University of Virginia Library


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Anne Middleton

Th' entent of al these maters is the lest clere understanding, to weten, at th'ende of this thirde boke. . . . Yet if these thinges han a good and a sleigh inseer, which that can souke hony of the harde stone, oyle of the drye rocke, [he] may lightly fele nobley of mater in my leude imaginacion closed.

(Testament of Love III.i.137-143)[1]

As is well known, no manuscript of Thomas Usk's Testament of Love has come to light. The work survives only because William Thynne printed it in his 1532 folio Chaucer edition, and until 1844, when Sir Harris Nicolas demonstrated that its biographical details were at odds with documentable facts of Chaucer's career, it was accepted, with few demurrers, as Chaucer's work.[2] As is also well known, the text of the Testament as it appears in Thynne exhibits a sequence of abrupt displacements of text in the third book of the work. These occur in midline and midsentence, and radically disrupt logical and syntactic sense and clear exposition—a state of affairs that implies a disordering of printer's copy.[3]


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That this massive disordering of expository sequence and sense went virtually unremarked from the sixteenth through most of the nineteenth centuries testifies revealingly to the uses made of the work during the interval in which it was taken to be Chaucer's. The work seems to have been read during these centuries chiefly for its contribution to a biography of Chaucer, and as a complement to Boece in exhibiting its author's eloquence in the grand manner, adorned with classical allusion and elegant apostrophe.[4] For these purposes the first two-thirds of the Testament (through the end of Book II) provided virtually all of the apposite material. Its biographically encoded consolatio (the main task of the Testament through II.iv, roughly corresponding to the function of Boethius's Book I) ceases a little more than one-third of the way through Usk's work; the turn toward "remedie" in the middle third of the work provides, with frequent evocation of antique historical example and analogy, the arts, and natural philosophy, the framework in which Love, the visionary instructor throughout the Testament, offers the disconsolate persona a course of moral and eschatological edification: the project of the remainder of Usk's Book II is an approximate counterpart to the functions of Books II and III of Boethius's Consolatio. This second movement of Usk's work yields to sustained philosophical argument in Book III, which retains its Boethian cast only in the dialogic framing of its exposition, but bases its arguments in detail and at length on a different Latin source text, St. Anselm's De Concordia Praescientiae et Praedestinationis et Gratiae Dei cum Libero Arbitrio.

With Book III Usk's work becomes more decisively what it has been pointing toward with its preceding allusive gesturing: a synthetic enterprise of some intellectual ambition and originality, of a kind as yet mostly


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"unattempted yet in prose or rhyme" in English: a complex account of the will and its constancy, drawn in detail from Anselm.[5] In Book III Usk appropriates Anselm's discussion of the human will as it operates within the divine moral and eschatological economy into the service of a broadly analogous argument about worldly integrity of purpose and loyalty in public or civic service—in effect a transmutation of theology into ethics and political theory: service of the earthly and heavenly "king" are uneasily merged in a distinctive and original idealistic discourse. It is an ambitious enterprise, and some would hold that its syncretic argument is at best only partly successful. But whatever its intrinsic merits as a piece of political-philosophical reasoning, for my purposes here it will suffice to emphasize its reception—or rather the lack of one: the argument of Usk's Book III was apparently of insufficient interest in the interval of more than three centuries between Thynne's printing and the later nineteenth century to permit any reader to notice fundamental ruptures of its expository logic and syntax in at least four places.[6]


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Largely in consequence of this inattention, the general bearing and purpose of Usk's Testament as a whole—its design, and designs upon its primary intended recipients, whoever they may have been, as a rhetorical and communicative act within an articulated world of discourse—remained unexamined, beyond the capacious conviction that the work was "Chaucerian," even though the definition and implications of that affinity were not more closely specified. Only when the Testament was loosed from its critical moorings as a work of Chaucer were these intentional and performative dimensions of the work attended to, and then almost entirely to the discredit of its actual author.

Once firmly dissociated from the works of the father of English literature, its posture seen no longer as either pious or playful self-reference but unbecomingly motived emulation, the Testament was doubly orphaned as an object of literary-historical inquiry. It was newly culpable on two counts: for a prose style that only now came to be considered, by the first scholars to attempt to read it closely, pretentious and turgid; and for obtrusive, even abject, political designs of self-exculpation and ingratiation in the eyes of the powerful (generally understood to be the royal circle, however that might be defined). Like a lost or bastard child (as Plato famously says of a text circulating free of the intent of the living mind and voice from which it issued), the Testament was disabled by this textual isolation from giving a coherent account of itself. Despite (or perhaps because of) the gestures of literary as well as political self-explanation that pervade the text, the work was seen as little more than an assemblage of such gestures. The systematic designs of the work and its author upon the world of philosophic and poetic fiction (the chief discursive registers with which it associates itself throughout) seemed once again obscure, explicable only in terms of failed careerist or imitative aspirations. Usk's fall from political grace (he was executed, shortly after his new political master, Nicholas Brembre, March 3, 1388, as one of the London adherents of the royal faction purged during the brief ascendancy of Richard II's magnate opponents, the Lords Appellant) has, it seemed, closed off the legibility of his ambitious literary venture.

The intellectual reception of this work in longer retrospect is secondary, however, to the task of this essay. Rather, I wish to offer here a conjectural account of the kind of material text the printer had in hand: its format, layout, and ornament—all aspects of its ordinatio as a complete book—in order to discover unnoticed aspects of its designs as a verbal and material object, and the legibility of those designs to Usk's contemporaries and to Thynne. I


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attempt here to enlist textual and codicological information and inference in the service of literary history, to ascertain their utility for historical understanding of the worlds of textual production and aspiration in which Usk moved and through which his book was made and preserved to the sixteenth century. I propose here to "read" the bibliographical codes rather than the philosophical argument of Usk's work, to demonstrate that the recoverable features of the material text functioned as metapoetic aspects of the Testament, and to show that the terms of art and connoisseurship by which they were to be noticed and understood are also verbally indicated, and amply supported and justified, in the author's proffered terms of art and gestures of self-exegesis.

On the face of it, this is a quixotic and paradoxical task: to pursue the legible, if elusive, account of itself that the material text of a work distinctively offers, yet in this case in the absence of the chief item of direct material evidence: the manuscript book of the Testament. It is, moreover, a venture founded upon error: this inferential reconstruction begins in, and is enabled by, more than one felix culpa of a textual rather than political character—the errors of Thynne's printer in the ordering of text, and then those of Skeat in reconstructing the correct sequence. Yet this largely reconstructive and descriptive account of a vanished material text does not engage more than glancingly the minutiae of textual criticism per se at the level of individual lections, and contributes little toward the much-needed new edition—though the description offered here may contribute to some systematic rather than piecemeal hypotheses about how some of Thynne's manifestly erroneous lections came about. Rather, this exercise enables us to "read" through the mishaps that befell the material text in transmission some information both about Usk's literary designs and about their immediate fortunes and standing within a few years of his death, and also to recover the terms and limits of Thynne's "reading" of the bibliographical codes of this purportedly Chaucerian work. We can thus infer how Thynne regarded this text, not only as a valued piece of Chauceriana, but also as a piece of fine bookmaking whose codes of physical presentation he could at least admire and attempt to preserve in his own layout of the text, even as he nevertheless failed to read in them the many layers of textworker wit that informed Usk's deployment of them. Not although, but because it betrays at best partial understanding of Usk's work, Thynne's print representation of it discloses much about the character of the lost manuscript, and about the many signals it provided, through its physical format and manner of presentation, of the arts of perspicuous viewing and reading on which the lost manuscript book implicitly depended for its address and immediate reception, and to which it explicitly adverts in its self-advertisement.

By thus "reading" a material text that no longer survives, I also propose a revised understanding of the implied audience immediately addressed by the work, and of the mode and language through which Usk asserted his purpose and its performative claims—both of which have long dominated both historical and philological accounts of the Testament. All authorities thus far agree that Usk meant with this work to ingratiate himself with those "on


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whom [his] fate might depend"; critics to date have differed chiefly in the degree of disgust this (stipulatively) ulterior yet all-too-transparent motive excites. While I do not ultimately disagree with this claim as a general description of the work's intentional design, I dissociate the present account from much of what has often followed from this observation—and not simply in my rather more benign view of the ethics of Usk's enterprise. These I find no more unworthy than those implicit in, say, Chaucer's "Envoy to Scogan" or Legend of Good Women, or Gower's "In Praise of Peace" or Confessio Amantis: all texts, I suggest, which participate in a larger conversation among men of letters about their shared condition as thinkers and actors in a world in which they were ultimately dependents—a conversation to which Usk's work eloquently testifies, and to which it contributed significantly.[7] More fundamentally, I identify differently from most scholars heretofore who those were "on whom Usk's fate might depend": these addresses were in the first instance, I claim, other members of the clerical class, not the magnates, burgesses, or royal patrons who might employ them—the latter usually imagined by modern critics to be the intended readers of this work.[8]

More fundamentally still, I dispute the purported ulteriority of the work's motives, and of the terms of its intentional artfulness. These are, I shall show, in plain view, and plainly, pervasively, and wittily legible in this remarkably


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intricate text and book—above all to Usk's fellow "clerics": textworkers and bibliophiles who blend without distinction into the several other occupations covered by this capacious and fluid term in the later fourteenth century. The category encompasses scriveners as well as versifiers, ecclesiastical and legal odd-job and regular-service men of several sorts: in a lifetime, and in rapid alternation, one man might be described accurately under several of these headings. The Testament, I suggest, speaks in the first instance to such men, and in their craft-languages—that is, to those who serve, not to the king, lords, or knights as prospective "patrons." It speaks, in short, to others of Usk's kind, to those for whom documentary and bibliographic high literacy is a means and medium of service, whose self-image and skills, and terms of art and connoisseurship, are acquired "on the job" (whatever the job may be), whose positions and self-representations are for all that largely under-authorized, and for whom these common facts of life are matters of complex self- awareness, as the founding conditions of what would in retrospect be called literature. Usk's art in the Testament, I suggest, shows most clearly in his witty and complex engagement with the terms and values of these textworkers' common vocation (and the problems of their necessary self-advertisement) within that capacious yet elusive and precarious category of being: men of letters.

Usk's self-representation in the Testament wittily realizes this commonplace identity of the verbal artist in the most literal way possible: an acrostic formed by the initial letters of each chapter spells out Usk's name in a petitionary message that extends across all three books of the work: (I) MARGARETE OF (II) VIRTW HAVE MERCI (III) ON THIN VSK. Only with the nineteenth-century conjectural reordering of the displaced segments of the text as it appeared in Thynne was the acrostic message and authorial signature recovered, confirming the attribution of the work to Usk—an attribution earlier conjectured by Henry Bradley, who recognized in some features of the euphemistically occulted "biography" of the persona of the work events that accorded with some of Usk's actions as scrivener of, then as appealer against, London Mayor John Northampton in the fraught London political climate of the 1380s. Since then there has been little attention to the text per se, which has seen no new published edition since Skeat's in the 1897 supplementary seventh volume to his six-volume Works of Chaucer (which remains the only published edition to this day, and is therefore by default my text of reference here). Skeat's conjectural account of the disordering of the printer's copy is still, therefore, the only one readily available.[9] I have


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learned much from, and largely agree with, the work of those scholars who have since undertaken to correct Skeat's reconstruction, but here I use Skeat's text heuristically, in the service of a different enterprise: to discover the bibliographical and metapoetic signs of Usk's effort to engage the attention of the "sleigh inseers" and "good bookamenders" he seeks, and to prompt reconsideration of the milieu and semiotic systems within which he made his bid for "frendes," and of the immediate fortunes of these efforts.


Skeat conjectured, somewhat perfunctorily, that Thynne's source text might have consisted of ten quires of 8, laid out in what he calls, without further specification, "the usual way," and that the displaced portion of Book III represented one quire of 8 plus one of 2, both refolded, the latter cut along the spine and the whole resorted in a complex pattern that is difficult to understand, still less reconstruct. Working in two directions simultaneously—from the dimensions of the displaced segments as identified by Skeat, and from the beginning of the work to the first point of disruption—I sought to derive a page and quiring format that could account for Thynne's erroneous ordering of text, and the point at which it occurred—to determine, in other words, what "the usual way" of formatting and quiring a vernacular prose work in manuscript was for Skeat.[10] An adequate account of Thynne's manuscript


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should be able to propose a rearrangement of the discontinuous blocs of text that would not only yield continuous sense (as in broad terms Skeat's reconstruction did), but also lend itself to systematic bibliographical description of the entire lost volume. It would, that is, be able to explain how the continuous preceding manuscript text was both laid out on the page and disposed into quires so as to put the first interruption—if not at the end of a quire, at least at the end of a leaf—at a point 76.5 of Thynne's printed lines into Book III, chapter iv.[11]

In attempting to determine a size module for a page, and hence for a quire, in the manuscript used by Thynne, I used the number of lines of Thynne's text as a basis for description and comparison, as a unit of measurement to describe chapter-lengths; I call these units Th-lines. (Appendix A lists these.) I did not, of course, assume that Thynne's lines of print each corresponded directly to a line of manuscript; rather, the Th-line simply represented a regularity of amplitude which would have a counterpart in the product of regular scribal hand or hands in the manuscript. Scribal abbreviations, even if not replicated in Thynne, would, I presumed, nevertheless have been used consistently over the long course of the scribe's work, and therefore themselves exhibit a regularity that would warrant the use of line-counts of Thynne's text to serve as a basis for division and comparison of textual units.[12] For this purpose, I took Skeat's reconstructed division and sequence of chapters in the disordered portion of Thynne's text as provisionally correct (since it makes superficially good syntactical and logical


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sense of Book III), until it could be shown otherwise. In the event, I was able to confirm Bressie's and Jellech's revision of Skeat's reconstruction, but to somewhat different ends than the recovery of continuous expository sense. In the interim, however, Skeat's error proved to be heuristic felix culpa, forcing into view the quiring scheme of the lost manuscript.

My only other initial hypothesis concerned the initial letters of chapters that bore the petitionary acrostic. I conjectured that Thynne's source must also have had some visual formula and ornamental program for featuring the acrostic chapter-initials—the only element of Thynne's mise-en-page that enabled the recovery of the acrostic.[13] Thynne does not number the chapter divisions within the three Books of the work, as Skeat does in his edition; it is therefore highly unlikely that his source had numbered chapters, for such unambiguous indication of sequence would very likely have prevented the massive disordering of text in Book III, as well as the printer's failure to identify the correct chapter divisions at II.x and III.iv. Although the printer marks the three-book division of Usk's work by many signals, using headings and closings (e.g. "Thus endeth the seconde booke, and here after foloweth the thirde boke") and running page heads, and a disposition of text such that each of the three Books begins at the head of a column on a recto page, he identifies the Testament's chapters as such only by large feature initials, in nearly all cases (except of course where they come at the head of a column, as they do with remarkable frequency, especially early in the work) also preceded by an interval of space, equivalent in vertical dimension to a line or two of type.[14]

Because Thynne scarcely ever further subdivides Usk's prose into paragraphs by indenting—as he does, for instance, with Chaucer's Parson's Tale—these acrostic initials are virtually the only visual indicator of textual segmentation below the level of book-division.[15] It therefore seemed reasonable to


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infer that in these respects—the use of feature initials, and the comparative lack of other internal segmentation within chapters—Thynne's textual disposition was somehow guided by that of his source.[16] A subordinate conjecture, therefore, was that the initial capital of each Book in the manuscript text might have been especially large and prominent: Thynne awards these three book-initials far more elaborate woodblock capitals than he gives to other chapter-initials—or indeed, as we shall see, to any other unit- initials anywhere in his huge folio volume. I hypothesized, and resolved to test the hypothesis in my reconstruction, that these acrostic initials might also have fallen at the heads of pages, for maximum visual impact, drawing the reader's attention to the acrostic as a diacritical ornament of the work as well as an adornment of the physical page.[17]


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As Skeat discovered, Thynne erred in Book II in identifying some of the acrostic-bearing chapter capitals; while Skeat corrected these in his edition, he himself erred, as I shall show, in reconstructing not only the sequence but also the division of chapters in Book III.[18] Yet each of these errors, both Thynne's and Skeat's, enabled unsought and finer-grained conjectures, not only for confirming earlier scholars' corrections of Skeat's reconstruction, but—more important for my purposes—facilitating the recovery of what counted for Thynne as the chief bibliographical codes that influenced not only his formatting but possibly even his selection of Usk's text as an important piece of Chauceriana. These inadvertences offered unexpected access to a virtual, if not actual, bibliographical "reading"—quire by quire, page by page, if not word by word—of a manuscript book that no longer exists, and to the world of discursive codes that defined its legibility and expressive form to its intended primary users.


