Medieval Studies John Shirley
by
Margaret Connolly
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 March 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0198

Introduction

John Shirley, who died in 1456, was a scribe of later Middle English literature, particularly of works by John Lydgate and Geoffrey Chaucer. Shirley’s three autograph anthologies contain significant numbers of poetic and prose texts by these authors and others such as Thomas Hoccleve and John Trevisa, as well as many anonymous works. A distinguishing feature of Shirley’s scribal work is his provision of lengthy headings offering information about the texts he copied: in some cases this constitutes the only surviving evidence of authorship, meaning that Shirley’s witness is crucial for determining the canonicity of some works by Chaucer and Lydgate; indeed, his copies of some of their works are the only ones to survive. His anthologies also contain works in French and Latin, and he himself translated a number of prose works from these languages. Shirley owned other manuscripts, and he gave some to family and friends; the evidence for this is found in his distinctive monogram, motto, and inscriptions, usually placed at the beginning of the volumes. After his death Shirley’s autograph manuscripts were used by other London scribes, giving rise to a new generation of copies in which the influence of his distinctive headings and unusual spellings may be traced. His manuscripts were esteemed in the 16th century by antiquarians such as John Stow. As well as his scribal activities, John Shirley had a long career in the service of Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick. As a member of Warwick’s retinue Shirley fought in Henry IV’s campaign against Owen Glendower in Wales, and in Henry V’s wars in France. Shirley rose to the prominent position of Warwick’s secretary, and was a highly trusted member of the earl’s household, responsible for conducting much business. In the later years of his life Shirley lived at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London and was involved with the city’s mercantile community through his second wife, the daughter of a prosperous London wool merchant. Shirley’s life is richly documented, but the nature of the evidence has been interpreted in different ways. Early assessments of his prolific scribal output, combined with details of his property ownership, led commentators to claim that he operated a commercial proto-publishing business in the mid-15th century, before printing began in England. This interpretation stands in opposition to the alternative view of Shirley as an amateur copyist, concerned to preserve old texts and to lend copies to his friends and associates, particularly within the noble household.

Reference Works

Manuscripts associated with John Shirley are scattered across libraries in the United Kingdom and the United States; the published catalogues of individual repositories and collections, where available, provide the most useful starting points for the investigation of these codices. For manuscripts that are held in British institutions (excluding the British Library, the Bodleian Library, and Cambridge University Library), Ker 1969–1992 is an invaluable resource and one made more accessible by the subsequent publication of a set of comprehensive indexes—Cunningham and Watson 2002. The key Middle English reference work A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs, et al. 1967–2005) provides information about individual texts that will be helpful in understanding the range of sometimes unfamiliar material that Shirley copied. For Middle English poetry DIMEV: An Open Access Digital Edition of the Index of Middle English Verse (Mooney, et al. 1995–) has superseded earlier hard-copy indexes and may be freely accessed. There is as yet no equivalent for Middle English prose texts but the individual hand lists that have appeared as part of the Index of Middle English Prose (Edwards 1984–) will provide some useful information; searching these has become less laborious since the publication of a cumulative index (Rand 2014). For information about other individuals involved in book production in later medieval London, see Christianson 1990.

  • Christianson, C. P. A Directory of London Stationers and Book Artisans, 1300–1500. New York: Bibliographical Society of America, 1990.

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    Alphabetical listing of individuals recorded as active in aspects of the London book trade. Short summaries provide many references to original documentary sources and secondary reading. Helpful indexes of names and manuscripts.

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    • Cunningham, I. C., and A. G. Watson, eds. Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries by N. R. Ker. Vol. 5, Indexes and Addenda. Oxford: Clarendon, 2002.

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      Provides eleven indexes to Neil Ker’s four-volume reference work, allowing searches focused on texts (by author, subject, title, first line) or named individuals (scribes, illuminators, owners, annotators). Addenda record changes in the locations of manuscripts or in the names of institutions, as the result of sales, closures, and corporate reorganizations.

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      • Edwards, A. S. G., ed. The Index of Middle English Prose. Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 1984–.

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        A total of twenty-one volumes published to date. Identifies Middle English prose writings and transcribes the first fifty and last twenty words of each item. Ambitious project organized by library or collection; only twenty-one hand lists published thus far, edited by different editors. Hard-copy only. Each volume has a comprehensive set of indexes.

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        • Ker, N. R. Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries. 4 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1969–1992.

