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The labor of approximating a description of Thynne's source scarcely lends itself to narration except as a long process of trial and error, in search of those general text-modules of page and quire that would alone yield Thynne's disposition of text, both erroneous and correctly restored, and no other. Because this untidy and often- repeated exercise in what one bemused observer of the messy process termed the "lower mathematics" makes better reading in summary than reproduced play-by-play (its main findings are presented schematically in Appendices A, B, and C), I shall first state in summary form its outcome: my derived general description of the absent manuscript. I shall then review the inferential sequence by which it was derived.

The normative page of Thynne's source of the Testament—the pattern


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that was used for ruling and planning the entire manuscript book, and that remained nearly constant through scribal production from beginning to end of the work—contained a fraction more than 24 of Thynne's lines. It was disposed in such a way as to serve Thynne through nearly half the work as a remarkably reliable guide in marking off a manuscript that he would present in print in a double-column format of 48 lines, the layout he also used for other Chaucerian prose works in the volume. Because the manuscript design seems to have served Thynne's printer so neatly and well so far into the work, as well as for additional reasons discussed below, I inferred that the actual manuscript page ruling was, if not for 24 lines, then something very close to it, probably no more than 27.[19] The hand or hands were probably fairly regular and professional—a feature perhaps unsurprising in a work that was composed by a professional scribe and may never have travelled far from his circle.[20] The inferrable amplitude of the hand—expressed as the number of characters and word-spaces per manuscript page—varies scarcely at all from the beginning to the end of the work, and its slight variation occurs in clearly describable stages. The module of less than 24.5 lines (that is, the number of lines of Thynne's text that corresponds to a page of his conjectured source) remains remarkably constant throughout Book I and the first two full quires of 8 in book II, creeping toward 25 by midway through Book II, and to slightly over 25 by the end of Book II, attaining by the end of Book III an average of 26.28 in the final quire.[21] These specifications


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suggest a page size of about 210 x 150 mm, with a text-block of about 150 x 100 mm.[22]

The quire structure, too, is remarkably regular throughout. Though the manuscript book may have remained unbound—and certainly was unbound when Thynne used it—it shows signs (discussed further below) of unitary planning as a volume, laid out and assembled in uniformly ruled quires of 8; the few exceptions to this rule in turn lend themselves to simple statement in the form of rules.[23] In order to account for the quiring pattern that emerged from my explanation of the Book III displacements of text, I conjectured that each of the three Books of the work began with a new quire, and quires were abbreviated as necessary at the ends of each book by the common practice of subtracting bifolia or single leaves at the end of the unit. This plan would also have assured that an especially elaborate, and very probably painted, first-chapter capital for each Book (one which might have occupied an initial block of at least twice the vertical and horizontal dimensions of


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those devoted to other acrostic chapter-capitals) would occur on the first page—and the flesh side—of a new quire.[24]

In a text of this page and quiring design, the dislocated text would begin at a point 72-81 lines into chapter iv (in fact, after 76.5 of Thynne's lines) of Book III—at what we may now specify as the end of a regular quire of 8. The displaced text, moreover, would fill exactly three quires, followed by a final quire of two leaves: a bifolium in which three of the four sides contain the remaining text (80.6 of Thynne's lines) of the final chapter of the work.

Thus far, neither the page nor quiring arrangement in this conjecturally reconstructed manuscript book is unusual in any way: as we have seen, many surviving vernacular books of the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century share these features of the Testament's general bibliographic design. From this combination of page and quiring features, however, a noteworthy and wholly unexpected further patterned regularity of the lost book emerged: the acrostic capital of every chapter in the work would occur naturally in page-initial position, in the upper left corner of the text-block.[25] Moreover, except in a very few instances (exceptions which all occur in the last third of the manuscript) all of these acrostic capitals would have fallen naturally on a flesh-side of the leaf.[26]


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It is difficult to attribute this extraordinarily consistent pattern to mere statistical chance, and also hard to avoid its clear implication: that the page-module of the book was a factor in the design of the work that intersected at some stage of its realization with the production and shaping of the verbal text. That is, the semiotics of the spatial and scribal ordinatio of the book and those of its composition as a verbal artifact were in some fashion, and at some stage of its making, linked in its production as a book. As an object of unitary physical as well as conceptual design, it proclaimed its maker's intent through the disposition of its physical space and acrostic signature as well as through its rhetorical style and philosophical "content," and as a book it invoked and rewarded several kinds of sophisticated awareness of the arts of textual design simultaneously.

To ascertain further features of this impressive program of book design, and to understand their relation to other aspects of Usk's declarations of form, method, and purpose, we will need to examine more closely that portion of the text that offers the one glaring exception to these regularities: the displacement of text in Book III. Through a reconstruction of the mechanics of its occurrence, and the design principles implicit in the correct restoration of textual order, it will also be possible to discern additional details of the physical disposition of the manuscript book—and ultimately to elucidate the terms of Usk's literary self-presentation and self-exegesis. At this point not only Thynne's culpa but Skeat's became for my purposes felix: nothing short of a detailed re-examination of the textual as well as discursive and argumentative logic involved in these sections of the work—the sections that both Skeat and Thynne evidently found its least interesting part, but which most


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concerned me—could possibly have offered the almost fortuitous access their editorial work affords to the terms of design and craft-knowledge displayed by the manuscript of the Testament and advertised by its author, as well as to the arts of reading and "appreciation"—entirely continuous with those of its making—that as a manuscript book it elicited from its readers, and received at least in part from Thynne.