University of Virginia Library

Sir Degrevant in the Findern Anthology

Booklets Va and Vb contain the following texts:

Booklet Va (quire F, fols. 81 –88; quire G, fols. 89–99):

  • Gower, Confessio amantis, Book IV, ll. 2746–2926; fols. 81r–84r
  • Gower, Confessio amantis, Book VIII, ll. 271–846; fols. 84v–95r
    → fol. 95v blank
  • Sir Degrevant, ll. 1 –564; fols. 96r–99v
    → one leaf cancelled after fol. 99

Booklet Vb (quire H, fols. 100 -115):

  • Sir Degrevant, ll. 565–end; fols. 100r–109v
  • Chronicle of English kings and saints; fols. 110r–113r
  • Heraldic notes; fol. 113r–v
    → fols. 114—115 missing, likely cancelled

Booklet Vb, consisting only of Quire H, was, I will argue here, produced separately from the rest of the Findern Anthology and was likely acquired early in the process of building up the compilation. Hanna believes that quires F, G, and H form a single booklet, which he labels Booklet V: "F–G have in common stock 7 (F also includes a unique sheet of stock 6). H contains the separate


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unique stock 8, but given the shift of scribal stints at the boundary of quires F and G noted above, this variation simply reflects the paper available to a scribe who may not even have copied in physical proximity to other producers of the manuscript. But the common and unique stocks suggest a separate fascicle."24 There is good reason for Hanna's conclusion since the manuscript's copy of Sir Degrevant straddles the divide between quires G and H, usually a sure sign that two quires are part of a common codicological unit. Hanna here recognizes that F–G and H may not have been produced together, though he still denominates them a single booklet: the cancelled leaf at the end of G, he writes, "reflects, not a fascicle boundary, but the effort at regularizing the mid-text border between two scribal stints."25 In this case, however, quires F–G, containing the beginning of Sir Degrevant, and quire H, containing its conclusion, should be considered separate booklets—with respect to their production. That is, H was likely produced earlier and F–G later. Of course, since H was bound up with F–G, the three quires form a single booklet, as refers to their usage by the Finderns and their associates. In this case, establishing facts about the production of these quires is essential to dating the manuscript as a whole, for quire H contains the only securely internal evidence for its copying date. It would appear that this romance was originally copied as a single text spanning two quires but that the opening quire was subsequently lost and a later scribe added the beginning, possibly from a different exemplar, to what is now quire G. In short, to borrow the terminology developed by Erik Kwakkel, F–G and H represent distinct production units but the same usage unit, and thus I label F-G as booklet Va and H as booklet Vb.26

Without question, in its present state in the manuscript, there are two scribes responsible for Sir Degrevant, each contributing to independent quires. Scribe 21 copied the opening 564 lines of the poem, with the end of his/her stint corresponding with the end of quire G, and what I believe to be the end of Booklet Va, followed by a cancelled leaf. Scribe 22 copied the concluding lines of the poem.27 There are two cancelled leaves at the conclusion of Quire H, which also coincides with the end of a text—a sure sign that this marks the end of a booklet. But there is plenty of evidence that the two Degrevant sections were not produced together but were only subsequently joined, thus working against the idea that they were initially produced as a single booklet. To begin with, quire H is on a paper stock that appears nowhere else in the manuscript.28 The scribes in quire H are also not attested elsewhere in the manuscript, further evidence for the unique production circumstances of this particular quire.29 The second Degrevant-scribe is clearly a more experienced textual copyist than the first scribe: he/she writes


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in a relatively neat Anglicana media hand. It is noteworthy that he/she is the only scribe in the whole manuscript to employ an Anglicana script, which again points to separate production circumstances from the rest of the volume—separate also from the opening lines of Sir Degrevant. His/her hand is marked by a notable effort to include "feet" at the base of each minim, though it does grow progressively sloppier towards the end of the stint. Further compounding this sense of different circumstances of production for Sir Degrevant is the fact that the quire containing the second stint is one of the few in the manuscript that has evidence of pricking and ruling. The scribe here uses a regular number of lines/page, and he/she has added decorative strokes to the letters on the top line of many leaves, all features lacking in almost all the other texts in this manuscript.

