About the manuscripts
List of manuscripts and sigla Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 402. description London, British Library, Cotton Cleopatra C. vi. description Scribe B, the earlier corrector of C Scribe D, a later corrector of C London, British Library, Cotton Vitellius F. vii. description Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College, 234/120 [not running in Preface] Oxford, Bodleian Library, Eng. th. c. 70 (the Lanhydrock Fragment) [not running in Preface] the Latin translation of Ancrene Wisse, ed. by d'Evelyn from Oxford, Merton College, C.i.5 (Coxe 44) (), with variants from London, British Library, Cotton Vitellius E. vii (), London, British Library, Royal 7 C. x (R2), and Oxford, Magdalen College, Latin MS 67 (). The text cited in the Apparatus criticus is normally d'Evelyn's edited text (based on Me except for Part 8, which survives only in V1); if not, the individual MS is specified. London, British Library, Cotton Nero A. xiv. description Cambridge, Magdalene College, Pepys 2498. description London, British Library, Royal 8 C. i [not running in Preface] the later French translation of Ancrene Wisse, ed. by Trethewey from Cambridge, Trinity College Cambridge, R. 14. 7 (), with variants from Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds français 6276 () and Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 90 (). The text cited in the Apparatus criticus is normally Trethewey's edited text; if not, the individual MS is specified. London, British Library, Cotton Titus D. xviii [not running in Preface] Oxford, Bodleian Library, Eng. poet. a. 1 (the Vernon MS). description
Manuscript descriptions
MS A (Corpus 402)

Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 402. DescriptionKer in Tolkien 1962, pp. ix-xviii. Diplomatic editionTolkien 1962. BibliographyMillett 1996a, pp. 49-50.

117 parchment leaves. Two leaves (the central opening of the second quire) missing after f. 14. 215 x 148 mm. (after rebinding); written space c. 156 x 95 mm. (ff. 1-68), 156 x 100 (ff. 69-117), single column of 28 lines. Coloured initials and paragraph-marks (red and blue). Carefully written in a smaller Gothic book hand, dated by Ker, Tolkien 1962, p. xv) to the first half of the thirteenth century. Dialect localized by Jeremy Smith to northern Herefordshire or southern Shropshire (see Millett 1996a), p. 11, fn. 7). In the bottom margin of f. 1v, an ex libris inscription added towards the end of the thirteenth century records the gift of the MS by John Purcel (a Shropshire landowner) to the house of Victorine canons at Wigmore Abbey in Herefordshire, at the request of its precentor, Walter of Ludlow (see Ker, Tolkien 1962, pp. xvii-xviii). The MS includes minor corrections, alterations, and marginalia in hands of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; further annotations were added in the sixteenth century, when it was owned by Archbishop Parker. On Parker's death in 1575 it passed to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

The text of Corpus 402 is generally of high quality, though not free of errors (mainly of omission). It reflects a major (though not comprehensive)overhaul of the work for a changed audience, the group of twenty or more anchoresses addressed in a unique addition in Part 4 (ff. 69r/12--69v/11), now apparently regularly visited by the friars (ff. 16v/13-17r/2, 112v/10-14). It brings together most of the early revisions and additions found elsewhere in the MS tradition, sometimes developing them further, and also includes some added material not found elsewhere. The main alterations to the text, much of which remains largely untouched, are in Parts 2, 4, and 8. Part 4 includes an expanded account of the offspring of the Seven Deadly Sins (apparently based on an earlier stage of revision) and some direct addresses to the larger group of anchoresses (found only in A); there are also three substantial additions (shared with F, and in one case V as well) in Part 2. Part 8, the most thoroughly worked-over section, takes further the revisions to the Outer Rule found in the C2 annotations of MS C, possibly again building on an intermediate stage of revision.

MS C (Cleopatra C. vi)

London, British Library, Cotton MS Cleopatra C. vi. DescriptionDobson 1972, Introduction. Bibliography Millett 1996a, pp. 51-52. Diplomatic editionDobson 1972.

