Seminar VIII: The Medieval Miscellany
This week’s session puts the theme of ‘the book as evidence’ firmly
in the foreground. Among the most fascinating of all medieval manuscripts
are those that bring together a set of diverse but carefully
chosen texts for a purpose. Depending on the range of
the materials which they assemble and the way in which they are arranged,
miscellanies of this kind can provide precious insights into the cultural
worlds and concerns of their makers. They speak to the ingenuity of their
sponsors, to their ability to re-direct earlier materials to meet new
needs and purposes, to the changing priorities of religious communities
and literary patrons, and to the ways in which materials
circulated to the centres where these books were assembled and copied.
In this week’s seminar, we will discuss three very famous but contrasting examples of books of
this kind: the first is an 'educational' miscellany from the tenth century,
the second a complex historical miscellany from the twelfth
century which itself contains at least two earlier assemblages of material,
and the third an exceptionally famous and rich fourteenth-century collection
of poems, literary and historical texts in Anglo-Norman (‘the French of
Latin and Middle English.
Topics for Discussion
- For what purpose were each of the three examples below put together?
- To what extent is it possible to distinguish stages in their compilation?
- Can we detect changes in the uses to which they were put?
Note: to answer these questions you need to think about the concerns or themes that contect
their contents and the ways in which the texts ‘complement’ or,
perhaps, ‘comment’ on one another.
Texts for Discussion
- Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Auct.
F.4.32 / St Dunstan’s Classbook
- Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 139
- London, British Library, MS Harley 2253
Sample texts should be downloaded from the Moodle website.
Some Other Examples which Might be of Interest
- London, British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius B.V/1: ‘an Anglo-Saxon miscellany, possibly made at Canterbury in the mid-11th century, with some later additions’. See P. McGurk (ed.), An Eleventh-Century Anglo-Saxon Miscellany, British Library Cotton Tiberius B.v Part 1,
Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile 21 (Copenhagen, 1983).
- London, British Library, Harley MS 913: ‘A small, battered 14th-century Anglo-Irish manuscript full of ribald and taboo poems and stories holds the key to unlocking a medieval community’s troubled social, devotional and political history.’ Compiled by a Franciscan, it also preserves the ‘only substantial body of verse... composed in the English of medieval Ireland.’ For the poems in English, see Poems from BL MS Harley 913: ‘The Kildare Manuscript’, ed. T. Turville-Petre, Early English Text Society, orig. ser. 345 (Oxford, 2015); for discussion, see D. L. Moore, Medieval Anglo-Irish Troubles: A Cultural Study of B.L. MS Harley 913, Texts and Transitions 8 (Turnhout, 2017). MYBG.
York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M.926. See K. D. Hartzell, ‘A St Alban’s Miscellany from New York’, Mittellateinisches
Jahrbuch, 10 (1975), 20–61.
- Boffey, J., and J. J. Thompson, ‘Anthologies and Miscellanies: Production
and Choice of Texts’, in J. Griffiths and D. Pearsall (ed.), Book
Production and Publishing in Britain 1375–1475 (Cambridge, 1989),
pp. 279–315. ZC3ea.B.
- Lendinara, P., L. Lazzari and M. A. D’Aronco (eds), Form and Content of Instruction in Anglo-Saxon England in the Light of Contemporary Manuscript Evidence: Papers Presented at the International Conference, Udine, 6-8 April 2006, Fédération Internationale des Instituts d’Études Médiévales, Textes et Études du Moyen Âge, 39 (Turnhout, 2007).
- Nichols, S. G., and S. Wenzel (eds), The Whole Book:
Cultural Perspectives on the Medieval Miscellany, Recentiores: Later Latin Texts and Contexts
(Ann Arbor, MI, 1996).
- Parkes, M. B., ‘The Influence of the Concepts of Ordinatio and Compilatio on
the Development of the Book’, in J. J. G. Alexander and M. T. Gibson
Learning and Literature: Essays presented to Richard William Hunt (Oxford,
1976), pp. 115–41 [MBM]; rpt. in M. B. Parkes, Scribes,
Scripts and Readers: Studies in the Communication, Presentation and Dissemination
of Medieval Texts (London, 1991), pp. 35–70 [LDea.B].
- Taylor, A., ‘Historical Writing in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Scotland: The Dunfermline Compilation’, Historical Research, 83 (2010), 228–52. Available from Wiley Online. Examines an important historical miscellany preserved in the Royal Library in Madrid but written at the Benedictine abbey of Dunfermline in Fife, Scotland during the reign of James III (1460–88), i.e. Madrid, Biblioteca del Palacio Real, MS II 2097.
- Taylor, A., ‘Manual to Miscellany: Stages in the Commercial Copying of Vernacular Literature in England’, The Yearbook of English Studies, 33 (2003), 1–17.
- Taylor, A., Textual Situations: Three Medieval Manuscripts and their Readers (Philadelphia, PA, 2002).
- Treharne, E. M., Living Through Conquest: The Politics of Early English, 1020–1220, Oxford Textual Perspectives (Oxford, 2012). Available online at MiLibrary.