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          Alphabetical listing of medieval manuscripts held in British libraries arranged by repository. Volume 1 covers London; Volumes 2–4 cover Aberdeen–York. Each manuscript entry provides a physical description and brief list of contents. More detail given about manuscripts in smaller, lesser-known collections for which no other information is available.

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          • Mooney, Linne R., Daniel W. Mosser, and Elizabeth Solopova, eds. DIMEV: An Open Access Digital Edition of the Index of Middle English Verse. York, UK: University of York, 1995–.

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            The digital successor to hard-copy indexes that were published in 1943, 1965, and 2005. Records all known works in English verse from the period 1200–1500, numbered and arranged alphabetically by first line. May be searched by author, first line, or manuscript reference. Regularly updated as new discoveries emerge. Freely accessible.

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            • Rand, Kari Anne. The Index of Middle English Prose: Index to Vols. I to XX. Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 2014.

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              Cumulative index to the first twenty volumes of the Index of Middle English Prose. Vital research tool to anyone working with Middle English texts.

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              • Severs, J. Burke, Albert E. Hartung, and Peter G. Beidler, eds. A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500. 11 vols. New Haven, CT: Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1967–2005.

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                Classifies and describes all known writings in Middle English under twenty-five headings. Offers a comprehensive listing of all known manuscripts and early printed editions with bibliographical citations. Hard-copy only, so increasingly dated bibliographically, but still the best quick reference guide to the subject. Volume 6 is especially relevant to Shirley.

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                Historical and Cultural Overviews

                According to the inscription on John Shirley’s tombstone he was age ninety when he died in 1456; this monument, now lost, was observed by the historian John Stow in the 16th century, and its text is recorded in his Survey of London. For Stow’s history, see Kingsford 1971. If John Shirley did indeed reach the great age of ninety then he must have been born in 1366, at the beginning of the final decade of the reign of Edward III. As an adult Shirley lived through the reigns of four more English kings: Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI. Modern perceptions of these monarchs have been colored by their representation in Shakespeare’s history plays. For a more balanced overview of Richard II’s reign, see Saul 1997. Allmand 1997 provides a similarly judicious account of Henry V, and a detailed appraisal of Henry VI will be found in Griffiths 1981. Pollard 2000 is a useful overview that spans the whole 15th century, from the reign of Henry IV to the early years of Henry VIII’s reign; unusually this chronological history emphasizes the social and economic stability of England during the period known as the Wars of the Roses. Literature produced for consumption at the English court in the late 14th and early 15th centuries was written in both English and French; this multilingual context is examined in Butterfield 2009, particularly in relation to Chaucer and his French contemporaries. More detail on specific aspects of English court culture of this period is offered in Scattergood and Sherborne 1983. For a sense of the wealth and prosperity of England’s capital city in Shirley’s lifetime, and of the social and legal structures that would have governed his residence there, see Barron 2004.

                • Allmand, Christopher T. Henry V. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

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                  Textbook study of Henry V that emphasizes both his success as a military leader and his professional approach to government.

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                  • Barron, Caroline M. London in the Later Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

                    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199257775.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    Uses original documentary sources to trace the workings of civic politics and government in London over the period 1200–1500. Gives a detailed impression of civic bureaucracy, manufacturing industries, guilds, trade, and the law. Research monograph useful for understanding Shirley’s environment in his later years.

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                    • Butterfield, Ardis. The Familiar Enemy: Chaucer, Language, and Nation in the Hundred Years War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

                      DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199574865.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                      Offers a literary perspective on the Hundred Years War and its impact on later medieval writing in England. Explores the triangular linguistic relationship of English, Anglo-French, and French, the plural linguistic context inhabited by authors, readers, and scribes such as Shirley.

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                      • Griffiths, Ralph A. The Reign of Henry VI. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981.

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                        Modern scholarly reassessment of the third Lancastrian king that examines the entire span of the king’s reign, including his period of insanity and his dethronement in 1461. Full of informative detail about the historical and political context of Shirley’s later years. Essential reading for all students of mid-15th-century England.

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                        • Kingsford, C. L. John Stow: A Survey of London (reprinted from the text of 1603). 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1971.

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                          Facsimile reprint of 1908 edition. Modern edition of John Stow’s history of Elizabethan London. Stow’s assessment of Shirley is included alongside a transcription of the inscription on Shirley’s tomb in the church at St Bartholomew’s Hospital; see II.23–24.

