University of Virginia Library

Appendix B
Inferred Quiring of Testament Manuscript

Listed with the contents of each quire are the leaves on which chapter-initials occur in this reconstruction (those falling on the hair-side of a leaf are italicized). All occur in page-initial position, with the possible exception of those in the last two quires of eight in the manuscript; these are discussed below in the Note to Book III. The number of lines per quire is extrapolated from the number of lines and of pages per chapter (in Appendix A) throughout, and from the additional information on quire divisions inferable from the displacements in Book III. Notes on variations and inferences from the patterns follow the quiring of each Book.

Book I: a-e8 f4 χ1

a: Prologue (1r), 1 (5r)  (361 lines) 
b: ii (1r), iii (6v)  (389 lines) 
c: iv (3r), v (5r)  (381 lines) 
d: vi (1r), vii (7r)  (374 lines) 
e: viii (2v), ix (6v)  (375 lines) 
f: x (2v)  (187 lines) 
χ:  (48 lines) 
Note: To assure that the decorated initial page of Book II would be in direct contact with a flesh-side of a leaf, χ1 was probably reversed, placing the text-page 4v of quire f in direct contact with the hair-side of χ1 (neither side had an ornamented initial).

An alternative quiring, avoiding the use of a concluding single leaf, could have been achieved by encompassing chapter vii in 6 pages instead of 7, and chapter ix in 7 pages instead of 8. The result would have placed the last three chapter initials at 2r and 6r of quire e, and on 1v of quire f, all of them hair-side pages by normal folding—an unsuitable arrangement if all initials in Book I were to receive painted embellishment, though (another possible desideratum in the general design) it would place all chapter initials but the last in Book I on a recto page (for a programmatic opposite of this arrangement, see Note to Book III).

In this arrangement, a reversed folding of both quires e and f could have made all three initials fall on the flesh side, but only at the cost of putting a hair-side text-page at the conclusion of the Book, in direct contact with the first decorated initial of Book II. Since this alternative quiring seems to offer as many liabilities as advantages to the overall decorative scheme I infer, and requires a greater compacting of text than anywhere else in the first two Books, it seems to me the less likely hypothesis, but neither alternative materially affects the rest of the reconstruction. The exercise supports the hypothesis, supported further below, that the quiring of each book was separately planned to achieve Usk's general design.


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Book II: g-n8

g: i (1r), ii (5r)  (381 lines) 
h: iii (1r), iv (5r)  (381 lines) 
j: v (1r), vi (4v)  (388 lines) 
k: vii (1r), viii (5r), ix (8v)  (385.5 lines) 
l: x (6r (382.5 lines) 
m: xi (2v), xii (6v)  (366 lines) 
[Thynne's erroneous chapter-divisions made at m1v, m4v] 
n: xiii (2r), xiv (6r (367 lines) 
Note: In the last three quires of Book II, the three chapter initials that Thynne correctly identifed as such (M, C, I) all fell on hair-sides of the leaf, though on a recto page, while the two he failed to recognize as chapter- initials (E, R) occurred on the flesh-side of the leaf but on verso pages—a pattern inviting two inferences.

The first gains some corroboration from the printer's disordering of quires as well as misidentification of chapter-boundaries in Book III: mid-quire chapter-divisions or those occurring on verso pages (as all but the first did in Book III) more readily escaped his notice than those in positions the printer expected and himself favored for elaborate textual ornament. Whatever prompted the printer's uncertainties, his behavior at such points shows his assimilation of the manuscript's decorative scheme to the canons of his own printerly aesthetic: here Thynne resolved his doubts by choosing to divide his text with two initials beginning sentences that started at the heads of columns in his own printed page-layout. It also shows that he perceived these initials only as ornaments of textual segmentation, not as elements of an acrostic.

The signals (or lack of them) in his source text that caused his uncertainty at these points also prompt conjecture about the ornamental program of the manuscript, and its state of completion. If the painting or rubrications of some or all of the chapter-initials (tasks that would have followed the scribal completion of the text) were lacking or incomplete in Thynne's manuscript source, his mistakes in identifying chapter-divisions where his own canons of ornament did not lead him to expect or favor them would be more readily explicable. His substitution of O for presumptive E in his source text at I.viii, producing "Oft," ("often") for "Eft" ("again," required by the sense as well as the acrostic), warrants such an inference; for additional support for this hypothesis, see the Note on the quiring of Book III.

