University of Virginia Library



The principal editions (several with variant issues) are as follows: the 1532 Thynne edition (STC 5068); an edition of 1542 adding the Plowman's Tale (STC 5069-5070); an undated edition where the Plowman's Tale is moved to precede the Parson's Tale (1550? STC 5071-5074); the Stow edition of 1561 (STC 5075-5076.3); two editions credited to Thomas Speght of 1598 and 1602 (STC 5077-79; STC 5080-81). I will use the now standard abbreviations adopted by the Variorum Chaucer, although I have reservations (expressed in my conclusion below) about what these abbreviations sometimes mean: TH1 TH2 TH3 (= the Thynne editions of 1532, 1542, and 1550), ST (= Stow's edition of 1561), and SP1 and SP2 (= the two Speght editions of 1598 and 1602).


See, e.g., Walter W. Skeat, "Early Editions of Chaucer's Works," The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, vol. 1 (1894): 27-46 . On the manuscript sources for the many additions to the canon made by Stow, see esp. Bradford Y. Fletcher, "Printer's Copy for Stow's Chaucer," Studies in Bibliography 31 (1978): 184-201.


I am not concerned here with the typography; see my Who is Buried in Chaucer's Tomb? Studies in the Reception of Chaucer's Book (1998), chap. 3: "Toward a Typographical History of Chaucer."


Thomas R. Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer, 3 vols. (1892), 1: 265-80, based in large part on Francis Thynne, Animadversions uppon the Annotacions and Corrections of some imperfections of impressiones of Chaucers workes (1598), ed. G. H. Kingsley, rev. J. F. Furnivall (1875). See more recently the excellent bibliographies by Eleanor Prescott Hammond, Chaucer: A Bibliographical Manual (1908), 116-127, John R. Hetherington, Chaucer, 1532-1602: Notes and Facsimile Texts (1964), and the discussion by Charles Muscatine, The Book of Geoffrey Chaucer (1963), and Derek Pearsall, "Thomas Speght (ca. 1550--?)," in Paul G. Ruggiers, ed., Editing Chaucer: The Great Tradition (1984), 71-92. See also: W. W. Greg, "The Early Printed Editions of the Canterbury Tales," PMLA 39 (1924): 737-761; Alice S. Miskimin, The Renaissance Chaucer (1975), 242-261; and Tim William Machan, "Speght's Works and the Invention of Chaucer," Text 8 (1995): 145-170. The importance of Lounsbury is often underestimated, but the influence of his narrative and the infectiousness of his style are easily seen, as in the following statement on the relation of Speght to William and Francis Thynne: "In return Speght spoke with the profoundest deference of the Thynnes, father and son" (273); the sentence finds its way into Pearsall virtually unchanged: "He speaks with the profoundest deference of the Thynnes, father and son ... " (Pearsall, 85). The word then finds its way into a recent volume of the Variorum Chaucer: "Perhaps in deference to Thynne..."; Malcolm Andrew et al., The General Prologue, Variorum Chaucer II, 1 (1993), 100.


"They are set up, line by line, from their predecessor, diverging from it only insofar as the text undergoes the usual mechanical degeneration at the hands of the compositor" (Pearsall, "Speght," 71).


See the brief notes in G. Thomas Tanselle, "The Meaning of Copy-text: A Further Note," SB 23 (1970): 191-192. No specific document exists in the sense of those studied long ago by Gavin Bone, "Extant MSS. printed from by Wynkyn de Worde," The Library ser. 4, 12 (1931): 284-306, or more recently by James E. Blodgett, "Some Printer's Copy for William Thynne's 1532 Edition of Chaucer," The Library ser 6, 1 (1979): 97-113, and by N. F. Blake, "Aftermath: Manuscript to Print," in Jeremy Griffiths and Derek Pearsall, ed., Book Production and Publishing in Britain, 1375-1475 (1989), Appendix A: "Caxton Prints for which a copy-text survives or which were used as copy," 419-425 (Blake's word 'copy' has the meaning 'printer's copy').