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                          • Pollard, A. J. Late Medieval England, 1399–1509. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education, 2000.

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                            Textbook study of the history of England in the 15th century. Political narrative that covers the Lancastrian dynasty, Wars of the Roses, and early Tudor kings, and that pays significant attention to economic, social, and religious considerations. Organized chronologically in short sections; useful suggestions for further reading.

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                            • Saul, Nigel. Richard II. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

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                              Full-length academic biography that draws upon unpublished documentary sources. Offers a political narrative of Richard’s kingship that also incorporates discussion of his piety, and the artistic and cultural achievements of his reign. Clear and readable account that is organized chronologically.

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                              • Scattergood, V. J., and J. W. Sherborne, eds. English Court Culture in the Later Middle Ages. London: Duckworth, 1983.

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                                Focused collection of ten scholarly essays that consider the English court in the 14th and 15th centuries. Topics discussed include education, patronage, crusades, architecture, painting, manuscripts, literature, and music. Useful background reading.

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                                Biographical Studies

                                John Shirley’s life is richly documented: his name occurs in numerous early-15th-century historical records, which allows many details of his life to be pieced together, though significant gaps remain. The earliest biographical study, now very outdated, is that of Gaertner 1904. A brief but widely accessible overview is offered by the entry for John Shirley in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Griffiths 2004), but much more detail, especially in relation to Shirley’s residence in London, is given in Doyle 1961. Connolly 1998 builds on Doyle’s foundations and extends knowledge of Shirley’s earlier life by more than a decade, emphasizing Shirley’s long-standing service to Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick. For an insight into the nature of this feudal relationship that is based on a study of Warwick’s retinue, see Carpenter 1980. A uniquely visual representation of Richard Beauchamp’s chivalric career is offered by the Beauchamp Pageant, a late-15th-century illustrated life of the earl, for which see Sinclair 2003. Much information about Shirley’s professional connection with his lord has been recovered; however, in contrast, little is known about his personal relationships. Very little evidence survives about John Shirley’s first wife, but his second, Margaret Lynne, was the daughter of a wealthy London wool merchant and grocer. Erler 1994 offers a study of Margaret’s mother, Alice Lynne, that helps to contextualize Shirley’s relationship with his in-laws.

                                • Carpenter, Christine. “The Beauchamp Affinity: A Study of Bastard Feudalism at Work.” English Historical Review 95 (1980): 514–532.

                                  DOI: 10.1093/ehr/XCV.CCCLXXVI.514Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                  Examines the Warwickshire following of Richard Beauchamp and shows how noble service might be mutually beneficial.

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                                  • Connolly, Margaret. John Shirley: Book Production and the Noble Household in Fifteenth-Century England. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998.

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                                    Only book-length assessment of John Shirley’s life and career. Constructs a detailed account of his biography based on the examination and interpretation of original documentary sources. See especially chapter 1 (for Shirley’s association with Richard Beauchamp) and chapter 3 (for Shirley’s connections in London).

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                                    • Doyle, A. I. “More Light on John Shirley.” Medium Ævum 30 (1961): 93–101.

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                                      Seminal and much-cited scholarly investigation of Shirley’s life, tracing his career from c. 1414 onward. Findings based on archival evidence. Ends with the promise “to be continued,” but the further study, which was to be bibliographical and palaeographical, was never published.

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                                      • Erler, Mary C. “Three Fifteenth-Century Vowesses.” In Medieval London Widows, 1300–1500. Edited by Caroline M. Barron and Anne F. Sutton, 165–183. London: Hambledon, 1994.

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                                        A study of three London widows who took vows of chastity; one of these, Alice Lynne, was John Shirley’s mother-in-law. Clear explanation of the vocation of the vowess and the social and financial significance of making such a vow; useful family details.

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                                        • Gaertner, Otto. John Shirley: Seine Leben und Wirken. Halle, Germany: Karras, 1904.

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                                          Short monograph study now very out of date and inaccessible.

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                                          • Griffiths, Jeremy J. “John Shirley (c. 1366–1456), author, translator, and scribe.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

                                            DOI: 10.1093/ref:odnb/25428Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            Brief biographical account, widely accessible, that now needs updating: published posthumously (Griffiths died in 1997) so omits reference to subsequent scholarship. Contains useful list of manuscripts associated with Shirley. Available online by subscription.