The stint of the first Degrevant-scribe is remarkably less well executed, and looks more like the amateur efforts of the other scribes in the Findern Anthology. He/she writes in a very sloppy Secretary hand, correcting the text in a haphazard fashion and exhibiting great variation in the number of lines/column.30 He/she also frequently pushes too hard on the pen, resulting in ink bleed throughout the copying stint. Moreover, this scribe—unlike the second Degrevant-scribe—has not pricked or ruled his/her page, resulting in quite uneven margins. Both Degrevant scribes copied their texts in double-columns, a standard format for Middle English verse romances but one found nowhere else in this manuscript. However, since the second scribe ruled the page, his/her columns appear neat and tidy, as I noted. The first scribe, by contrast, did not rule the page, yet still wrote in double columns. Since, as I argue below, I believe the second scribe actually copied his/her section earlier than the first, it is a possibility that the first scribe (working later) was attempting to reproduce the mise-en-page of the second scribe, though without taking the time to rule the page, and thus the final product is much less pleasing. Moreover, it appears that, as both Hanna and John Thompson note, the scribe of the first Degrevant stint begins to cram more material onto the page as he/she gets closer to the completion of copying, indicating that he/she was trying to make the work fit into the end of a quire so that it would meet up with an already-completed section of text.31 The conclusion I draw from this fact is that the second scribal portion of Sir Degrevant was already completed and the first scribe was copying out the opening lines and thus had to make the ending of his/her section match up with the beginning of the second scribe's part. Moreover, the fact that a leaf was cancelled at the end of G further supports my suggestion that the first Degrevant-scribe was trying to make his/her portion of text match up with an already-completed section.

The textual evidence from quires F and G also contributes to the impression that these two quires were produced after quire H and were made to fit with what was already in that quire. In particular, the textual selection from Gower's Confessio that immediately precedes the opening of Sir Degrevant does not con-


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tain a coherent narrative, but rather stops abruptly, unlike other selections from Gower in this manuscript. Every other Gower text in the Findern Anthology exhibits some coherence, standing alone as a text with clear beginning, middle and end.32 But the selection in quires F and G ends quite abruptly, with no clear resolution to the tale. This particular selection, spanning fols. 84v–95r, covers lines 271–846 of Book VIII—"The Tale of Apollonius of Tyre"—commencing where the tale proper begins, omitting Genius's prolix disquisition on incest in Old Testament times and going straight into the story of Apollonius. The beginning of the selection, that is, was well chosen and makes narrative sense. The selection concludes, however, in a rather odd spot in the narrative, right where the Princess of Pentapolim has fallen in love with Apollonius: "Touchinge þis man of Tire / Hir hirt is hot as eny fire" (fol. 95r). There is no obvious reason to wrap up the selection here, for the love between these two characters has only just begun. All the other selections leave off at an obvious stopping point, leading to the conclusion that the scribes who copied "The Tale of Apollonius" did not adequately plan for how much space they would need. Once they neared the middle of quire G, these scribes likely stopped copying in anticipation of the space needed for the opening 564 lines of Sir Degrevant, which is copied into the final four folios of this quire. Or, quite possibly, the first Degrevant-scribe had already begun copying this romance into the end of quire G, and the scribes of Gower's text realized they needed to truncate their text. Whatever their motivation, these scribes then left fol. 95v—the folio between the end of "Apollonius" and the beginning of Sir Degrevant—blank, likely when they realized that there was no way to reach a suitable stopping point in the narrative, giving up and leaving off copying with no real conclusion to the text.33

The dialectal evidence likewise contributes to the impression of difference between these two scribal stints.34 Scribe 2 can be localized rather confidently


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to the area of southern Derbyshire, southeastern Staffordshire, northwestern Leicestershire, or north-central Warwickshire (i.e., an area within twenty miles or so of the Finderns and their associates). The following forms help us to localize him/her such:

  • They: thei (they) (Dot Map 30)35
  • Each: ylke (Dot Map 84)
  • Much: mychel (michel, muchel) (Dot Map 109)
  • Might: my3th (mote, mete) (Dot Map 330)
  • Did (sg/pl): dude (Dot Map 400)
  • Fire: fuyre (Dot Map 412)36

Scribe 1, by contrast, has seemingly concocted a thoroughgoing Mischsprache. He/she attests a wide diversity of linguistic forms from several mutually exclusive linguistic regions. The most prominent of these isoglosses include:

