Digital Piers Deluxe Edition: The Vernon Manuscript

This week’s Material Piers is dedicated to one of my very favorite manuscripts, the Vernon.  That is, Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Eng. poet. a.1, the single most deluxe manuscript of Middle English in existence. Yeah, really, it’s that epic. And if you don’t know about it already, check it out. Odds are, though, if you know me, you already know about my thing for the Vernon.

The reason this week’s blog is all about the Vernon is two-fold.

A. To celebrate an article I have coming out this week in View: Theories and Practices of Visual Culture on “Picturing Queer Desire in the Vernon” (about something other than Piers) I thought it would be great to talk about my favorite deluxe Middle English beauty.

B.  Because the Vernon is so big and so complex, it merited its own über post.  What better time to talk about it than when we’re talking about  the temporality of Piers Plowman anyway (which both last week‘s and next week’s blogs will be about).

First, let’s talk about date and why I quibble with the Piers work that likes to place the Vernon Piers squarely in the fourteenth century. The basic question I want to ask is, “how do you get to say that V belongs to the fourteenth century when codicologists specializing in this MS can’t even agree on its exact date?” Make no mistake, there isn’t some huge discrepancy in dating here, just a teeny, tiny little decade.

But that decade matters. V, along with TCC R.3.14, is frequently classed by Piers scholars as belonging to the same century as Langland, possibly even within his lifespan. Which isn’t really the problem.  What drives me bonkers is that they have a vested interestin Piers belonging to the fourteenth century because that puts the copy closer to Langland.

Codicologists, on the other hand, have dated the manuscript to either the end of the fourteenth century or the more vaguely named circa 1400. Why does it matter if we think of it as a turn of the century manuscript rather than a fourteenth century manuscript? Mostly because chucking it into the fourteenth century forgets about the temporality of the Vernon itself.

The Vernon, unlike most of the other Piers manuscript is absolutely bloody MASSIVE. It originally had over 400 folios measuring 21.25×15.39 in (54×39 cm), made of at least 200 individual calfskins. In addition to being absolutely massive, it is also the most lavishly decorated English vernacular book in existence, having a level and scheme of decoration usually reserved for missals, bibles, psalters, and books of hours. Finally, it has over 370 different works in its massive collection of Middle English devotional and religious material.

At present, it’s relatively established that the Vernon cannot possibly  be dated to prior to 1395. Good, fine. No problem. That’s the fourteenth century. BUT, and for me this is a big “but,” the Vernon is SO MASSIVE that it seems pretty much insane to me to date it to any year.  The majority of the manuscript, along with its almost as large sister the Simeon, was copied by a single scribe!! A.I. Doyle estimates that even moving at his fastest he couldn’t have completed the pair of them in under  FOUR YEARS, and it may well have taken up to eight. On top of that, there is the lavish decoration scheme with borders, initials, gilding and two full cycles of miniatures. The idea that the manuscript was both started and completed in the fourteenth century borders on preposterous.

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 10.03.42 PM

That, frankly, is why I prefer dating V to “ca. 1400.” Because the “circa” itself implies a possible range of time. And in the case of the Vernon, that range is incredibly important. But more than that, it acknowledges the imprecision in dating manuscripts altogether. “Ca. 1400″ allows us to think about the slipperiness of dating things belonging that far in the past and about the time it takes to hand-make a material-textual object, to bring it into being one folio, one line, one letter, one stroke at a time. So, unless a manuscript is clearly and definitively datable to a certain decade, I prefer to leave it with its ambiguous date.

Now, let’s talk about space!

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 9.30.45 PMThe Vernon comes from right in the middle of where all the Piers seems to originate.  The general manuscript displays a Worcestershire dialect, though the specific Piers text is more likely N. Worcestershire.Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 10.12.43 PM

So, it’s one of the altogether earliest manuscripts. It is the earliest A text. And, it’s located basically at Piers Ground Zero.

What makes this even cooler, though, is that it’s not really a Piers manuscript. Not strictly.  It’s, as we mentioned, a massive devotional compilation that happens to have included Piers Plowman. It also included *LOTS* of other works as well.  Indeed, let’s revisit our data visualization networks for just the Vernon to have a closer look.