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                                            • Sinclair, A. F. J., ed. The Beauchamp Pageant. Donington, UK: Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, 2003.

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                                              Full color facsimile edition of British Library Cotton MS Julius E IV, article. The editor’s introduction provides a clear and readable account of Richard Beauchamp’s life. In association with Paul Watkins.

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                                              Contemporaries

                                              John Shirley’s detailed headings to the literary works that he copied often contain information that bespeaks a personal acquaintance with their authors, or at least a firsthand knowledge of the circumstances of the composition or presentation of these pieces. These details can sometimes be substantiated from the historical record, allowing the construction of a rich picture of Shirley’s personal and professional networks. The author about whom Shirley gives the greatest amount of circumstantial detail is the poet John Lydgate, who was a monk at Bury St. Edmunds; Pearsall 1997 provides a digest of information about Lydgate’s life. An older but eminently readable account of Lydgate’s poetic works is Pearsall 1970. Shirley also offers information about individuals such as Thomas Chaucer, son of the famous English poet Geoffrey Chaucer; the old but still valuable study of Ruud 1926 provides a historical profile of Thomas. A protegé of Thomas Chaucer’s was the Welsh esquire Lewis John, mentioned by Shirley as the host of an important dinner at which a poem by Henry Scogan was presented to the princely sons of Henry IV. Lewis John was a member of Cardinal Henry Beaufort’s household and steward to Joan of Navarre, Henry IV’s dowager queen; the details of his career are outlined in Carr 1967. For a summary of what is known about Henry Scogan and his association with Chaucer, see Scattergood 1991. Another minor poet, Richard Sellyng, sent verses soliciting Shirley’s opinion and amendment; for details, see Baugh 1940. Warren 2008 discusses the culture of the London craft guilds in the 1420s and 1430s and their interest in commissioning poetic texts, writings that are often preserved only in Shirley’s copies. For historical information about individual figures associated with Shirley, or who are mentioned by him in relation to the texts that he copies, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (see Griffiths 2004, cited under Biographical Studies) will often have entries and should be checked in the first instance. In his retirement years he lived near St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, an area favored by many former servants of the earl of Warwick; on this environment and its variety of inhabitants, see Sutton and Visser-Fuchs 1996.

                                              • Baugh, A. C. “Richard Sellyng.” In Essays and Studies in Honor of Carleton Brown. Edited by Carleton Brown, 161–181. New York: New York University Press, 1940.

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                                                Discusses various individuals with the surname “Sellyng” who occur in 15th-century documents. Prints the text of Sellyng’s poem “Evidens to be ware.”

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                                                • Carr, A. D. “Sir Lewis John: A Medieval London Welshman.” Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies 22 (1967): 260–270.

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                                                  Gives a full account of Lewis John’s long and varied career. Also contains information about Thomas Chaucer.

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                                                  • Pearsall, Derek. John Lydgate. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1970.

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                                                    Readable full-length study of the author and his work that considers John Lydgate’s poetry in relation to Chaucer’s and also in its own right. Widely available.

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                                                    • Pearsall, Derek. John Lydgate, 1371–1449: A Bio-bibliography. English Literary Studies Monograph Series 71. Victoria, BC: ELS, University of Victoria, 1997.

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                                                      Reappraises the documentary evidence for John Lydgate’s career and prints transcripts of all the known life-records but does not provide translations from Latin or French. Gives a chronology of Lydgate’s datable works. Succinct digest of much original research. First point of reference for information about Lydgate’s manuscripts.

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                                                      • Ruud, M. B. Thomas Chaucer. Studies in Language and Literature 9. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Research Publications, 1926.

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                                                        Remains the only sustained biographical study of Thomas Chaucer.

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                                                        • Scattergood, John. “Olde Age, Love and Friendship in Chaucer’s Envoy to Scogan.” Nottingham Medieval Studies 35 (1991): 92–101.

                                                          DOI: 10.1484/J.NMS.3.194Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          Discusses the themes of Chaucer’s Envoy to Scogan and defines it as a begging poem. Summarizes what has been discovered about the identity of Henry Scogan.

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                                                          • Sutton, Anne, and Livia Visser-Fuchs. “The Cult of Angels in Late Fifteenth-Century England: An Hours of the Guardian Angel Presented to Queen Elizabeth Woodville.” In Women and the Book: Assessing the Visual Evidence. Edited by Lesley Smith and Jane H. M. Taylor, 230–265. London: British Library, 1996.

