Ellesmere manuscript

Ellesmere manuscript

The Ellesmere manuscript is an early 15th century manuscript of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, held in the Huntington Library, in San Marino, California (MS EL 26 C 9). It is considered one of the most significant texts of the "Tales".


The early history of the manuscript is uncertain, but it seems to have come into the possession of Thomas de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford at some point.

The Ellesmere manuscripts began to be assembled by the Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Egerton (1540-1617), Baron Ellesmere and Viscount Brackley and were added to by his descendants; he obtained his manuscript of the "Tales" from Roger, Lord North. The library of manuscripts remained at the Egerton house, Ashridge, Hertfordshire, until 1802 when it was removed to London. Francis Egerton, created Earl of Ellesmere in 1846, inherited the library, and it remained in the family until its sale to Henry Huntington by John Francis Granville Scrope Egerton (1872-1944), 4th Earl of Ellesmere. Huntington purchased the Bridgewater library privately in 1917 through Sotheby’s.


The Ellesmere manuscript is a highly polished example of scribal workmanship, with a great deal of elaborate illumination and, notably, a series of illustrations of the various narrators of the "Tales" (including a famous one of Chaucer himself, mounted an a horse). As such, it was clearly a "de luxe" product, commissioned for a very wealthy patron.

The manuscript is written on fine vellum and is approximately 400mm by 284mm in size; there are 240 leaves, of which 232 contain the text of the "Tales". [http://www.liu.edu/cwis/cwp/library/sc/chaucer/text_page.htm The Ellesmere Chaucer] , Long Island University.] Though a single scribe was employed, the illustrations were possibly carried out by three different artists.

cribe and its relation to other manuscripts

The Ellesmere manuscript is thought to be very early in date, being written shortly after Chaucer's death. It has therefore been seen as an important source for efforts to reconstruct Chaucer's original text and intentions, though John M. Manly and Edith Rickert in their "Text of the Canterbury Tales" (1940) noted that whoever edited the manuscript probably made substantial revisions, tried to regularise spelling, and put the individual Tales into a smoothly running order. Up until this point the Ellesmere manuscript had been used as the 'base text' by several editions, such as that of W. W. Skeat.

The manuscript's scribe has now been tentatively identified as Adam Pinkhurst, a man employed by Chaucer himself. Pinkhurst also appears to be responsible for the Hengwrt Manuscript of the "Tales", now considered the earliest, most authoritative, and closest to Chaucer's holograph.Nagle, M. " [http://www.umainetoday.umaine.edu/Issues/v4i5/adam.html Finding Adam] ", Umaine Today, Nov-Dec 2004] This would also imply, however, that the revisions seen in the Ellesmere manuscript would have been carried out by someone who had worked with Chaucer, knew his intentions for the "Tales", and had access to draft materials.

The Ellesmere manuscript is conventionally referred to as El in most discussions of the "Tales" and their textual history. A facsimile edition is available.


External links

* [http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/Scriptorium/hehweb/elmss.html The Ellesmere mss at the Huntington Library]

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