Towards a Text of the “Medulla Grammatice”: Procedures and Prospects in Editing a 15th-century Glossary

Towards a Text of the “Medulla Grammatice”: Procedures and Prospects in Editing a 15th-century Glossary

By Vincent P McCarren

CCH Working Papers, Vol. 4 (1994)

Abstract: The tradition of the Medulla Grammatice comprises nineteen known manuscripts and four fragments. All are located in England and dated within the 15th century. To the early 1400’s belong Lincoln ms. 88, Shrewsbury XVI, and Stonyhurst ms. XV (A.1.10). The remainder are dated mid-to-late within the century. The Medulla Grammatice is considered the earliest, most complete Latin-Middle English dictionary. The entire tradition encompasses approximately half a million entries. Yet, to date, nothing of it has been published in edited form. The 1993 volume of Traditio has the first published edition of any part of the tradition, the Bristol University ms. DM 1. In this glossary entries are in Latin with glosses or interpretations in Middle English. Initially it formed a collection of words and phrases reflecting virtually every aspect of theoretical and practical life, since its substance is derived from supralineal and marginal inserts made in copies of every conceivable type of literary transmission. In the process of transcription and collation of the major manuscripts of the Medulla there have been three recurrent points of interest. First, the discovery of hitherto unattested Middle English words which broaden the philological dimensions of the period. Secondly, new Latin words (and Greek), and novel senses of words regularly appear, in turn, extending the parameters of these languages. Finally, unique variant spellings occur frequently, due in large part to recitative copying and auditory memory, offering additional linguistic and phonological evidence in both Latin and Middle English to influence significantly the direction of medieval lexicography.

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