The volumes of the Variorum consulted here are the following: Derek Pearsall, The Nun's Priest's Tale (1984); Thomas W. Ross, The Miller's Tale (1983); Donald C. Baker, The Manciple's Tale (1984); Helen Storm Corsa, The Physician's Tale (1987); Beverly Boyd, The Prioress's Tale (1987); Donald C. Baker, The Squire's Tale (1990); Andrew et al., General Prologue (1993); John F. Plummer III, The Summoner's Tale (1995). In his notes (267, n. 26), Pearsall cites collations by Moorman on the General Prologue; I assume these are what is included in the published version, although Ransom seems to be claiming to have thoroughly revised them (Andrew et al., General Prologue, xv). Ransom's statement is none too clear here, and I am uncertain as to whose "Collations," Ransom's or Moorman's, were checked by Dr. Levy. I will refer to this edition simply as Andrew's. On the setting of the 1598 edition, see Pearsall, "Speght," 79, 84-85, with reference to collations contained in his excellent edition of The Floure and the Leafe and The Assembly of Ladies (1962).


Aesthetically, the prose sections of the 1598 edition seem badly set as a result. The spacing in the 1602 edition is far more uniform.


See, e.g., the first paragraphs of "Pars secunda penitencie" of the Parson's Tale in ST and SP1 (sig. S5r). The second paragraph of SP2 (1602, sig. R6r) is a line-for-line reprint of ST, not SP1. See also, ST and SP1, sig. T2va. Again, SP2 (sig. S2va) agrees with ST only. The same correspondences exist in the Testament of Love.


The distinction is that found in W. W. Greg, "The Rationale of Copy-Text," SB 3 (1950-51): 19-36. Although much criticized, it is of crucial importance in twentieth-century Chaucer editing; see below, n. 29.


This accounts in part for the general agreement of the prose sections in these editions: errors in a line-for-line reprint of prose will be much more apparent to compositors and proof-readers than in ordinary reprints of prose, or even in line-for-line reprints of verse.


Baker, Squire's Tale, 106; Baker cites as reference the somewhat variable statements in Pearsall, Nun's Priest'sTale, 114, Corsa, Physician'sTale, 78, and Boyd, Prioress'sTale, 102. Cf. Plummer, the most recent Variorum editor: "Because ST and SP1 are nearly identical, one cannot demonstrate beyond doubt which of the two served as copytext for SP2" (Summoner's Tale, 85); and Corsa, Physician'sTale, "The making of SP2's text ... remains a mystery" (79).


Nun's Priest'sTale, 114. Pearsall claims that such restorations occasionally involve complete lines. If that were true, it would be decisive evidence of a textual source beyond that of the 1561 edition. But the sole example Pearsall cites involves line 4117:

When humors ben too habundant in a wight:
certes this dreme, which ye haue met to night
Commeth of the great superfluitie
Of red color that is in you parde ... (1602 edition)

The third line here seems to replace what in all editions from Caxton to SP1 is some version of the following: "I tel you trouthe ye may trust me." The full context of this supposed restoration shows that the authentic line does not come from an independent source. See, e.g., the 1532 reading:
Whan humours ben to habudant in a wight
Certes this dreme/ which ye haue met to night
I tel you trouthe/ ye may trust me
Cometh of superfluyte / & reed colour parde
Whiche cause folke to drede in her dremes.

The 1602 edition produces a reading (recorded in earlier sources) by cancelling a superfluous line, not by adding a line.


Baker, Manciples Tale, 68: "Whatever the exemplar from which SP2 was set up, either ST or SP1, SP2 contributes 25 variants from SP1." The figures are misleading, and Baker provides only two instances where SP2 agrees with SP1 in substantive variation against ST: at line 105, Stow has "in pearth," a misreading of a thorn, easily corrected to "in this world" (SP1 and SP2) (many manuscripts read "in this earth"). The clear error "criyng" at 301 requires no source to correct to "crye." A similar error occurs at 262, where SP2 corrects a clear error "prien" to "wryen" (a reading that also appears in MS); the error involves only the reading of a scribal w as p. See also, the correction at line 105, the first line of the tale--a correction likely to come not from manuscript but from SP1. Corsa, Physician'sTale, 78-79, claims that SP1 and ST diverge substantively ten times, and that in six of those instances, SP2 reads with ST (lines 59, 82, 190, 216, 271, 276). This to me certainly implies that SP2 does not read with ST at 125, 138, 165, or 190. But that is not the case. SP2 agrees with ST in all ten instances. I agree with the conclusions of Boyd, Prioress'sTale, 102, which are those of Pearsall; but the reference to the Variorum Table of Correspondences ("SP2 agrees with ST in 95 variants and with SP1 in 93") is misleading in that such agreement is only with Hg (the readings to which the Variorum editors are more or less committed as original). As far as I can determine, every example Boyd cites is evidence that the printer's copy for 1602 was ST, and there is no evidence of mixed agreement (i.e., agreement with SP1 against ST). See finally Baker, Squire's Tale, 106: "In 7 of the 8 divergences of SP1 from ST, SP2 reads with ST; the sole exception is at line 440, where SP2 has a unique reading." The evidence is unanimous: since the SP2 reading at 440 is unique, this is not an exception to the notion of ST as printer's copy.


