- Discovering, Identifying and Editing Early Modern Manuscripts ed. by Peter Beal
The eleven essays gathered by Peter Beal for this most recent volume of English Manuscript Studies are published together in memory and celebration of Harold Love (1937–2007), twenty years on from the first publication of his inspirational and influential monograph, Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century England (1993). It is hard not to imagine that Love would have been modestly and humorously delighted both by the range and the excellence of the essays, which bring new manuscript discoveries in poetry, prose and drama to light both from very well and very little known repositories. At the start of his essay, John Burrows reports something of Love’s intellectual generosity and curiosity—‘“So much the more interesting”, he said, when he told me that he knew nothing of the matter’ (p. 181); and this essay, one of two collaborative essays at the end of the volume that propose new, technologically-assisted ways of thinking about authorship in manuscript, and about the relationships between widely dispersed texts in manuscript, extend that interest for readers today. That one might see the structure of the current volume as a response in kind to the structure of Love’s edition of The Works of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1999), which married brilliantly attuned literary and archival scholarship with John Burrows’ appendix, ‘A Computational Approach to the Rochester Canon’, is a lovely testament to the elegance of the tribute paid by the volume’s editor and contributors.
Across the eleven essays, then, it is possible to see gentle groupings of interest and material. The first three essays—by Beal himself, reporting more manuscripts by the ‘Feathery Scribe’ whom he first described in In Praise of Scribes (1998); by Alan H. Nelson, on the authorship of the very widely circulated political tract, Leicester’s Commonwealth; and by Colin Tite, on the movements of documents from the Cotton library to the Harley collection—are perhaps the most miscellaneous. Each, of course, is testament to the continued expansion of the field and our knowledge of it, outwards and inwards: more manuscripts to be associated with the ‘Feathery Scribe’; a much wider field of evidence for Leicester’s Commonwealth, now known to survive in some 90 manuscript copies, as Nelson notes, thanks to Beal’s Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts (celm2.dighum.kcl.ac.uk); and a painstakingly detailed itemisation, over more than 20 close-printed pages, of papers in the British Library’s Harley manuscripts which were ‘previously owned or probably owned’ (a nice distinction) by Sir Robert Cotton or his son (p. 30). Better knowing what is there [End Page 202] is a hallmark of these essays, as is better knowing who is there in Nelson’s, which carefully wrecks the case for Charles Arundel as the author of anything but the ‘Addition’ to Leicester’s Commonwealth, instead (re-)proposing Robert Persons as the author of the main text.
The informal pair of essays by Grace Ioppolo and Robert D. Hume both report and explore manuscripts of previously ‘lost’—or, rather, previously unknown—plays. Ioppolo, in a useful and sometimes necessarily speculative discussion, argues that The Destruction of Hierusalem (now London Metropolitan Archives Acc/1360/529) is a scribal reading copy of a play written by an anonymous dramatist of ‘some skill’ who, ‘if he was not at least semi-professional … had some knowledge of professional plays’ (p. 60). The manuscript and the play, she argues, make best sense in association with Sir Christopher Clitherow (1557/8–1641), who ‘may have been presented with, or commissioned, the Hierusalem manuscript as a result of his interests in the East India Company’ (p. 65). Hume discusses a manuscript play in the University of Chicago Library, Feniza or The Ingeniouse Mayde (now MS 583). Feniza, as Hume writes, is impeccably connected: it represents a very early, ‘free and adventurous adaptation of a Spanish source, Lope de Vega’s La...