Cornelius and Ensley (2019 Congress)

Ian Cornelius and James Eric Ensley
(Loyola University Chicago and Yale University)

“The Lost Medieval Exemplar of Beinecke Library, Takamiya MS 23”

Abstract of Paper
To be presented at the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies
(Kalamazoo, 2019)

Session on
“In the Absence of Manuscript Evidence:  Considering Lacunae in Manuscript Studies”

Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence
Organized by Justin A. Hastings and Derek Shank
2019 Congress Program

[Published on 14 March 2019]



New Haven, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Takamiya MS 23 is a near-complete copy of the B Version of William Langland’s Piers Plowman.  Produced in the mid-sixteenth century, nearly two centuries after Langland wrote, Takamiya 23 is contemporary with the first printed editions of this poem.  It is also the latest manuscript copy with independent authority; later copies exist, but they derive from exemplars still extant.  Its salient feature is pervasive linguistic modernization:  George Kane described this copy as a “translation . . . into Tudor English”.  The text has never been printed.  It figures as a rejected manuscript in both the Athlone and A.V.C. Schmidt’s editions of Piers Plowman, for editors concerned to reconstruct the original authorial state of the poem rightly concluded that this copy provides little assistance in that endeavor.

Yet the manuscript is richly informative as a document of linguistic change and reception history.  Moreover, certain features of punctuation, mise-en-page and ordinatio are best explained as reflexes of a good medieval copy of the poem.  In this paper we speculate about the appearance of the scribe’s lost medieval exemplar.  Our paper develops from our digital edition of Takamiya 23, in preparation for the ‘Piers Plowman’ Electronic Archive (PPEA).