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.


Skeat's correction of Thynne's disordered text in Book III led him to postulate six discontinuous segments of text, which I shall label DS 1 through DS 6, following the order in which they occur in Thynne, not the order in which Skeat places them in his restoration.[27] In Skeat's reconstruction, which followed Bradley's, the correct sequence of these six displaced segments is DS 5, 3, 6, 2, 4, 1. The total volume of displaced material constitutes about 3/5 of the total length of Book III. The largest segment of uninterrupted text within the disordered portion, DS 1, is approximately 1/3 the length of this displaced portion (420.5 of the total of 1241 lines—exactly the volume of text that would be contained in a quire of 8 ruled to accommodate just over 26 of Thynne's lines per page), i.e. 1/5 of the length of the whole of Book III; I therefore conjectured that it represented the last full quire of the manuscript. This postulate could not, however, explain the disturbance within the other two hypothesized quires that would produce the text-order reconstructed by Skeat. In every format I attempted, the remaining discontinuities would fall about the middle of a page, not (as it seemed the facts of the case to that point demanded) at the end of a leaf—yet I could discern nothing at any of these junctures that would form a basis for eyeskip by the printer, or suggest the omission of text.

As Ramona Bressie first discerned, however, Skeat's reconstructed


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sequence reversed the correct expository order of the fifth and sixth chapters of Book III. So far as I am aware, every scholar who has addressed the problem of the text-order of Book III has concurred in her revision of Skeat's reconstruction, and since I too agree with it, I can summarize her findings briefly here, in order to proceed to its implications for understanding the material text Thynne's printer had in hand. Bressie based her argument on the expository logic of the content of these discontinuous segments of text: the first disruption occurs at a point 76.5 Th-lines into the fourth chapter. Skeat rightly perceived that the next segment continuous with it was DS 5, which, according to his division of chapters, completes the fourth chapter and continues with the first 8.5 lines of the next, a short paragraph in Skeat's edition that begins with the letter I and supplies the acrostic initial of his chapter v. In this short paragraph, Love introduces the much-discussed expository figure of the tree, grounded in "free arbitrement of thinges," and producing the "spire, that by processe of tyme shal in greetnesse sprede, to have braunches and blosmes of waxing frute in grace. . . ." Lady Love's gradual explication of this philosophical figure continues through this portion of the work into the seventh chapter. Bressie noticed that the persona's first eager response to this intriguing figure, his expressed desire to learn "that tree to sette" (a wish he articulates in the first sentence of Skeat's DS 6, which in the reconstruction of his edition begins chapter vi and supplies the acrostic initial N), prompts Love's stern insistence that he must first learn the nature and preparation of the "grounde" for it. Hence Love's exposition of the "spire" she mentions at the end of DS 5 is deferred at her behest until she first explains the "grounde" of "purpos," properly set "there vertue foloweth"; this exposition occupies all of what Skeat's edition designates chapter vi, consisting of DS 6 and DS 2 in sequence. Bressie correctly saw that this portion, DS 6 + 2, should follow directly after DS 5, Love's introduction of the tree figure, and that Skeat's DS 3, the portion of his chapter v that followed its first 8.5 lines, should properly follow it in the logic and rhetoric of Love's development of the tree figure. DS 3 begins with the persona's clear acknowledgment of the correctness of Bressie's reconstructed expository order: "Nowe, trewly, lady, I have my grounde wel understonde; but what thing is thilke spire that in-to a tree sholde wexe? Expowne me that thing, what ye thereof mene" (II.v. 8-10; Skeat p. 124).

Bressie's restoration of expository sense and logic is clearly correct; expressed in terms of textual mechanics, it has a similarly clarifying effect: the corrected order of Skeat's six putatively discontinuous segments is now no longer DS 5, 3, 6, 2, 4, 1, but DS 5, 6, 2, 3, 4, 1. As Bressie saw—though she did not further pursue the textual mechanics of her discovery—with this rearrangement there are no longer six discontinuous segments of text to account for, but only three: DS 5 + 6, DS 2 + 3 + 4, and DS 1—and hence only four discontinuities, not seven, to explain, all of them occurring in mid-sentence within chapters. Once one has reduced Skeat's six units of displaced text to three in this way, it also becomes apparent that the other two units are, like DS 1, a quire in length—and that as set by the printer their integrity as quires was intact, not, as Skeat's account requires, further compromised by internal


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reshuffling of leaves. The contents of these three quires are closely similar in length (414, 406, and 420.5 Th-lines, respectively), a finding that strongly corroborates the initial hypothesis that DS 1 represented one full quire: it is now apparent that the other two continuous portions of displaced text also represent full quires, which I shall designate r, s, and t. If these were quires of eight leaves, each page contained 25-26 Th-lines of text.[28] From this revised reconstruction of text-sequence emerges a simple explanation of the printer's error: it reveals that only one erroneous move, and not several compounded, led to the massive displacements discernible in Thynne. It allows a clear physical explanation of the order of text between the first and last discontinuity in Thynne, and will eventually support in fuller detail the general hypothesis I have offered about the page and quiring features of the manuscript. It also enables, as we shall shortly see, one further necessary revision in the division of chapters in Book III—and hence in the disposition of acrostic-bearing initials within quires—which in turn facilitates still finer-grained inferences about the ordinatio of the manuscript, and its legible meaning to its contemporaries and to Thynne. But first and foremost, it discloses a clear and simple explanation of the one printer's misreading that led to this large- scale disordering of text.

The revised arrangement of text allows the gross mechanics of the printer's error to be easily described: the last and the third-from-last quires of eight in Book III were reversed. That is all; there was no misfolding or inversion of quires, as Skeat's explanation proposes, nor was there loss of text, as Bressie suggests. When the printer reached a point 76.5 lines into chapter iv, he reached the end of a quire in his manuscript. He had also just passed the end of a stint in typesetting: the initial displacement of text occurs on the first page of a new quire (Q) of Thynne's volume—the last of the six full folio quires of six leaves he would set (the text spills over to fill one more complete leaf, plus one recto column, of the following quire R). At this break in his work, perhaps in the course of arranging the next stint of manuscript material to be set, he mistakenly identified as the next quire of his manuscript what was in fact its last full quire of 8 leaves (t), instead of the antepenultimate one (r) that would have given the correct continuity of text. The finer


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mechanics of this key mistake are also easy to infer—and here Skeat's conjectural emendation at the relevant juncture is inspired: the error turns on a misread catchword.

At the first dislocation—where in Skeat's segmentation DS 5 (beginning my quire r) ought to begin, but instead in Thynne DS 1 (my quire t) follows the end of the preceding quire—Thynne's text reads thus:[29]

. . . Thou shalte (qd she)
understande/ that in heven is goddes beynge/
although he be over al by po wer/ yet ther is
abydinge of devyne persone/ in whiche hevene
is everlastynge presence/ withouten any mo=
vable tyme there //* Fole have I nat sayd toforn
this/ as tyme hurteth/ right so ayenward tyme
healeth and rewardeth. . . .

(f. 354r, col. 2, ll. 6-13)

The transition from what I conjecture was the end of the next-to-last quire s (set by Thynne in correct penultimate position in the book, though now flanked on both sides by the contents of quires that had exchanged places) to the text that should have followed at the first point of dislocation (i.e. the juncture at which DS 4 is followed by DS 1) in Thynne reads thus (I use //** to mark the point of disruption; in the correct ordering of quires, text from this juncture on should correctly have followed //* in the passage above):
and al
though frute fayleth one yere or two/ yet shal
suche a season come one tyme or other / that
shal bringe out frute that //** is nothyng preterit
ne passed ther is nothyng future ne comyng/
but al thynges togider in that place be pre=
sent everlastynge without eny mevynge/ wher=
fore to god al thynge is as nowe: . . .

(f. 358v, col. 1, ll. 22-29)

In his correct suturing of text at this juncture, where my quire s should be followed by quire t, Skeat (p. 135) guessed—rightly, I believe—that the juncture //** in the second passage above was in the manuscript followed by the phrase "[is parfit]." If this was the case, then this phrase, or simply the word "perfit," was the catchword at the end of quire s. At the end of the quire


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where the first disruption of textual order occurred (quire q in my general description), 76.5 Th-lines into III.iv, that catchword must have been some variant of the phrase "[is no] preterit," or simply its final word.[30] It is also likely that one or both catchwords—and possibly these terms in the body of the text as well—were written using the usual abbreviations for the syllables per, pre, and ter that were very common in scribal hands in wide use in about 1400. To a sixteenth-century eye, these abbreviations—which derived from common practice in university books and extended in the latter fourteenth century into documentary and administrative usage (and Thynne's output included little from these venues)—would probably be difficult to differentiate, making the words "perfit" and "preterit" look very much alike.[31] Little


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more than confusion of these two catchwords would be required to explain the printer's erroneous choice of quire t rather than r at this juncture.

Other small local features further abetted his mistake at this point. The word "tyme" occurs in the last line immediately preceding both quire breaks—i.e. in the one preceding the correct next quire, and in the one immediately preceding the quire that the printer chose instead. Faced with two out of three remaining quires that each began with a word he could not confidently expand as "perfit," or make sense of as "preterit," the printer retreated in some bafflement to a fallback position in construing the immediate and local verbal continuity of the text—and proceeded to set the quire of his manuscript which not only began with what looked like the right catchword, but also used the word "tyme" twice in its second line.

Apparently without recognizing his error, the printer finished setting quire t, which should have been his manuscript's last full quire (and for that reason may not have closed with a catchword, since all that followed it was a bifolium). He now had only two quires of 8 left, each of course presenting yet another impasse of immediate verbal continuity with the preceding sentence fragment, since both were wrong at that point. Both offered unpromising headwords, neither of which made a plausible continuity with the incomplete sentence in the last line of quire t, "what wonder sith god is the gretest love and the . . .": quire r, mistakenly rejected at the first point of discontinuity, began with the problematic ". . . [nothing] preterit," and s offered the equally inauspicious ". . . nat to loke thinges with resonnyng to prove." The printer also had, of course, the final bifolium, the text that should have followed the end of the quire he had just set—but that was very obviously final, since it closed with an unambiguous explicit, and a couplet to boot:

Charyte is love/ and love is cha=
ryte/ god graunte us al therin to be frended.
And thus the Testament of Love is ended.

(f. 361r, col. 1, ll. 38-40)

Caught among bleak and narrowing possibilities, the printer may have again looked for clues to connection in similarity of local verbal details and rhetorical gesture—this time, perhaps, reasoning backward from the obvious explicit bifolium to the end of each of the remaining quires, to ascertain which of the two might sound more convincingly like a final cadence. It may have been on these grounds that quire r seemed to offer the greater likelihood of serving as a peroration: as we have seen, much of it "expownded" the elaborate organizing figure of the "waxing" tree, and its final pages reached the point of explaining the "affection" of the will—a theme that accorded well with three remaining pages extolling divine wisdom, and the "grace and frute that I long have desyred." At the end of quire s, on the other hand, the printer found Love still berating "Usk" for his dull wits, as she was doing when quire t, which he had just set, began (no surprise, for these two points are in the correct order of text immediately adjacent)—and this seemed hardly


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the right tone with which to approach the final moments of a long and high-minded dialogue of instruction and comfort.

I can offer no more precise hypothesis than this to explain why quire s was, at this point of diminishing possibilities for coherence, correctly identified as the penultimate rather than final regular quire of the book—but so it was, and the last quire of 8 set was the one that properly ought to have ensued at the first point of bafflement; it was then followed by the conclusion, easily identifiable as such by its request for the reader's prayers for the author, as well as by its tidy couplet. The printer's sole error—though it grossly and massively disrupted the sense of the text—amounted to one incorrect choice at a routine point of textual disjuncture. Yet despite its pervasive damage to local syntax and general logic in Book III, he never fully recognized this error for what it was, and attempted instead to patch over its remaining traces by desperate—and entirely local and mechanical—conjecture. In the face of unpromising alternatives, he seems to have fallen back on local rhetorical characteristics, rather than the customary scribal and bibliographical signals, at the ends of quires to reorient himself in setting the remainder of the text. In short, even in the face of temporary uncertainty, it appears that the printer never ventured continuously to read the text for elementary syntactic and semantic coherence at the level of the sentence, to say nothing of larger argumentative continuity.

More surprising—and in the long run more telling—is not that the printer failed to do so (this task belongs after all to the philologist's, not the printer's, craft-repertory), but that apparently no one else until Skeat and Bradley did so either: in the intervening centuries no one records noticing the fundamental expository and syntactic illogic that resulted. We must conclude that the only feature of Book III that interested readers in the ensuing centuries was its tribute to Chaucer, taken entirely out of context. The deeper textual and discursive logic by which this important praise was framed—and hence, I wish now to suggest, its diacritical meaning as a gesture within the intentional design of the Testament as work and act—went unnoticed, as did the elaborately metapoetic purposes served by the disposition of Usk's work as a book, both in general and in detail.

Yet if the foregoing account, drawing out the bibliographical implications of Bressie's and Jellech's revised reconstruction of the correct text-sequence, is convincing, it nevertheless remains incomplete. In order to recover the ordinatio of Thynne's source as well as the expository logic of its content—and to discern where these two levels of composition intersected in Usk's design—we must examine more closely the textual and rhetorical positioning of the one feature of Book III that seems to have interested Thynne and most readers since: its fulsome compliment to Chaucer. In order to examine the role of this seeming digression in the otherwise firm expository continuity of Book III, we must reconsider where its fifth chapter, as restored, properly begins.

As we have noted, it is not fully accurate to describe the foregoing reconstruction of text-order as a simple reversal of Skeat's chapters v and vi. Strictly


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speaking, the revision proposed thus far reverses the order of Skeat's postulated DS 6 + 2 and that of DS 3, not that of the whole of Skeat's chapters v and vi—for as we have seen, the first paragraph of Skeat's chapter v is defined as the last 8.5 Th-lines of his DS 5; it also supplies the necessary acrostic initial I for . . . THIN VSK. Yet on several grounds—syntactic, expository, rhetorical, as well as textual, and in relation to Usk's use of sources—this seems another incorrectly identified chapter-division, which unlike those in Book II remained undetected by Skeat. By all of these criteria a far more convincing chapter- division is a clear turn in the dialogue that occurs 40 Th-lines earlier, and likewise supplies the necessary I acrostic- initial. That juncture lies a page earlier in Skeat and in Thynne, where both, in my estimation, failed to discover the correct point of division between Usk's fourth and fifth chapters, at line 241 of Skeat's chapter iv. In both Thynne and Skeat it falls in the middle of a paragraph (indicated below by // ), which in Skeat reads in its entirety:

'Now sothly,' quod I, 'this have I wel understande; so that now me thinketh that prescience of god and free arbitrement withouten any repugnaunce acorden; and that maketh the strength of eternite, which encloseth by presence during al tymes, and al things that ben, han ben, and shul ben in any tyme. // I wolde now (quod I) a litel understande, sithen that [god] al thing thus beforn wot, whether thilke wetinge be of tho thinges, or els thilke thinges ben to ben of goddes weting, and thereof take his being, than shulde god be maker and auctour of badde werkes, and so he sholde not rightfully punisshe yvel doinges of mankynde.' (III.iv.236-247; Skeat p. 123)[32]

The juncture I have proposed as a chapter-division marks a clear break between steps in the logical and rhetoric of exposition, a turn from summary understanding of what has just been expounded to naming the next topic for inquiry. The division is further corroborated by the redundant marking of speaker ("quod I") in two successive sentences: this is not Usk's practice elsewhere in this work, and would be unnecessary for clarification except across a chapter-division. Equally telling, however, is the fact that the division I propose between the fourth and fifth chapters also marks a discontinuity—the first since the beginning of the third chapter of Book III—in Usk's use of his Latin source.

