Medieval English Prose for Women: Selections from the Katherine Group and Ancrene Wisse

By Bella Millett; Jocelyn Wogan-Browne | Go to book overview
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A NOTE ON THE TEXTS AND TRANSLATIONS

THE texts in this edition are critical texts, not reproducing a single manuscript but using the evidence of all the surviving manuscripts to produce a text corresponding as far as possible to the author's original intentions. Detailed accounts of the relationships between the manuscripts can be found in the earlier editions of the Katherine Group cited in Further Reading and in E. J. Dobson The Origins of 'Ancrene Wisse' ( Oxford, 1976) (see especially the diagram of the family tree of Ancrene Wisse manuscripts on p. 287). The manuscripts which best preserve the literary dialect in which these works were originally written are Bodleian MS Bodley 34 (HM, SM, SW) and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 402 (AW), and they have been used as the base manuscripts for linguistic forms.1 Although Bodley 34 has been preferred on linguistic grounds, its readings otherwise have no particular authority, and all non-linguistic variants between Katherine Group manuscripts have been assessed on their merits.2 The Corpus manuscript, however, has a special position among Ancrene Wisse manuscripts, not only because it offers a text exceptionally free from errors but because it is the only surviving manuscript of a revised version of the original text. This means that its differences from other manuscripts may be the result of revision rather than scribal departures from the original text, and they have been corrected only when there is good reason to believe that they are not authorial.

For those who prefer their texts unretouched, all departures in the edited text from the base manuscript are recorded in the list of variants at the foot of each page. Full information about the variant readings found in other manuscripts is available in the EETS editions of Ancrene Wisse and the Katherine Group mentioned below and in Further Reading; in this edition, variants from other manuscripts are recorded only when they have been used for emendation of the base manuscript, or as a basis for emendation. Where the variant reading has been

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1
There is one exception to this: the final part of Sawles Warde (from line 106/10 onwards) is missing in MS Bodley 34 because of damage to the manuscript, and MS Royal 17A xxvii has been used as the base manuscript for this section.
2
For a detailed discussion of some individual textual difficulties, see Bella Millett, 'Some Editorial Problems in the Katherine Group', English Studies, 71 ( 1990), 386-94.

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