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                                                            Offers much detail on the 15th-century residents of the close at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. Notes influential individuals and the books they owned. Useful in providing a sense of the overlapping networks of religious, mercantile, gentry, and aristocratic readers in premodern London.

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                                                            • Warren, Michelle R. “Lydgate, Lovelich, and London Letters.” In Lydgate Matters: Poetry and Material Culture in the Fifteenth Century. Edited by Lisa H. Cooper and Andrea Denny-Brown, 113–138. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

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                                                              Discusses Lydgate’s craft poems and the rubrics that Shirley gives them. Speculates that Lydgate’s Pageant for Corpus Christi was another craft poem even though not specified as such by Shirley. Contains much detail on prominent citizens and the civic environment in which Shirley moved in the 1420s and 1430s.

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                                                              Scribal Productions

                                                              John Shirley’s most significant manuscripts are three large anthologies: British Library MS Additional 16165; Cambridge, Trinity College MS R.3.20; and Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 59. These substantial manuscripts and their contents are treated individually in separate sections. For a general overview of Shirley’s scribal output and its significance, see the old but generally sound account offered in Brusendorff 1925. It is surprising to note that few sustained descriptions exist of Shirley’s handwriting. His normal hand is a secretary script of an early-15th-century character; a summary of its distinctive features is offered in Connolly 1997. For display purposes Shirley used a different, engrossed calligraphic script, a large textura quadrata, whose features have been described in Griffiths 1992. Sample digital images of several of Shirley’s manuscripts may be accessed via Late Medieval English Scribes (Mooney, et al. 2011), which also gives detailed thumbnails of individual letter forms. In addition Cambridge, Trinity College MS R.3.20 may be viewed in full in digital online format via Trinity College Cambridge: Digital Library. Increasing research on the scribes of later medieval vernacular texts is providing a broader and more nuanced context for Shirley’s scribal output. In particular, see the account of literary manuscript production in early-15th-century London offered in Mooney and Stubbs 2013. For a wide-ranging assessment of manuscript book production during this period, see Gillespie and Wakelin 2011. Another distinctive feature of Shirley’s writing is his use of an eclectic spelling system. Although there was no standardized spelling in Middle English, Shirley’s linguistic usage includes some unusual habits; these are detailed in Connolly 1998.

                                                              • Brusendorff, Aage. The Chaucer Tradition. Oxford: Clarendon, 1925.

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                                                                Identifies a group of Shirley’s manuscripts that are highly significant as witnesses to the minor poems of Geoffrey Chaucer. Mostly reliable, despite its age, but contains some factual and interpretative errors. Wrongly states that Harvard MS 530 was written by Shirley’s own hand.

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                                                                • Connolly, Margaret. “A Newly Identified Letter in the Hand of John Shirley.” The Library, 6th Series 19 (1997): 242–247.

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                                                                  Announces the discovery of a letter written for the earl of Warwick by John Shirley. Contains a photograph of the letter and discussion of the palaeographical characteristics of Shirley’s hand in this documentary context.

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                                                                  • Connolly, Margaret. John Shirley: Book Production and the Noble Household in Fifteenth-Century England. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998.

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                                                                    Appendix 1 assembles a linguistic profile of John Shirley, based on the texts copied in British Library MS Additional 16165, to demonstrate that his dialect derives from the Southwest Midlands.

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                                                                    • Gillespie, Alexandra, and Daniel Wakelin, eds. The Production of Books in England, 1350–1500. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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                                                                      Structured collection of thirteen chapters that cover all aspects of manuscript production in the later 14th and 15th centuries in England, providing a context for Shirley’s scribal output. Surveys existing research and offers new evidence and approaches. Informative and wide-ranging overview written with both students and scholars in mind.

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                                                                      • Griffiths, J. J. “A Newly Identified Manuscript Inscribed by John Shirley.” The Library, 6th Series 14 (1992): 83–93.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/library/s6-14.2.83Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        Describes the key palaeographical characteristics of Shirley’s display script. Accompanied by several high-quality images of Shirley’s inscriptions, motto, and monogram.

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                                                                        • Mooney, Linne, Simon Horobin, and Estelle Stubbs, eds. Late Medieval English Scribes. York, UK: University of York, 2011.