203 parchment leaves; text of Ancrene Wisse ff. 4r-198v. One leaf missing between f. 190 and f. 191. 194 x 140 mm.; written space 56-72 mm. wide, 114-142 mm. long, single column of 18-28 lines (Dobson 1972, xxix-xlvi, explains these variations by the initial influence of an exemplar in a smaller, more compact hand than the scribe's own; their pattern, together with some irregularities in quiring and in the continuity of the copying, indicates that the scribe copied his exemplar in six sections, some out of sequence, suggesting that some form of the pecia system was in use). Coloured initials and paragraph-marks (red and blue). Not very carefully written in a smaller Gothic book hand, dated by Ker 1964, p. 29, to the first half of the thirteenth century. Dialect of main scribe localized by Jeremy Smith to North Worcestershire (see Laing 1993, pp. 74-75). An inscription (c. 1300) on f. 3r records the gift of the MS to the house of Augustinian canonesses at Canonsleigh in Devon by Matilda de Clare, Countess of Gloucester; it was later owned by Robert Talbot (d. 1558), prebendary of Norwich, before its acquisition by Sir Robert Cotton.

The MS, whose text is flawed by errors, frequent small-scale omissions, and arbitrary rephrasing, has been extensively corrected and revised, mainly by two scribes, C2 and C3 (Dobson's Scribe B and Scribe D). C2, plausibly identified by Dobson 1972, xciii-cxl, with the author of Ancrene Wisse, appears to have worked on the MS before it was bound; he corrects many of C's misreadings and rewritings, also adding clarifications of difficulties and a number of revisions, reflecting an earlier stage of some of the revisions found in MS A (Corpus 402). The late-thirteenth-century scribe C3, working at Canonsleigh, added further corrections and annotations; Dobson 1972, cxlvii-cxlviii, argues that he was an Augustinian canon, but the evidence cited suggests rather that he was a Dominican (he copies out a Dominican prayer for preachers on f. 198v, and his familiarity with the Rule of St Augustine need not indicate an Augustinian connection, since the Dominicans also followed this Rule).

MS F (Vitellius F. vii)

London, British Library, Cotton MS Vitellius F. vii. DescriptionHerbert 1944, Introduction.BibliographyMillett 1996a, p. 54. Diplomatic edition (Ancrene Wisse only)Herbert 1944.

French translation of Ancrene Wisse ff. 2r--70r, followed by various devotional works in French: a treatise on the pains of Purgatory and Hell and the joys of Heaven, OF versions of the Tractatus de tribulatione and part of Gregory's Regula Pastoralis, and miscellaneous prayers and meditations translated from Augustine, Anselm, Bernard, and the Scriptures.

164 parchment leaves, damaged at top and bottom (by the Cottonian fire of 1731), c. 80 x 137 mm. at most. Double columns of 41-43 lines. Coloured headings (red) and initials (red and blue).Written by a single scribe in a smaller Gothic book hand, dated by Herbert, p. ix, to about the beginning of the fourteenth century. An inscription on the last page indicates that the MS was given between 1433 and 1441 to Eleanor Cobham, second wife of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, by Joan, wife of the 8th Earl of Kent.

This is the only surviving copy of the earlier of the two French translations of Ancrene Wisse; although the MS is relatively late, and the scribe careless, the translation is a close rendering of what appears to have been a good early text of the English version. It includes three substantial additions in Part 2 shared with A, in one case (Herbert 1944, 49/24--53/4) drawing on a better text than A's, and a unique addition in Part 8 (304/1-16), comparing the regulations of different orders on abstinence.

MS N (Nero A. xiv)

London, British Library, Cotton MS Nero A. xiv. DescriptionDobson 1972, Introduction. Bibliography Millett 1996a, pp. 52-53. Diplomatic edition(Ancrene Wisse only) Day 1952.

Text of Ancrene Wisse ff. 1r--120v, followed (in a different hand) by an Ureisun of ure Lefdi in rhyming verse, three Wooing Group works (Ureisun of God Almihti, <soCalled>Lofsong of ure Lefdi</soCalled>, and <soCalled>Lofsong of ure Louerde</soCalled>), the Apostles' Creed in English, 12 lines of Latin verse on death, and a Latin prose meditation (see Day 1952, pp. xxii-xxiv).

139 parchment leaves (foliated 1*-4*, 1-135), 144 x 107 mm.; written space, single column of 28-30 lines. Coloured initials and paragraph-marks (mainly red). Written in smaller Gothic book hand, dated (by Day, advised by Ker) to the second quarter of the thirteenth century. Dialect has been assigned to West or South Worcestershire (LALME (1: 25); Laing 1993, p. 78). Day suggests, from the evidence of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century annotations on the first flyleaf, that the MS may have been owned towards the end of the Middle Ages by the Benedictine abbey of Winchcombe Abbey in Gloucester, passing at the Dissolution to a local family, before it entered the Cotton collection in the early seventeenth century.

