|Cambridge, Trinity College MS O.5.2, fol. 38r|
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.
|British Library MS Royal 18 D II, fol. 66v|
Almost all of the Troy Book manuscripts, both illustrated and not, are subdivided into sections by medium display initials in addition to the large display initials that mark the beginning of each book. The initials are consistently placed from manuscript to manuscript, with the exception of Royal 18 D II, which has additional medium and small display initials. The medium display initials divide the text at stages of the narrative.
Of the three manuscripts Royal 18 D II is by far the most highly decorated. At the other end, Harvard University MS Eng 752 has no decoration. One of the main methods of indicating textual division is by decorative elements. But the only decoration in this manuscript is a scroll at the end of Book 4; otherwise there is no textual division.
|Houghton Library, Harvard University MS Eng 752, fol. 160r|
|Cambridge, Trinity College MS O.5.2, fol. 43v|
|British Library MS Royal 18 D II, fol. 11v|
The decoration of a medieval manuscript may be integral to the reading of a textThis study of the hierarchy of decoration in John Lydgate’s Troy Book has resulted in many discoveries about the text but has also sparked new questions about the function of decoration within medieval manuscripts. The decoration of a medieval manuscript may be integral to the reading of a text. If it is, are we missing something that was intended for the reading of these texts when print editions are made without the decorations found in the manuscripts? Now as more medieval manuscripts are digitized, we are able to view and question what it is that makes up a text and how it could include decoration as well as words.
Whitehead, Tammy Y. The Illustrations of Lydgate's "Troy Book": The Visual Revitalization of a Literary Tradition in Fifteenth-Century England. PhD dissertation, Florida State University, 2015.