The Complete Harley 2253 Manuscript, Volume 2: Introduction


1 There are few precedents for this manner of presentation, but the approach seems to be gathering momentum. See, for example, recent editions of the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf manuscript (Fulk); the Latin Cambridge Songs manuscript, termed “the grandfather of the Harley Lyrics” (Ziolkowski 1998, p. xxx); and the Middle English Pearl manuscript, translated on CD-ROM (Andrew and Waldron). The English texts of the Kildare manuscript have been edited with translations (Lucas), and similar treatment has been given to the English saints’ lives of Cambridge, St. John’s College, MSS N. 16 and N. 17 (Waters). Meanwhile, editions of entire codices, glossed but not translated, have started to appear in the Middle English Texts Series: MS Ashmole 61 (Shuffelton) and the Audelay manuscript (Fein 2009). Digital whole-manuscript transcriptions with facsimile images are also gradually emerging: the Auchinleck manuscript online (Burnley and Wiggins) and the Vernon manuscript on DVD-ROM (Scase and Kennedy).

2 Revard 2007, p. 98 n. 5. See also O’Rourke 2005, p. 55.

3 The terms miscellany and anthology are often in flux as scholars work to categorize medieval manuscripts of mixed content (see, for example, the attempts at definition in Nichols and Wenzel). Codicological intentions frequently cannot be known, so organizing principles come to be detected internally and, hence, may seem overly ruled by subjective interpretation. The Harley manuscript is, as Scattergood observes, “organized to a degree” (2000a, p. 167). Wanley first described it as a trilingual miscellany: a book “upon several Subjects; partly in old French, partly in Latin, and partly in old English; partly in Verse, & partly in Prose” (2:585). More recently, Connolly has characterized it as “a complex compilation of secular and devotional material in verse and prose which has no discernible principle of organization” (p. 132). On categorizing the arrangement of contents in Harley, see especially Revard 1982, 2007; Stemmler 2000; Fein 2000b, 2007; and O’Rourke 2005.

4 One can, of course, see this diversity in the facsimile, but reading handwritten texts in three languages and medieval script is not easy for most, and the existence of the facsimile has not spurred scholarship of Harley 2253 much beyond examination of isolated textual clusters or themes. For notable exceptions, see Turville- Petre 1996 and Revard 2000b. That a comprehensive approach is ripe for adoption is indicated by two recent dissertations that embrace Harley’s English and Anglo-Norman contents as a unified field (Maulsby, Nelson 2010), and another that does the same for the Ludlow scribe’s three manuscripts (Rock).

5 For translations, I am indebted to my collaborators David Raybin for Anglo-Norman and Jan Ziolkowski for Latin. For the final form each translation takes, I am responsible for errors.

6 Some of these new tools and projects include the valuable comprehensive catalogue Anglo-Norman Literature (R. Dean and Boulton); the online Anglo-Norman Dictionary; the online Production and Use of English Manuscripts 1060 to 1220 Project (Da Rold et al.); a ground-breaking collection of essays (Wogan-Browne et al.); and the French of England Translation Series (FRETS) of ACRMS Publications. All of these occurrences augment the already steady output of editorial scholarship from the Anglo- Norman Text Society (ANTS).

7 MS Harley 2253 is never mentioned, for example, in the authoritative study of Anglo-Latin literature in Rigg 1992.

8 As I initially planned the format (in discussions with METS general editor Russell A. Peck), it was thought that Middle English texts would be glossed rather than translated, in accord with METS style. However, texts written in dialects of early Middle English bear a greater than normal need for the close analysis that modern translation brings, and they demand full utilization of the online Middle English Dictionary. Moreover, as my translation work proceeded, I was surprised to see how rarely the Harley Lyrics have been translated; how existing translations tend to be versified rather than close; how the very challenging vernacular satires (arts. 25a, 31, 40, 81, 88) have never been translated; and how some English items (i.e., arts. 32, 68, 85, 89) have seldom been printed, much less subjected to critical editing and translation.

9 The major anthologies of select English contents are Böddeker, Brown 1932, Brown 1952, and Brook. The only anthology to mix English and French lyrics is Wright 1842. Editions of select Anglo-Norman are also found in Jeffrey and Levy, and in the unpublished dissertations of Dove and Kennedy.

10 Noomen and van den Boogaard; see also Montaiglon and Raynaud; and Short and Pearcy. Revard has printed the fabliaux and some comic French items with verse translations (2004, 2005a, 2005b, 2005c).

11 Ker, p. xvi. In listing the “independent blocks” of MS Harley 2253, Ker omitted the division that marks booklet 1 as separate from booklet 2.

12 Fein 2000c (with a chart on pp. 371–76), Nolan, and Thompson 2000. See also O’Rourke 2005, Revard 2007, and Fein 2007. O’Rourke 2000 examines the booklets of London, British Library, Royal 12.C.12, another codex belonging to the Ludlow scribe.

13 Alternatively, it may have happened soon after his death, when his library was still intact and an executor, relative, or associate sought to preserve it. Revard assumes that it was the Ludlow scribe who acted to join the fifteen quires (2007, pp. 98–99). Ker notes only that, because of the booklet makeup, “the quires need not be in their original order” (p. xvi). See also Fein 2013.

14 In the presentation of texts in this edition, the divisions of booklet, quire, and folio are designated, and each item is keyed to its article number in the facsimile (Ker, pp. ix–xvi). Here I have occasionally refined Ker’s numbering, that is, I have given separate numbers to arts. 1a, 3a, and 3b in volume 1, and to art. 24a* in volume 2 (see Appendix).

15 This collection of lives has been edited by D. Russell 1989. Revard relates them to Ludlow-area churches having the same patron saints: “St John Evangelist is patron of the Palmers’ Gild in Ludlow parish Church of St Lawrence; St John Baptist is patron saint of the Ludlow Hospital of St John Baptist; the parish Church of St Bartholomew is three miles south of Ludlow in Richard’s Castle; and the Church of St Peter is at Leominster Priory, ten miles south of Ludlow” (2007, p. 100). Saint Peter also figures centrally in the Leominster-based life of Saint Etfrid found in booklet 6 (see art. 98).

16 Revard suggests that The Life of Saint Ethelbert is the earliest of the texts appearing on fols. 49–140 (2007, p. 101), which might suggest that the Ludlow scribe initially designed booklet 4 to follow immediately on booklets 1 and 2. Like them (and unlike booklet 3), it is ruled in columns. The scribe evidently regarded the three Latin lives as texts of special reverence. He copied the others (Etfrid and Wistan) as the concluding items of their respective booklets.