VernonFR

Here, the nodes have been blown up a bit bigger so we can resolve the differences between the sizes. As I note in the first data visualization blog, though, in order to keep the Vernon cluster under control, I’ve had to selectively condense the complete list of 370+ works into something visually manageable. If you work on something in the Vernon that you don’t see here, please suggest it in the comments below!

VernonRandomRandomizing these same nodes gives us a slightly different view of the same information.  Of course, all these nodes must be connected to each other, since they share a manuscript, but note how the graph indexes the increasing frequency of co-occurrences by the increasing size of the edges as well!

VernonCircleCheck out our Piers Plowman node in the pink.  It’s just a teeny tiny piece of what’s going on in the Vernon.  In fact, the space that Piers takes up in the Vernon itself is only 4.5% of the available folio space, which is the lowest proportion of the MS any Piers takes up.

Part of that is because of the size of the Vernon, but part of it is also because of the very small version of the A text copied here.  If we revisit our circle-packing diagram, we can see that V is a particularly small version of the text.VernonCircles1 VernonCircles2 VernonCircles3Yup, V is the smallest of the 11-passus A-texts that have the Visio and the Vita, coming in with right around 2400 lines. VernonCirclesJSON

So Piers is really just one tiny piece of this amazing manuscript that took a whole community of people as well as a community of texts, rēsauctores to complete it.  If it takes a community to create, why not use a community to code?

Below I will add the Piers JSON-LD for the Vernon, but it’s not complete. If you’re reading this, lend a hand! Just write up one, teeny tiny work in valid JSON based on the model below:

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 10.35.41 PM

 

I’m just using the numbers from the DIMEV Vernon page to determine both the number of the work (in order), the IMEV number, and the folio numbers.  No really! Give it a shot.  I’m confident that you can do it, even if it will be your first JSON code ever.

So, without further ado, here is the file (VernonJSONcommunity) for the Vernon, with all the missing pieces:

VernonJSONcommunity1VernonJSONcommunity2

 

 

{

“@context”: {

“foaf”:”http://xmlns.com/foaf/0.1/”,

“name”: {“@id”:”foaf:name”},

“MSshortHand”: {“@id”:”foaf:nick”},

 

“dcterms”: “http://purl.org/dc/terms/”,

“DateRange”: {“@id”: “dcterms:PeriodOfTime”},

“provenance”: {“@id”: “dcterms:provenance”},

“language”: {“@id”: “dcterms:language”},

“PhysicalObject”: “http://purl.org/dc/dcmitype/PhysicalObject“,

“PrintedEdition(s)”: {“@id”: “dcterms:BibliographicResource”},

 

“TEI”: “http://www.tei-c.org/release/doc/tei-p5-doc/en/html/ref-“,

“msDesc”: {“@id”: “TEI:msDesc.html”},

“msIdentifier”: {“@id”: “TEI:msIdentifier.html”},

“repository”: {“@id”: “TEI:repository.html”},

“msContents”: {“@id”: “TEI:msContents.html”},

“work”: {“@id”: “TEI:msItem.html”},

“title”: {“@id”: “TEI:title”},

“author”: {“@id”: “TEI:author.html”},

“DialectRegion”: {“@id”: “TEI:region.html”},

“publisher”: {“@id”: “TEI:publisher.html”},

 

“xsd”:”http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#”,

“date”: {“@id”: “xsd:date”},

 

“LALME”: “http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/ihd/elalme/elalme_frames.html”,

“IMEVid”: “http://www.dimev.net/Records.php?MSS=”

“MEScribesid”: “http://www.medievalscribes.com/index.php?navoff&browse=manuscripts&id=”,

“MECompBib”: “http://quod.lib.umich.edu/h/hyperbib/”,

“MSSWMid”: “http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/mwm/browse?type=ms&id=”

}

,

“@type”: “PhysicalObject”,

“MSshortHand”: “Vernon”,

“HoldingLocation”: “Oxford, UK”,

“repository”: “Bodleian Library”,

“msIdentifier”: “Eng.poet.a.1″,

“OnlineExhibition”: “http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/whats-on/online/vernon”,

“Olim.”: null,

“LALME”: 7630,

“LALMEGrid”: 389270,

“MEScribes”:null,

“MEScribesurl”: null,

“MEScribesid”: null,

“MSSOnline”: null,

“PPEA”: null,

“TEAMS”: null,

“IMEVNo”: 1459,

“IMEVid”: {“@id”: “IMEVid:BodEngPoeta1″},

“IMEVurl”: “http://www.cddc.vt.edu/host/imev/Records.php?MSS=BodEngPoeta1″,

“MECompBib”: null,

“MSSWMid”: “http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/mwm/browse?type=ms&id=112″,