The harsh criticism of the quality of the Nero text in Dobson 1962, p. 133 (an innovating manuscript, the most remote from the original of all the thirteenth-century English texts ... written by a fussy and interfering scribe), has recently been qualified by Scahill 2002, who explains its linguistic modifications by the scribe's desire to produce a readily intelligible text, and emphasises N's value as a guide to the meaning compared with the other early MSS C, G, and T. It preserves a passage on the circumstances of the original three anchoresses (Day 1952, 85/8-27) abridged or cut in other MSS, and a possibly authorial addition (10/25--11/5), recommending the lay brothers' Hours of the writer's order, not found elsewhere.

MS P (Pepys 2498)

Cambridge, Magdalene College, Pepys MS 2498. DescriptionMcKitterick and Beadle 1992, pp. 86-88. BibliographyMillett 1996a, pp. 50-51. Diplomatic edition(Ancrene Wisse only) Zettersten 1976.

A collection of religious works in Middle English; text of Ancrene Wisse (called on p. 449a this good book Recluse) pp. 371a-449a. 232 parchment leaves, c. 340 x 240 mm.; text in two columns, each c. 290 x 100 mm., 52-54 lines. Coloured headings (red), initials (red and blue), and paragraph-marks (blue). Written by a single scribe in Anglicana Formata, dated by Ker to the middle of the second half of s. xiv (Zettersten 1976, p. xix, fn. 1); Colledge 1939 suggests 1381-1401 on internal evidence. Dialect localized in LALME (1: 64) to the Waltham Abbey area of Essex.

The version of Ancrene Wisse in P has been extensively abridged, rewritten, and interpolated; it addresses a general audience of both sexes, and often works against the sense of the original, celebrating the active rather than the contemplative life. Colledge 1939 identifies two stages of reworking, the first by a Lollard reviser (though recent research suggests that the revisions may be too early to be Lollard), the second by the Pepys scribe himself. The text of P is extraordinarily garbled, probably through a combination of its remoteness from the original and the scribe's inability to cope adequately either with Latin or with the Ancrene Wisse author's difficult Middle English; but its textual history, which reflects an earlier stage of the process of revision seen in MS A, and links it particularly with MS V (see Doyle 1990, is of some interest.

MS V (Vernon)

Oxford, Bodleian Library, Eng. poet. a. 1 (the Vernon MS). DescriptionDoyle 1987, pp. 1-16.BibliographyMillett 1996a, p. 57. Facsimile Doyle 1987.Diplomatic edition(Ancrene Wisse only) Zettersten and Diensberg 2000.

A very large, handsomely-illuminated anthology of religious and moral literature, mainly in Middle English, compiled in the West Midlands probably towards the end of the C14; its exact date, place of origin, patron(s) and intended audience are uncertain. Internal evidence places it after 1384; dialectal and other evidence links it with the area including S. Staffordshire, N. Worcestershire, and W. Warwickshire. Doyle 1987 suggests tentatively that its production may have been initiated by the Cistercian abbey at Bordesley, N. Worcestershire, for the house of nuns at Nuneaton, Shropshire; though an audience of pious laity cannot be ruled out. The text of Ancrene Wisse (called in the medieval list of contents Roule of Reclous) is on ff. 371vb--392ra, preceded by A Talkyng of the Loue of God (which draws on two Wooing Group works, The Wohunge of ure Lauerd and On Ureisun of ure Louerde). Three folios (389-391) are missing from the text, which lacks the later part of Part 6 (from heaued, Corpus 402, f. 97v/18), all of Part 7, and most of Part 8, from which only two sections survive, part of the addition on wimples and the paragraph warning against idleness (Zettersten and Diensberg 2000, 128/26--129/12).

350 parchment leaves (originally probably 422 or 426), 544 x 393 mm. Written space in Section IV (ff. 319-406) c. 412-20 x 284-94 mm.; two columns of 80 lines, 132-7 mm. across; illuminated initials, coloured paragraph-marks (red and blue). Text of Ancrene Wisse written by the second Vernon scribe, Scribe B, in Anglicana Formata. In spite of its late date, the Vernon text of Ancrene Wisse is of relatively high quality, with only minor modifications (mainly modernizations of vocabulary). For the main body of the text, its closest affinities are with MS N and (where it is running) G, but it also incorporates a number of the revisions found in MS A.