17 See Horobin; Mooney and Stubbs; and the important new online resource Late Medieval English Scribes (Mooney et al.).

18 The Ludlow scribe’s seeming connections to Hereford and to Hereford Cathedral, a sophisticated center of learning with international ties, have long piqued scholarly curiosity. See especially Ker, pp. xxi–xxiii; Salter, pp. 32–33; Revard 2000b, pp. 23–30; Corrie 2003, pp. 78–79; Birkholz; and Fein 2013. McSparran notes that the scribe’s orthography and dialect localize him to the vicinity of Leominster, which lies twelve miles north of Hereford and nine miles south of Ludlow, all lying on the same route (pp. 393–94, citing Samuels).

19 Revard 2000b, pp. 65–73.

20 The content of the writs and charters is presented in Revard 2000b, pp. 30–64, 91–107. On MS Royal 12.C.12, see especially Ker, pp. xx–xxi; Hathaway et al., pp. xxxvii–liii; O’Farrell-Tate, pp. 46–50; and O’Rourke 2000. On all three books, see Walpole, pp. 29–40; and O’Rourke 2005, pp. 52–53.

21 Frankis, p. 183. On the affiliations between the Harley and Digby manuscripts, see Corrie 2000; and Boffey, pp. 8–10.

22 Scholars have, furthermore, detected a degree of cosmopolitan sophistication in the Ludlow scribe, whose selections “drew on material written abroad as well as works written more locally” (Corrie 2003, p. 79) and probably derived from “contact with high ecclesiastics, noble benefactors, as well as with travelling scholars and minstrels” (Salter, p. 32). For other profiling insights, see especially O’Rourke 2000 (p. 222), 2005; and Revard 2007, pp. 99–102.

23 Fein 2007, pp. 81, 88–91.

24 See, for example, the explanatory notes to arts. 31, 109, and 114. On the collective political outlook of the Harley contents, see Scattergood 2000a; and also O’Rourke 2005, pp. 50–52.

25 For recent proposals as to the unknown patron, patrons, or milieus, see Revard 2000b, esp. pp. 74–90; O’Rourke 2000; Hines, pp. 71–104; and Birkholz.

26 For Fouke le Fitz Waryn, the chronicled history of a local family and namesake heir was surely a factor that compelled interest in the narrative, too. See Revard 2000b, pp. 87–90, 108–09; and Hanna.

27 Wilshere, and see explanatory notes to art. 71. The author of Urbain the Courteous (art. 79) advocates that French be taught to English children. In it, a father instructs his son: “I want, first of all, / For you to be wise and full of kindness, / Gracious and courteous, / And that you know how to speak French, / For highly is this language praised / By noblemen” (lines 15–20).

28 This vita seems the most likely of the three to be the Ludlow scribe’s own redaction, although the other two Latin lives — both adapted from longer vitae — may also have sprung from his efforts. See the explanatory notes to arts. 18, 98, and 114.

29 Pearsall, p. 120.

30 I have argued elsewhere that the scribe preserved these particular vernacular satires because he saw significant ways to pair and juxtapose them with other works (Fein 2007, pp. 91–94). When the English vernacular enters this textual/oral world as biting satire, there are subtle enactments of social class and register in play. So, too, when Latin enters, there are uplifted tones of clerical learning and moral teaching.

31 The Ludlow scribe includes one or two poems by the Franciscan Nicholas Bozon, whose writings appear in the Herebert manuscript (London, British Library, MS Add. 46919). See explanatory notes to arts. 9 (often attributed to Bozon), 24a (also in the Herebert manuscript), and 78 (a Bozon text in the Herebert manuscript). The links are discussed by Jeffrey 2000, pp. 263, 269–70; and Revard 2007, pp. 104–05 n. 17.

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The Complete Harley 2253 Manuscript, Volume 2: Introduction

Manuscripts from medieval England are rarely presented to readers of today in the manner given here: each item edited beside a modern English translation.1 No medieval book, however, warrants this exceptional treatment so much as does the famous Harley Lyrics manuscript.

London, British Library, MS Harley 2253 is one of the most important literary books to survive from the English medieval era. In rarity, quality, and abundance, its secular love lyrics comprise an unrivaled collection. Intermingled with them are additional treasures for the student of Middle English: contemporary political songs as well as delicate lyrics designed to inspire religious devotion. And digging beyond these English gems, one readily discovers more prizes — less well known ones — in French and Latin: four fabliaux (the largest set from medieval England), three lives of Anglo-Saxon saints, and a wealth of satires, comedies, debates, interludes, collected sayings, conduct literature, Bible stories, dream interpretations, and pilgrim guides. Rich in texts in three languages, the book’s overall range is quite astounding. The Ludlow scribe, compiler and copyist of folios 49–140, shows himself to have been a man of unusual curiosity, acquisitiveness, and discerning connoisseurship.


Volume 1 of this three-volume edition prints what were originally two booklets, matched to each other in size and format and holding a rich assortment of religious narratives in Anglo-French verse and prose. These booklets are uniformly copied by an older scribe (not the Ludlow scribe) in a formal textura script. The texts themselves are complete, but Scribe A left open spaces at the heads of sections for the insertion of rubricated initials. The Ludlow scribe (Scribe B) clearly had these books in his possession, for he supplied in red ink titles for each work and four initials on folio 1r. Although not made by the main scribe of interest, this portion of Harley 2253 represents what the Ludlow man had access to in his library. It contains lively works with imaginative appeal: moral sayings and exempla from the ancient desert fathers, absorbing accounts of Christ’s trial and passion, and a well-crafted set of apostolic saints’ legends.


The Ludlow scribe’s robust achievement (printed in volumes 2 and 3) appears on the codex’s folios 49–140, leaves that are accessible in their original form by means of a high- quality facsimile (Ker). Excluded from that facsimile are the first forty-eight leaves because a different scribe — Scribe A — was responsible for their content. Working several decades earlier, this older scribe copied texts of religion exclusively in Anglo-Norman. At some point his products came into the possession of the Ludlow scribe (chronologically, Scribe B), whom we know owned and read these works because in around 1331 he wrote the titles in red found at the head of Scribe A’s texts.2 Thus what folios 49–140 represent is a long addendum produced by the Ludlow scribe from about 1331 to 1341 and then affixed by him to a preexisting older book, extending it to nearly three times its original length.

It is difficult to know how to classify a book so singular as the Harley manuscript. Is it a miscellany or an anthology? In reference to the Ludlow scribe’s portion, one must categorize the book as something of a hybrid, that is, a miscellany that idiosyncratically and frequently veers toward the nature and purposes of an anthology.3 That is to say, there is much evidence of meaningful layouts, linkages, and juxtapositions that work not only to join texts alike in language and genre but also to create junctures that bridge the divides. This feature of the Harley manuscript has fascinated many modern readers, yet it also tends to make the book maddeningly hard to comprehend as a whole entity.

