the manuscripts containing the Troy Book text have a hierarchy of decoration similar to both Royal 18 D II and Trinity O.5.2. The majority of the manuscripts contain similar decoration at the beginning of each book and the decorations are all in the same order of the hierarchy in each manuscript. The beginnings of the books are marked by an illustration, border decoration, and a large display initial following the illustration. What is even more interesting is that although the illustrations are not always identical, the subject and placement of the illustrations are the same for the majority of the manuscripts. It is possible that there was a presentation copy, an exemplar, from which all of the illustrations were copied.