Usk derives Love's lengthy course of pedagogy in Book III almost entirely from Anselm's De Concordia. The first of three long blocks from it (which


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together account for some 23 of Skeat's 45 printed pages of Usk's Book III), closely and continuously translated from the start of Anselm's Book I, chapter 1, begins at the head of the third chapter of Usk's Book III. Usk signals the beginning of his lengthy appropriation of a Latin source with a variant of a device he uses frequently in the work for this purpose: Love commands "Usk" to start taking dictation: "Than gan Love nighe me nere, and with a noble countenance of visage and limmes, dressed her nigh my sitting-place. 'Take forth,' quod she, 'thy pen, and redily wryte these wordes . . .'" (III.iii.1-5; Skeat p. 111).[33] From this point, Usk works steadily and methodically through Anselm's chapters 1-5, translating almost continuously and quite fully, condensing in places, but virtually without major breaks in expository continuity.[34] He renders Anselm's chapter 5 without substantial elision, from line


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111 (in Skeat's text) of his own chapter iv, where the Latin text begins its new chapter with the Job example: Anselm introduces it as a pre-emptive answer to a possible objection, while Usk puts it in the mouth of "Usk" who here intervenes to "allege authoritees grete, that contrarien your [i.e. Love's] sayinges" (III.iv.110-111; Skeat p. 119). With what I consider the concluding sentence of Usk's fourth chapter, Usk reaches the end of Anselm's chapter 5. He now departs briefly from the continuity of his Latin source for the first time since he began translating extensively from it: what I consider the first sentence of his fifth chapter, beginning with the acrostic-bearing I ("I wolde now (quod I) a litel understonde . . .") translates the first paragraph of Anselm's chapter 7.

Usk uses no more of De Concordia I.7 than this sentence, however. He now momentarily departs from Anselm altogether, to introduce his famous and fulsome praise of Chaucer, put in the mouth of Love, who commends to "Usk" the treatment of the requested "mater" presented by "the noble philosophical poete in English" in "a tretis that he made of my servant Troilus": "His better ne his pere in scole of my rules coude I never fynde." Much of the purported awkwardness often noted in the placement of this compliment vanishes with the redivision of chapters. This extensive tribute to an admired contemporary now introduces Usk's account of the upright will as the "grounde" of right loving, instead of occurring, as Skeat's chapter division would have it, almost as an aside or afterthought, an additional contemporary authority somewhat awkwardly hailed in, "alleged" merely to finish off an abstruse distinction between the human and divine sense of temporal seriality.[35] In its newly featured position at the head of a chapter it marks a


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point of transition in Usk's independent use of Anselm's argument, from the exposition of the divine perspective on temporal events to an account of the world of human experience and action, and the central role of the upright and constant will in that realm. Anselm's treatise makes that transition in a chapter (vi) of De Concordia omitted by Usk, with a brief consideration of divine justice in allowing "our first parents" to fall; in its place Usk's Love "alleges" her own authority: Chaucer's "tretis," and the exposition of this thorny problem already expounded by "my servant Troilus."

The corrected chapter division renders this praise of Chaucer no mere sycophantic digression, but rather the hinge between the two main movements of Usk's argument, from metaphysical to moral philosophy—surely Chaucer's two great distinctions as a thinker and writer in the eyes of contemporaries in the 1380s.[36] Whatever its further motives in the world of


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patronage and mutual acknowledgment among vernacular writers, with this gesture Usk indicates his own careful and independent suturing and redirection of Anselm's treatise to his own purposes: when he returns to De Concordia, it is to Anselm's Book III, and Usk's use of it is from that point "grounded" (as Anselm's is not) in the analogical image of the tree, greatly amplified by Usk in his own fifth and sixth chapters. The compliment to Chaucer—falling, as it does, far past the most densely clustered of Usk's verbal allusions to Troilus—thus serves, like Usk's own petitionary and signatory acrostic, an important diacritical function in the work. This strategic and independent deployment of a graceful compliment to a "modern classic" of serious vernacular philosophizing to serve an important suturing function in his own ambitious argument is indicative of Usk's care throughout his own composition to align the disposition of his work as text with its substantive argumentative articulation and self- positioning gestures. It now remains to examine the further signs of this formal attention in the work's bibliographical disposition.

With the foregoing proposed redivision of chapters in Book III, we may now return to the further textual implications of this restoration of both continuity and chapter-articulation. As we noted above, if the quires we have posited as the regular format of the manuscript were of eight leaves, then the contents of the three displaced quires imply that each leaf contained about 25-26.5 Th-lines of text. The revised chapter division discloses that chapter- lengths in the third book (and as became apparent when this hypothesis was applied to quiring the entire preceding contents of each Book of the work) fall into multiples of this module. The redivided chapters illustrate the general principle. My correction reassigns all of the last 48 lines of DS 5 to Usk's fifth chapter as I now redefine its boundaries—that is, the contents of two manuscript pages. This fifth chapter now consists first of the 39.5 Th-lines that Skeat had assigned to the conclusion of his chapter iv, followed by the first 8.5 lines he assigns to the beginning of his chapter v. It continues with all 129 lines of DS 6 (which begin Skeat's chapter vi), then all 88 lines of DS 2 (which in Skeat end chapter vi), to define the corrected fifth chapter as now 265 Th-lines in length—probably 10 full sides or pages of a manuscript quired in eights. The redefined sixth chapter consists solely of DS 3, and is 197 lines


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long. The redefined fourth chapter is now 314 lines long: the 76.5 lines (3 pages) that began in the preceding quire, before the first displacement of text, plus 237.5 more (9 pages) in DS 5.[37]

Working backward from the reconstructed quires of eight to postulate that its preceding quires were similarly assembled and ruled confirms the astonishing inference that these chapter-length modules suggest: that the acrostic chapter-initial almost certainly always fell in page-initial position—and therefore that the acrostic was a featured aspect of the design of the book at the point of composition of the text. It follows, in other words, that the amplitude of the expository composition and the ordinatio of the material book were planned simultaneously, and by one hand—Usk's. It is important to underscore here the durchkomponiert character of this entire integrated textual performance: the patterns inferred here imply that the amplitude of the prose composition had to be continually adjusted so as to support the chosen overall physical disposition of the book's divisions and the acrostic that marked them. Its overall page-format possibly differentiated levels of ornament for these initials as the message proceeded across the three books from the honored and probably symbolic addressee (the enigmatic "Margarete") in Book I, to the petition (Book II), then to the name of the humble petitioner and author.

Usk's care with these features of layout and ornament imply that he considered them aspects of the work's expressive and communicative form, a sign of the kinds of books to which he wished his own to assert a pleasing and thought-provoking resemblance. It also—and by no means incidentally, in view of the widespread assumption that Usk wrote this work in isolation and impoverishment—implies that Usk either himself knew the limner's as well as scrivener's art, or knew how to find and put out text to such artisans and to plan the campaign of work of an entire book around this complex integration of crafts. As we shall see, he was not alone among governmental bureaucrats who commanded these constituent skills of text-production. Nor does Usk leave these compositional beauties of his work entirely to the fortuitous notice of his contemporaries. He prominently declares the aesthetic principles, textual logic, and terms of connoisseurship of an impressive piece of manuscript book- design by witty inscription in the rhetorical self-exegesis of the Testament—especially, as we shall see, in the elaborately allusive proems to each Book. The artfulness of this work as both a material and a verbal composition is repeatedly advertised in passages of self-explanation at key points of expository, compilatory, and rhetorical transition; it remains to examine the relations between these two levels and forms of self-clarification in the Testament.

The tribute to Chaucer is one such complex linkage between the


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bibliographic and metapoetic levels. This compliment to an admired contemporary man of letters also serves to specify the forma tractandi and forma tractatus of Usk's own work, to mark its distinctive philosophic ambitions, to declare a point of independence from his actual source in the act of professing allegiance with an admired and similarly "classicizing" model, and to indicate a new movement in his argument, from metaphysical hypothesis to worldly ethics. Each of these levels of signification subtly comments on the others; at such points (and they are many in the Testament) it is difficult to separate signifier and signified, figure from ground. Usk's own description of the intricate multiplicity of his designs can hardly be bettered: "In this boke be many privy thinges wimpled and folde; unneth shul leude men the plites unwinde" (III.ix.76-77; Skeat p. 144).[38] To discern the full intricacy of these "plites," we may return one more time to the "folds" of the material text Thynne had before him. In those seemingly anomalous hair-side chapter-initials, in Thynne's erroneous chapter-divisions, and other small slips between script and print, we may detect more of the coterie wit of Usk's design, as a textworker's display piece addressed to the connoisseurship of other men of letters.

We have noted in passing a few exceptions to the inferentially derived larger descriptive "rules" of the book's make-up, all of them occurring in the latter half of the work. Three will require our attention: the printer's two erroneous chapter-heads in Book II; the increased frequency in the latter half of the work with which chapter- initials fall on the hair-side of a leaf, or a verso page (or both); and the possible occurrence (heretofore unremarked) of chapter-initials in other than page-initial position within the final reaches of the work. These, I shall suggest, are linked phenomena, and have implications for understanding the ornamental program by which the chapter-acrostic was marked throughout the manuscript book—a program whose explicit rationale and terms of connoisseurship Usk describes in his Prologue.

In the quiring scheme I propose, the acrostic initial falls on a flesh-side of the leaf without exception through II.ix—that is, in the first 20 of the work's 34 chapters (considering the Prologue a chapter for this purpose); two-thirds of these occurrences are on a recto page. By contrast, in the last 14 chapters of the work—chapters x-xiv of Book II, and all nine chapters of Book III—four have chapter-initials that would by regular quiring fall on the hair-side of the leaf; even more striking is the occurrence of 11 of these 14 on a verso page, including all but the first chapter of Book III. All three of the printer's


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erroneous identifications of chapter-initials occur within this second portion of the work: the two identified and rectified by Skeat in the misdivision of II.x, and the other the one I have proposed for the redivision between the fourth and fifth chapters of Book III. It would have been possible (see Appendix B) within this general quiring scheme to avert all hair-side acrostic-initials by slight adjustments in the quiring layout—if that had been a desideratum in the making of the book. Yet there are good reasons for supposing that in the latter portion of the work this was no longer the case, even if it had been to that point a regular feature of the book's design. We may best approach this question by considering these anomalous placements of chapter-initials in the latter portion of the work as designed variations in the general program of ornament for the acrostic.

When Thomas Godfrey, Thynne's printer, first misidentified a chapter-division, shortly after II.x, it may be that his mistake inadvertently registered a change in the manuscript's ornamentation plan at this point in the text—a change at the level of page-layout and elaboration rather than quiring. At some point after II.vii (after, that is, the acrostic had spelled MARGARET OF VIRTW) the decorative program may have lowered its elaboration by one or more levels, shifting from feature-initial blocks intended for painted decoration to letters enhanced only by red or blue color, or simply by pen-flourishes—forms of ornament for which the provision of flesh-side page surface was less important.[39] Possibly this reduction in ornamental decorum happened in two stages, with a second downward shift in the ornateness of decorated initials at the end of Book II (after the acrostic had finished spelling HAVE MERCI) leaving all of Book III to indicate the name of the humbly petitioning would-be recipient of "Margarete's" favor—ON THIN VSK—in letters still less ornate than those preceding. Thynne's printed text certainly suggests such a three-level distinction in the overall decorative scheme, for it registers its own downward shifts in decorum at just these two points.[40]


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Usk indicates on the first page of his Prologue an exact awareness of at least three distinct levels of visual adornment of texts available to the accomplished textworker: diacritical gradations not only of bibliographical style but of laboriousness and skill, expense and value: "colours riche," "red inke," and "coles and chalke" (i.e. black and white) (Prologue 14-22; Skeat p. 1). The levels of verbal and imaginative arts, rather than scribal or limner's crafts enlisted in the making of the book, are of course the primary figurative referent here: the "colours" are presumably those of elevated rhetorical style and figuration, while Usk equates "red ink" with verse rhythm or meter as an ornament for pointing a composition and making it memorable; "coles and chalke" mark the humbler mode of his own prose endeavor—a practical medium that may nevertheless "yeve sight, that other precious thinges shal be the more in reverence." Usk loads this threefold distinction of levels still further by suggesting its loose correlation with the triad of Latin, in which "clerkes endyten . . . for they have the propertee of science," French, in which "Frenchmen . . . endyten their queynt termes," and English "our dames tonge"—realized in its full plainness and "leudeness" in prose. Here as often in the work, the bibliophile's, the textworker's, the translator's, and the verbal maker's terms of art are used to signify moral and rhetorical categories, and vice versa: compositional values and textual and bibliographical codes are mutually implicated. It is not beyond Usk's inkhorn wit to indicate thus what he intended to have realized graphically in the bibliographical program and decor of his book: that its central "precious thinges"—"Margarete" and all she represents—will receive more lavish tribute in visual ornament than the name and mission of the petitioner, inscribed in the mere black-and-white of pen flourishes, the visibility of the latter a tribute to the better colours" that limn the precious Margarete in its "lewe shel." Yet as this false-modesty topos indicates, such differentiation of levels of style and ornament articulates a single endeavor: to "yeve sight" to the intentional design of the whole, as a signed petitionary act of a textworker who thus, and far from incidentally, displays to the "sleigh inseer" his thorough acquaintance with, and technical command of, all aspects of his craft. In the very act of disavowing his own aspiration to wield "queynt knittynge colours" in this work, Usk marks


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himself as a connoisseur and designer, if not a direct practitioner, of every level of the textmaker's art.

What specific kind of book was Usk's Testament designed to be, or to resemble? The question awaits a more expert codicologist's attention (which I hope here to invite), but a few tentative answers suggest themselves. This is a relatively small-format book, in overall size and page-format much like that of many other vernacular books of around 1400.[41] It is thus highly portable and personal. Yet unlike many other vernacular books of this size and arrangement—most of those known to me comparatively unadorned and practical in their "production values"—its regularities of design imply some expense of forethought and labor in programmatic and unitary production as a book intended to be "read" and valued as an object, returned to and savored, opened, unfolded—literally ex-plicated—reflectively by a reader approaching its matter in and through its manner, its ordinatio as such. In this respect its compositional ambitions as a book more closely resemble those of larger folio manuscripts of Usk's contemporaries (the Ellesmere, and the carefully- arranged larger Gower manuscripts, come to mind; the slightly smaller Troilus manuscripts, such as the ornamented Corpus manuscript, may offer a closer analogue). It is in this sense something of an oxymoron as a book of vernacular prose: personal in scale and mode, yet relatively refined and ornate as a made object.

The presence of a signatory acrostic also links it with some Latin texts of the fourteenth century, notably Higden's Polychronicon.[42] Usk certainly knew this work, since he appropriates extended figures from it early and often in the Testament. His first such appropriation is in the service of self-exegesis, adapted to indicate the mode of his own work, and the kind of wit it will exhibit throughout:

Yet also have I leve of the noble husbande Boece, although I be a straunger of conninge, to come after his doctrine, and these grete workmen, and glene my handfuls of the shedinge after their handes; and, if me faile ought of my ful, to encrease my porcion with that I shal drawe by privitees out of the shocke.