In this METS edition, the making available of the whole contents of MS Harley 2253 — edited texts set next to faithful translations of them — is designed to overcome what has been the major obstacle to study of the whole book, that is, simply put, the difficulty students and scholars encounter in reading all of it. The Ludlow scribe worked fluently in three languages. Sometimes, the mixing occurs within individual poems: different poets blended two or three languages in macaronic fashion, as in Mary, Maiden Mild and Against the King’s Taxes. But at a most basic level it is the scribe’s own work that is macaronic when he sets texts of different languages side by side in significant ways. Multilingual fluency is thus a constant, and with it one may detect a well-developed, ever-alert deployment of diverse linguistic registers, displayed by juxtaposition and textual selection. This fundamental feature suggests how the Ludlow scribe must have enjoyed interlingual wit unleashed for social play, piety, and pedagogy. Given how modern conventions of editing tend to downplay medieval contexts, this critically important aspect of the Harley reading experience has been largely unavailable to a modern audience.

My goal in making this edition is to give students the capacity to read and experience the whole book alongside viewing it in the facsimile, and also to enable scholars to better study and appraise the Ludlow scribe and the compilation he so creatively made. With texts printed continuously and translations at hand, the trilingualism of the Harley manuscript is here rendered transparent.4 Readers may explore the scribe’s accomplishment in its entirety rather than merely in its parts, as has typically characterized Harley studies. By printing everything in order, this edition exhibits the linguistic crossover points while simultaneously lessening temporal and verbal impediments: the flavor of the medieval texts can be experienced in original words and with modern English equivalencies. Students may thereby bridge linguistic boundaries with the fluency practiced by the scribe.5

Compartmented within linguistic spheres of study reinforced by traditional disciplines, many scholars of medieval texts work mainly inside single-language frameworks. In the case of MS Harley 2253, such a method is far less than ideal and will yield myopic results. Broadly speaking, it is Middle English scholars who have dealt with the English texts, especially the famous lyrics and political songs, while they have relegated to Anglo- Normanists the task of handling the French ones — the matter that comprises, in fact, the bulk of the collection. Consequently, the book’s French has long lain in a state of neglect — often barely edited or not edited at all — because relatively few literary scholars in English or French departments work in the vast textual terrain of post–Norman Conquest, French-speaking England. Lately, hopeful signs have emerged that, by means of valuable new tools and collaborative projects, this barren state is to be steadily remedied.6 This METS edition contributes to the broader, sweeping impetus to bring the French of England — as well as much more early Middle English — to greater clarity and understanding.

Likewise has the book’s “Latin of England” been largely ignored.7 The versatile Ludlow scribe worked professionally in this third language, too, as legal scrivener and most probably as chaplain. In the book’s Latin one finds selections as intriguingly provocative as the vernacular ones. All of this Latin material appears, of course, in this edition in proper sequence with the French and English matter. Many bits of it — such as the prose lives of Ethelbert, Etfrid, and Wistan, each a foundational story of the region’s Anglo-Saxon heritage — are here edited and printed for the first time.

The innovation of this full-manuscript edition-with-translation is, therefore, critical to its goal. The format is designed to treat Middle English, Anglo-Norman, and Latin evenly and to translate each in a manner that invites inspection of the originals.8 In the past, individual Harley texts have been accessible only in scattered places and scattered ways. Many are in modern anthologies that typically reinforce divides of language or genre. Only a handful of editors have striven to include groups of Harley texts in one place, and anthologies of medieval verse typically print a number of English lyrics without the French ones.9 Thomas Wright anthologized and translated the Harley political verse — English, French, and Latin — arranging them not together but rather in a broad selection of political songs from England (Wright 1839). Likewise, the Harley Anglo-Norman fabliaux appear in the definitive Nouveau recueil complet des fabliaux, but they must be sought there in separate volumes because they are treated within categories of Old French fabliaux.10 Here, at last, is the Harley manuscript in toto.


The presentation of Harley’s contents according to booklet structure introduces another significant breakthrough. Internal booklets were first delineated by N. R. Ker,11 and they were given some attention in the 2000 collection Studies in the Harley Manuscript.12 Reading the Harley manuscript according to its physical makeup — that is, by the individual quires or groups of quires that constitute independent blocks of texts — sheds light on what the first two scribes strove to accomplish within their portions of the book. We cannot assert that the Ludlow scribe’s textual productions ever circulated in multiple booklets. Individual articles did get copied, however, into booklets in the manuscript’s early making, even if only at the scribe’s desk. Although now in a modern binding, the codex as we have it seems to date from the scribe’s own time — an assumption based on the fact that the first two booklets (inscribed by Scribe A) were also the property of the Ludlow scribe. So the grouping of seven booklets to make the Harley manuscript — its full 140 leaves — seems to have happened when the scribe was alive.13

The booklet makeup yields tangible clues as to the two main scribes’ local purposes. In particular, it begins to reveal rationales that underlie the Ludlow scribe’s anthologizing impulses, showing how he arranged texts with an eye to clustering topics, themes, and/or antithetical arguments inside units smaller than the whole book. The following paragraphs provide an overview of the contents of each booklet in the manuscript.14

Booklet 1 (quires 1–2, fols. 1–22). This booklet holds the lengthy text of the Vitas patrum in Anglo-Norman verse with the story of Thais (drawn from the same work) appended at the end. The hand is that of the earlier Scribe A. The Ludlow scribe has written in red the title Vitas patrum on fol. 1. This booklet and the next one constitute the volume that the Ludlow scribe had in hand when he commenced his own copying endeavor.

Booklet 2 (quires 3–4, fols. 23–48). Scribe A’s work continues in this booklet with more Anglo-Norman religious texts in both verse and prose. First there is a long verse paraphrase of the Gospels: Herman de Valenciennes’s La Passioun Nostre Seignour. Coming next is the anonymous prose Gospel of Nicodemus, a work of biblical apocrypha enjoying broad dissemination in many languages throughout medieval Europe. Appended to The Gospel of Nicodemus are two of its traditional accretions, The Letter of Pilate to Tiberius and The Letter of Pilate to Emperor Claudius. Then Scribe A adds four prose saints’ lives — those of John the Evangelist, John the Baptist, Bartholomew, and Peter — a textual cluster that has analogues in Old French manuscripts.15 A history of the Passion and its aftermath (including saints from that historical era) is the spiritual knowledge conveyed by this booklet to a reader. Here again, the Ludlow scribe inserts titles in red. It is intriguing to think that he may have been acquainted with the elder Scribe A, for as the first scribe left lines blank for titles, it was the Ludlow scribe who filled them in when he acquired the book. The Ludlow scribe’s titles indicate, at the very least, that he knew the contents of the book in his possession.