The revised STC lists three issues here; the title-pages and the two versions of the prologue distinguish STC 5075 from 5076. STC 5076.3 has a different colophon; one of its listed copies contains woodcuts, the other (apparently) does not. The abbreviations STw and ST in this context should be construed as referring simply to the printed pages containing the General Prologue.


Andrew's statistics supporting this are much more decisive than Andrew claims, and the apparent evidence for mixed agreement is illusory. Andrew enumerates 23 substantive differences between STw and ST (95), and concludes "ST is clearly the copytext for SP1" (96). On four of these, SP1 seems to agree with ST. But only one of these involves substantive variation (and/and a at 558): plaien/plain (236) is a spelling variant; meserable/miserable (435) is another accidental variant elevated to a substantive; out of/out oft (487) is another accidental. Andrew is the first Variorum editor to discuss in detail the problems of the definition of a variant (122-24). Nonetheless, the statistics themselves are by nature uncritical, and many of the supposed substantives tabulated are products of easily-correctable accidental variation. See, e.g., the following instances of variation between STw and ST: ensired/espired; porte/sporte; pleasaunt/pleasaunce; no/not; he/she.


The evidence for "equality" Andrew presents is in the following statistical statement: SP2 and ST agree against SP1 58 times; SP1 and SP2 agree against ST 60 times (Andrew, 100). But again, Andrew's analysis (which is careful and detailed) actually yields a somewhat different statement, with none of the illusory balance of the above: where SP2 and ST agree against SP1, 2 cases involve SP1 omission, and 23 involve SP1 additions; where SP1 and SP2 agree against ST, 26 cases involve ST omission, and 14 involve ST additions. Obviously, the influence of each text on SP2 is different. I believe the conclusion to be drawn here is the following: the agreement of SP1 and SP2 against ST is random; the agreement of SP2 and ST against SP1 is systematic (most involve SP1 additions); the implication is that ST is printer's copy for SP2.


See, e.g., the apparent agreement of SP1 and SP2 against ST at line 147: only when variants are considered singly do SP1 and SP2 agree; there is no agreement if the entire line is taken as lemma. The agreement at line 176 (pace for ST's space) is quite possibly the consequence of SP1 following a marked copy of 1561, not a matter of a 1598 reading being introduced into that copy. Many of the more radical differences are cited by Lounsbury, 275-276; but of these fifteen, only two show agreement of SP1 and SP2 against ST. And most of the more substantial variants in Andrew show the same thing (see, e.g., line 73). The agreement of SP1 and SP2 against ST often involves individual words, and such agreement is quite possibly the result of a gloss (called/clepyd, line 121; wenden/goon, line 21). Again, this is perfectly consistent with a single marked-up copy of ST serving as printer's copy for both Speght editions.


There is at least one exception to this in Stow, and there may be more. On fol. 243r of ST (sig. Y3r), there are five small ornaments in the inner margin. I have not found these elsewhere in the edition.


The statement that these marks occur in the 1542 and 1561 editions only in the middle margin is not accurate.


See the 1539 Bible (STC 5068), and the series of Great Bibles printed by Grafton and/or Whitchurch from 1540-1541 (STC 2070-2076). Ornaments constructed from type-sorts much like those in the Chaucer editions appear frequently in the prefatory matter, with no discernable relation from edition to edition. For a convenient overview, see Francis Fry, A Description of the Great Bible, 1539, and the Six Editions of Cranmer's Bible, 1540 and 1541, printed by Grafton and Whitchurch (1865), plates 2-4. Later Bibles printed by Whitchurch in 1549 (STC 2079) and 1550 (STC 2081) do not contain a calendar; these contain sporadic ornaments and marginal fists, but nothing similar to those discussed here. Stephen Tabor of the Clark Library has pointed out to me as well the signature marks indicating half-sheet collation noted by David J. Shaw, "Quire and Sheet Numbers in Sixteenth-Century France," The Library, ser. 6, 17 (1995): 311-320.


