Published in 1998. John Shirley’s importance as a scribe of late fourteen-and early fifteenth-century vernacular poetry (in particular the works of Chauncer and Lydgate) has long been recognised. Not only did Shirley bring these works to the attention of a wider audience in his own time, but the survival of some if his manuscripts has perpetuated these texts for future generations of readers. Indeed, some of these poems are now only known through his manuscripts.
In this meticulously researched survey, Margaret Connolly makes a thorough examination of all extent documents relating to Shirley’s life and carefully scrutinises the physical characteristics of his manuscripts. In so doing she dispels many of the false interpretations that have arisen from speculation about the nature of Shirley’s scribal activities. The book concludes that there is no evidence to suggest that Shirley acted as a bookseller, but plenty to indicate that he lent his books extensively.
This book’s survey of volumes owned or used by Shirley provides general insights into the availability and circulation of literary texts in the fifteenth century. Palaeographers and those with a general interest in the history of the book will find this studying fascinating.
1. John Shirley: Biography 2. ‘Pis Litell Book’: MS BL Additional 16165 3. John Shirley, Esquire, of London 4. MS Trinity College Cambridge R.3.20, its Patterns and Progeny 5. Books Connected with John Shirley 6. Translations: ‘His Symple Warke’ 7. His Last Anthology: MS Bodley Ashmole 59 8. Afterwards: The Lost Manuscripts and Shirley’s Successors 9. Conclusion.
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