Booklet 3 (quire 5, fols. 49–52). This booklet marks the start of the Ludlow scribe’s portion of MS Harley 2253. Choosing a purposeful beginning and a radical shift in topic from booklets 1 and 2, the scribe starts off with an alphabet poem, the ABC of Women, followed by the Debate between Winter and Summer. Both of these entertainments are in Anglo–Norman verse. The booklet consists of just one quire of four leaves, and it originally ended with a column and a half of blank space (fol. 52v), on which a later person (hence, chronologically, Scribe C) added paint recipes. Such recipes pertain to the technical interests of a manuscript illuminator, and they may offer a clue as to the further ownership or use of MS Harley 2253 after its completion by the Ludlow scribe — perhaps, that is, after his death. The first evident user of the book (after the scribe or his patron) was someone who wished to retain instructions on how to make paint colors and apply silverfoil to parchment. This same person may have added the decorative initial W appearing on the last folio of MS Harley 2253 (fol. 140v). The break in topic from Scribe A’s religious texts to the Ludlow scribe’s courtly entertainments likely indicates that this booklet was initially separate from booklets 1–2 and was at first conceived to be so.

Booklet 4 (quire 6, fols. 53–62). Like booklet 3, this one consists of a single quire, yet, having ten leaves, it is more than twice the length. Distinctly moral in nature, it is filled with exempla of tragic men — wicked traitors and fallen heroes alike — who pass on to death and implicitly to the afterlives they deserve. The booklet starts off with the local, sanctified example of Saint Ethelbert, Anglo-Saxon patron martyr of Hereford Cathedral, delivered in Latin prose.16 But the tone is most fully established by the presence of the English Harrowing of Hell and Debate between Body and Soul — humanity’s cosmic fate beside that of the individual. Next there appear political poems on Richard of Cornwall (“Richard the trichard”), Simon de Montfort, William Wallace, and Simon Fraser, and tucked in between is a triad of moral proverbs in English, French, and Latin — the stark message universalized in every language. The Three Foes of Man closes this booklet with stern warning to watch one’s own behavior and consider the eventual fate. Interlopers in this moralistic booklet introduce an edge of comedy or courtliness: A Goliard’s Feast, On the Follies of Fashion, and Lesson for True Lovers. Read a certain way, these texts expose human foibles, but they veer more toward the lightheartedness of booklet 3.

Booklet 5 (quires 7–11, fols. 63–105). Numbering forty-three leaves, booklet 5 is the longest and most complex of the sections of MS Harley 2253. Its first half constitutes an extraordinary anthology of lyrics mostly in English, the finest such collection to survive from medieval Britain. In this sequence, secular love lyrics come first with religious poems following later, although such categories are not strictly maintained. In the secular section appears a comic monk’s tale (a pseudo-saint’s life), The Life of Saint Marina. Roughly dividing the secular from the religious sections are the rollicking French interlude Gilote and Johane and a pair of pilgrimage texts in French prose. This cluster seems to enact a meandering transition from sexual desires to Holy Land travels. It also marks an exit from quire 7 into quires 8–9, which hold delicate lyrics (still largely in English) that, for the most part, honor Christ and Mary, with two historical poems paired and mixed in: The Death of Edward I and The Flemish Insurrection.

Anchoring the second half of booklet 5 are two long works: the English verse romance King Horn and the Ludlow scribe’s never-before-edited Anglo-Norman prose translation of stories from Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers. These somewhat freely adapted stories stress the exploits of Joseph, Moses, and the priestly Levite tribe. King Horn, coming with a preface (a prayer-poem in French and English), occupies almost ten full folios on its own. The succeeding Bible stories occupy thirteen. In sheer length, then, these two texts constitute the core of the Ludlow scribe’s continuous labor as represented on folios 49–140. Quires 10–11 were appended to the lyric anthology in order to provide room for Horn and the stories. On the last verso of booklet 5 — that is, its back cover if it once stood alone — the scribe has written in Latin a list of the books of the Bible. This list signals, perhaps, a pedagogical function residing behind this compilation of superb specimens in verse and dynamic models of virtuous male behavior.

Booklet 6 (quires 12–14, fols. 106–133). This booklet contains the largest collection of Anglo-Norman fabliaux to be found in England. In all, there are four here, each one told very cleverly, with two of them not recorded elsewhere. They seem grouped with many poems that argue the inherent flaws and merits of women (obviously a perennially favorite topic). Designed for social repartee, this theme is also evident in several booklet 5 items, although in booklet 6 it is more pronounced and more typically expressed in French. Displays of wit continue in the comic Jongleur of Ely and the King of England, which also participates in the booklet’s deep interest in conveying wise advice and inculcating proper male conduct, especially as passed from father to son (Urbain to his son, Saint Louis to Philip) or from a named sage (Saint Bernard, Thomas of Erceldoune, Hending, and so on). Anglo-Norman prevails in this booklet, but there are still some interesting English items, such as the Book of Dreaming, the remarkable Man in the Moon, and the contrefacta on Jesus’ love versus woman’s love. The booklet also contains the second Latin saint’s life, The Legend of Saint Etfrid, which commemorates another Anglo-Saxon saint with local resonance. Geographic lore with a crusading edge surfaces in texts on Saracen lands, international heraldic arms, and the relics housed in the cathedral of the Spanish city of Oviedo. In overall makeup, booklet 6 is an intriguing miscellany that suggests an audience of young men, perhaps pupils, as well as scripts for mixed-gender social settings at which comic entertainments could be read aloud, and perhaps enacted, for enjoyment and discussion.

Booklet 7 (quire 15, fols. 134–140). Consisting of one quire of seven leaves, booklet 7 is written entirely in French and Latin and mainly in prose. It is a handbook of practical religion that provides the reader with lists of occasions for prayers, masses, and psalms to be said in times of adversity, along with more lists of the reasons to fast on Friday, the propitious attributes of herbs, and Anselm’s questions to be asked of the dying. A few longer texts stand out as somewhat detached from this purpose, and they give the booklet a more miscellaneous though still devout feel: the Latin moralization All the World’s a Chess Board, which the scribe may have drawn from a copy of John of Wales’s Communeloquium; the macaronic French/Latin political diatribe Against the King’s Taxes; an intense, affective meditation focused on the hours of the Passion; and a commemoration of the life of Saint Wistan, Anglo-Saxon patron saint of the Ludlow scribe’s neighboring Wistanstow. To judge by the script, this last text was added several years after the other texts were copied, in around 1347. As an end to the Harley manuscript, booklet 7 displays the piety of daily worship tied to the worldly concerns of a clergy opposed to oppressive taxation by the state. It is another booklet that might once have stood alone, although it should be noted that the last text of booklet 6, Prayer for Protection, offers a bridge to the practices and beliefs detailed here.


