- The Maitland Quarto: A New Edition of Cambridge, Magdalene College, Pepys Library MS 1408 ed. by Joanna M. Martin
The recent years have seen a flowering of new scholarship pertaining to late medieval and early modern Scotland. Works such as Sebastiaan Verweij’s The Literary Culture of Early Modern Scotland (2016), also reviewed in this volume, and Emily Wingfield’s Trojan Legend in Medieval Scottish Literature (2014) take Scottish material as their focus and are monographs of exceptional critical importance in framing the concerns of contemporary critical discourse. Yet what has let scholars in this field down consistently is the unavoidable reliance on arguably outdated editions of crucial texts such as The Bannatyne Manuscript and The Maitland Quarto. While the Scottish Text Society supplies an extensive and unparalleled back catalogue of useful scholarly editions, recently digitised by the National Library of Scotland, it is clear that their more recent focus on works such as Alasdair A. Mac-Donald’s edition of The Gude and Godlie Ballatis are a timely addition to a field full of potential for exciting insight. Joanna Martin’s edition of The Maitland Quarto is no exception and is testament to the efforts of the Society to breathe new life into a discipline of critical national importance.
The Maitland Quarto more than lives up to the expectations of a new generation of scholars and addresses their needs in a direct and pragmatic way. While W. A. Craigie’s 1919 edition of the Quarto is explicitly a key source for Martin as it approaches its centenary, the new edition offers a more reader-friendly and accessible version of the rich miscellany. Martin’s end product is an impressive and thorough feat and provides a definitive version of a text that has been often overlooked. Martin’s Introduction offers a justification for the existence of this rejuvenated edition: ‘While Craigie’s edition allows the reader access to the layout of the manuscript, and gives an accurate transcription of its contents, a fully annotated edition of MQ’s texts is required for a literary and historical appreciation of the poems’ (p. 38). In truth the text and appendices are of such calibre that their necessity is self-evident, rendering this explanation almost redundant.
Looking to the Introduction, the strengths of Martin’s rigorous scholarship come to the fore: at first glance this is an extensive edition of what should perhaps be a slim collection, however the Introduction sets a high [End Page 149] standard of quality for the appendices and notes, a standard which the later sections do not fail to meet. Within the first pages of the text, Martin covers the key areas of Maitland scholarship in detail which is all at once pithy and yet sympathetic to a reader new to the field. The key areas of critical dialogue that have developed since Craigie’s era are outlined and the reader is left with a strong impression of the historical and thematic context of the manuscript, as well as Martin’s measured and thoughtful suggestions regarding the Maitland family and their court presence. Of particular note are the short sections on ‘The Anonymous Verse in MQ’ and ‘Women and the Culture of MQ’, both of which signpost areas ripe for further scholarly consideration, for which this edition will prove invaluable.
In the body of the manuscript, each poem is set out in a clear and concise way, and the collection is appealing to the reader in its simplicity. Notes and glossaries are largely kept as endnotes, and the resultant clean finish on the page allows each poem to stand out for fresh reading. On a practical level, ‘A Note on the Texts’ offers a clear and concise overview of the spelling conventions adopted by the editor, with punctuation and capitalisation generally adhering to modern conventions. This decision helps maintain the sense of readability within the text, something previously lacking from Craigie’s edition. Where many of the...