(Prologue 110-114; Skeat p. 4)


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His own work, Usk here artfully proclaims, will be something of a cento drawn from the leavings of "these grete workmen" among his illustrious contemporaries (albeit largely as unattributed self-help—"by privitees"—for "a slye servaunt in his owne helpe is often muche commended"), as well as from the "noble husband Boece": here Usk conjures a pun (Boaz/Boece) out of Higden's gleaning figure to name the primary fictive modality of his own enterprise, the expository dialogue. Yet Higden's acrostic is simply signatory ("Presentem cronica compilavit frater Ranulphus Cestrensis monachus"), not, like Usk's, also petitionary, and it disposes the acrostic initials at chapter openings "wherever they fall on the page."[43] Acrostics with an additional diacritical function—that is, those that articulate by their placement the form or intent of the work itself, as well as spell a signature or other message—are more often ornaments of stanziac verse compositions. Usk is, moreover, self-referentially witty in calling attention to his acrostic: in his prologue (chapter i) to Book II he again frames his advertisement of formal design in the form of a humility topos: "But bycause that in connynge I am yong, and can yet but crepe, this leude A.b.c. have I set in-to lerning; for I can not passen the telling of three as yet" (II.i.112-114; Skeat p. 49).[44] It appears we must seek further for the analogues invoked by this formal disposition, and by the thoroughgoing bibliographic design, of his work.

Strange as it may seem, these properties of the book ally it more closely with religious service-books of various sorts designed for personal use, than with vernacular manuscripts of either prose or verse. With its acrostic head-letters of each chapter in page-initial position, and a probable further differentiation of the decorative program of these initials along the course of the acrostic, as it proceeded from naming the symbolic honoree, to specifying the act of virtue sought, to the petitioner's identity in the maker's signature, the visual disposition of the page alludes broadly to the differentiated means by which the levels of segmentation of text were marked in psalters, books of


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hours, and breviaries made for personal use.[45] However loosely, the book's format provocatively alludes to the formal protocols and diacritical markers of books of prayer, petition, and devotion of various intricately organized kinds, and invites comparison of its maker's textualized speech-act with those individual liturgical rehearsals of praise and confession that such books enabled. In other words, by this means the maker manages to imply that his book might be regarded as a kind of "service-book," albeit realized in a largely secular, civic register: it is, in effect, a visible, and endlessly repeatable, act of devotion to an ideal of constancy, an exemplification and performance (as praise or prayer is "performed") of the motions of the rightly directed will, albeit in royal or civic rather than divine "service." As a testament, it instantiates what it also recommends to the user of the book: perfect service impelled not by fear or favor, but solely by "love." If this was the perceived mode of the book to Usk's contemporaries, it becomes possible to imagine that "moral Gower" might have meant in earnest the commendation, made in the voice of Venus to Amans as she sends him back from his long and now- terminated visionary love-quest to the ordinary world, to "gret wel Chaucer" and urge him to "make his testament of love."

However startling, this analogy of the Testament with personal performance of liturgical devotions is not in the least far-fetched: one need look no further than Usk's own self-exegeses in the work to find its rationale. It has been remarked that Usk's range of devotions on the block as he faced his death—impressive even to the Monk of Westminster, who was otherwise no admirer of Usk and all his kind—implied "near- professional" competence and familiarity with the central clerical "reading and singing" repertoire: "the Placebo and Dirige, the Seven Penitential Psalms, the Te Deum, Nunc dimittis, Quicumque vult" (the Athanasian Creed), and "other hymns that bear upon devotion in the hour of death."[46] The resemblance of this array to the "limbs" by which Langland's Will labors in his vocation has also been observed.[47] Similarly, in the Testament Usk presents his ultimate purpose not as petition but "joye," to which he hopes to gain access by "the key of David." In a pose remarkably like Langland's fictive self-representation as one who "solaces himself" with his "makings," Usk suggests from the beginning of his work that the mode of this enterprise is to be understood with reference to the psalmist, and more broadly as an act of performed devotion: "Lo, David sayth, 'thou hast delyted me in makinge,' as who sayth, to have


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delyt in the tune, how god hath lent me in consideration of thy makinge" (Prologue 61-64, Skeat p. 3). Here he adverts to Psalm 91:1-4; in the first chapter of the third book, the third of the three prologues in which Usk declares the modes and intentions of the work, he explains his purpose in bringing his work to fulfillment with the "most certayn" number three (as history itself is completed with the end of earthly time and the reign of "joye"), and once again adverts to the language of formal devotion.[48] "But yet at the dore shal I knocke, if the key of David wolde the locke unshitte, and he bring me in, which that childrens tonges both openeth and closeth" (III.i.159-161; Skeat pp. 105-106). The primary allusion is to one of the "O" antiphons—"O clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel, qui aperis et nemo claudit, claudis et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis"—further enriched, it appears, with an association of that passage with Psalm 8:2, ex ore infantium et lactantium laudes perfecisti," the first psalm of Matins of the Office of the Blessed Virgin. The entire prologue (i.e. chapter i) of Book III bristles with such allusion: in the passage used as an epigraph to this essay ("hony of the hard stone, oyle of the dry rocke"), Usk quotes Deuteronomy 32:13, a verse from the Canticum Moysi, one of the six Old Testament canticles that followed Psalm 150 in most English psalters; it is immediately followed by a passage that invokes Isaiah 12:3, from the Canticum Isaye, another of these six (possibly with associations of still other verses I have not identified), linking it in turn directly to the "key of David" passage:[49]
But for my book shal be of joye (as I sayd), and I [am: Skeat] so fer set from thilke place from whens gladnesse shulde come; my corde is to short to lete my boket ought cacche of that water; and fewe men be abouten my corde to eche, and many in ful purpose ben redy it shorter to make, and to enclose th'entre, that myn boket of joye nothing sholde cacche, but empty returne, my careful sorowes to encrese . . .: good lord, send me water in-to the cop of these mountayns, and I shal drinke therof, my thurstes to stanche, and sey, these be comfortable welles. And yet I seye more, the house of joye to me is nat opened. . . .

(III.i.140-154; Skeat p. 105)

It is in moves like these, rather than in Usk's use of the extended tree figure that has thus far been the primary focus of attention in considering the relations between the Testament and Piers Plowman, that we must look for the most significant intertextualities—or at least similarities in conceptualizing the writer's compositional and social-performative identity—with Langland's poem. For both, the language of liturgical service is also a language not only of spiritual self-realization, but also of literary and social self-explanation and self-justification, an inexhaustible fountain of tropes for the only


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"autobiography" or self-exculpation that ultimately mattered to these makers: that which declared to users the modality of their work. Yet in assessing Usk's deployment of this language, it is equally important to note the insider's self-deprecatory humor in its homely elaboration here: the conceit of the "boket" diving repeatedly into an out-of-the-way "welle" and coming up short, at the end of a "corde" always in danger of being further shortened in its laborious but largely futile pursuit of the nourishing "waters" of "joye." If this speaks of and from the abjection of the man of letters dependent on patronage, it does so not from a posture of desperation or isolation, but wittily and gamely for the recognition of others in the same crowded boat—or "boket."

Was this manuscript book an autograph? Thus far I have spoken of it in ways that imply Usk's "hand" in its making, if not literally as its scribal hand, then at least in its production, in some fashion direct enough to assure that its textual amplitude and its bibliographic disposition on the page were coordinated to produce the unusually regular occurrence of its chief diacritic in page-initial position, and often enough on a flesh side of a leaf to realize the ordinational effects of this arrangement—a state of affairs that at least implies some tinkering and adjustments in the text by Usk at the point of preparing fair copy, if not more direct and personal involvement in the actual book that came to Thynne's hands. We cannot, of course, answer this question in the absence of the manuscript (though if the book were to come to light it could quickly be ascertained, since Usk's approver's appeal, still preserved in the Public Record Office, ostentatiously proclaims its writing by Usk's "owne honde").[50]

Analogies, however, are not far to seek for the autograph production of elaborately planned decorated books in this period.[51] James le Palmere, treasurer's scribe in the Exchequer, planned and wrote in his own hand a three-volume encylopedia of his own devising, and his integrative work in its making included putting out the text to pen-flourishers and painters who


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completed the decorative initials to Palmere's specifications, as Palmere continued work on the production of text; some of the decorative work on the manuscript postdated Palmere's death in 1375.[52] Like Usk, Palmere was a Londoner and the son of a tradesman (his father was a mercer, Usk's a capmaker), but like Usk's, Palmere's own occupation, and whatever patronage or preferment he received, was founded on his writing and textual skills. Like Usk's composition of the Testament, Palmere's work on his massive encyclopedia can only have been an avocation, an alternative and somewhat ostentatious deployment of his marketable abilities, perhaps to advertise their possessor as a man of versatile and useful talents. But their exercise at a high level of successful integrative operation would also have been a matter of pride, self-esteem, and ultimately sheer personal pleasure, as it always is for a skilled and proficient craftsperson of any trade: not simply an instrument and medium of employment and potential advancement, but also those of a jeu d'esprit, sheer self-delighting self-display: "thou hast delighted me in making."

These material and discursive signs suggest that Usk worked through the production of the Testament in an environment in which, if gainful employment was always that of a dependent, and hence to some degree precarious (a fact of life that many of his contemporaries also registered in writing), the exercise of its constituent skills was neither isolated nor unregarded, and was well-populated with knowledgeable appreciators near at hand. It was their attention and admiration primarily, and only secondarily that of agents who might more accurately be termed political or dispositive, that, I believe, Usk sought to engage with the Testament. In terms of ultimate effects, this might be considered by some a distinction without a difference: the right "sleigh inseers" within the textual bureacracy could put in a good word for a man of talent at least as effectively a great landowner or knight—perhaps more so, since they knew and could assess the skills and qualities of character involved in literate employment. But it makes a great deal of difference to our understanding of the conception of the means, agency and "art" available to men of letters in the later fourteenth century, and the terms of their shared self-awareness as "professionals," however multiform their actual appointments over the course of a career.

Did Usk actually find in these circles of textworkers the contemporary appreciation he sought? The lack of a surviving manuscript of the work, let alone multiple copies of it, may not constitute a meaningful answer to this question. Especially in view of Usk's brutal execution in 1388 (the Westminster Chronicler reports that it took thirty blows of the axe to dispatch him, surely cruel and unusual punishment in an era, and among a host of similar executions in the same season, when a single stroke usually sufficed), and the fraught political factionalism that never wholly ceased to revolve around the king in the last fifteen years of the century, it is unlikely that anyone who possessed a copy at that point, or who had encountered the work in


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the making, would have had any reason to promulgate its further copying. If it was chiefly admired by, as it had been designed for, fellow textworkers, themselves as ultimately dependent as Usk had been on royal favor and its shifting fortunes, the Testament would already have done, for Usk and these "frendes," all the ideational and ideological work it could do: testified elaborately to their common condition, shared hopes, and—much more important—the terms within which they could articulate the common grounds of their self-respect. Beyond that, it could only be a souvenir, preserved among the papers of those to whom it recalled the man who had inscribed his name and petition in its very structure. Indeed, the care invested in its making as a material text would have made it all the more difficult to reproduce, as well as largely devoid of discursive interest much beyond these circles. Surely at best caviare to the general by virtue of its complex, almost frenetic, allusiveness to the constituent repertory of "clerical" (but not in the first instance ecclesiastical or religious) art, it would also have been hard to copy in such a way as to retain its material terms of art as well: to recall an analogous instance, the Pearl manuscript—sole witness to all its texts, and quite possibly a humbly-made copy of a more expertly and expensively designed illustrated and decorated exemplar—is to acknowledge how narrow is the gap between rarity and complete annihilation of textual testimony, and how little can be inferred from sheer numerical attestation.

Better testimony, therefore, is that of Usk's contemporary makers, in their own work: Gower's, for one, and possibly even Langland's (if an ignotum per ignotius may be taken in evidence). In addition to "Gower's" fictively-displaced injunction to "Chaucer" (the quotation marks signifying, as they have in discussing the Testament, the represented maker in the work), there is also a haunting echo of Usk's apologia pro vita sua in Langland's last representation of Will's justification of his anomalous enterprise. In the waking encounter in London, inserted between the first two dreams of the poem, at the head of Passus V of the C-version, the same "singing and reading" repertory that had marked Usk's pious last moments constitutes the tools of Will's elusive trade, which like Usk he defends by analogies drawn from the parables. The Pearl of Great Price figures for both as the ultimate ideal object of value in this anomalous vocation, the obscure object of clerical desire; the Dishonest Steward ("a slye servaunt in his owne helpe is often moche commended") is also invoked by Will's use of the wily "servaunt's" plea of exemption from manual labor, to dig I am unable, to beg I am ashamed—a text adduced repeatedly by clerical wits since at least the twelfth century in defense of the distinctively non-laborious and irrevocable character of their vocation. Besides its own richly self-referential wit, this one Langlandian representation of a judicial proceeding against the maker-protagonist—a passage almost certainly written within no more than a year after Usk's execution—may have gained additional resonance by recalling to fellow textworkers another recent encounter by one of their number with censorious juridical authority, with far less happy results: while Usk went to the block for his textual service to the wrong powers, in Langland's fictive version


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"Will" escapes sanctions to dream and "make" the rest of the poem.[53] Nor was Langland the only one of Usk's contemporaries to frame a declaration of authorial intent in the fictive form of a high-stakes encounter with punitive regal will and authority: the Legend of Good Women and the Confessio Amantis, both produced in the later 1380s, likewise stage the implications of these writers' recognition of an uneasy and shifting dependency that always underlies their resilient subjective sense of the intellectual and spiritual integrity attained through the exercise of "clerical" arts.

If this was the "reading" Usk received from contemporaries, it is not difficult to imagine that his book came to survive among their effects as a kind of keepsake; it was among such family "heyrelomes" that it may have attracted Thynne's notice as a piece of Chauceriana. While from the point of view of modern literary scholarship and textual culture Thynne and his printer were astonishingly indifferent to the content of Usk's text (had it been otherwise someone would certainly have noticed the massive displacements in Book III), we have in the foregoing signs copious evidence that Thynne "read" with some care and perception the various niceties of visual ordinatio, and general bibliographical signs of value and care that his source manuscript provided—and not merely for the mechanical marking-off of text toward the spatial and workshop planning of his own massive folio production. Perhaps more fundamentally, we can discern in Thynne's presentational choices thus far his "reading" of the complex bibliographical codes, both large-scale and minute, that indicated the work's generic affinities and aspirations, and expressed its intended value and "meaning" as an object by means that were both physically and culturally legible. Though no philologist or literary critic—or for that matter even a self-conscious connoisseur of books as such, though he was proud of his assiduous searches for Chaucerian material to print—Thynne appears nevertheless to have been keenly conversant with the broad craft-language and aesthetic capacities of his own occupation, an astute observer and interpreter of its terms of art.[54] His conversational capacities in this kind, moreover, seem to have extended some way into the "history of the language"—that is, into an intuitive grasp of the conventions of what amounted to the antecedent stage of his own practice: the London manuscript book- trade, and its expressive forms and media. As we have had occasion to notice at many points in this essay, insofar as the Testament was realized and transmitted as a work in this "language," Usk was a self-conscious user of it, and he found in Thynne a very good reader indeed.[55]


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How good a reader was Thynne? Not good enough to have read the acrostic for what it was (rather than simply as a sign of the care and value invested in the making of the manuscript book), or to have read Usk's "philosophy" at all. But more than good enough to have offered plentiful and eloquent testimony—almost all of it largely inadvertent—about Usk's book: not only about its physical form, but about the "intente" and discursive horizon within which it was designed and produced. Thynne's edition bespeaks professional assurance, not only about its own means and bibliographical "language" and conventions, but also about its counterparts in late fourteenth-century book culture. It is therefore a highly competent professional "reading," legible precisely because of, and through, its own historically situated terms of trade and art.[56]

The testimony it offers must give us second thoughts about the character


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portrait of Usk thus far extrapolated from his political misfortune, and inferred from his verbal style and eagerly emulative use of form and genre. In the world in which Usk had a continuous professional identity, he was, on this evidence, far from the headlong, "erratic, overardent" political player he has seemed to most modern scholarship. He spoke with assurance and eloquence the material language of books, and it appears his more respected contemporaries recognized it. And within the terms of his own trade, so did Thynne: paradoxically, the lost manuscript speaks with uncanny clarity through Thynne's professional appreciation of a common language, and perhaps even more clearly through his error than it might done without it. One way or another, "poor Usk" received, it seems, both the "sleigh inseers" and the "good bookamender" he wished for.


