The London Chronicles of the Fifteenth Century: A Revolution in English Writing

By Mary-Rose McLaren | Go to book overview

The Bradford Manuscript: an Introduction

MS Bradford 32D86/42 (West Yorkshire Archives, Bradford) is of particular interest as a London chronicle because of both its text and provenance. 1 The hints of individuality found in it, as well as its consistency with so many London chronicle traditions, offers us an insight into the nature of writing London chronicles. Probably more than any other London chronicle text, the chronicle in B 42 prompts the modern reader to wonder about what the chronicler thought he was doing, how he went about it, and to what extent the work was valued as of immediate or long- term interest. It is through reading texts like the B 42 chronicle that we can touch something of the fifteenth-century way of thinking and find our way into an oral and visual view of the world which has now been all but lost. In this text, and in assessing its relationships with other London chronicle manuscripts, we are provided with a window into the fifteenth-century idea of history and of how the world worked.

B 42 is a vellum manuscript of 84 leaves, measuring approximately 22cm × 14cm. It is bound with some brief lists (two pages only) concerning religious institutions, bells and monies in what is probably a seventeenth- century binding. This date for the binding complements its association with Sir John Hopkinson (1610―1680) of Eshton Hall, to whose ownership it can be traced. We do not know how Hopkinson obtained the manuscript, or whether it was in public or private care prior to his ownership of it, although we do have enough evidence to speculate on its provenance. 2

A most interesting note appearing on the back of the last page of the manuscript: 'Iste Liber constat Rico hedley Clerico came Guyhulde Civitats London' gives us a clear indication of someone connected with the text, although it does little to clarify what that connection was. The word 'constat', belongs to, is not as helpful as it might at first appear. Richard Hedley may have written the manuscript and therefore owned the book. He may have owned the book privately and have written a continuation, or have owned it but written none of it at all. It is possible that Richard Hedley had some connection with the manuscript through his employment as a

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1
This manuscript, now in the West Yorkshire Archives, Bradford, was called Eshton Hall manuscript by Kingsford. It was number 42 of the Hopkinson collection, and will be referred to here as B 42.
2
The distinction between public and private ownership may not, in fact, be very helpful. Clearly manuscripts disappeared from libraries in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as frequently as books do today. Moreover, the London chronicles were both corporate and individual in nature, so boundaries between public and private are particularly difficult to draw. Richard Hedley's apparent ownership of the text ― his use of the word 'constat' ― serves to illustrate this. As will be discussed below, it is far from clear exactly what his relationship with the text was.

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