Much has been written about the Ludlow scribe, especially since Carter Revard’s landmark research that dates his hand as it appears in three manuscripts and forty-one legal writs. Revard’s report of these discoveries appeared just when the study of scribes exploded on the investigative scene of Middle English as an important technique by which to bring historical precision to the cultural mapping of manuscripts, their contents, and their readers. Such work has recently revolutionized the study of Chaucer, Langland, Gower, Trevisa, and Hoccleve, revealing previously unknown networks of metropolitan scribes — in particular, a pivotal group of men centered in the London Guildhall — who assiduously copied and promoted these authors.17 Work on the Ludlow scribe runs parallel to this movement while illustrating a strand of the scribal networks operating outside of London. In this realm of Middle English literary-historical studies, the Ludlow scribe is someone of special interest, akin to the intriguing Rate (main scribe of MS Ashmole 61) and Robert Thornton of Yorkshire (compiler of two manuscripts in the fifteenth century). Many such scribes are like the Ludlow scribe in being entirely anonymous yet recognizable in their handiwork and proclivities. As the maker of a key manuscript, the Ludlow scribe is a leading figure among a growing company of copyists now recognized for the value of what they preserved. Increasingly, scholars are focusing on these figures so as to understand the historical purposes for which texts were made and to learn how texts circulated, were used, and were selected to be copied. For a scribe as provocative and idiosyncratic in his choices as was the Ludlow scribe of MS Harley 2253, we also just want to know more about who he was, who he might have worked for, how he was educated, how he was trained as a scribe, and in what circles he moved in society.

Documents reveal that the scribe who copied folios 49–140 of the Harley manuscript flourished as a professional legal scribe in the vicinity of Ludlow from 1314 to 1349. The forty-one writs and charters in his hand recovered by Revard are dated from December 18, 1314, to April 13, 1349. If he was in his twenties when he inscribed the first of these documents, then he was born in the last decade of the thirteenth century. He may have died during the Black Death, which swept through England from 1348 to 1350, so his dates can roughly be set from about 1290 to about 1350.

The earliest writs hail from Ludlow, the scribe’s apparent home base. There are sixteen documents from Ludlow itself, including one probably written for Sir Lawrence Ludlow of Stokesay Castle, which is located west of Ludlow in the direction of Wistanstow. In that village is the church built on the site of Saint Wistan’s martyrdom as chronicled in the last text of MS Harley 2253. The most outlying document is from Edgton, a village west of Wistanstow. Another is from Stanton Lacy, which is to the north of Ludlow. All others are set south of Ludlow: in the town’s neighboring outskirts, four from Ludford and one each from Sheet and Steventon; and from further south: fifteen from Overton, two from Ashford Carbonel, and one from Richard’s Castle. With the exception of Edgton, all the writs and charters are located within a three-mile radius of Ludlow. And Edgton is but two miles from Wistanstow, which is merely three miles from Stokesay Castle.

The other two Latin saints’ lives affiliate the Harley manuscript with major centers directly on the road south from Ludlow. The Life of Saint Ethelbert commemorates the patron saint of Hereford and its cathedral.18 The Legend of Saint Etfrid recounts the colorful story of a lion tamed by the saint’s offer of bread, a dreamlike encounter that predicts an Anglo-Saxon king’s conversion and the founding of a monastery in Leominster. The three saints’ lives share a common thread of interest in regional saints from Anglo-Saxon times, that is, foundational stories for religious centers in the vicinity of the scribe’s activity. In the case of The Martyrdom of Saint Wistan, it is conceivable that the scribe himself redacted the story and preached it to a congregation in Wistanstow to mark a feast day, or that it came from such a local source written for such a parochial purpose.

A considerable amount of further evidence about the Ludlow scribe’s reading, collection habits, and tastes exists in two additional manuscripts, where his hand frequently appears in such a way as to suggest that he once owned them as well. These books are MS Harley 273 and MS Royal 12.C.12. Both are housed with the Harley manuscript in London at the British Library, and, to judge from the scribe’s script, both predate it. Revard supplies good overviews of these books and dates the scribe’s handwriting in each one.19 Yet, except for attention paid to the Ludlow scribe’s copies of some major works — such as the Short Metrical Chronicle (an abridgement of the Middle English Brut) and Fouke le Fitz Waryn (an outlaw tale in Anglo-Norman prose) — the intricate range of contents found in these two books and the various, sometimes stray insertions made by the scribe have not yet been systematically described.20

In characterizing who the Ludlow scribe was and exploring his probable occupations and training, one may borrow from an informed speculation as to the compiler-scribe of a comparable, older West Midland book, Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Digby 86. Here, it has been said, the scribe was likely “a cleric, perhaps the local parish-priest, more probably a private chaplain in a manorial household. . . . He had a dual function, to provide both spiritual guidance and also what one might call book-based entertainment.”21 This profile for the Digby scribe seems a good fit for the Ludlow scribe, too.22 We may readily surmise that his training was in Latin, religion, and law, subjects that all point to a clerical education. A distinct taste for secular performance pieces suggests his additional role as a master of entertainments, no doubt as a speaking reader, possibly even as a performer or director of others in performance. Marginal speech markers in Harrowing of Hell and Gilote and Johane preserve these articles’ original theatricality, and many more of the Ludlow scribe’s preserved debates, dialogues, and expressive monologues seem designed for dramatic show. Oral delivery is often announced from the start, and such openings surely indicate real occasions and are not just literate convention.23 The scribe seems to have held some particular political leanings, which were probably common to his region: patriotic toward nation and king; sympathetic, however, to the barons’ cause as formerly led by Simon de Montfort; and strongly opposed to petty, corrupt officialdom and unreasonable taxation. These attitudes show an empathy for the common populace, but they were also shared by many clergy, and a good degree of identification with the clerical authors expressing these views probably accounts for the scribe’s inclusion of these outlooks.24

Of course, it may be that the scribe’s social attitudes were also shaped to please a patron; various scholars have sought to identify who the scribe’s patron might have been.25 Because we cannot know the name of the patron any more than we can know the name of the scribe, it seems wisest to glean what we can of attitudes and social outlooks as they are suggested by the articles of MS Harley 2253 taken in aggregate and in combination. The meanings built by juxtaposition and selection would seem best explained as deriving from the intelligence of the scribe — someone with literary leanings and a freedom to pursue his own whims, choices, chance finds, and networks of texts. If an externally directed pattern is perceptible here, it runs toward edification and instruction. It would seem likely that the Ludlow scribe had some responsibility in the inculcation of manners and learning for a male heir or heirs in a well-bred, perhaps aristocratic setting. In this environment, he, his charges, and his patrons were accustomed to interact with one another in Anglo-Norman. Toward household members, his duties must also have included spiritual guidance, as from a professional chaplain.

The inclusion of the adventure stories of King Horn in the Harley manuscript and of Fouke le Fitz Waryn in MS Royal 12.C.12 seems well explained as directed toward an audience of boys whose morals were to be shaped by a clerical tutor or schoolmaster.26 The Old Testament stories devote space to the God-ordained exploits of Joseph and Moses. The political and geographical works offer more instruction on history and knowledge of the world and local environs. And the debates on women’s nature, the lyrics on secular love, and even the outrageously profane fabliaux provide provocative matter to be absorbed by inquisitive young men about the mysterious nature of the opposite gender. Most overtly, the literature of conduct and good manners clustered in booklet 6 seems designed for the schoolroom, whether directed at a single scion of a household or a group of pupils from aspirant Anglo-Norman homes.