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The following chart displays both the quiring and the chapter-divisions of Thynne's source manuscript as I reconstruct it in the essay. Line-counts (labelled "# of lines in chapter") represent the number of Th-lines (lines of type one column wide on a two-column page) per chapter of Thynne's printing of the Testament. Page-counts, however, represent the number of manuscript pages per chapter (defining the two sides of a leaf each as a manuscript page) in my reconstruction of Thynne's manuscript source. (Appendix B provides further details on the reconstructed quiring, and remarks on alternative arrangements considered in arriving at the description offered here. Appendix C provides amplified description of Thynne's treatment of chapter-initials and chapter-divisions.)

Chapters are not numbered in Thynne's printing, but indicated (sometimes incorrectly) only by their featured initial letters. I have retained the roman chapter numbers of Skeat (Sk) for ease of reference, substituting arabic numbers only at those places in Book III where my reconstruction differs from his: chapter 4 below is a redivision of Skeat's iv; 5 and 6 designate the reconstructed and re-ordered fifth and sixth chapters (corresponding only in part to Skeat's vi and v respectively, since their boundaries as well as sequence differ in my reconstruction). Under "Comments" I correlate my chapter divisions, explained in the essay, with Skeat's division and sequence, and with the six displaced segments of text (DS 1, DS 2, etc.) he posits; I also indicate Thynne's misdivisions of chapters in Book II where they occur, in chapters x and xi. Preceding the reconstructed chapter-numbers in the chart are the corrected chapter-initials; the signatory acrostic may be read vertically; initials falling on the hair-side of a manuscript leaf in this reconstructed quiring are italicized.

To achieve line-counts usable in reconstructing chapter-lengths in the lost manuscript, I have silently added fractional printed lines to create whole lines, and expressed the total to the nearest .5 of a Th-line, at those few chapter-endings that Thynne set in double hanging-indent format (chapters ending in this way are indicated with an asterisk; see Appendix C for details.) I have not, however, similarly adjusted the line-counts of each chapter to allow for the volume of text-space occupied by Thynne's decorative chapter initials, because their manuscript counterparts also consumed an indeterminable proportion of text-block space. Thynne's printed initials at their most ornate (Prologue, II.i) occupy a little less than 3 full lines of text-space; the next largest (at I.i) consumes 1.25 lines; the next (at III.i) one line. Of the remainder, the 3-line-high letters (or the space for them), four in all, occupy about .7 of a line, the 2-line-high initials about .3 of a line (21 are of this size); the rest of the acrostic-initials are represented simply by textface capitals. These encroachments into text-space are so negligible and infrequent that they have simply been excluded from my specifications of chapter lengths: accuracy to three lines or less is unattainable in reconstructing from printed text the volume of prose text spanning several scribal pages, and unnecessary


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for the present purposes of schematic comparison. (The Notes in Appendix B discuss the effects on Thynne's printed presentation of the size and placement of chapter-initials in the manuscript.)

In the sixth and seventh columns of the chart I indicate the number of pages each chapter occupied in the manuscript, as I reconstruct it, and the way in which the chapter was divided between quires wherever it continued past the end of one. For the latter situation I specify the leaves of the next quire occupied by the chapter- continuation before noting the occurrence of the next chapter-initial.


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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.


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Appendix C
Thynne's Initials at Chapter-Divisions

Chapter   Initial   Description (* indicates occurrence at head of column) 
Prologue   *Ornamented dark-ground woodblock initial, 7 lines high, width ca. 45% of column  
Book I:  
i   A   *Ornamented dark-ground woodblock initial, 5 lines high  
ii  R   *Bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high 
iii  Bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high, after 2-line-high vertical spacing  
iv  Textface cap, indented 1 space, after 1-line vertical space 
Bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high, after 1-line vertical space 
vi  Bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high, after 1-line vertical space 
vii  Bold undecorated initial, 3 lines high, no added vertical space between chapters  
viii  O   [Thynne "Oft" for "Eft"] Bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high; no added vertical space between chapters  
ix  Bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high, after 2-line vertical space 
Textface cap, indented 2 spaces, after 1-line vertical space 
Book II:  
*Ornamented dark-ground woodblock initials, 7 lines high, width ca. 45% of column  
ii  Bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high, after 1-line vertical space 
iii  Block of space 3 lines high and equally wide allocated for feature initial, but occupied only by textfont cap in middle of space 
iv  Bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high, after 1-line vertical space 
Block of space 3 lines high and equally wide allocated for feature initial, but occupied only by textfont cap in middle of space 
vi  Bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high, after 1-line vertical space 
vii  Ornamented dark-ground woodblock initial, 3 lines  


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high, after 1-line space, following 3-line double hanging-indent ending preceding chapter 
viii  Bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high, after 1-line vertical space 
ix  Bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high, after 1-line vertical space, following 6-line double hanging-indent ending preceding chapter  
Block of space 3 lines high and equally wide allocated for feature initial, but occupied only by text font cap in middle of space 
Thynne  *Bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high 
xi  [E]   [chapter-division not indicated in Thynne]  
Thynne  *Bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high 
xii  *Bold undecorated initial 2 lines high, after 1-line vertical space, following 3-line double hanging-indent ending preceding chapter 
xiii  *Bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high, after 1-line vertical space 
xiv  I   Bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high, after 1-line vertical space, following 6-line double hanging-indent ending preceding chapter  
Book III:  
*Ornamented woodblock framed initial, 4 lines high, ¼ width of column 
ii   N   Textface cap, merely indented 1 sp, after vertical space of 1 line  
iii  T   Textface cap, merely indented 1 sp, after vertical space of 1 line, following 5-line double hanging-indent ending preceding chapter 
Textface cap, merely indented 1 sp, no vertical space separating chapter, following 2-line double hanging-indent after vertical space of 1 line  
In displaced quire r; correct chapter-division unidentified in Thynne and Skeat: midline textface cap only 
[I]   In displaced quire r; incorrectly identified chapter- initial (which heads Skeat's vi): bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high, after 1-line vertical space 
6   In displaced quire s; bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high, after 1-line vertical space (not identified by Skeat as chapter-initial; occurs 8.5 Th-lines into Skeat's chapter v)  
vii  *In displaced quire s; bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high 
viii  In displaced quire t; bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high, after 2-line- high vertical spacing 
ix  In displaced quire t; bold undecorated initial, 2 lines high, after 1-line vertical space 



Except where noted, I cite Skeat's edition, in Chaucerian and Other Pieces, ed. Walter W. Skeat (Oxford: Clarendon, 1897), pp. 1-145; notes pp. 451-484. Thynne's text, however, is worth citing, for the passage offers a small conspectus of the difficulties that confront an editor:

thentent of al these maters is the lest clere understanding/ to weten at thende of this thirde boke ful knowing thorowe goddes grace/ I thinke to make neverthelater/ yet if these thynges han a good and a sleight inseer/ which that can souke hony of the harde stone/ oyle of the drye rocke/ may lyghtly fele nobley of mater in my leude ymagination closed.

(f. 351r, col. 1, l. 48- col. 2, ll. 1-8)


Henry Bradley's entry on Thomas Usk in the Dictionary of National Biography (vol. 20, pp. 60-62) remains the best succinct account of Usk's career, and of the main events in the discovery of Usk's authorship. Its biographical information is valuably supplemented by Ramona Bressie, "The Date of Thomas Usk's Testament of Love," Modern Philology 26 (1928), 17-29.


Henry Bradley, in The Athenaeum, #3615 (February 5, 1897), p. 184, first described these displacements, identifying six separate disjunct segments. Skeat adopted this account in his edition, and offers a hypothesis (pp. xix-xxii) about the misarrangement of the printer's copy to explain the disorder and justify the sequence of his reconstruction. Ramona Bressie (note 2 above) was to my knowledge the first to discover that Skeat's reconstruction of the order of displaced text in Book III erred in reversing the positions of chapters v and vi (see p. 28, n. 1 of her article), though she does not explain either how the acrostic, disrupted by the transposition she proposes, might be restored, or what mechanics of disruption could account for either Skeat's arrangement (which she finds as baffling as I do) or the revision of it she proposes. Her tentative solution to the latter problem is to postulate the loss of text after III.i, since this book alone of the three "lacks a lyrical chapter after the Prologue," and since at II.iv.121 Love forecasts matter about a "king" to be treated later "whan I shew the ground where moral virtue groweth"—yet in Bressie's view the king remains unmentioned when Love's exposition reaches that topic in Book III. My account below addresses both of these issues.


In his biography John Gower: Moral Philosopher and Friend of Chaucer (New York: New York Univ. Press, 1964), John Hurt Fisher provides a valuable discussion of the causes and effects of the attribution of the Testament to Chaucer, and the impacts of the early reconstructed biographies of Chaucer and Gower on the definition of critical reputations and agendas in the study of major and minor Ricardian writers. Fisher's entire first chapter (pp. 1-36) is germane to the present essay; see esp. pp. 21-24. One particularly noteworthy effect of the long-standing attribution of the Testament to Chaucer was its role in sustaining the image of Chaucer as dissenting, if ultimately reconciled, son of the church: Usk's euphemized "biography" represents the author's earlier missteps and others' misreading of them as "heresy" and later reassimilation to Love's law and sect; these references were sometimes read literally by early readers as admissions of earlier lapses of religious faith and disavowed early adherence to Wycliffite belief. These remarks, however, occur within the fictional figuration of the work as Love's corrective pedagogy, and cannot be read as representations of their author's religious views.


While Usk's use of his source materials is not to my purpose here, it is worth remarking that while Anselm's discussion of these matters builds in part on the exposition of the fundamental problem of divine prescience and human free choice in the Consolatio, its philosophical bearing is quite different from that of Boethius. It is concerned with divine justice and the soul's salvation, as well as with the earlier philosopher's interest in a diffusely Platonic mode of what might be called general theological metaphysics. More central to Anselm's concerns than the metaphysics of fortune and foreknowledge is the difficult moral theology of the will, both divine and human, a discourse that became still more diversified in its terms, and controverted in its implications, in the years between Anselm and Usk. Thus, even though the Anselmian vocabulary Usk deployed in Book III is not in itself markedly more arcane than that of Boethius on the same topics, the distinctions it makes for Anselm are finer, and the implications differently drawn out. For detailed discussions of Usk's use of Anselm in Book III of the Testament, see George Sanderlin, "Usk's Testament of Love and St. Anselm," Speculum 17 (1942), 69-73, and Stephen Medcalf, "Transposition: Thomas Usk's Testament of Love," in The Medieval Translator, vol. 1, ed. Roger Ellis (Woodbridge, Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 1989), pp. 181-195; for an account demonstrating that this work of Anselm is the specific source of Usk's "wexing tree" image in that book, see Lucy Lewis, "Langland's Tree of Charity and Usk's 'Wexing Tree,'" Notes and Queries 240, no. 4 (Dec. 1995), 429-433.


In partial extenuation of the printer's errors at these junctures, and his failure to notice them in setting copy, it should be said that the diction and general register of Usk's Book III are more rarefied for long stretches than any other text in Thynne's massive volume. As Thynne apparently lacked familiarity with some of Usk's legal terms (e.g. "torcencious" at; Skeat p. 28), the sixteenth-century printer also had little experience or knowledge of the terms of philosophical argument to guide him through what he would certainly have considered "scole-matere" of "gret difficulte" (had he taken the time to "read" it, in the modern sense of that term). Moreover, in preparing the Usk text for printing, Thynne apparently had no second source for cross-checking, as he did in setting comparably abstruse material in the Chaucer corpus. As James E. Blodgett points out, Thynne used Caxton and at least one other manuscript for the text of Boece (to take one discursively close comparison), and he had similar second or multiple points of textual reference for much of the rest of his massive edition; see Blodgett's chapter "William Thynne" in Editing Chaucer: The Great Tradition, ed. Paul G. Ruggiers (Norman, Okla.: Pilgrim Books, 1984), pp. 35-52 (notes, pp. 255-259), esp. p. 45. In the face of the difficulties peculiar to Book III, Thynne did his best to "read" it, and present it, within the norms of what he apparently believed the work in general to be: a "gentil" and eloquent treatise on refined love, with a strongly Boethian cast—in other words, as a work testifying that Troilus stood at the "stremes hede" of a tradition. This discursive gap has some bearing on the textual treatment of Usk not only by his printer but also by his only published editor to date. Where Skeat lacks awareness of Usk's direct Latin source (as he does throughout most of Book III), and where the editor's account of the text requires semantic awareness beyond a sound sense of Middle English idiom, his identifications of lapses of sense, and his emendations, are often as unsteady as those one might want to attribute to the printer—or (the explanation Skeat and Bradley preferred) to the deplorable state of the manuscript the printer used. Examples discussed below will further bear out the way discursive obstacles were transmitted in the form of mechanical errors.


Paul Strohm, in "Politics and Poetics: Usk and Chaucer in the 1380s," in Literary Practice and Social Change in Britain, 1380-1530, ed. Lee Patterson (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1990), pp. 83-112, imagines Usk producing the Testament "in a state of undoubted isolation" (p. 105). In this essay, and in another complementary to it—"The Textual Vicissitudes of Usk's Appeal," in his book Hochon's Arrow: The Social Imagination of Fourteenth Century Texts (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1992), pp. 145-160—Strohm offers the most nuanced and attentive reading that Usk's career and writings have had recently, or perhaps ever. His focus in both essays is Usk's political self-positioning through skillful textual interventions. While Strohm offers excellent discussions of the broad generic frameworks of each of Usk's two main textual initiatives (his approver's appeal against his former employer, London mayor John Northampton, and the consolatio of the Testament), it is largely extraneous to his purpose to discuss at length other literary and bibliographical codes to which Usk adverted with the Testament. The present essay intends chiefly to complement Strohm's work with an examination of these additional facets of Usk's textual self-fashioning, rather than to contest work of unparalleled value in restoring Usk, and the medium of his art, to serious, sympathetic, and detailed consideration. I shall, however, propose here that we might usefully further qualify our notion of what Usk's "isolation" might have meant, both as a description of his social situation, and as a factor in the production of his ambitious literary venture. While Usk seems not to have succeeded as he might have wished in reshaping his political reputation, his textual environment—that is, a discursive field that encompassed poetic, legal, and bibliographical codes, the chief means through which Usk's imagination articulated its purposes, as I shall argue here—was, I believe, rich in companionship, shared expertise and professional "language" (in an extended sense of the term), and moral and material support. That this kind of "friendship" proved ultimately inefficacious to save him from his political destiny is a fact of some importance for literary as well as political and cultural history—but this inference did not escape the men of letters among those contemporaries who survived him.


This exercise tends to corroborate the view of May Newman Hallmundsson, "The Community of Law and Letters: Some Notes on Thomas Usk's Audience," Viator 9 (1978), 357-365, though it greatly amplifies the technical means and bearing of the work in this context.


