Among the most frequently studied medieval manuscripts in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections are those in Middle English, the form of the English language spoken from around 1150 to 1500. Most of Princeton’s Middle English manuscripts, more than thirty in number, date from the second half of the fourteenth century until the last quarter of the fifteenth. The Manuscripts Division has the largest number because of the generosity of two great Princeton collectors, Robert Garrett (Class of 1897) and Robert H. Taylor (Class of 1930). Several manuscripts are in The Scheide Library, part of the extraordinary bequest of William H. Scheide (Class of 1936), announced in 2015. Included are manuscripts of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, John Gower’s Confessio amantis, Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon in John Trevisa’s translation, Mandeville’s Travels, and the Wycliffe Bible. Among the most recently digitized is Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden (see image below). These are supplemented by Middle English verses attributed to Sir George Ripley, in two Ripley Alchemical Scrolls (1590s and 1624), which are the focus of a Firestone Library exhibition, Through a Glass Darkly: Alchemy and the Ripley Scrolls, 1400–1700 (Spring 2020). In addition, there are various Middle English charters and seal matrices in the John Hinsdale Scheide Collection of Documents (C0704) and the Bruce C. Willsie Collection of English Sigillography (C0953). These are discussed in Don C. Skemer’s “Cover Note,” in Princeton University Library Chronicle, vol. 75, no. 3 (2014), pp. 439-444 (available online in JSTOR). Latin and Anglo-Norman manuscripts from England are also well represented in Rare Books and Special Collections.
Below is a checklist of Middle English manuscripts, with links to bibliographical records in Voyager, the Princeton University Library’s online catalog. Manuscripts are being digitized, either from the original manuscript or from existing greyscale microfilm, in order to reach the widest possible audience. To date, about half of the Middle English manuscripts have been digitized, with additional manuscripts being added over time. Voyager records provide links to manuscripts digitized in the Digital Princeton University Library (DPUL). Full textual and codicological descriptions (with bibliographies) are available for the Garrett, Taylor, Kane, and Princeton manuscripts in the published catalog: Don C. Skemer, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Princeton University Library (2013). This two-volume catalog is available in major research libraries, and it can also be ordered from Princeton University Press and online vendors of books. For questions about those in the Manuscripts Division, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, firstname.lastname@example.org Concerning Scheide manuscripts, contact Paul Needham, Scheide Librarian, email@example.com
Garrett MS. 136: John Gower, Confessio amantis.
Garrett MS. 137: Thomas Hoccleve, The Regiment of Princes.
Garrett MS. 138: The Prick of Conscience.
Garrett MS. 139: John Lydgate, Fall of Princes.
Garrett MS. 140: The Sowdon of Babyloyne.
Garrett MS. 141: John Metham, Works.
Garrett MS. 142: John Hardyng, Chronicle of England.
Garrett MS. 143: Devotional Miscellany.
Garrett MS. 144: Devotional Miscellany.
Garrett MS. 145: Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden.
Garrett MS. 150: Prose Brut.
Garrett MS. 151: Ranulf Higden, Polychronicon.
Taylor MS. 2: John Lydgate, Fall of Princes.
Taylor MS. 3: Sidrac and Boccus; Prose Brut.
Taylor MS. 5: John Gower, Confessio amantis.
Taylor MS. 6: Ranulf Higden, Polychronicon.
Taylor MS. 9: Arthurian Metrical Romances.
Taylor MS. 10: Mandeville’s Travels.
Taylor MS. 11: Speculum vitae.
Taylor MS. 13: The Prick of Conscience. 253
Taylor MS. 16: Wycliffite Sermons.
Taylor MS. 17: Arma Christi and Prayers.
Taylor MS. 18: King Henry VI, Royal Household Bills.
Taylor MS. 22: Religious Verse.
RTC01, no. 237: Ripley Alchemical Scroll.
Kane MS. 21: Nicholas Love, Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ.
Princeton MS. 93: Ripley Alchemical Scroll.
Princeton MS. 100: Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales.
Princeton MS. 101: King Edward IV, Great Wardrobe Account.
Princeton MS. 138: Fragments, nos. 5(a), 5(d).
Princeton MS. 186: Nicholas Love, Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ.