Rauner Codex MS 003183: The Beeleigh Abbey Brut at Dartmouth College
Bryan, Elizabeth J., The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History
Codex MS 003183 in the Rauner Special Collections Library, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, is a fifteenth-century manuscript of the Middle English prose Brut (MEPB) that was in W. A. Foyle's private manuscript collection, housed at his residence at Beeleigh Abbey for much of the twentieth century. (1) Its purchase by Dartmouth College in 2006 has made the manuscript accessible once again, and there are significant observations to be made about the manuscript itself and about how this manuscript fits in to the large textual corpus of the MEPB. (2)
Rauner MS 003183 seems to be an independent revision and abbreviation of the Brut version that Lister Matheson, following Friedrich Brie, calls the Extended Version (EV) to 1419 (EV-1419). In the content of its 1377-to-1419 continuation, at least, MS 003183 likely derives from subgroup A of the EV, since it shares with EV-1419:A (and apparently no other EV group) a textual lacuna concerning Henry IV's early years (See Appendix 2 and discussion below). MS 003183 could be said to form a "fifth branch" that parallels the four recensions of the Abbreviated Version (AV) to 1419 (AV-1419:A, B, C, and D). The one trait that most dramatically identifies the AVs, the absence of four chapters after the death of King Arthur, is featured in MS 003183, where Conan rather than Constantine succeeds Arthur. Yet MS 003183 is not one of the recognized AV texts. In content, it is a fuller text than any one of the AV-1419 groups A to D, so its taxonomically significant details cannot possibly be derived from AV texts. (See Appendix 1 for selected transcriptions of Rauner MS 003183.)
In wording, MS 003183 is unusually idiosyncratic (even for the MEPB), to the extent that none of the AV-1419 texts could possibly be derived from MS 003183. As neither source nor product of the AV manuscripts, then, MS 003183 is a unique recension that is comparable to the AVs. If MS 003183 represents a unique recension or version, however, the physical manuscript has some intriguing company. London, British Library MS Royal 18.A.ix and San Marino, Huntington Library MS HM 131, two AV-1419:A(c) manuscripts of the MEPB, show rubrication styles similar to those of the second rubricator of MS 003183. If these three manuscripts, representing two different redactions of the Middle English prose Brut, were at some point in a common workshop setting or were farmed out to the same professional rubricator, then they suggest a book production milieu in which texts of the Middle English prose Brut were being abbreviated and revised from EV sources to produce individualized manuscripts. Linne Mooney and Matheson convincingly show that a common workshop produced numerous manuscripts of a single MEPB version, the AV-1419:B manuscripts. (3) Rauner MS 003183 helps make visible a slightly different production habit of multiple abbreviations of the Brut in which the same material "finish" could be applied to various narrative versions.
Description of the Manuscript
The fifteenth-century manuscript contains 121 unnumbered vellum folios in a limp leather binding of the sixteenth century. Dorothy Africa has assessed the binding as "a stationer's binding, the sort most commonly used for ledgers and business records, characterized by external bands, decorative lacing patterns, tackets and an overlap front flap." (4) Folios 1 to 5, which comprise the first quire, were added most likely in the sixteenth century; they contain a table of contents in a sixteenth-century hand. (5) This table-of-contents hand writes an occasional Elizabethan-style h and confuses letter forms for y and thorn, although otherwise the hand achieves a script eerily imitative of the fifteenth-century script of the rest of the manuscript.
The writer of the table of contents copied the chapter headings from within the manuscript itself rather than from any other source, as shown by this writer's replication of several errors made by the manuscript's rubricators, including five erroneously repeated chapter headings (see discussion under "Rubrication"). This writer sometimes draws letter forms to imitate the rubricator's hand in cases where the letter is not understood (e.g., a yogh-shaped z). The manuscript's loss of two bifolia between folios 119 and 120 must have occurred after the table of contents was made, since the table concludes with chapter 243, whereas the final chapter number and heading in the manuscript is chapter 242. It is possible that the table of contents was made for this binding in the sixteenth century.
Folio 6r begins the MEPB text proper, which is the only item in the manuscript. This opening folio is torn and damaged, but it is clear that the text opens with the Exordium that usually marks EVs or AVs of the MEPB. The first decipherable words on folio 6r are:
[cal]led Brute | g of the lande of | wyldernes and no thyng ther[in] | desolate f And afterwarde howe It | [w]home and in what man(er)e and of all the principall actes and | all the kinges that reigned in the sa[id or me] lande and of all | elles and conquestes and aventures that [fe]lle in th[eyr] tyme and | [b]e lande ys called Brytaine aftir Br[ut]e the whiche furste con | [quer]ed It [paragraph] This Brute beganne furste the cite of L[on]den the whiche |
The manuscript ends imperfectly on folio 121v, in the middle of a sentence comparable to the text as reproduced in Brie 389/8 or 397/1:
the condicon that our Shippes myght passe to and fro in Saufte | and come byfore the citee of Rone and so It was for b(er) lay C * | shippes before or side] Rone and than was Rone beseged bothe by * the | lande and by water and when this was done the Erle come | vnto the king and loged him bitwen the abbey of Seint Kat(er)ine | and the king and thanne the abbay entreted the king and vpon |
The text ends, that is, at the completion of a quire, but about a folio's length short of the conclusion of the EV to 1419, and there is no indication as to which of the two possible ending points--"our Englischmen" or "rewle and gouernawnce"--it may have once had or, indeed, whether it may once have continued beyond 1419.
The quiring of the original portion of the manuscript is very regular, with eight leaves per quire signaled by catchwords in folios 6 through 117. The final quire is missing four folios, the two inner bifolia of the quire, between folios 119 and 120. This physical lacuna effects a gap in the narrative equivalent to Brie 369/4 to 383/23, the end of Henry IV's reign and the beginning of Henry V's. (This physical lacuna is distinct from another important lacuna on fol. 119r, equivalent to Brie 361/13-366/11, which was inherited apparently without notice from the unknown exemplar of Rauner MS 003183. See Appendices 1.M and 2 and discussion below.) Another apparent lacuna between two quires is merely the scribe's misnumbering of chapters: the numeral on folio 102r should be CCXXIIII (224) but could be read as CCXXVIII (228), and the following chapter (which happens to begin in a new quire) on folio 103r has been numbered CCXXIX (229) by mistake. No text is missing.
I include a chart of the quires, folios, and chapter numbers in the following table as a location aid to the folios, which are not numbered.
The remains of a two- or three-sided polychrome border can be seen on the fragmented first page of the Brut text, folio 6r (See Plate 1). (6) Any evidence of a top border is unavailable because the top of the page is missing, along with the beginning of the text and whatever decorated initial might have been there. The two decorated initials on the page, a three-line-height T at the beginning of the Prologue heading after the Exordium and a similar S at the beginning of the Albina text proper, are both monochromatic blue, with red pen flourish done by a rubricator, not the limner. The left border (only the bottom half is extant) is a conventional fifteenth-century gold, rose, and blue bar frame with rose and blue acanthus leaves, which give way at the leafy cornerpiece to a lower border of waving, curling spray that springs to the right from a large blue acanthus leaf. On the left, blue and rose bars twine underneath each other once, adjacent to the three-line-height blue initial T just below center page, and blue and rose acanthus leaves (one each) then emerge and scroll up and down the vine while also framing another spray and an unidentifiable motif off to the left. Several motifs are too damaged to reveal their definition. There may be a daisy head or an aroid flower with round spadix off the left border, two kidneys and a heart in sprays at left and lower borders, and round flowers in the lower border spray, but all of these could just as easily be curled leaves. Clearly present in the sprays are gold balls with green lobes or with squiggles, and in the lower border spray, one gold clasp. None of these traits is very helpful for assigning a specific date, and the limner could have been working at any time from the 1430s to the 1490s, although this border resembles in a general way Kathleen Scott's plates (e.g., Plates XX, XXIa and b) of midfifteenth-century borders. (7)
Mise-en-page of the rest of the manuscript is more pedestrian but complete and organized. The text is written in a single column, and the number of lines per page varies between thirty and thirty-nine (e.g., fols. 69r and 13v). Pricking is visible on the vertical edges of a few folios (e.g., fols. 10-11), whereas other folios show evidence of trimming by the binder (e.g., fols. 28v, 31v, 34v). Leaf size averages 293 x 194 mm (or 111/2 x 75/8 inches). Space of writing averages 195 x 120 mm (or 75/8 x 45/8 inches). Three-line-height red and blue initials alternate throughout the text, each ornamented with pen flourishing in ink of a contrasting color. These initials are positioned at the head of each chapter. Chapters are also indicated by chapter headings in red ink, written in spaces left for that purpose by the scribe. Chapter numbers (in Roman numerals) are penned in the margins in scribal brown ink, and rubricators have then added red paraph marks in the margins next to the scribe's chapter numerals.
The script is a variable secretary with occasional Anglicana features. The scribe or scribes have a large repertoire of letter graphs. While at first glance it seems obvious that multiple hands are involved, closer inspection usually reveals gradual shifting from one set of letter forms to another. Over the course of folio 24r, for example, a single hand writes the graph of g in several ways, mingling horned g with 8-shaped g, closed-tailed g with open-tailed (humanist influenced) g, as the script evolves from careful to hasty between the top and bottom of the page. It is just possible that one hand is responsible for the entire manuscript. The letter forms are consistent with mid- to late-fifteenthcentury copying.
Several early names are written in the manuscript, some of which locate owners in the counties of Durham (at Bishop Middleham) and Kent (at Cowden). Six names are written in the margins of the table of contents (fols. 1-5) in addition to the modern "Ex libris" pasting of E. F. Bosanquet on folio 1r, and they must therefore be dated to the sixteenth century or later: ".... rrelly I Durham" and "Henry Smith" on folio 1r; "Thomas Wykyng of Cowden" on folio 4r and also folio 77r; "James" and "William Ewre of bushopp(es) Midleham esquy(re) I oweth this booke I T. Clement Barnes" on folio 5r. In the original folios 6 to 121, two and possibly three Smyths occur in addition to the aforementioned Henry Smith: "Richard Smyth of Quodington in the I countie of" on folio 89r; "[W]h[o] is is my good I Brian [?]upton Richard Smythe" on folio 117v; and "S[m?]yth of b[ur]to" on folio 121v. Folio 78r includes several names in a partially erased draft of some document written in the margin: "Wllm Hewyt the baylo3 Thomas Meton I the ye3 man Per me Thoma Metho[rp or n]." Two other names are written more clearly, on folio 91r, "Amen quod Wyllm Harper," and on folio 112r, "Kynnard Russel" (or just possibly "Rynnard Russel," which might inspire comparison to Chaucer's Nun's Priest's Tale). On a number of folios, there are signs of faded or erased words that probably include some names, and those folios should be examined further under ultraviolet light.
Frequent marginal annotations, predominantly of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, summarize points of the Brut narrative. One of the earliest annotating hands writes key topics throughout the manuscript in heavy black ink and a prickly script. Another prolific annotator can be dated to 1623 and possibly located to northeast England on the basis of annotations on folios 11r and 87r. This 1623 annotator often glosses the prior annotations of the black-ink annotator. Where the earlier annotator writes "The begynnynge of the name of humbar" on folio …
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Publication information: Article title: Rauner Codex MS 003183: The Beeleigh Abbey Brut at Dartmouth College. Contributors: Bryan, Elizabeth J. - Author. Journal title: The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History. Volume: 12. Publication date: Annual 2009. Page number: 207+. © 2009 Pace University Dba: Pace University Press. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.
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