“MSSWMidID”: 112,

“DateRange”: 1400,

“Provenance”: null,

“AquisitionDate”: null,

“Material”: “Vellum”,

“SupportQuality”: 10,

“Folios”: 341,

“Script”: “Anglicana”,

“ScriptQuality”: 8,

“msContents”: [

{“No.”: [1,3],

“Title”: South English Legendary,

“Subtitle”: “When it cometh in my thought the mickle sorrow and sin“,

“IMEVNo”:6345-2,

“Folios”: “1ra-6va”

},

{“No.”: 2,

“Title”: “All that the prophets told while in their prophecy“,

“Subtitle”: “Lines on the Prophets, used in the South English Legendary as prologue or headlink to a number of legends”,

“IMEVNo”: 376-1,

“Folios”: “6va”

},

{“No.”: 3,

“Title”: “South English Legendary”,

“Subtitle”: “Will ye wit when and how the feast shall be y-held“,

“IMEVNo”:6690-2,

“Folios”: “6va-9rb”

},

{“No.”: 4,

“Title”: “‘Banna Sanctorum’, in the South English Legendary”,

“Subtitle”: “Now bloweth the fruit that late began to spring“,

“IMEVNo”: 3721-2,

“Folios”: “9rb1″

},

{“No.”: 5,

“Title”: “Feast of the Circumcision in the South English Legendary”,

“Subtitle”: “Yearsday the holy feast high day is and good“,

“IMEVNo”: 6852-3,

“Folios”: “9rb2-9va”

},

{“No.”: 6,

“Title”: “Epiphany in the South English Legendary”,

“Subtitle”: “Twelfth day the high feast noble is to hold“,

“IMEVNo”: 6086-2,

“Folios”: “9va1″

},

{“No.”: 7,

“Title”: “Life of St. Hilary in the South English Legendary — couplets”,

“Subtitle”: “Saint Hilary the holy man of Aquitaine was“,

“IMEVNo”: 4616-3,

“Folios”: “9va2-9vb”

},

{“No.”: 8,

“Title”: “Life of St. Wulfstan in the South English Legendary — couplets”,

“Subtitle”: “Saint Wulfstan of Worcester was here of England“,

“IMEVNo”: 4773-4,

“Folios”: “9vb-10va”

},

. . .

{“No”: 241,
“Title”: “The Monk who was harsh in judging, a Narratio in the Northern Homily Cycle”,
“Subtitle”: “Two monks were woning in a cell”,
“IMEVNo”: 6091-3,
“Folios”: “200rc-200va”
},

{“No”: 242,
“Title”: “Gospel for Fifth Sunday after Trinity in the Northern Homily Cycle”,
“Subtitle”: “Saint Luke the good gospeller”,
“IMEVNo”: 4677-2,
“Folios”: “200va-200vc”
},
{“No”: 243,
“Title”: “Gospel for Sixth Sunday after Trinity in the Northern Homily Cycle”,
“Subtitle”: “Threefold folk in holy kirk”,
“IMEVNo”: 5907-2,
“Folios”: “200vc-201ra”
},
{“No”: 244,
“Title”: “Gospel for Seventh Sunday after Trinity in the Northern Homily Cycle”,
“Subtitle”: “Saint Mark the gospeller says us”,
“IMEVNo”: 4696-1,
“Folios”: “201ra-201rb”
},
{“No”: 245,
“Title”: “Gospel for Eighth Sunday after Trinity in the Northern Homily Cycle”,
“Subtitle”: “Saint Luke in our gospel says us”,
“IMEVNo”: 4667-1,
“Folios”: “201rb-201rc”
},
{“No”: 246,
“Title”: “Gospel for Ninth Sunday after Trinity in the Northern Homily Cycle”,
“Subtitle”: “Saint Luke says that Jesu Christ”,
“IMEVNo”: 4671-1,
“Folios”: “201rc-201va”
},
{“No”: 247,
“Title”: “Gospel for Tenth Sunday after Trinity in the Northern Homily Cycle”,
“Subtitle”: “Jerusalem in English is / As mickle to say as sight of peace”,
“IMEVNo”: 2786-1,
“Folios”: “201va-202rb”
},
{“No”: 248,
“Title”: “Gospel for Eleventh Sunday after Trinity in the Northern Homily Cycle”,
“Subtitle”: “He is be-gabbed loathly / That lets of other men hethely”,
“IMEVNo”: 1826-2,
“Folios”: “202rb-202rc”
},

. . .