Most interesting, perhaps, in considering the roles of the Ludlow scribe, is to observe how he sometimes assumed the task of author as well as a redactor and compiler. The Bible stories and Fouke le Fitz Waryn are now accepted as his own literate productions created by translating and adapting inherited material. For the former, extracts from the Vulgate Bible (and sometimes Peter Comestor) were converted from Latin to Anglo-Norman prose, with the scribe adding occasional lessons: a mnemonic couplet on the ten plagues, a multilingual explanation of the word manna, and a typological reading of the Synagogue as the “Church for Christians” (“eglise a chretiens”). For Fouke, an Anglo-Norman verse romance was remade as prose in the same language. Certain turns of phrase show the scribe to have been anglophone by birth, francophone by social standing and daily habit — as were, no doubt, his associates, his patrons, and their children.27 To these French works now ascribed to him, works in other languages contend as more possibilities. One is The Martyrdom of Saint Wistan, a Latin redaction from a longer Latin prose life.28 In English, too, he may have devised A Bok of Swevenyng by cobbling it from the Latin dreambook Somniale Danielis in his possession in MS Royal 12.C.12.

The lines that distinguish scribe from compiler and even from the higher offices of an author are sometimes blurred, therefore, as we reach for an accurate profile of this interesting man from medieval Ludlow. Regarding poetry of this period, Derek Pearsall has commented that “the scribe as much as the poet is the ‘author’ of what we have in extant copies.”29 Nowhere is this more true than in the command performance of the Ludlow scribe. He collected ephemeral songs, entertainments, and diatribes that survive nowhere else because they floated on broadsheets never intended for appearance among the records of a book. For some of the most vernacular items of local politics and social satire, the Ludlow scribe became, perhaps unconsciously, an innovator in preservation by new media when he inscribed into booklets comic complaints delivered in colorful alliterative idiom to ventriloquize the outlooks of monoglot, unlettered English people. Such scripts designed for performance and class-based mockery acquire a new, more politicized valence when — marked exclusively as utterance — they come eventually to dwell inside the boards of a bound document, thereby officially “recording” a marginal point of view.30

The Ludlow scribe’s remarkable manuscript captures for us myriad snapshots of lived moments in the literate culture of the French-speaking English from the western Marches, giving us multiple perspectives on how that society sought entertainment and pursued mental enrichment a half-century before Chaucer. When we closely examine vernacular performance texts extant in other copies, like the Harrowing of Hell and King Horn, we readily discover how the scribe’s distinct touch has perceptibly inflected his versions. At the same time, in the Ludlow scribe’s selections and insertions, one may potentially trace his preferences and influences: Peter Comester, John of Wales, Albertus Magnus, Anselm of Canterbury, Hilary of Poitiers, Chrétien de Troyes, for example. The Hereford Franciscan poet and preacher William Herebert might have been one of his acquaintances.31 In addition, the imaginatively rich, stylistically versatile narratives copied by Scribe A enhance our sense of the Anglo-French literary influences swirling within the scribe’s easy reach. The Ludlow scribe’s milieus, sources, range of training, professional activities, and goals as a copyist pose a challenging, fascinating domain for scholarly investigation. With this edition and translation, that domain is now fully open for reading and exploration.



Ker, N. R. Intro. to Facsimile of British Museum MS. Harley 2253. EETS o.s. 255. London, 1965.

Standard Edition of the English “Harley Lyrics

Brook, G. L., ed. The Harley Lyrics: The Middle English Lyrics of Ms. Harley 2253. Fourth ed. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1968.

Descriptive Bibliography of the English “Harley Lyrics

Fein, Susanna. “XXVII. The Lyrics of MS Harley 2253.” In A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500. Vol. 11, ed. Peter G. Beidler. New Haven: Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2005. Pp. 4168–4206, 4311–61.

Other Editions of Multiple Harley Items

Böddeker, Karl, ed. Altenglische Dichtungen des MS. Harl. 2253. Berlin: Weidmannsche, 1878.

Brown, Carleton, ed. English Lyrics of the XIIIth Century. Oxford: Clarendon, 1932.

———, ed. Religious Lyrics of the XIVth Century. Oxford: Clarendon, 1924. Second edition. Rev. G. V. Smithers. Oxford: Clarendon, 1952.

Dove, Mary. "A Study of Some of the Lesser-Known Poems of British Museum Ms. Harley 2253." D.Phil. dissertation, Girton College, Cambridge, 1969.

Jeffrey, David L., and Brian J. Levy, eds. The Anglo-Norman Lyric: An Anthology. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1990.

Kennedy, Thomas Corbin. "Anglo-Norman Poems about Love, Women, and Sex from British Museum MS. Harley 2253." Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1973.

Montaiglon, Anatole de, and Gaston Raynaud, eds. Recueil général et complet des fabliaux des XIIIe et XIVe siècles. 6 vols. Paris, 1872–90; repr. New York, 1964.

Noomen, Willem, and Nico van den Boogaard, eds. Nouveau recueil complet des fabliaux. 10 vols. Assen: Van Gorcum, 1983–98.

Robbins, Rossell Hope, ed. Historical Poems of the XIVth and XVth Centuries. New York: Columbia University Press, 1959.

Turville-Petre, Thorlac, ed. Alliterative Poetry of the Later Middle Ages: An Anthology. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1989.

Wright, Thomas, ed. Political Songs of England, from the Reign of John to That of Edward II. 1839; repr. with an Intro. by Peter Coss. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

———, ed. The Latin Poems Commonly Attributed to Walter Mapes. London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son (for the Camden Society), 1841; repr. New York: AMS Press, 1968.

———, ed. Specimens of Lyric Poetry, Composed in England in the Reign of Edward the First. Percy Society, 1842; repr. New York: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1965.

———, ed. “Early English Receipts for Painting, Gilding, &c.” Archaeological Journal 1 (1844), 64–66.

Recent Editions of Select Harley Items

Hunt, Tony, ed., and Jane Bliss, trans. “Cher alme”: Texts of Anglo-Norman Piety. French of England Translation Series. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2010.

Lerer, Seth. “‘Dum ludis floribus’: Language and Text in the Medieval English Lyric.” Philological Quarterly 87 (2008), 237–55.

Millett, Bella. Wessex Parallel WebTexts. 2003. Online at contents.htm.

Pringle, Denys. Pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Holy Land, 1187–1291. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012. Pp. 229–36.

Revard, Carter. “The Wife of Bath’s Grandmother: or How Gilote Showed Her Friend Johane That the Wages of Sin Is Worldly Pleasure, and How Both Then Preached This Gospel throughout England and Ireland.” Chaucer Review 39 (2004), 117–36. ———. “Four Fabliaux from London, British Library MS Harley 2253, Translated into English Verse.” Chaucer Review 40 (2005), 111–40.