The greater frequency of Thynne's errors in negotiating chapter-divisions in the latter half of the work might, however, reflect a change in the source manuscript, around the middle of Book II, in the manner of distinguishing chapter-initials from other paragraph head-letters—by a reduction in size, or subduing of other decorative markers, or both. If, after spelling out "Margarete of virtw," chapter initials from this point were no longer adorned by "colors riche" (painting in colors which would have been abraded by contact with hair-side pages), but merely pointed (or planned for pointing) with "red inke," they might have become less immediately distinguishable to the printer as the acrostic began to spell out "merci". In Book III, chapter i, an explicatory prologue expounding for the "slye inseer" the significance of the ordinatio of his three-book work, Usk himself identifies red-ink coloration as a


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middle level of embellishment, midway between paint and pen-flourishing in the hierarchy of textual ornament; he specifically associates this second level with the age of "merciable grace," the second (between "deviation" and "joye") in his scheme of the three ages of human history, which he correlates with the dominant themes and modes of the three books of the Testament (see essay).

I have omitted the letter o from the quiring sequence in my reconstruction in order to reserve it to designate a second extra quire (χ in Book I above being the first) in an alternative quiring that could have averted all hair-side chapter initials in Book II. If quire l were a quire of four instead of eight leaves, then another quire of four, which I designate o, following it and reverse-folded, would have placed the M of "merci" on a flesh-side page; by a similar reversed folding, the last quire (n) of eight in Book II could have had its two chapter-initials, C and I, on flesh-side pages. Since this arrangement, like the one discussed above for Book I, would not only have created additional sites (here three) of hair-flesh contact of text pages, but placed the hair-side final text-page of Book II in direct contact with the head-initial of Book III, I consider it less likely than the one described above. The plausibility of this alternative quiring of the end of the book, like the similar alternative available for Book I, and the problems of textual ordinatio and spatial planning they address, implies that the manuscript volume was planned and executed as three distinct stints of scribal endeavor, with each book distinguished and unified visually by its own ornamental program, as well as thematically and rhetorically by the modes and principles expounded in the third prologue.

Book III: p-t8 w2

p: i (1r), ii (6v)  (368.5 lines) 
q: iii (2v), 4 (7v (404 lines) 
r: 5 (5v (414.5 lines)  [Skeat's DS 5 + 6] 
s: 6 (2v), vii (6v)  (406 lines)  [Sk's DS 2 + 3 + 4] 
t: viii (2v), ix (7v)   (420.5 lines)   [Sk's DS 1]  
w: ix, remainder  (80.5 lines)   3 pages; last page blank 
Note: In three respects the inferable textual disposition of Book III differs from the norms of the two preceding ones. First, its textual density (the number of characters per quire, and on average per page) is slightly higher (25.23 lines per page in Book III), as against a fairly consistent density (23.6 for I, and 23.64 for II) maintained through the first quire of Book III (23.03 lines per page on average in quire p). Second, in this reconstruction all acrostic chapter initials in Book II except the first fall on a verso page—a factor which may have exacerbated the printer's confusion in setting the last three quires of eight (see Note to Book II above). Third, the divisions of chapters in the last two quires suggest the occurrence of mid-page chapter-initials only at the end of the work, where the acrostic reached the point of authorial self-naming.

The simplest explanation for the greater textual density of the final four quires may be the greater average length of the chapters in Book III: 232.67 lines per chapter (and hence on average 9 or 10 pages of text between ornamental initials), as against 192.18 for Book I (including the general Prologue),


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and 189.14 for Book II, or eight pages per chapter in both of the first two books. In other words, the greater number of Thynne-lines per quire may simply be an artefact of description rather than an indication of different ruling or more compacted hand in the source manuscript.

A second possibility is that these three features of Book III are related and significant aspects of Usk's design for the final book of the work. The greater textual density of the final four quires, and Thynne's disorientation in dividing chapters, suggests that the chapter-initials of this last signatory phrase of the work were marked throughout in simpler fashion, by what Usk calls "coles and chalke" (the black-and-white of pen-flourished initials rather than the coloring of either paint or ink), and were still smaller in scale than those of Book II, and hence difficult to distinguish from paragraph-heads as marks of segmentation; the reduced size of the text-block allocated to these initials could also help to explain the greater textual density of the last quires. Moreover, by situating every letter but the first of the acrostic phrase spelling out the petitioner's name ("on thin Usk") on the verso of the leaf, Usk may have represented through his complex textual semantics a posture of petitionary humility in relation to the more luxuriously ornamented "Margarete of virtw" honored as symbolic addressee, chiefly on recto pages, in the first half of the work.