{“No.”: 362,

“Title”: “Vision of Piers Plowman, the ‘A’ text”,

“Subtitle”: “In a summer season when soft was the sun“,

“IMEVNo”: 2458-4

“Folios”: “394vb-401vb”

},

. . .

],

“NumberOfWorks”: 392,

“PositionOfPiers”: 362,

“PiersFolios”: 7,

“PiersPercentMS”: 4.5,

“PiersTextVariety”: “A”,

“LinesOfPiers”: 2430,

“DialectRegion”: {

“Locale”: “Worcestershire”,

“geometry”: {

“type”:”Polygon”,

“coordinates”: [[[[-2.357941,52.148659],[-2.379913,52.154556],[-2.396393,52.14613],[-2.414246,52.14613],[-2.436218,52.173088],[-2.393646,52.207607],[-2.406006,52.220226],[-2.385406,52.222752],[-2.392273,52.231163],[-2.407379,52.229481],[-2.421112,52.233688],[-2.465057,52.235371],[-2.471924,52.239574],[-2.473297,52.251347],[-2.456818,52.260593],[-2.427979,52.270679],[-2.452698,52.284962],[-2.465057,52.284122],[-2.47467,52.284122],[-2.492523,52.27824],[-2.50351,52.277401],[-2.489777,52.261433],[-2.514496,52.254707],[-2.519989,52.2463],[-2.529602,52.253029],[-2.550201,52.249664],[-2.570801,52.249664],[-2.625732,52.241257],[-2.633972,52.247982],[-2.629852,52.258911],[-2.613373,52.264797],[-2.59552,52.277401],[-2.605133,52.288322],[-2.617493,52.28244],[-2.627106,52.287483],[-2.636719,52.287483],[-2.662811,52.301762],[-2.638092,52.30764],[-2.598267,52.305962],[-2.562561,52.316875],[-2.562561,52.329464],[-2.539215,52.342892],[-2.507629,52.33366],[-2.504883,52.326946],[-2.47879,52.332821],[-2.484283,52.358829],[-2.471924,52.3647],[-2.426605,52.367214],[-2.408752,52.371407],[-2.412872,52.378952],[-2.411499,52.386497],[-2.393646,52.383564],[-2.379227,52.383354],[-2.365494,52.387753],[-2.352791,52.388382],[-2.342834,52.385239],[-2.335281,52.385239],[-2.333565,52.388172],[-2.343521,52.39278],[-2.359657,52.399277],[-2.373734,52.40221],[-2.370644,52.403255],[-2.36515,52.408703],[-2.367554,52.423359],[-2.362061,52.425873],[-2.36412,52.438431],[-2.356567,52.43927],[-2.346268,52.43885],[-2.340775,52.435921],[-2.333908,52.43634],[-2.327728,52.438431],[-2.320862,52.435501],[-2.310562,52.438015],[-2.308502,52.440525],[-2.307816,52.445129],[-2.285843,52.454754],[-2.293396,52.448895],[-2.268677,52.438015],[-2.264557,52.440525],[-2.260437,52.43634],[-2.219238,52.434666],[-2.208939,52.431732],[-2.198639,52.427128],[-2.192459,52.423779],[-2.186966,52.426292],[-2.182159,52.425034],[-2.166367,52.424198],[-2.16362,52.429642],[-2.137527,52.425873],[-2.130661,52.430061],[-2.129974,52.432571],[-2.116241,52.435081],[-2.107315,52.443455],[-2.093582,52.44471],[-2.083969,52.432571],[-2.070923,52.435501],[-2.062683,52.433411],[-2.06543,52.428802],[-2.059937,52.427547],[-2.058563,52.440945],[-2.037964,52.44136],[-2.039337,52.437176],[-2.037277,52.428802],[-2.031784,52.426708],[-2.024231,52.433826],[-2.009125,52.426708],[-1.996765,52.423359],[-1.998825,52.419594],[-1.989899,52.416241],[-1.994705,52.412472],[-1.998138,52.409958],[-2.006378,52.408283],[-2.009811,52.409958],[-2.015305,52.406609],[-2.025604,52.407028],[-2.034531,52.40284],[-2.027664,52.399487],[-2.022858,52.399906],[-2.012558,52.39362],[-2.012558,52.386917],[-1.991272,52.381046],[-1.983032,52.386917],[-1.975479,52.386917],[-1.95488,52.39278],[-1.93428,52.387753],[-1.926041,52.396553],[-1.916428,52.397812],[-1.913681,52.406609],[-1.904755,52.403255],[-1.887589,52.404095],[-1.881409,52.398647],[-1.873169,52.403675],[-1.864929,52.40493],[-1.845703,52.399067],[-1.860809,52.383564],[-1.874542,52.363861],[-1.888962,52.361343],[-1.883469,52.350861],[-1.874542,52.342892],[-1.873856,52.336597],[-1.866302,52.332401],[-1.866989,52.32317],[-1.866302,52.317715],[-1.873169,52.312256],[-1.879349,52.310997],[-1.874542,52.302181],[-1.891022,52.28244],[-1.914368,52.27404],[-1.937714,52.277401],[-1.939087,52.268158],[-1.934967,52.252186],[-1.921234,52.233688],[-1.921234,52.227798],[-2.086029,52.182354],[-2.200012,52.171406],[-2.300262,52.149502],[-2.357941,52.148659]]]]