Three unpublished Ph.D. dissertations, to my knowledge, have undertaken to provide a sounder text of the Testament, and to correct Skeat's mistaken reconstruction of the displaced text in Book III: Ramona Bressie (Univ. of Chicago, 1932), Virginia Bording Jellech (Washington Univ., St. Louis, 1970), and John Leyerle (Harvard Univ., 1977). The last two of these re-edited the text, and Jellech's, perhaps as the more readily available of these two, has become to some recent scholars the text of reference; Leyerle reports (personal communication, May 1996) that he is preparing an edition for publication, as is R. Allen Shoaf. Jellech's dissertation, which I have consulted, seconds Bressie's correction of the sequence of text in Book III, but does not deal systematically with the mechanics of text-disarrangement or the format of the lost manuscript. Bressie, in the 1928 article cited above (p. 28, n. 1), was the first to discover that (to state the case somewhat inaccurately for the moment; we will refine it below), Skeat's edition reverses the correct order of the fifth and sixth chapters of Usk's Book III, but she did not pursue the implications of this correction for understanding the quiring and other formatting features of the lost manuscript. Rather, because the text was still in her view defective at some of these points of disruption, she conjectured substantial loss of text from Thynne's edition; as will be seen below, I consider this hypothesis unnecessary to account for Thynne's text, and for the formal features of the lost manuscript that immediately underlay it. Her correction of Skeat's reconstruction is the more impressive in that she discerned from Usk's arguments alone, without reference to his Latin source text, the correct continuity of the text of Book III: her work predates by more than a decade the discovery, published by George Sanderlin in 1942, of the St. Anselm source text for much of Book III. As we shall see below, the continuities and discontinuities in Usk's use of his source confirms Bressie's account of the correct order of text.


Skeat's account of the mechanics of internal disruption within the sequence of misplaced segments was, as Bressie noted, less troublesome to this purpose than his puzzling characterization of the relative volume of the disrupted portion in relation to the preceding continuous text. As she observed—and as a mere page count of Skeat's edition should have revealed—the total volume of displaced printed text was not, as Skeat's claim seemed to require, a little more than 1/10 the size of the undisrupted preceding text of the work to that point, but more like 1/5 (displaced text, as rearranged by Skeat, continuously fills pages 118-143 of Skeat's 145-page text). If only one quire of 8 and a bifolium were involved in the displacement, then each page of the manuscript would have had to contain about 70 lines of Thynne's text as printed in a rather compact typeface, and the disruption would then have been preceded by five similar quires, not ten. In that case, the source manuscript would almost certainly have been laid out as a relatively small double-column page, which seemed to me an unlikely disposition of a vernacular prose work of that length—especially if it came to the printer's hands detached (as its unbound state implies) from a larger miscellany. If on the other hand Skeat simply misspoke, and the misordered portion occupied not one but two quires and a bifolium, following ten similar undisrupted quires, this would imply a manuscript page-format containing about 36 of Thynne's lines, in more plausible single-column format.


While it was my initial hypothesis that a work of this length came to Thynne's hands as a book (even if an unbound one) rather than in a miscellany, the more fundamental question was not its contiguity with other works, but its presumptive internal integrity and format. (In a continuous prose text with catchwords—for as I shall show below, Thynne's source had catchwords—misbound manuscript text seemed unlikely; therefore only an unbound manuscript text could have allowed the disordering of quires by the printer.) Whether I was naive or unjustified in my initial assumption—that double-column format would be an unlikely disposition of a vernacular work of this kind and length, especially as a free-standing text—I must leave to more experienced codicologists to judge. As this essay will suggest, however, the only other format that readily lends itself to explaining the displacement of text in Book III would be a layout much like Thynne's: a double-column page with about 48 lines per column, and hence 192-195 of Thynne's lines per leaf—a layout, in short, much like the large Ellesmere manuscript. (Thynne's format for the Testament is a two-column page of 48 lines, as it is for all other prose works in this large folio edition: Chaucer's Boece, Astrolabe, and the Parson's Tale, for example.) But like other formats I attempted, this one had far less explanatory power in accounting for other features of Thynne's text, so I do not present it schematically here.


Only after deriving a plausible tentative hypothesis about the general format of the manuscript could one examine Thynne's text for signs that implied compression or elision of text in the source manuscript, or any other indication of irregularities of amplitude in scribal hand or usage, especially toward the ends of manuscript quires, and toward the end of the work—a hunch that would eventually prove useful, as did the presumption of scribal abbreviation in the manuscript.


I use the term "initial" for a letter that falls at the beginning of a line of text, and indicates—by larger size, placement within an inset space-block, or different typeface such as bold, or by any combination of these—the beginning of a unit of text; I reserve the term "capital" for letters of whatever typeface that are actually in the upper case of that face. In Thynne, sentences do not always begin with capitals, and sometimes the textface capital is the sole marker of a new unit; see Appendix C. For the distinction, and the complex distinctions it marks in liturgical manuscripts, see Andrew Hughes, Medieval Manuscripts for Mass and Office: A Guide to Their Organization and Terminology (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1982), p. 103.


This is the general typographic formula for dividing prose that Thynne used, following Caxton, in presenting Chaucer's Boece, and in Treatise on the Astrolabe: in those works, chapters are not numbered, but receive a feature initial (or the space for one; see below), in a feature-block two or three lines in height, and of equal width, integrated into the upper right corner of the text- block. In Chaucer's two free-standing prose works, these subdivisions also have headings: in Boece, there are extensive incipits of the corresponding Latin text; in Astrolabe, sections of text have descriptive headers in English, most of them at least a clause in length. Similarly, the text of the Parson's Tale is divided with topical Latin phrasal headers, "De Ira," "De Invidia," and the like, and the immediately ensuing text occasionally (though not usually) begins with a small feature initial similar to those used in beginning Usk's chapters.


Thynne's text of Usk sometimes runs for more than three double-column pages with no readily visible subdivision apart from the chapter-capitals and/or a one-line space. Because in addition the chapters of Book III are on average about 44 of Thynne's lines longer than those of Book II, and about 40 lines longer than those of Book I (see Appendix A)—and also because, as noted, they present continuous argument that is not only intrinsically difficult, but relatively inert and unpointed rhetorically, in comparison with the exposition of the first two books—it becomes easy to imagine how textual displacement occurred, and remained long unrecognized as such, in the setting of Book III. Facing a manuscript lacking division into units any smaller than the chapter, and without other internal visual signal except infrequent catchwords, the typesetter failed to notice a displaced quire until he had progressed far into setting it. The oversight is still more easily forgiven when one recognizes that for the next three hundred years no other readers seem to have detected it either.


This inference is further supported by the printer's behavior in allocating space and woodblock ornament to the chapter-initials (for a complete list, see Appendix C). Especially in the first two-thirds of the work, he set aside space for large initials, even where he apparently lacked at the outset of the job a sufficiently full array of decorative woodblock letters for the purpose. At three places in Book II— at II.iii (for the initial R), v (W) and x (M)—the printer allocates a block of space 3 lines high and equally wide for a feature initial that never materialized; the letter wanted is indicated by a capital from the text font used as a guide-letter, holding a place for the expected ornamental block in the center of the feature block (in much the same way that guide-letters are lightly inscribed in the space set aside for the later ministrations of the painter or limner in manuscript books). In five other places the printer marks a chapter division by a line-indent of a space one or two letters in width—and also in all but one instance by a preceding space vertically equivalent to one line of type—but the chapter-initial used is merely a capital of the text-font: at I.iv (A), x (F), III.ii (N), iii (T) and iv (H, preceded by no separating vertical spacing). The increased frequency of errors in chapter-divisions in the latter part of the work offers some evidence—to be discussed systematically below—that the ornamental program of the manuscript may have changed a little more than halfway through the work, in such a way that the decorative marking of chapter-initials had become less visually distinctive, even while remaining systematic: once in Book II (where he supplied two erroneous divisions instead of the one correct one) and once in Book III (an instance unnoticed by Skeat and all readers since, as we shall see), within the portion of displaced text, the printer erred in identifying the chapter initial. Yet the fact that the chapter-divisions were with one exception correctly indicated all the way through the displaced portion of text in Book III also suggests that this feature of the manuscript's ordinatio was maintained in some visually distinctive fashion all the way through the text. Where the printer seems to have become confused, I shall suggest, is at points of transition between one decorative code and another in the general program for marking the chapter-initials.


On the diacritical use of acrostics, anagrams, and other signatory or self-referential devices in late-medieval vernacular texts, see my essay "William Langland's 'Kynde Name': Authorial Signature and Social Identity in Late Fourteenth-Century England," in Literary Practice and Social Change in Britain, 1380-1530, ed. Lee Patterson (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1990), pp. 15-82.


Thynne's (or his printer's) manner of resolving his failure to detect the correct capital to represent the chapter head of II.xi, "Every soule of reson hath two thinges of ster. . ."—which in the printed text begins a new sentence without a capital and appears in Thynne without intervening spatial division as line 41 in col. 1 of a verso page—is revealing of what he took to be the relevant signals in his source. It is revealing, too, that he was aware of it at the point of marking off copy, and not at the typesetting stage: having noted that he had missed a signal of chapter-division at a point where he evidently expected one, he took steps to make up the deficiency, using cues he apparently considered normal in the manuscript, and he reproduced these cues with his rectification. He chose as chapter-dividing capitals the letter C that heads f. 348v, col. 1 ("Certayn (qd I) amonge thynges . . .") and the letter T that heads f. 349r, col. 2 ("Trewly lady to you it were a gret . . .")—one letter preceding (by 40 lines) and one following (by 104 lines) the correct chapter initial—thus redividing the two chapters x and xi, as presented in Skeat, into three, and obscuring the acrostic at this point (MCTRCI instead of MERCI). As will be seen in the quiring diagram (Appendix B), in my conjectural reconstruction of the manuscript the letters C and T would also have fallen in page-initial position in Thynne's source (at the head of 1r and 4r of their quire of 8, instead of at the beginning of f. 2v of the quire, where the correct chapter-division would have occurred).


Though it may not be useful to compare presentations of prose and verse texts—and in any case more widely experienced codicologists than I will be able to furnish more apposite comparisons for the book format I conjecture here—I note that this ruling resembles that of the Holloway fragment of Piers Plowman C, and less exactly that of other early C manuscripts; see Ralph Hanna III, "Studies in the Manuscripts of Piers Plowman," Yearbook of Langland Studies 7 (1993), 1-25, esp. 2-5. M. C. Seymour, "The English Manuscripts of Mandeville's Travels," Edinburgh Bibliographical Society Transactions 4, part 55 (1966), 167- 210, describes several manuscript books of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries made in the page-format I conjecture here: between 22 and 28 lines. The page-sizes of these vary from a small 130 x 90 mm, with a ruled text-block of 90 x 55 mm (a 24-line page), to 255 x 180 mm, with a text-block of 180 x 120 mm (a 28-line page); most fall in the range of 210-220 mm high x 140-145 mm wide, with a median text-block size of 145 x 95 mm. These comparisons, while limited in range, at least indicate that the size and arrangement I hypothesize here is not an unusual one for vernacular manuscript books, and was a common one in use for copies of Mandeville's prose work.


It has been conjectured that Thynne's source may have been an autograph; see, for example, Paul Strohm, "Politics and Poetics," p. 105. Compositions showing the author's or compiler's careful spatial planning of text layout are not unknown in the fourteenth century; see, for example Lucy Freeman Sandler, "Omne bonum: Compilatio and Ordinatio in an English Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Fourteenth Century," in Medieval Book Production: Assessing the Evidence, ed. L. L. Brownrigg (Los Altos Hills, Calif.: Anderson-Lovelace, 1990), pp. 183-200; see also discussion below of the implications of the design program of the manuscript.


The amplitude of the hand quire by quire may be calculated by using the figures in Appendices A and B together. This slight but regular change in ratio between the necessarily constant amplitude of the printed text and the average number of manuscript lines and pages that I conjecture it represents might be explained in several ways, some of which must await both a general account of the quiring and my reconstruction of the displacement of text in Book III. One possibility would be a change of scribal hand at Book III or in the latter chapters of Book II, to a second scribe who could fit slightly more text into the same previously ruled page, an explanation which for the moment presupposes what I shall shortly show: these inferable regularities imply forethought in the design of the entire book as a single program and product. For further discussion, see Appendix B, Note on Book III.


This estimate of page size is based not only on the range of page-dimensions for English vernacular prose in books of similar line-ruling, as described by Samuels (above), but also on my own conjectures, based on statistical norms derived from the characteristics and amplitudes of the five professional scribal hands of the early fifteenth century discussed, and shown in actual-size photographic reproduction in the illustrative plates, in A. I. Doyle and M. B. Parkes, "The Production of Copies of The Canterbury Tales and the Confessio Amantis in the Early Fifteenth Century," in Medieval Scribes, Manuscripts, and Libraries: Essays Presented to N. R. Ker, ed. M. B. Parkes and Andrew G. Watson (London: Scolar, 1978), pp. 163-210. Different as these five hands are in individual characteristics, their amplitude—as described by the number of letters on average per horizontal centimeter, combined with the average number of lines of text per vertical centimeter—is remarkably similar. Across all of the illustrative plates, these hands range from about 1.6 to 1.8 lines of text per vertical centimeter, and 4.5-4.85 characters, including spaces, on average per horizontal centimeter, thus suggesting a range of amplitude in the professional text-hands used in vernacular books at the close of the fourteenth century—a range within which, I propose, one might conjecturally approximate a text-block size that would contain some 24-26 of Thynne's lines (which on average contain about 44 characters per line, or about 1056 characters, including spacing and diacritics, per 24 lines). If a conjectured normal page of the manuscript contained 24 to 26.28 lines of Thynne's text, and the scribal hand of Thynne's source were of a size and character similar to those described by Doyle and Parkes, then to contain the same number of characters as this text-module in Thynne, a text-block ruled to contain 24- 27 lines of text would have to be about 100 cm wide (cf. 75 in Thynne), and 135-150 mm high. These dimensions fall in about the middle of the range of those page-formats of 22-28 lines in the Mandeville manuscripts described by Samuels, the dimensions of which in turn suggest for the Usk manuscript a normal layout protocol in which a page-width is about equal to the vertical dimension of the text-block, with a page- height at least one-third larger than the width: i.e. about 210 x 150 mm.


See Appendix B for a general quiring description, and contents by chapter. I propose below a shift in decorative program in the latter half of the work that might further affect both the slightly increased volume of text per page in this part of the text, and also help to account for the printer's errors and other irregularities in indicating chapter divisions correctly, which are also confined to the latter half of the work.


Here Thynne seems to have taken his cues about the bibliographical codes appropriate to the presentation of the Testament from the mise-en-page of his manuscript: the two largest woodblock decorated initials used anywhere in his huge folio volume are assigned to the acrostic capitals of Usk's Prologue (M) and Book II.i (V): ornate capitals seven lines high. For the head-letter of Book I, the acrostic initial to chapter i (A), which begins the next recto page following the Prologue, he uses an initial five lines high—the same size decorative capital he uses to begin Romaunt of the Rose, to head the books of Boece, and as the first letter of the Astrolabe. For the head-letter of Book III, the acrostic initial to chapter i (O), he uses a decorated capital four lines high—the same one, in fact, he had used to begin the Parson's Tale. (For a summary listing of Thynne's treatment of chapter-initials, see Appendix C.) In Books II and III, Usk's first chapter also serves the function of a prologue, not only to its Book, but as an additional general statement of purpose, method, and design of the whole work, amplifying the initial Prologue. In making sure that each of these begins at the head of col. 2 of a recto page, Thynne may have registered this further general prefatory and metapoetic function of these initial chapters, as well as the division of Books—for he did not thus apportion text, for instance, at the book divisions of Boece, which occur in mid- column. In other words, Thynne's care in securing these printerly elegances in disposing major divisions of text may approximate, with the means afforded by his own general mise-en-page for prose works in the volume, those of the manuscript before him, and his sense of the principles of its ordinatio.


