Academic journal article Medium Aevum

'Piers Plowman': A Facsimile of the Z-Text in Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Bodley 851

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

'Piers Plowman': A Facsimile of the Z-Text in Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Bodley 851

Article excerpt

Charlotte Brewer and A. G. Rigg, 'Piers Plowman': A Facsimile of the Z-Text in Bodleian Library, Oxford, MSBodley 851 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1994). 46 pp. + 37 plates. ISBN 0-85991-396-1. £75.00.

MS Bodley 8 51 contains medieval Latin poems and a composite text of Piers Plowman, the first part of which is the unique text of what A. G. Rigg and Charlotte Brewer regard as a version of the poem anterior to the A text. Their claim is accepted by some scholars (including the present reviewer, who prints it in his new parallel-text of Piers Plowman) as the best explanation of the structural and stylistic characteristics of Z.

The text is written in a small neat Anglicana Formata script by a scribe Rigg calls 'X', continuing with A vm.89 to the end of that passus in a hand he calls 'Q', and being completed by C x-xxii. The facsimile reproduces Z proper and the ?-text link-lines. It is tolerably clear, though full-size rather than the 87% given would have been clearer, given the smallness of the script. Rigg's part of the Introduction, which describes the manuscript and its contents, is reprinted with some alterations from his article in Mediaeval Studies, 40 (1978). He shows that the manuscript belonged to a Benedictine monk, John Wells of Ramsey Abbey, who was active in Oxford in the 1370s and 1380s, was an opponent of Wyclif and died in 1388. If the whole liber is being referred to in the inscription in the bookplate (where, incidentally, the animal is surely a lion, not a bear as Rigg states), the manuscript of Z will be datable before Wells's obit, a date which in theory would allow its echoes of the C text (e.g. at Prol. 3 5) to be attributable to the immediate scribal level of its copying. Rigg favours the early 1370s, but I would prefer a date around 1387, when intense interest in the poem will have been aroused following the death of Langland and rapid diffusion of the C text. …

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