  • Her: hur. This form is attested throughout the West, Southwest, and Southeast (Dot Map 23).
  • Them: hom (hem, tham): Hom, his predominant form, is attested most strongly in the Northwest Midlands, not far from Derbyshire, and is only attested in scattered form elsewhere (Dot Map 48). His secondary forms present somewhat contradictory evidence: tham, for example, is a northern feature (Dot Map 41), whereas the – h forms of this pronoun, as used by this scribe in hem, are not found in the North (Dot Map 40).
  • Such: swych (suche, seche): Swych is attested everywhere but the Central Midlands and the Northwest; i.e., not in Derbyshire (Dot Map 74).
  • Each: ych (eche, ilk): Ych is a Midlands and East Anglian form (Dot Map 87); eche is found in East Anglia, the Southeast and Southwest, but rarely in the


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    area of Derbyshire (Dot Map 86); ilk is a Northeast and Northern form (Dot Map 84).
  • From: fram. This form is only attested in the South and does not extend as far north as Derbyshire (Dot Map 174).
  • If: yeff. This form is only attested in the South, and does not extend as far north as Derbyshire (Dot Map 209).
  • Hundred: hondred, houndred. This latter form, houndred, is only attested in the South (Dot Map 450).
  • –ly suffix: –ly (–lech, –lich): –lech is attested in the Midlands, Southeast and Southwest (Dot Map 604).

Given that this scribe employs a series of linguistic forms from dialects that are mutually exclusive of one another, and given that he/she uses such a wide variety of forms, it is impossible to determine this scribe's linguistic origin.37 He/she may well have come from the region of the Finderns and their associates, as I found with Scribe 2, but until one sorts out which forms are scribal and which are from his/her exemplar—something I have not been able to do—any further determination seems impossible.

Whether or not these two scribes were from the same place, it is clear that they produced very different texts. So how did the manuscript come to have a bifurcated copy of Sir Degrevant? The main clue to answering this question comes in the water damage found throughout Quire H, which contains the second Degrevant stint. There is heavy damage throughout the center of each leaf, damage seen nowhere else in this manuscript.38 This state suggests the possibility that a now-lost quire originally contained the opening of Sir Degrevant and that damage subsequently struck both this and quire H, destroying the now-lost quire and leaving H with stains. The current opening 564 lines of Sir Degrevant were then "retro-fitted" to the conclusion of the poem—made by a different scribe at a different point in time. Given that the second Degrevant-scribe copies about 35 lines/column, a quire of four would have perfectly accommodated the opening 564 lines. Such a scenario, in which what is now the second Degrevant section was actually copied before what is now the first section and originally contained the romance in its entirety, can account for why this second section is remarkably more polished in appearance.

It is important to note that the paper stock and scribes of quire H are unique to this quire, appearing nowhere else in the manuscript. This further supports the notion that this bit of Sir Degrevant was produced under circumstances separate from the rest of the manuscript. By contrast, the opening stint of Sir Degrevant is in a quire whose production can be tied to the rest of the Findern Anthology, as I outlined above. Although the scribes of Booklet Va (i.e., quires F–G) do not


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appear elsewhere, the appearance of selections from Gower's Confessio appearing here tie this quire to the other quires with Gower texts, as they were likely taken from the same exemplar.39


One the authorial dialect of the poem, see Rhiannon Purdie, Anglicizing Romance: Tail Rhyme and Genre in Medieval English Literature (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2008), 174–176.


"Anthologies and Miscellanies: Production and Choice of Texts," in Book Production and Publishing in Britain, 1375 –1475, ed. Jeremy Griffiths and Derek Pearsall (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989), 279–315. See also Julia Boffey, "Short Texts in Manuscript Anthologies: The Minor Poems of John Lydgate in Two Fifteenth-Century Collections," in The Whole Book: Cultural Perspectives on the Medieval Miscellany, ed. Stephen G. Nichols and Siegfried Wenzel (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1996), 69–82; and Joel Fredell, "'Go litel quaier': Lydgate's Pamphlet Poetry," Journal of the Early Book Society 9 (2006): 51 –73.


The phrase comes from Hanna, "The Production," 65.


Hanna, "The Production," 67.


Hanna, "The Production," 66.


Kwakkel, "Towards a Terminology," 12–19.


For side-by-side, full-color reproductions of the work of the two Degrevant-scribes, see Kerby-Fulton, Hilmo, and Olson, Opening up Middle English Manuscripts, Images 34a and 34b (p. 141).


As Harris, "The Origins and Make-up," 330, notes, this watermark is a very close match with Briquet 13055 (Draguignan, 1453).


These are Harris's Scribes 22–24.


