A luxury mid fifteenth-century manuscript of John Lydgate's Fall of Princes. Although there are no illustrations the manuscript has heavily decorated borders throughout. There is some evidence that this manuscript was used as copy for Richard Pynson's printed edition of 1494. Numbers added in the margins throughout books 7 and 8 correspond to pages of the Pynson edition, the first, 'xiiii' (f. 140), covering only four stanzas, because only these four are on A7v in the edition. The series then runs xv, xvi, b i-xvi, c i-xvi, d i-xvi, e i-xvi, f i-xvi, g i-xvi, h i-v at intervals of 11, 12, or 13 stanzas, according to the number of stanzas on any one page of the printed edition, A8r to H3r (103 pages), and finally h vi opposite the line 'Explicit Iohn Bochas' (f. 184) which is on H3v in the Pynson edition. For this and other evidence that Pynson used this manuscript, see M.M. Morgan (in Bibliography below).
Contents: John Lydgate, Fall of Princes, ed. H. Bergen, Lydgate's Fall of princes, 4 vols (1924-7): see Bibliography below. This copy is collated by Bergen as J and is described in vol. 4, pp. 21-3, where he notes the close relationship to Richard Pynson's edition (1494: STC 3175). Book 4 lines 98-288 are missing after f. 85. The 28 lines on f. 184, 'Greenacres a lenuoye vpon Iohn Bochas. Blake be thy bondes...' (Index of Middle English verse, no. 524/2: ed. Bergen, vol. 3, p. 23), occur only here and in Pynson's printed edition.
Script: A 'rather ugly and unstable bastard secretary' (Ker), with a change of ink, but perhaps not of hand, at f. 151v, column a, line 27, after the word 'Poncius' (book 8, line 372). Written space: 285 x 200 mm. 2 columns, 43-51 lines: the number changes often and is 49 (seven stanzas to a column) only on the first two quires.
Secundo folio: For. lordis.
Decoration: There is a continuous border on f. 1, and [ or I borders at the beginning of books 2, 3 and 5-8 (the leaf at the beginning of book 4 is not present): ff. 38r, 60v, 105r, 121r, 140r and 150v; these comprise foliate bar borders in burnished gold, blue and pink, sprouting acanthus leaves, with extensions terminating in acanthus leaves, ivy leaves, flowers and bezants. There is one 8-line initial on f. 1r, in pink and blue with white penwork and floral infill on a burnished gold ground; there are six 3- or 4-line initials in the same style, at the beginning of the other books; and numerous 2- and 3-line initials in burnished gold on pink and blue grounds with white penwork and foliate extensions.
Other features: On f. 185, a late 16th-century owner has written 'a note of all my Bookes' (but not including this one), printed by Bergen, vol. 4, p. 22. The forty-three titles, all English, include (28) The vysyon of pers plowman, (31) Raynold the Foxe, (32) The golden asse, and (40) Wytegyftes admonysyon (i.e. An answere to a certen libel intituled, An admonition to the parliament (STC 25427-9), which was printed in 1572 and 1573).
Description derived from N.R. Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 400. By permission of Oxford University Press.