The possible mid-page placement of the final four chapter-initials—those spelling the author's surname and the N of "thin" preceding it—may also have figured in this visually realized profession of humble service. The N of "thin," immediately preceding the name, occurs at 88 lines rather than the expected 76 lines into quire s; the initial V of chapter vii occurs at 121 lines from the end of the quire, rather than the 132.5 predicted by the general quiring scheme; the S of chapter viii occurs at 91 rather than the expected 106 lines into the next quire, and K of chapter ix is 64 rather than the expected 77-78 lines from the end of its quire. All represent an offset of 11-14 lines from the head of their respective pages, or about mid-page in a format of approximately 26 lines otherwise displaying remarkably consistent inferable amplitude across the length of the work. The quantity of text in the concluding bifolium tends to corroborate the hypothesis that by the end of the work each manuscript page contained 26-27 Th-lines of text: there, I conjecture, the final 80.5 lines occupied three of the four pages of this quire, the last remaining blank as a cover.

A third hypothesis that would account for all of the small anomalies of Book III is more speculative, but also rich in implications about Usk's working methods and the state of Thynne's source manuscript. I posit below, as a heuristic exercise, a simple and regular alternative quiring option that corrects all of the source manuscript's inferred divergences from the general patterns established in the first two books, and achieves a far more elegant disposition of chapter-heads. Using the line-counts and divisions of chapters reconstructed here (see chart in Appendix A), and working back from the end of the Book, one may easily derive a regular quiring layout that satisfies Usk's apparent book-design objectives more simply than the quiring that accounts for Thynne's errors in setting Book III in print. In this arrangement, all the chapter initials of Book III appear in page-initial position, and all on a recto page; only three (H and I of chapters 4 and 5, K of chapter ix) fall on the hair-side of the leaf. In its disposition of chapters it differs from the one


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inferred above only in assigning 10 pages rather than 11 to chapter i. I use capital letters to describe this hypothetical quiring, which I shall call the "corrective" version:

Book III: P1 Q-W8

P1: i (1r-1v, cont'd in next quire)  (50 lines)  
Q8: (1r-4v completes chap. i), ii (5r-8v)   (394 lines)  
R8: iii (1r-5v), 4 (6r-8v, cont'd in next quire)   (409 lines)  
S8: (1r-3v completes chap. 4), 5 (4r-8v)   (422 lines)  
T8: 6 (1r-4v), vii (5r-8v)   (409 lines)  
W8: viii (1r-5v), ix (6r-8v)   (410 lines)  

Elegant as this arrangement is, however, and easily achievable in preparing to copy in a presentation manuscript book an already composed text, this cannot have been the quiring of Book III in the manuscript used by Thynne, as the essay demonstrates. As a heuristic exercise, it points to one further inference, both about how Usk achieved his shapely book-design, and what kind of manuscript text of the Testament Thynne used.

As noted in the essay, Usk's overall design for his work as finished manuscript book necessarily required constant mutual accommodation of expository amplitude to the overall formal program of his book-design, by a disposition of his prose into modules of chapter-length that would allow chapter-heads supporting the acrostic to fall in page-initial position. In practice, Usk had to realize his expository intent, and simultaneously draft his book design, from the front of the book onward, but would presumably achieve the latter in the form of a finished book, only backwards, as it were, in a retrospective act of planning the quiring to accommodate the intended ornament and complete the book, repeating (or directing another to repeat, to his detailed specifications) his scribal labors again to produce the durchkomponiert finished and ornamented book. Here, by planning the quiring of the completed text of Book III backward from its end (as he had presumably done for Books I and II), he would have placed the anomalous single leaf at the head of the book, allowing it to be put out for ornamentation while the rest of Book III was being scribally produced as finished copy, with all chapter-initials heading recto pages.

The several anomalies and awkwardnesses in the chapter-division and quire-disposition of Book III, inferred in Thynne's manuscript to account for his displacements of text, tends to suggest that the printer's source manuscript was not finished text as yet unrubricated and unpainted, but rather represented a completed draft copy from which a finished quiring design such as the "corrective" one proposed here could have been planned. Thynne's treatment of chapter-initials in Book III lends support to this hypothesis: all chapter-initials but the first in Book III are either simple textface capitals (chapters ii-iv, and the erroneously identified I of 5), undifferentiated from those used to head any paragraph, or (6-x) Thynne's plainest form of chapter-initial (see Appendix C). In effect, Thynne lost the trail of ornamental initials as a guide to textual disposition not simply because embellishment was not complete, but because his manuscript source for Book III represented a completed prose composition not yet recopied into the quiring layout that would have placed the chapter-initials in the quires and page-positions Usk's overall design required, and Thynne by this point expected.


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Whether Thynne's manuscript was Usk's holograph draft text, awaiting his or another's finished recopying of Book III into a more elegant quiring layout, or a copy at one or more removes from such a text, it is impossible to guess. It is, however, easy to imagine the circumstances in the later 1380s that might have left Usk suddenly without the material and institutional resources to bring his Testament to its finished state throughout as an intricately planned venture into fine book-production, matching in material elegance the rhetorical and literary ambition of the composition, as his one margarete-pearl on offer.