Scribes, Misattributed: Hoccleve and Pinkhurst

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The first half of this essay argues against Linne Mooney's claim that London, B.L. MS Royal 17 D.XVIII (sigil Ry3) is a holograph of Thomas Hoccleve's poem The Regiment of Princes. Mooney claims that the text has unique readings indicated that it records the state of England and the poet a year or two after the poem's initial composition and dissemination, but the readings are in fact shared by many other manuscripts. Ry3's spellings and meter are unHocclevean, as are its hand's aspect and letter forms and the manuscript's layout and punctuation. This cannot be in Hoccleve's hand. The second half of the essay argues that the evidence that Adam Pinkhurst copied Cambridge, Trinity College MS B.15.17 (MS W of Piers Plowman B) is so overwhelming that it becomes impossible to accept that he had anything to do with Chaucer or his manuscripts. MS W's aspect is very similar to that of Pinkhurst's confirmation, whose dozen decorative features (e.g., descenders made into triangles, large curls above many y's) occur throughout the Piers Plowman text. The entire case that Pinkhurst copied the Hengwrt and Ellesemere manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales, not to mention was 'Chaucer's scribe,' thus relies on the validity of Simon Horobin and Mooney's 2004 attribution of MS W to the Hg-El scribe. Yet few have embraced this attribution, for good reasons: W's aspect, letter forms, decorative features (such as those just cited), and language (e.g., use of yoghs) differ substantively from those of Hg and El. There are no problems with the proposal that Pinkhurst did not copy Hg and El, and a long list of problems with the belief that he did. Pinkhurst is among the earliest identifiable scribes of Piers Plowman but did not copy any other known manuscripts of Middle English.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-100
JournalStudies in the Age of Chaucer
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2015


  • Geoffrey Chaucer
  • William Langland
  • Manuscripts, Medieval
  • Thomas Hoccleve
  • Adam Pinkhurst
  • Paleography
  • Dialectology
  • Scribes


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