Date of Award

8-1981

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

English

Major Professor

John H. Fisher

Committee Members

Joseph B Falerand, Mary P. Richards, Paul Barrette

Abstract

Our knowledge of book production in the fourteenth century is sketchy. Historical evidence provides us with some general information about a few men involved in the dissemination of literature, but there still remains a gap in our knowledge about the business aspects of pre-Chaucerian book production. In an effort to provide some information to fill this gap, I have investigated one of the first volumes of miscellaneous material produced in the fourteenth century, the Auchinleck manuscript, to see what could be learned about the production methods behind this book and, by inference, what could be learned about the production of books in general in this century. Since the Auchinleck is a relatively plain manuscript and since it is written almost exclusively in English, this volume serves as an example of what the bourgeois readers were commissioning in the later Middle Ages.

Most of the scholarly work on the Auchinleck has focused on sources for the poems contained in the manuscript or the common authorship of some of the items. Only recently, in an Oxford dissertation by Pamela R. Robinson and in the introduction to the Facsimile by Derek Pearsall and I. C. Cunningham, have scholars begun to focus on the physical aspects of the manuscript. Most of the information which gives us insights into the production methods behind this book lies in these physical aspects. My study is devoted largely to a detailed physical description of the manuscript which supplements and corrects the earlier work and offers the evidence that the Auchinleck was produced by independent scribes working to fulfill a contract to produce this codex. This theory contrasts with both Laura Loomis's theory that the Auchinleck was written in a London bookshop in the 1330's and Robinson's theory that the Auchinleck was originally composed of 12 "booklets" copied on speculation.

An analysis of the hands of the scribes shows six scribes were engaged in the production of the volume. The format of the pages suggests that all six were aware of a general design for the manuscript, and the decoration demonstrates that the codex was designed as a unit. The stints of the six scribes show little evidence of close collaboration among them. Instead, the positions of the scribes' stints and the instances of shared gatherings point to piece-work composition.

Any conjecture about the plan for the Auchinleck must be based upon the work of the primary scribe, the only one who copied extensively throughout the manuscript. He appears to be in a much different category from a mere copyist. That he inserted all the catchwords in the codex suggests he was the person who put the manuscript into final form. That he inserted the numbers and wrote the titles for nearly all the pieces whose titles still exist argues that he was the only person to handle all the quires of the manuscript and was the last person to work on the codex before it reached its buyer. In short, this scribe may have been involved both as a book producer and bookseller, foreshadowing the activities of such later bookmen as John Shirley and William Caxton.

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