———. “A Goliard’s Feast and the Metanarrative of Harley 2253.” Revue Belge de Philologie et d’Histoire 83 (2005), 841–67.

———. “The Outlaw’s Song of Trailbaston.” In Medieval Outlaws: Twelve Tales in Modern English Translation. Ed. Thomas H. Ohlgren. Second edition. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press, 2005. Pp. 151–64.

Short, Ian, and Roy Pearcy, eds. Eighteen Anglo-Norman Fabliaux. ANTS Plain Texts Series 14. London: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 2000.

Treharne, Elaine, ed. Old and Middle English c.890–c.1450. Third edition. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

Woolgar, C. M., ed. Household Accounts from Medieval England. Part I: Introduction, Glossary, Diet Accounts (I). Records of Social and Economic History n.s. 17. Oxford: Oxford University Press for The British Academy, 1992. Pp. 174–77.

Essay Collection on MS Harley 2253

Fein, Susanna, ed. Studies in the Harley Manuscript: The Scribes, Contents, and Social Contexts of British Library MS Harley 2253. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2000.


• Susanna Fein. “British Library MS Harley 2253: The Lyrics, the Facsimile, and the Book.” Pp. 1–20.

• Carter Revard. “Scribe and Provenance.” Pp. 21–109.

• Theo Stemmler. “Miscellany or Anthology? The Structure of Medieval Manuscripts: MS Harley 2253, for Example.” Pp. 111–21.

• Michael P. Kuczynski. “An ‘Electric Stream’: The Religious Contents.” Pp. 123–61.

• John Scattergood. “Authority and Resistance: The Political Verse.” Pp. 163– 201.

• Richard Newhauser. “Historicity and Complaint in Song of the Husbandman.” Pp. 203–17.

• Karl Reichl. “Debate Verse.” Pp. 219–39.

• Helen Phillips. “Dreams and Dream Lore.” Pp. 241–59.

• David L. Jeffrey. “Authors, Anthologists, and Franciscan Spirituality.” Pp. 261–70.

• John J. Thompson. “‘Frankis rimes here I redd, / Communlik in ilk[a] sted . . .’: The French Bible Stories in Harley 2253.” Pp. 271–88.

• Barbara Nolan. “Anthologizing Ribaldry: Five Anglo-Norman Fabliaux.” Pp. 289–327.

• Mary Dove. “Evading Textual Intimacy: The French Secular Verse.” Pp. 329– 49.

• Susanna Fein. “A Saint ‘Geynest under Gore’: Marina and the Love Lyrics of the Seventh Quire.” Pp. 351–76.

• Elizabeth Solopova. “Layout, Punctuation, and Stanza Patterns in the English Verse.” Pp. 377–89.

• Frances McSparran. “The Language of the English Poems: The Harley Scribe and His Exemplars.” Pp. 391–426.

• Marilyn Corrie. “Harley 2253, Digby 86, and the Circulation of Literature in Pre-Chaucerian England.” Pp. 427–43.

Other Recent Criticism

Birkholz, Daniel. “Harley Lyrics and Hereford Clerics: The Implications of Mobility, c. 1300–1351.” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 31 (2009), 175–230.

Boffey, Julia. “Middle English Lyrics and Manuscripts.” In A Companion to the Middle English Lyric. Ed. Thomas G. Duncan. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2005. Pp. 1–18.

Butterfield, Ardis. “English, French and Anglo-French: Language and Nation in the Fabliau.” In Mittelalterliche Novellistik im europäischen Kontext: Kulturwissenschaftliche Perspektiven. Ed. Mark Chinca, Timo Reuvekamp-Felber, and Christopher Young. Berlin: Erich Schmidt, 2006. Pp. 238–59.

Cable, Thomas. “Foreign Influence, Native Continuation, and Metrical Typology in Alliterative Lyrics.” In Approaches to the Metres of Alliterative Verse. Ed. Judith Jefferson and Ad Putter. Leeds Texts and Monographs, new series 17. Leeds: University of Leeds, 2009. Pp. 219–34.

Choong, Kevin Teo Kia. “Bodies of Knowledge: Embodying Riotous Performance in the Harley Lyrics.” In “And Never Know the Joy”: Sex and the Erotic in English Poetry. Ed. C. C. Barfoot. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006. Pp. 13–32.

Corrie, Marilyn. “Kings and Kingship in British Library MS Harley 2253.” Yearbook of English Studies 33 (2003), 64–79.

D’Arcy, Anne Marie. “The Middle English Lyrics.” In Readings in Medieval Texts: Interpreting Old and Middle English Literature. Ed. David F. Johnson and Elaine Treharne. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Pp. 306–22.

Durling, Nancy Vine. “British Library MS Harley 2253: A New Reading of the Passion Lyrics in Their Manuscript Context.” Viator 40 (2009), 271–307.

Fein, Susanna. “Harley Lyrics.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. Ed. David Scott Kastan and Gail McMurray Gibson. 5 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. 2:519–22.

———. “Compilation and Purpose in MS Harley 2253.” In Essays in Manuscript Geography: Vernacular Manuscripts of the English West Midlands from the Conquest to the Sixteenth Century. Ed. Wendy Scase. Turnhout: Brepols, 2007. Pp. 67–94.

———. “The Four Scribes of MS Harley 2253.” Journal of the Early Book Society 16 (2013), 27–49.

———. “Literary Scribes: The Harley Scribe and Robert Thornton as Case Studies.” In Insular Books: Vernacular Miscellanies in Late Medieval Britain. Ed. Margaret Connolly and Raluca Radulescu. Proceedings of the British Academy. London: British Academy, forthcoming.

Fisher, Matthew. Scribal Authorship and the Writing of History in Medieval England. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2012. Pp. 100–45.

Hanna, Ralph. “The Matter of Fulk: Romance and the History of the Marches.” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 110 (2011), 337–58.

Hines, John. Voices in the Past: English Literature and Archaeology. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2004.

Kerby-Fulton, Kathryn, Maidie Hilmo, and Linda Olson. Opening Up Middle English Manuscripts: Literary and Visual Approaches. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012.

Kinch, Ashby. “Dying for Love: Dialogic Response in the Lyrics of BL MS Harley 2253.” In Courtly Literature and Clerical Culture. Ed. Christopher Huber and Henrike Lähnemann. Tübingen: Attempto, 2002. Pp. 137–47.

Lerer, Seth. “Medieval English Literature and the Idea of the Anthology.” PMLA 118 (2003), 1251–67.

Maulsby, Stephen C. "The Harley Lyrics Revisited: A Multilingual Textual Community." Ph.D. dissertation, Catholic University of America, 2008.