See, for example, the corrections on fol. 96ra and the case of dittography at the top of fol. 96vb. This scribe uses as few as thirty lines/column (fol. g6ra) and as many as forty (fols. 99rb, 99va).


Hanna, "The Production," 64 n.5; and Thompson, "Collecting Middle English Romances," 36.


The first Gower selection comes from the "Tale of Tereus" (fols. 3r–5r; Book V, ll. 5921–6052). This selection fittingly concludes with Genius's précis of the tale's moral: "ffor yff þu be off soche couyne / To gete off loue by rauyne / Thy lust yt may þe ffall þus / As yt ffyll to tereus" (fol. 5r). The second selection comes from the "Tale of Rosiphilee" (fols. 5r–10v; Book IV, ll. 1114–1466). This is a self-contained narrative about how Rosiphelee was idle in her attitude to love and learned, by meeting a train of love's servants in the woods, to dedicate herself more firmly to love. The third Gower selection is from the well-known "Tale of Three Questions" (fols. 45r–51r; Book I, ll. 3067–3425). This selection, which ends shortly after the knight's daughter has convinced the king to marry her, concludes with Genius's instruction that Amans forget pride and pursue humility. The fourth selection from the Confessio is Amans's discussion of somnolence (fols. 81r–84r; Book IV, ll. 2746–2926). In Gower's text, Amans's speech precedes the "Tale of Ceix and Alcione," but here it is used as a prologue to the "Tale of Apollonius of Tyre." The ending of Amans's discourse nicely segues into the opening of "Apollonius," a sign that the compilers of the Findern Manuscript were careful about the textual pairings they created. Here, at the end of Amans's speech, Genius says, "To tel a tale ther upon / Whych fel be olde days gon" (fol. 84r). The "Tale of Apollonius" then begins overleaf with, "Of a cronique in day gon / The which is clepyd pantheon" (fol. 84v). This pairing creates concatenation, pleasingly joining two unrelated sections of Gower's text.


Cf. Hanna, "The Production," n.11, who says that this blank leaf "simply reflects the aesthetic preferences of the scribes—the desire to begin the next (substantial) work in a prominent position at the head of a recto."


Hanna, "The Production," 66, suggests that this romance "was plainly copied from a split exemplar," though he gives no justification for this. I presume Hanna is referring to the codicological evidence. As I argue here, the variation between the two scribes’ linguistic forms may also support such a suggestion; however, the first scribe’s forms are so mixed that it is difficult to reach any firm conclusions about his/her exemplar and dialect.


A. McIntosh et al., eds., A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English, 4 vols. (Aberdeen: Aberdeen Univ. Press, 1986). Dot Maps are found in Volume 1. Here, I follow the practice used in A Linguistic Atlas by listing the scribe's predominant form first, placing secondary forms, if any, in parentheses.


Consulting the Item Maps for southern Derbyshire, found in Volume 2 of A Linguistic Atlas, we find almost all of the scribe's forms commonly attested there. A few of the scribe's forms do not fit the usage attested for southern Derbyshire, but in each case the forms can be explained by usages attested in the immediate vicinity. For example, though the scribe writes she as sche or she, forms common throughout Derbyshire, on occasion he uses forms beginning with –h. Though only attested infrequently in Derbyshire, this form of the pronoun can be found more commonly in Staffordshire and Warwickshire, both adjacent counties. In total, the scribe's forms are quite similar to LP 140 (London, Lambeth Palace Library MS 223), located at Grid 435 336 (see A Linguistic Atlas 3:71 – 72), just a few miles from Findern. The Findern scribe's forms differ from LP 140 at they, each, many, man, fire, through, do (pt), such, enough, and give; however, the scribe's forms of the first five of these points of divergence from LP 140 are commonly attested in Leicestershire; while his forms of do (pt) are common throughout Warwickshire; and his preferred form of such (beginning with –sw) can be found just north, in the West Riding (See Item Map 10, Region 3). That is to say, we do not have to look outside the immediate vicinity to explain any of the scribe's preferred forms. In sum, then, it is a fair conclusion that this scribe hails from somewhere in the immediate vicinity of Findern.


I thus retract an earlier statement regarding this scribe's forms, as printed in Kerby-Fulton, Hilmo, and Olson, Opening up Middle English Manuscripts, 144 n.198. Olson kindly drew upon an earlier stage of the present work.


Note that this damage is only visible when viewing the manuscript in situ. The facsimile obscures it.