For a complete listing of the placement of chapter-initials within the quire in my reconstruction, see Appendix B. In Books I and II, the acrostic chapter-initials fall on a recto page in 15 instances and on a verso page 9 times, while in Book III all chapters but the first begin on a verso page. In the normal quiring I have described, only five (with a sixth possible) of the 34 chapter-initials would fall on the hair-side of a leaf. These apparent exceptions allow further inference about the book's design program; discussion of their implications follows my account of the displaced text in Book III.


The bibliographical implications of these hair-side capitals will be considered more closely below. For the moment, let it suffice to note that the hair-side chapter-capitals, as conjectured from the normal quiring pattern I propose here, would with normal folding and assembly of the quire occur in the two places in the work where large-scale printer error in the segmentation of text also occurs; see Appendix B. In Book III, the first of two chapter-capitals that falls on a hair-side of a leaf is iv (H); it is at the conclusion of that quire, at 76.5 of Thynne's lines into chapter iv, that the first disruption of text occurs—with an erroneously chosen next quire, as we shall shortly see. In Book II, all hair-side chapter-initials would have occurred within the last two full quires of 8, according to the most probable quiring pattern for this Book, between chapters x-xiii; it is for that reason that in Appendix B I suggest a local alteration in the quiring pattern—still regular, but subdividing eights into fours—that would have prevented these occurrences, if the maker of the manuscript book had wished to do so. It was within the first of these two quires that, as Skeat discovered, Thynne failed to identify the chapter break between x and xi, choosing the wrong capitals to denote chapter division, thus reapportioning x and xi as Skeat (correctly) divides them, into three, and obscuring the acrostic at this point (MCTRCI instead of MERCI). The three chapters thus erroneously created were 176, 144.5, and 72 lines long, instead of the 216 and 175 lines of the correct two-chapter division of these 391 lines of text; it should be noted at this point that both divisions of this body of text—Thynne's as well as the correct one—share a factor of 24, plus or minus less than one of Thynne's lines, for each unit. At least as significant as their length, however, for understanding the error of Thynne (or that of his printer Thomas Godfrey) in the chapter division of Book II is the position within its quire of the one chapter signal the printer missed: that of chapter xi (E), which would have occurred either on f. 2v or f. 6v of its quire (see Appendix B.) Thus far in the manuscript this is an unusual position for a chapter division. By this point in the work Thynne had good reason to expect divisions to occur on ff. 1 or 5, on a recto page, or failing all these, a flesh side of the leaf. Thynne's solution to the problem—to choose instead chapter-division initials, C and T, that headed recto pages of the first and fourth (or in an alternative quiring the fifth and eighth) leaves of their quire—shows his understanding of the norms of his source so far.


The following is keyed to Thynne's text (Th), and followed by the location of the segment in the Skeat edition (Sk):

DS 1 (420.5 Th-lines): Th f. 354r, col. 2, l. 11: "fole have I not sayd . . ." (Sk III.vii.94f, p. 135), through Th f. 356v, col. 1, ll. 4-5 "syth god is Þe greatest love and the" (Sk III.ix.46, p. 143).

DS 2 (88 Th-lines): Th f. 356v, col. 1, l. 5 "ne ought to loke thynges . . ." (Sk, p. 131), through Th f. 356v, col 2, l. 44: "blysse in thynkyng of that knotte." (Sk, p. 132) [ends chapter in Th and Sk].

DS 3 (194.5 Th-lines): Th f. 356v, col. 2, l. 46 "Nowe trewly lady I have my grounde . . ." (Sk III.v.8, p. 124) [begins chapter in Th and in my reconstruction, where it heads my chapter 6], through Th f. 357v, col. 2, l. 48 "the wexyng tre of whiche ye first meved." (Sk III.v.157-158, p. 128) [ends chapter and leaf in Th, chapter v in Sk, chapter 6 in my reconstruction].

DS 4 (120.5 Th-lines): Th f. 358r, col. 1, l. 1 "Very trouth (qd she) hast thou nowe . . ." (Sk III.vii.1, p. 132), through Th f. 357v, col. 1, l. 25 ". . . shal bringe out frute that is" (Sk III.vii.94, p. 135).

DS 5 (286 Th-lines): Th f. 357v, col. 1, ll. 25-26 "nothyng preterit ne passed . . ." (Sk. III.iv. 56, p. 118), through Th f. 360r, col. 1, l. 24 ". . . ioy euer to onbyde." (Sk III.v.7, p. 124).

DS 6 (128 Th-lines): Th f. 360r, col. 1, ll. 24-25 "Nowe lady (qd I) that tree to set fayne wolde I lerne." (Sk, p. 128), through Th f. 360v, col. 2, l. 9 ". . . & yet al=way use ye" (Sk, pp. 130-131).


While the difference between these three quires in the total number of Thynne's lines each contains is marked, even the greatest disparity, that between s and t, represents a difference per page of less than 1.1 line (an average of 26.28 of Thynne's lines per page in quire t, as against 25.375 Th-lines per page in the preceding quire). Moreover, since quire t had on average the highest density of Th-lines per page in the manuscript, exceeding the next highest, quire r (25.88) by 0.4 Th-lines, it may represent the scribe's effort—in the event unsuccessful—to make the final full quire contain all, or nearly all, of the remaining text. In fact 80.6 Th-lines of text were left over, which in the manuscript required three of four sides of a final bifolium; similarly, Thynne's text overflowed the end of a quire by one full two-column leaf plus one full column. As will be seen below, Thynne could have contained all but this last column of the Testament in the six full quires he allotted to it, had he eschewed the unusual full-leaf framed title page he chose to use to begin the work—but this choice evidently was meaningful to him; see below for the implications of Thynne's efficiency in marking off his copy, and implications of his choices of layout format for understanding the ordinatio of the lost manuscript.


I use //* to mark the point of juncture between the last lines of continuous text of III.iv at the end of the quire and the beginning of the wrongly chosen quire t (i.e. DS 1). The single slash / represents the mark Thynne uses in setting Usk's prose in type. Since he seems to use it somewhat more liberally in printing the Testament than he does in any of Chaucer's prose texts—Melibee, the Parson's Tale, or the Boethius translation—it may have been a feature of his source manuscript; its occurrence in these texts warrants more systematic study. It appears to represent the punctus elevatus, identifying clausal boundaries according to rhetorical and performative rather than grammatico-logical principles. As a diacritic originally used in monastic and liturgical texts, and adopted into more general use in the later middle ages, it may register both Usk's sense of Love's discourse as "song," and his representation of his vocation and composition as secular counterparts to performed devotional service. On the origins and use of the punctus elevatus, see M. B. Parkes, Pause and Effect: Punctuation in the West (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1993), pp. 69-73, 153, 306.


The word "preterit" was of course chiefly a term from grammatical discourse (as in this context was its companion term, which may possibly have been spelled "past(e)" in the manuscript and expanded by the printer as "passed") and would have been relatively unfamiliar to a non-clerical textworker in the sixteenth century. The strangeness of the term, in a discourse that is properly about time considered metaphysically or theoretically, not as the medium of historical events, would have added to the potential for error in the printing shop at this juncture; this offers another of many occasions on which local discursive estrangement produced large-scale mechanical consequences.


Thynne's text throughout this section makes it certain that some abbreviations of this sort appeared in his source—and that he did not always expand them correctly; see for example the two different renderings of "instrument" in the following passage, both of them representing a tilde-n abbreviation, elided either by the printer in expansion, or by the manuscript's scribe in transcribing the text before him. Because this passage also illustrates succinctly how discursive estrangement generates desperate mechanical correction, both by Thynne and by Skeat, I cite it fully here; it occurs at the other major point of disjuncture in Book III, between DS 6 and 2 (i.e. between my quires r and s). The disjunct lines as they appear in Thynne, here reconnected (with *//* representing the suture, and italics indicating my expansion of the abbreviation Thynne uses and presumably found in his copy text and retained), read:

This istrument [sic] may
ben had/ although affect & usage be left out of
doyng/ right as ye have sight & reson, and yet al=
way use ye *//* ne ought to loke thynges with resonnyng
to prove/ and so is instrumet [sic] of wyl/ wyl: and
yet varyeth he from effect & vsing bothe.

(f. 360v, col. 2, ll. 6-9 *//* f. 356v, col. 1, ll. 5-7)

This is the sort of thing that has fostered Usk's reputation for tortuous and turgid prose, with only partial and uncontextualized justice. Skeat emends "ne ought" to "[nat]" (correctly, in my judgment) but introduces a comma after "loke," followed by an unnecessary "[ne]" before "thynges," which together vitiate the ME sense of "loke" operative here (i.e "undertake," "set about" [to do something]), and hence of the whole clause, by making the only semantically possible sense of "look" in the emended construction "behold, gaze"—which is surely incorrect in this explanatory context. The sense of the passage, all of it translated from Anselm's De Concordia III.11, is: "The instrument may be possessed, even when its 'affect' (here affection or inclination) and usage are not operative: just as you have [the faculties of] sight and reason, yet you do not always put these to use by undertaking to prove things by the use of reason; so likewise the instrument-of-willing is will, yet it differs both from the effect (i.e. inclination or 'affection') and the use of the will." My own understanding of the Anselmian texts has been greatly assisted by the English translation in Anselm of Canterbury, vol. 2: Philosophical Fragments, ed. and transl. Jasper Hopkins and Herbert Richardson (Toronto: Edwin Mellen Press, 1976).


While editorial emendation, to say nothing of a systematic rationale for it that would be required for editing, is entirely beyond the scope of the present essay, occasional "hit-and-run" identification of erroneous transcription, whether by Skeat of Thynne, or (conjecturally) of errors by the printer in reading his copy, offers useful glimpses of features of the absent manuscript. In line 244, "his" should almost certainly be emended to "hir" to give correct sense: "therof take hir [i.e. their] being"; the referent is "things" which take their being from God. Here, it would appear, scribal r has apparently been misidentified by the printer as long-s. I would eliminate Skeat's addition of [god] as an emendation in this passage; the only correction necessary here is in word-division, thus "sithen that al thing thus be forn-wot" (Th: "sythen that al thyng thus be forne wot"; word-division in Thynne here and frequently is somewhat ambiguous)—i.e. since all things thus are foreknown. Though this further correction has no direct bearing on the present argument, it illustrates Skeat's presumption that the discussion of foreknowledge and free will is in Usk's hands more theologically centered than in fact it is; Skeat was, however, unaware of Usk's source, which here he follows very closely.


Similarly, at the transition discussed above at the end of Usk's chapter 5, after Love has expounded the "grounde" and proceeds to gratify "Usk's" second request, expressed at the beginning of chapter 6, to learn more of the "tree," she once again commands him to "take good hede to the wordes." Her injunction signals Usk's return to his Latin source, to resume direct translation from De Concordia—there from Book III, chapter 6. As has been noticed, Usk's "wexing tree" is rooted in an analogy expounded in that chapter, which Usk elaborates; see Lucy Lewis, "Langland's Tree of Charity and Usk's 'Wexing Tree'" (cited above). Lewis is chiefly concerned to disprove the widely repeated view that Usk is indebted to Langland for this elaborate tree metaphor; she does not consider—nor will I here, though I believe the question may be worth opening—the possibility of mutual influence between the two writers in developing a complex analogical figure that does considerable conceptual work for both, though with different emphases and results for each. More apposite to the present inquiry is Usk's elaborate yet evasive marking of his textual debts, through the disposition of his fictive dialogue—an internal indication of the ordinatio, and informing "literary theory" of his work. Another example, heralding Usk's use of a different source (thus far unidentified, but almost certainly Latin verse), occurs at the head of II.ii:

In this mene whyle this comfortable lady gan singe a wonder mater of endytinge in Latin; but trewely, the noble colours in rethorik wyse knitte were so craftely, that my conning wol not strecche to remembre; but the sentence, I trowe, somdel have I in mynde. Certes, they were wonder swete of sowne, and they were touched al in lamentacion wyse, and by no werbles of myrthe. Lo! thus gan she singe in Latin, as I may constrewe it in our Englisshe tonge.

(II.ii.1-8; Skeat p. 49)

This unusual explicitness in marking (some, not all) of his literary indebtedness differs from the procedures of both Langland and Chaucer, and warrants attention in its own right as an aspect of Usk's "literary theory."


Usk's one noteworthy departure from his source in this long stretch of continuous translation illustrates the extreme care and wit with which he adapted his Latin sources throughout, and bears comparison with his handling of examples in Boethius in the first two books. As Skeat notes, at several points Usk replaces a political or moral anecdote drawn by Boethius from Roman history with one of comparable antiquity and exemplarity from British history: Hengist, King John, "Henry Curtmantil." In bending Anselm to his purpose, however, Usk pointedly avoids rather than invites national or contemporary application with his choice of illustrative instance. At the beginning of De Concordia I.3, Anselm offers two cases to explicate the distinction between absolute and conditional necessity in statements of futurity. For the former, Anselm uses (as does Boethius) the traditional example of the sunrise: if I say that the sunrise will occur tomorrow, it does so by necessity. Anselm's example of contingent necessity, however, may have seemed an all-too-modern instance, best avoided in the years following not only 1381, but, still closer to home, Usk's role in London unrest over rival factions and mayors: ". . . if I say, 'Tomorrow there will be an insurrection among the people' it is not the case that the insurrection will occur by necessity." Perhaps not, but it seemed to Usk prudent to replace this Anselmian example of future contingency: "For if I say, 'tomorowe love is comming in this Margarites herte,' nat therfore thorow necessite shal the ilke love be . . ." (III.iii.166-168; Skeat p. 115). Usk makes sure that no unpleasant aura of recent history clings to his high-minded philosophical account of ideal affinity; his "British" past is adorned by the decent patina of age.


Much discussion of this "florid compliment" (Bradley, Athenaeum, 184 [see n. 3 above]) has emphasized its supposedly clumsy placement in the work: it is "introduced in an awkward manner which suggests that it was written for a special purpose" (Bradley, DNB, 20.61). Since it has heretofore seemed so patently "dragged in," at the end of a chapter and apparently without contextual prompt, its purely ingratiatory motives have been considered all too plain, and entirely to Usk's discredit. It has further been inferred from this placement as a purported afterthought that the response of any right-thinking contemporary of Usk to such sycophantic praise is a foregone conclusion: "We may be pretty sure that Usk's praise occasioned Chaucer much more embarrassment than pleasure." This reading of Usk's motives, and of his contemporaries' likely reading of them, in turn shapes the interpretation of Gower's compliment to Chaucer in much the same terms as Usk's. When at the end of Confessio Amantis (*2941-57) Gower's Venus bids Amans farewell and sends her greetings back to Chaucer ("as mi disciple and mi poete"), with the exhortation that the latter should forthwith "make his testament of love" we are asked to regard this allusion as to Usk's discredit, through which Gower "playfully" "quizz[ed] the poet about his disreputable admirer" (Bradley, Athenaeum). This entire chain of inferences admits of radically different possibilities—for example, that Gower, in all his works a self-proclaimed devotee of love as a bond of virtuous civil affinity, genuinely admired the Testament, and that the removal of this passage in the later redactions of the Confessio marked, not a changed relation of Gower to Chaucer, but a shared averting of the eyes in sorrow at the brutal end of a fellow man of letters (the tiny joke in "So that mi Court it mai recorde" [*2957] acknowledges, without rancor and with some affection, Usk's self-presentation in the Testament as scrivener of Love). And more: that Gower not only admired the Testament but understood it, as a serious engagement with their common and precarious condition as men of letters—with, that is, the ethical quandaries concerning how the will's real commitments can be understood, where literary ambition, personal integrity, an ideal of service, and social-political dependence intersect—and that he commended it as such to a fellow-poet who appeared of late at a standstill in his own art, having lately begun, and not yet finished, yet another May-morning love-vision in a too familiar mode. And yet more: that Usk's compliment to Chaucer is purposeful in terms of the Testament's own literary project, and Usk's self-created role in this work as in the first instance a literary rather than political aspirant, and no more (and no less) a plea for notice and intercession than Chaucer's tonally complex "Envoy to Scogan," which has not caused similar embarrassment about or on behalf of Chaucer in modern critical accounts.