Nelson, Ingrid Lynn. "The Lyric in England, 1200–1400." Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 2010.

——–. “The Performance of Power in Medieval English Households: The Case of the Harrowing of Hell.” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 112 (2013), 48–69. O’Rourke, Jason. “British Library MS Royal 12 C. xii and the Problems of Patronage.” Journal of the Early Book Society 3 (2000), 216–25.

——–. “Imagining Book Production in Fourteenth-Century Herefordshire: The Scribe of British Library, Harley 2253 and His ‘Organizing Principles.’” In Imagining the Book. Ed. Stephen Kelly and John J. Thompson. Turnhout: Brepols, 2005. Pp. 45–60.

Revard, Carter. “From French ‘Fabliau Manuscripts’ and MS Harley 2253 to the Decameron and the Canterbury Tales.” Medium Ævum 69 (2000), 261–78.

———. “Oppositional Thematics and Metanarrative in MS Harley 2253, Quires 1–6.” In Essays in Manuscript Geography: Vernacular Manuscripts of the English West Midlands from the Conquest to the Sixteenth Century. Ed. Wendy Scase. Turnhout: Brepols, 2007. Pp. 95– 112.

Rock, Catherine A. "Romances Copied by the Ludlow Scribe: Purgatoire Saint Patrice, Short Metrical Chronicle, Fouke le Fitz Waryn, and King Horn." Ph.D. dissertation, Kent State University, 2008.

Scahill, John. “Trilingualism in Early Middle English Miscellanies: Languages and Literature.” Yearbook of English Studies 33 (2003), 18–52.

Scase, Wendy. Literature and Complaint in England 1272–1553. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Scattergood, John. The Lost Tradition: Essays on Middle English Alliterative Poetry. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000.

———. “The Love Lyric before Chaucer.” In A Companion to the Middle English Lyric. Ed. Thomas G. Duncan. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2005. Pp. 39–67.


The texts of MS Harley 2253 are printed in the modern alphabet and follow the conventions of the Middle English Texts Series. I list here several details of presentation that require special notice.

Transcriptions. Final h or final k with a medial horizontal line (often a looped flourish) is rendered as he or ke.

Final yogh is rendered as s in English texts, z in French texts.

The Ludlow scribe’s form of homme (“man”) consistently lacks a minim; previous editors have transcribed the word as either houme or honme. The form used in this edition is honme.

The distinction between the Ludlow scribe’s t and c is frequently slight or nonexistent. Consequently, transcription of those letters may be governed by the language in question. For example, in French texts, -cio(u)n is the standard spelling of the suffix; in Latin texts, it is -tion.

In Latin texts, the letter i remains and does not become j.

Other editors’ variations of the practices cited here are not recorded in the textual notes.

Abbreviations. The Ludlow scribe’s ampersand is rendered ant in English texts, e in French texts, et in Latin texts, in accordance with his evident usage when the forms are spelled out. Scribe C’s ampersand found in the English paint recipes (arts. 10–17) is also rendered ant (although he spells out both ant and et). The frequent transcription of ampersand in English texts as and by previous editors is not noted in the textual notes.

Scribe A’s abbreviation Jh’u is rendered Jhesu. The Ludlow’s scribe’s abbreviation ihc is rendered Jesu, as supported by Ker (p. xix) and by the scribe’s normal usage. There is only one occurrence of the spelling ihesu in the Ludlow scribe’s work: ABC of Women (art. 8), line 63 (the first appearance of the word). Transcription as Ihesu or Jhesu by previous editors is not noted in the textual notes.

In French texts copied by the Ludlow scribe, ns with an expansion mark is rendered nous, as found at ABC of Women (art. 8), line 228; vs with an expansion mark is rendered vous, as found at Debate between Winter and Summer (art. 9), line 126. Expansions as vus and nus by previous editors are not recorded in the textual notes. In Scribe A’s texts, these abbreviations are expanded to nus and vus, in accordance with the scribe’s practice.

The abbreviation for par in French, English, and Latin texts (p with a medial line through the descender) is normally rendered par, but in some lexical contexts the form indicates per (i.e., pernez, perdu, apertenant, spere, etc.).

Likewise, the abbreviation mlt is rendered molt in French texts (the Ludlow scribe’s attested spelling), mult in Latin texts. However, in some lexical contexts, the French abbreviation indicates mult (for example, mlteplia on fol. 95v near multiplierent spelled out).

In French texts, q with a macron is expanded to que, not qe. Expansion to qe by other editors (i.e., Kennedy) is not listed in the textual notes.

In French texts, the abbreviation seign with a flourish on the n is rendered seignur. The Ludlow scribe’s spelling of this word fluctuates. For example, in Debate between Winter and Summer (art. 9), one finds the word abbreviated and spelled out as seignur, seignor, seigneur, and seignour.

Paragraphs and initials. Paraphs and large initials, typically in red ink, adorn the opening word of most texts and may also appear internally. All paraphs are recorded. Red initials are not indicated; wherever their placement may be meaningful, they are discussed in the explanatory notes. Boldface initials corresponding to scribal initials appear in two texts: first, in ABC of Women (art. 8) to highlight the ABC formula, and, second, in The Life of Saint Ethelbert (art. 18) to record how the scribe presents its divisions by initial letter and not by paraph.

Refrains and burdens. The Ludlow scribe’s abbreviated indicators for lyric refrains and carol burdens are expanded and printed in full, in the manner in which they were intended to be recited or sung after each stanza. Refrains and burdens appear in italic font. The lines of the opening burden of carols (arts. 36 and 46) are not numbered.

Article numbers. The numbering of items in MS Harley 2253 is keyed to the Ker facsimile (pp. ix–xvi). It follows the enumeration first created by Wanley and then refined by Ker. Article 42 is vacant and therefore omitted (see Ker, p. ix). A Latin couplet (art. 24a*) is presented here as a separate article for the first time.

Foliation. Material from the manuscript is cited in the left margin by folio number, recto or verso (“r” or “v”), and column (“a,” “b,” or “c”). A vertical line appears in prose texts wherever a folio or column break occurs. Folio breaks rarely occur within lines of verse; where they do, the break is indicated by a vertical line.

Titles. The Middle English, Anglo-Norman, and Latin titles of original works found in MS Harley 2253 derive from first lines, incipits, or scholarly consensus. The titles of the translated texts reflect their standard modern English titles. Where no modern nomenclature exists, titles have been created by the editor.

Variant readings. Variant readings recorded by previous editors are compiled in the textual notes. Editions that modernize texts or regularize spellings are omitted. These notes are keyed to the editions listed for each work in the explanatory notes. Differences in word breaks and in the use of apostrophes in French words are not recorded. Words or letters clearly marked for deletion by the scribe are also not recorded. For a broader listing of the numerous editions of the famous Harley Lyrics (that is, the thirty-two poems selected by Brook), see Fein 2005.

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