In Praise of Scribes: Manuscripts and Their Makers in Seventeenth-Century England

By Peter Beal | Go to book overview

APPENDIX IV
Manuscript texts of Sidney's Letter to Queen Elizabeth
The text of Sidney's Letter was subject, between c. 1580 and c. 1660, to a variety of treatments. It was, on occasions, very slightly expanded by interpolated additions; slightly curtailed by the omission of particular passages; rearranged into a different sequence of arguments; extensively adapted and paraphrased; abridged to a series of notes, extracts, or a résumé; and, in any event, subjected to editing by the scribes concerned, who supplied their own spelling, punctuation, paragraphing, and layout, as well as headings and, in certain cases (perhaps), valedictory subscriptions. While the history of transmission extends over a period of eighty years--and longer once printed editions begin to appear--it is not, perhaps, a continuous or consistent progression. In so far as the extant witnesses can be dated (which is not often, nor in any way is the evidence conclusive), copying would seem to have flourished in a series of stages: jumping from an initial circulation in the 1580s to some copying around the late 1590s (when the text was incorporated into formal compilations), to a limited phase of intermittent, disparate copying during the first two decades of the 17th century, and then to a great flurry of copying from around the mid-1620s to 1641, before a final, retrospective, antiquarian transcription in 1660.While the schema, or stemma, of traditions (X1-3, Y1-3) suggested by the 1973 editors (see Plate 61 above) gives, as they admit, no more than 'a general picture of the relationship of the texts' and fails to 'take account of all stray agreements across the traditions', it will remain a provisionally useful guide to the pattern of transmission until such time as a thoroughly radical, comprehensive system of detailed collation of variants is established by a future editor.The following list is substantially an amended, expanded, and updated version of that given in my Index of English literary manuscripts, volume i, part 2 ( 1980), 485-8: SiP 181-215. Sigla supplied in the 1973 edition by Duncan-Jones and Van Dorsten are cited for reference, as well as a few new sigla for manuscripts not recorded by them but which are cited in the amended stemma shown above (Figure 6).Those manuscripts which are in any part written by the Feathery Scribe are already described in Appendix II above and are cross-referenced accordingly.
1. All Souls College, Oxford, MS 155, ff. 306r-312v.

Copy, headed in another hand 'Reasons offered agt Queen Elizabeths mariage wth ye Duke of Anjoy, Alanson; in a letter to her', on fourteen pages in a quarto volume of miscellaneous verse and prose transcribed from the Yelverton papers chiefly belonging to Sir Christopher Yelverton ( 1535?- 1612), Sir Henry Yelverton ( 1566- 1629), and their family; owned in 1679 by Narcissus Luttrell ( 1657- 1732); c. 1625-30s.

[Index, SiP 181. Tradition: predominantly Y. The text may possibly derive from Yelverton MS 49 (No. 12 below).]

2. Alnwick Castle, Muniments of the Duke of Northumberland, MS 525, pp. 55-61.

Copy in a single Secretary hand, untitled, on seven badly damaged pages, in a folio MS volume of prose works connected with the Court or state affairs; c. 1590s?

-274-

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