Medieval Manuscripts: The Pearl Manuscript

This is the story of a grieving father who loses his two-year-old daughter and finds her in a dream. The conversation between them, written in poetry at the end of the 14th century and immortalized in an illuminated codex, is unanimously regarded as one of the treasures of Middle English literature.

Finding himself in an enchanted garden, with a river full of pearls, the narrator talks to a white-clad maiden whom he recognizes as his child. After a dialogue about Christian doctrine, the man discovers his daughter has become a bride of Christ and reconciles his grief.

The Pearl poem is just one of the literary masterpieces contained in the manuscript: Cleanness, Patience, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are also reproduced on its folios, written in Textura Rotunda with Anglicana features.

Although the author’s identity is unknown, it can be stated with certainty that the highly sophisticated verses were composed during the reign of Richard II (1377-1399), a flourishing period for English poetry.

Our thanks to Facsimile Finder for helping us create this post. You can learn more about this manuscript and see more images by visiting their website.

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