For ease of reference, I cite these by the line reference in Larry D. Benson, ed., The Riverside Chaucer (1987).


For early printers' marks of transposition, see the examples in Peter W. M. Blayney, The Texts of King Lear and Their Origins, vol. 1: Nicholas Okes and the First Quarto (1982), 224, fig. 17d, 225 n.1, and 237, figs. 31f.


See, however, the downward pointing fist at "So gyue hem ioye that it here" in the 1561 edition; there is a leaf there in 1542, but nothing in 1550. Yet 1542 is not the printer's copy, and it may be that relations between the 1550 and 1561 placement of marginalia are products of pure chance. Anne Hudson, "John Stow (1525? - 1605)," in Ruggiers, 60, rightly concludes that the 1550 edition is the source for that of 1561, but collates, unnecessarily, against various earlier 'issues' of 1542 and 1550 for press-variants. There is no likelihood that divergences among various issues in terms of press variation will be any greater than divergences in individual copies of the same issue, since issue is not defined by variant sheets.


In "To the Readers" (1598) Speght claims as one of his eight "undertakings": "Sentences noted." But this is not included among the seven "Additions" listed on the title page and the sentences are in fact not noted in the 1598 edition. The title page of 1602 states "Sentences and Prouerbes noted" and Speght adds to the earlier dedicatory letter to Cecil of 1598 the statement that he has "noted withall most of his Sentences and Prouerbs."


I have done some checking of press variants in various copies of this edition, and the conjecture of a single material printer's copy for both editions would be refuted if the 1550 and 1542 editions were shown to differ on the variants that exist in different copies of 1532. They do not so differ in any I have checked so far. See my "On 'Correctness': A Note on Some Press Variants in Thynne's 1532 Edition of Chaucer," The Library ser. 6, 17 (1995): 156-167.


Frank Isaac, English and Scottish Printing Types, 1535-58, 1552-58 (1932), see Appendix: William Bonham, Robert Toy, and entry under Richard Kele, Richard Grafton, 29-39, Edward Whitchurch, 40-50 and Nicholas Hill, 88-91 (for 94T, see figs. 50 and 88a). The type identification and size is the same (94T; see figs. 50 and 88a), and the two are very similar (the upper case is different). See, however, the notes by Hetherington, 3-4, and discussion in Muscatine, Book of Geoffrey Chaucer, 23-24. The Variorum editors often refer to unspecified evidence in favor of the later date for the third Thynne edition (1550, instead of the 1545 date in the first edition of STC), but none has detailed what that evidence is. See, e.g., Andrew, 94. (I believe the reference is to Hetherington, 3-4, although Andrew, unlike other Variorum editors, does not include Hetherington in his bibliography). Isaac's work is cited by Muscatine, but not by any of the Variorum editors.


The reluctance of editors to give up the notion of such manuscript sources can be seen as manuscript readings hypothesized by one scholar become actual historical manuscripts for another. Where Pearsall spoke of possible manuscript readings in Speght (readings he characterizes as "commonplace"), Corsa, citing Pearsall, speaks of specific manuscripts: "The difficulty in such research, however, is increased by Speght's inconsistent use of more than one manuscript" (Corsa, 79, with reference to Pearsall, "Speght," 87) There is no evidence that Speght used any manuscript, unless we include as manuscript hand-written notes (perhaps his own) in a copy of the 1561 edition.


John M. Manly and Edith Rickert, The Text of the Canterbury Tales, 8 vols. (1940); Andrew, 122-124, and notes on 122. Andrew is the first Variorum editor to provide a clear presentation along with examples of what Manly-Rickert and later Variorum editors define as a variant. Some points of value can also be extracted (with difficulty) from an earlier study by Kurt Rydland, "The Meaning of 'Variant Reading' in the Manly-Rickert Canterbury Tales," Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 73 (1972), 805-14.