},

}

“Collation”: null,

“PassusMarkers”: null,

“PublishedEdition(s)”:

{“Title”: “A Facsimile Edition of the Vernon Manuscript: A Literary Hoard from Medieval England”,

“Editors”: [“Wendy Scase”, “Nick Kennedy”],

“Publisher”: “Bodleian Library, University of Oxford; Cdr edition”,

“Date”: 2011

},

{“Title”: “The Vernon manuscript : a facsimile of Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS. Eng. poet. A.1 with an introduction by Ian Doyle”,

“Editors”: “A.I. Doyle”,

“Publisher”: “D.S. Brewer”,

“Date”:1987

}

}}

}

 

7 thoughts on “Digital Piers Deluxe Edition: The Vernon Manuscript”

  1. okay, so here’s a correct set:
    {“No”: 242,
    “Title”: “Gospel for Fifth Sunday after Trinity in the Northern Homily Cycle”,
    “Subtitle”: “Saint Luke the good gospeller”,
    “IMEVNo”: 4677-2,
    “Folios”: “200va-200vc”
    },
    {“No”: 243,
    “Title”: “Gospel for Sixth Sunday after Trinity in the Northern Homily Cycle”,
    “Subtitle”: “Threefold folk in holy kirk”,
    “IMEVNo”: 5907-2,
    “Folios”: “200vc-201ra”
    },
    {“No”: 244,
    “Title”: “Gospel for Seventh Sunday after Trinity in the Northern Homily Cycle”,
    “Subtitle”: “Saint Mark the gospeller says us”,
    “IMEVNo”: 4696-1,
    “Folios”: “201ra-201rb”
    },
    {“No”: 245,
    “Title”: “Gospel for Eighth Sunday after Trinity in the Northern Homily Cycle”,
    “Subtitle”: “Saint Luke in our gospel says us”,
    “IMEVNo”: 4667-1,
    “Folios”: “201rb-201rc”
    },
    {“No”: 246,
    “Title”: “Gospel for Ninth Sunday after Trinity in the Northern Homily Cycle”,
    “Subtitle”: “Saint Luke says that Jesu Christ”,
    “IMEVNo”: 4671-1,
    “Folios”: “201rc-201va”
    },
    {“No”: 247,
    “Title”: “Gospel for Tenth Sunday after Trinity in the Northern Homily Cycle”,
    “Subtitle”: “Jerusalem in English is / As mickle to say as sight of peace”,
    “IMEVNo”: 2786-1,
    “Folios”: “201va-202rb”
    },
    {“No”: 248,
    “Title”: “Gospel for Eleventh Sunday after Trinity in the Northern Homily Cycle”,
    “Subtitle”: “He is be-gabbed loathly / That lets of other men hethely”,
    “IMEVNo”: 1826-2,
    “Folios”: “202rb-202rc”
    },

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