It may have had the further advantage of keeping the exposition distinct from Christian theology as such—that is, solidly in the decorously and safely "classicizing" discursive realm so carefully maintained by the rest of Usk's small changes in his Boethian model, and firmly within the realm of civil rather than divine philosophy. It is beyond the scope of the present essay to devote to this Chaucer compliment the analytic attention it deserves; one point, however, has some bearing on this argument, for it concerns the textual genre with which Usk allies Troilus, and with which he wishes the Testament to be associated—and also the literary register with which Thynne evidently associated Usk's text: that of idealized "love"-discourse. Usk's tribute honors Chaucer's "witte and good reson of sentence," his "noble sayinges" and "gentil manliche speche, without any maner of nycete of storiers imaginacion"—that is, his seriousness as a moral philosopher and his diplomatic eloquence, not narrative invention, and not "sentement." These, in Usk's view, are the distinctive excellences of the "tretis" of Troilus; the "love" Troilus serves, and which he invokes in the speech to which Usk refers explicitly in this tribute, is a Boethian strength and refinement of commitment identified by Usk as a civil, not a private, virtue and "affection." Usk here plainly identifies the Love expounded in the Testament as the same literary commodity that engages the sustained philosophical interest of both Gower and Chaucer in the very years in which Usk was writing: not as an occasion for witty Petrarchan oxymoron ("the usual ridiculous contradictions"—Skeat, p. 481), but a code in which to converse about the theory and practice of political and social ethics, in shared writerly circumstances that combine verbal articulateness and sociopolitical dependence. It tells us much about how Usk reads Troilus, and how we should read him. For excellent and apposite accounts of "love" within coded political and literary discourse generally in the Ricardian era, see Patricia J. Eberle, "The Politics of Courtly Style at the Court of Richard II," in The Spirit of the Court, ed. Glyn S. Burgess and Robert A. Taylor (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1985), pp. 168-178, and Lee Patterson, "Court Politics and the Invention of Literature," in Culture and History, 1350-1600, ed David Aers (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992), pp. 7-41; for an account of Usk's relation to Chaucer in this vein, see David R. Carlson, "Chaucer's Boethius and Thomas Usk's Testament of Love: Politics and Love in the Chaucerian Tradition," in The Center and Its Compass: Studies in Medieval Literature in Honor of Professor John Leyerle, ed. Robert A. Taylor, James F. Burke, Patricia J. Eberle, Ian Lancashire, and Brian S. Merrilees, Studies in Medieval Culture 33 (Kalamazoo: Western Michigan Univ., 1993), pp. 29-70. The continued transmutation of this broadly coded discourse of courtship, dependency, and the quest for patronage under the guise of the amatory has also been widely discussed by scholars of sixteenth- century literature; it may have some bearing on how Thynne regarded Usk's text in assimilating it as Chauceriana; see, for example, Arthur F. Marotti, "Love Is Not Love: Elizabethan Sonnet Sequences and the Social Order," ELH 49 (1982), 396-428.


Even with this redivision III.iv is still the longest chapter in the work (though not so long as Skeat's division makes it): longer by nearly 50 lines than any other chapter in Book III, and exceeding by over 30 lines the next-longest ( This lack of visual segmentation in the manuscript for very long stretches, together with the lowering of the ornamental level of the acrostic initials in the third book (proposed below) may have further increased the likelihood of misdivision of chapters.


Kathryn Kerby-Fulton reads this remark as a way of telegraphing to a coterie audience the kind of insider's appeal, reception, and appreciation Usk sought for his work; from this and many other such elusive cross-references and intersections of the occupations and avocations of men of letters, she demonstrates the existence of a capacious and lively culture of reading and writing, and mutual commentary, in late fourteenth-century London. See Kathryn Kerby-Fulton and Steven Justice, "Langlandian Reading Circles and the Civil Service in London and Dublin, 1380-1427," New Medieval Literatures 1 (1997), 59-83; for the resemblances among several forms of literary self-exegesis and poetic "autobiography" in this period, see also her essay "Langland and the Bibliographic Ego," in Written Work: Langland, Labor, and Authorship, ed. Steven Justice and Kathryn Kerby-Fulton (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), pp. 67-143.


It seems significant that Godfrey began to misidentify chapter-divisions just past this point in the work, a mistake possibly compounded by the fact that the later chapters of Book II are of more irregular lengths than the norm to that point: they either occupy an odd number of pages, causing more frequent verso chapter-divisions, or they are shorter than the norm heretofore, or both. In any event, by Book III, the printer seems to have reoriented himself to the revised program for indicating chapter-initials: despite the fact that all acrostic initials but the first in Book III occur on the verso of a leaf, the printer misidentified only one of them in that Book (and Skeat followed the error). It should also be noted here that the only two almost certain exceptions to the general "rule" that chapter-initials fall in the upper left corner of the page occur in quires s and t. In both, the first chapter-initial of the quire falls after more than three full sides of text, but less than four full pages: the sixth chapter of Book III begins 88 Th-lines into the quire; the eighth, 91 Th-lines into its quire, implying that both the N of THIN and the S of VSK may have occurred halfway down a verso flesh side (f. 2v of the quire in both cases). This irregularity (in both cases made up with the following chapter-initial, which would have occurred in normal page-initial position) lends itself to various interpretations; see Appendix B.


Except for the first letter of Book III, the initial at the head of II.x (shortly after which the printer first misses the correct chapter- division)—the M of MERCI—is the last in the work to be allotted by the printer more than a 2-line high bold initial: there, as at two earlier points in Book II (chapters iii and v, the R and W of VIRTW) he allocates a block of space for an ornamental letter three lines high, which never appeared. A further lowering of the level of ornament is marked in his disposition of initials in Book III: after the ornamental woodblock letter that heads this Book, the next three chapter-initials—i.e. all three chapter-heads that preceded the dislocation of quires—are merely textface capitals, indented a space or two from the margin and separated from the preceding chapter either by spacing or by hanging- indented text at the end of the preceding chapter. Within the disordered quires, chapters are indicated only by two-line-high inset bold initials, and in the last quire set by the printer (which should have followed at the point of initial disruption) the first chapter-division (that of the fifth chapter) is, as we have seen, misplaced—deferred by 40 lines, though to another point that provides an I as chapter-head. If his lack of a sufficient range of decorative large initials was the printer's sole reason for resorting to textface capitals or the plain two-line-high bold initials that predominate in the last half of the text, one would have expected a more random distribution of these replacements; it seems more reasonable to infer that the manuscript ordinatio guided his choices to some degree.


One might call its dimension and folding a "late-medieval octavo," though that terminology is used more commonly in the parlance of print bibliography. For the application of similar shorthand, the "late-medieval quarto," to the vernacular-book layout containing some 35-40 lines per page, and a page dimension of about 11 1/4" x 7 3/4", see Ralph Hanna, "The Manuscripts and Transmission of Chaucer's Troilus," originally published in The Idea of Medieval Literature: New Essays . . . in Honor of Donald R. Howard, ed. James M. Dean and Christian K. Zacher (Newark, Del.: Univ. of Delaware Press, 1992), pp. 173-188; I cite it from its slightly revised form in Hanna, Pursuing History: Middle English Manuscripts and Their Texts (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1996), pp. 115-129 (p. 117).


In an essay on Thomas Usk and Adam Usk—"Private Selves and the Intellectual Marketplace in Late Fourteenth-Century England: The Case of the Two Usks, New Literary History 28 (1997), 291-318—Andrew Galloway discusses Thomas Usk's use of Higden in the Testament in his own strategems of self-presentation. I am grateful to him for allowing me to see this essay in manuscript, and also for a personal communication (discussed in the following note) on the mise-en-page of acrostic letters in Usk manuscripts.


Andrew Galloway, personal communication. He refers here to Higden's autograph manuscript of the Polychronicon, Huntington Library MS 132, which "shows Higden's late alterations and additions including some to the acrostic." Galloway observes, however, that in this manuscript "when Higden alters his acrostic from its previous version, inserting his Christian name 'frater Ranulphus' after 'compilavit' and before 'Cestrensis,' the new acrostic initials do tend to fall at the tops of pages." On the other hand, he adds, this effect may be "just coincidence," and would require further study of whether there were changes in the chapter-divisions as Higden revised. My thanks to Andrew Galloway for sharing his research on Higden with me; inferences from it are of course solely mine.


There is some likelihood that this remark also adverts to Usk's sporadic use of rhythmic, but non-alliterating, prose in clausulae: working "three wordes togidre," or variants of this phrase, are common in the alliterative verse corpus for distinguishing this poetic practice from mere clausal rhythm as adornment, and specifying what makes it formal verse; see Ralph Hanna, "Alliterative Poetry," in The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed. David Wallace (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, forthcoming 1998). Usk's self-awareness about this form of "art-prose," and his apparent sense that it was a rough English equivalent to the metra of Boethius as an ornament and elevation of philosophic exposition, warrants much further study; here it should only be noted that it occurs chiefly in those portions of the Testament that most closely imitate the organization and style of the Consolatio, rather than in Usk's adaptation of Anselm in Book III.


See Hughes, pp. 103-107.


The phrase "near-professional" is that of Paul Strohm ("Textual Environment," p. 159), who discusses Usk's many-sided textual and performative competences in this connection; the account of Usk's repertory of devotions at the place of execution is that of the Monk of Westminster: The Westminster Chronicle 1381-1394, ed. and trans. L. C. Hector and Barbara F. Harvey (Oxford: Clarendon, 1982), pp. 314-315. For this and other observations on the "reading and singing" repertoire, I am greatly indebted to Katherine Zieman, whose Ph.D. dissertation ("Reading and Singing: Liturgy, Literacy, and Literature in Late Medieval England"; Univ. of California, Berkeley, 1997) discusses the relations of this repertoire to the framing of literary and other textworkers' arts and vocation in this period.


Most recently and cogently by Kathryn Kerby-Fulton and Steven Justice ("Langlandian Reading Circles," n. 38 above).


Usk retrospectively compares the modes of the three books of the work to the three ages of the world: Book I parallels the time of Deviation (from the Fall to the Redemption, analogous to his own fictively narrated political mishaps), Book II the time of Grace, which offers the "true way in fordoinge of the badde" (i.e. constant service to the "Margarete"), Book III a prophetic hope of "rest" in a time of "joye" (see III.i; Skeat pp. 101-102).


On the place of the Old Testament canticles, as well as the Magnificat, in the Psalter, see John A. Alford, "Rolle's English Psalter and Lectio Divina," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 77 (1995), 47-59.


Andrew Prescott reports to me (oral communication, May 8, 1997) that his reinspection of the Usk appeal in its situation among the records that led to the actions taken against Northampton and his followers suggests that this document is indeed, as it states, in Usk's "owne honde." I hope soon to inspect a photograph of this document, with a view to the possibility of ascertaining whether any of the more systematic mistakes in Thynne's construing of the lost manuscript could be attributable to any equally systematic habits in that hand. This exercise, however, would require a far more minute examination of the entire Thynne text—and in effect a trial act of re-editing it in its entirety—which I have not yet ventured, since at least one new edition of the text is shortly to be published.


Future study of the text of the Testament in this connection should probably attend to the size of the text-modules drawn from known sources, and the amplitudes of the "bridgework" between them: the opening segment of III.5, for example, which includes Usk's elaborate compliment to Chaucer and also forms a transition between two large segments of more direct and continuous translation, from Anselm's Book I to Book III, is exactly 48 Th-lines long, equivalent in this manuscript to both sides of one full leaf. In other words, it may be possible to infer from closer study of the material text how Usk built his work, much as it is a matter of substantial interest that Langland's C-version additions are almost all in modules of about 100 lines; see Ralph Hanna, "On the Versions of Piers Plowman," in Pursuing History, pp. 201-243, esp. 239.


See Sandler, "Omne bonum," cited in n. 20 above.


See my essay "Acts of Vagrancy: The C Version 'Autobiography' and the Statute of 1388," in Written Work: Langland, Labor, and Authorship, ed. Steven Justice and Kathryn Kerby-Fulton (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), pp. 208- 317.


On Thynne's search for further Chauceriana, and the intersections of his efforts with both his own royal service and the activities of other contemporary printers, see Blodgett, "William Thynne" (cited in n. 6 above), passim.


Besides his lavish use of large woodblock capitals, on a scale otherwise unequalled in this large volume, Thynne used other bibliographical codes to register the pretensions of his source manuscript. For example, he also allotted to the Testament a full- page woodblock-framed title (f. 324r, with the verso left blank; the text of the Testament begins on f. 325r). This same title-frame is used in only six other places in Thynne's edition: at the head of Troilus, Romaunt of the Rose, Boece, and as the title-page of the book itself; in each of these places it begins a new quire, as it does at the beginning of the Testament. The other two full-page titles using this same woodcut as frame occur in mid-quire, marking a significant spacing between shorter verse works (at f. 285r, the third leaf of quire 3D, with the verso blank, it frames the title Thynne gives to the "Complaint unto Pity": Howe pite is ded and beried in a gentyll hert), or to mark a division between a sequence of shorter verse works and a longer prose work (at f. 298v, the fourth leaf of quire 3F, it occupies the verso of the last page of the Assembly of Ladies, framing the title The conclusions of the Astrolabie, and allows the prose text to begin on the facing recto page). Since the Testament in Thynne fills six folio quires of 6 (3L-3Q, ff. 324r-359v), plus both sides of one more leaf and col. 1 of the next (3R: ff. 360r-361r, col.1), it must have been obvious in the marking-off of copy that without the full-leaf framed title the work would fit into exactly six quires with only one column left over—yet the printer accorded it the rare honor of its own title page. While other considerations may also have entered into the printer's disposition of his material, it seems likely from this combination of visual codes that the decorated capitals in his source—or the generous provision of space for them there—together with general signs of comprehensive and skillful planning of the manuscript's text space signalled to Thynne that this was a text with some pretensions as a work of bookmaking art, to be taken at its word—or letters. Blodgett notes that this frame was printed from a woodcut lent to Thomas Godfrey, Thynne's printer, by its owner Thomas Berthelet, the king's printer from 1530 to 1547, whose edition of Gower's Confessio Amantis was published in 1532, the same year as Thynne's massive Chaucer; see his chapter "William Thynne" (cited in n. 6 above), p. 51; for discussion of the relations between Thynne and Berthelet see also Fisher, John Gower, pp. 12-18, esp. his note 32 (see n. 4 above). If, as both suggest, there was at least a professional friendship between Thynne and Berthelet, then their combined efforts in assembling materials for their respective editions probably cast a rather wide net in gathering literary remains from the era of both Chaucer and Gower. If the lost manuscript of the Testament came to light during these efforts by either editor, its preservation in these associations would have led to its identification as a valued piece of Chauceriana, and its elegant presentation format as a book could only have encouraged Thynne's inference that it was esteemed in those circles.


The account of the work that I propose here owes much to the methods and approach of Michael Baxandall, in addressing the relations between historically specific professional and craft-skills and the similarly situated terms of aesthetic description, appreciation, and evaluation of the exercise of these skills, and their products. See, for example, his Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1972), and Giotto and the Orators (Oxford: Clarendon, 1971); on some of the implications of this approach in relation to those of both social and intellectual history and philology, see also Svetlana Alpers, "Is Art History?" Daedalus (Summer 1977), 1-13.