The Making of Middle English, 1765-1910

The Making of Middle English, 1765-1910

The Making of Middle English, 1765-1910

The Making of Middle English, 1765-1910

Excerpt

Beside me I have an old and long disused edition of a Middle English poem. It is bound in blue buckram; on the spine are several abbreviations. To anyone with more than a passing acquaintance with the field of Middle English literature, the notation “E.E.T.S. E.S. 4 1868” readily identifies the volume as number 4 in the Early English Text Society 's Extra Series. The book has been rebound and retrimmed by a library, whose call number, “WOLF PR 1119.E5 P.M.C., ” also appears on the spine. Stamps on the pages tell me that P.M.C. stands for the Pennsylvania Military College in Chester, Pennsylvania. Inside the front cover is a book plate with the Greek motto τὰ διδακτὰ μανθάνω (ta didakta manthano) and the name of Lieutenant William J. Wolfgram, English Reference Library, Pennsylvania Military College. The surname, presumably, explains part of the volume's call number, which perhaps implies that Lieutenant Wolfgram bequeathed or donated this book to the library of the college he worked in.

A few pages beyond the book plate, there is the original binding of this EETS edition, with the rather lurid purple paper used in the days before EETS editions were casebound. This is adorned with an engraved picture of the seal of an English town, Grimsby, and features various pieces of information. In ornate script, imitative of black letter, the title is given as The Lay of Havelok the Dane. It is edited by the Reverend Walter W. Skeat and formerly edited for the Roxburghe Club by Sir F. Madden, now published for the Early English Text Society by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. in Charing Cross Road at a price of ten shillings. It was first published in 1868 and reprinted in 1891, 1893, and 1903.

Beyond this information, there lie several pages of promotional material relating to the Early English Text Society, the sort of thing we would now expect to see in a publisher's catalog rather than as prefatory material to an actual book. Then, beyond this, the scholarship begins: the reader comes to Skeat's comprehensive preface, which is based in part on the introduction Madden had written in 1828; a list of corrections and emendations; and then the poem itself, edited from the unique copy in MS Laud Misc. 108, in the Bodleian Library.

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