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                                                                          Freely accessible online catalogue of all scribal hands that appear in the manuscripts of the English writings of the five major Middle English writers: Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, John Trevisa, Thomas Hoccleve, and William Langland. Searchable by author, manuscript, scribe, and even individual letters; sample pictures of many manuscripts.

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                                                                          • Mooney, Linne R., and Estelle Stubbs. Scribes and the City: London Guildhall Clerks and the Dissemination of Middle English Literature, 1375–1425. York, UK: York Medieval, 2013.

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                                                                            Demonstrates that the scribes responsible for copying the earliest manuscripts of Geoffrey Chaucer’s literary works were government clerks working at the London Guildhall. Names four scribes active in the dissemination of Middle English literature in the period 1375–1425. Large format allows high-quality reproductions of examples of script.

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                                                                            • Trinity College Cambridge: Digital Library. Cambridge, UK: Master and Fellows, Trinity College, 2015.

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                                                                              Provides free online access to 206 of Trinity’s 1,250 medieval manuscripts (more will be added), including a full digital facsimile of Trinity MS R.3.20. The digital images are supported by catalogue descriptions (from the printed catalogue by M. R. James), lists of the manuscript’s contents, and brief bibliographical information.

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                                                                              London, British Library, MS Additional 16165

                                                                              The earliest of Shirley’s three anthologies is London, British Library, MS Additional 16165. This volume seems to have been copied in discrete sections over a period of time during the 1420s; Lyall 1989 provides a clear assessment of its physical composition and paper stocks, and another codicological account is offered in Hanna 1996. A starting point for discovering what texts are included in the manuscript is the online catalogue of the British Library. The manuscript contains a substantial amount of English prose writing, of which several pieces are translations: these include John Trevisa’s translation of the Gospel of Nicodemus, analyzed at length in Fowler 1995. Another translation is Boece, Geoffrey Chaucer’s version of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy; for an edition of Chaucer’s text, see Machan 2008. Other short pieces by Chaucer are also anthologized in MS Additional 16165, including two fragments of Anelida and Arcite; Edwards 1988 discusses these and Shirley’s later copy of this poem in Cambridge, Trinity College, MS R.3.20. However, Chaucer’s work is not the most significant element in MS Additional 16165: Shirley includes more poems by John Lydgate, and in this anthology his selection of poems is largely of a courtly or occasional nature. For texts of these shorter secular poems, including The Complaint of the Black Knight, see MacCracken 1934. Shirley also copied Lydgate’s substantial dream poem, The Temple of Glass, in this manuscript, for which see Boffey 2003.

                                                                              • Boffey, Julia. Fifteenth-Century English Dream Visions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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                                                                                Anthology of five 15th-century dream poems. The edition of Lydgate’s Temple of Glass is based on the text in BL MS Additional 16165. Notes many characteristic features of Shirley’s scribal practice. Helpful notes and suggestions for further reading.

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                                                                                • British Library.

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                                                                                  General search facility to the British Library’s collections. Search by manuscript name and number to bring up a catalogue entry with details of textual contents but no images. Not easy to use. For MS Additional 16165 check online.

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                                                                                  • Edwards, A. S. G. “The Unity and Authenticity of Anelida and Arcite: The Evidence of the Manuscripts.” Studies in Bibliography 41 (1988): 177–188.

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                                                                                    Discusses the composition and authorship of the poem Anelida and Arcite, arguing that this constitutes two separate works, only one of which is authentically by Chaucer. Provides a detailed listing of all known manuscripts in an appendix.

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                                                                                    • Fowler, David C. The Life and Times of John Trevisa, Medieval Scholar. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995.

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                                                                                      Biographical study that traces what is known of Trevisa’s career at Oxford and as vicar of Berkeley. Chapter 4 discusses Trevisa’s translations and pays close attention to the Gospel of Nicodemus.

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                                                                                      • Hanna, Ralph. “John Shirley and British Library, MS Additional 16165.” Studies in Bibliography 49 (1996): 95–105.

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                                                                                        A codicological assessment of the manuscript with an outline of its collation and paper stocks. Argues that the manuscript’s significance lies in its inclusion of prose translations and links this provision to the long-standing Anglo-Norman tradition of preparing translations for aristocratic coterie audiences.

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                                                                                        • Lyall, R. J. “Materials: The Paper Revolution.” In Book Production and Publishing in Britain, 1375–1475. Edited by Jeremy Griffiths and Derek Pearsall, 11–29. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

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                                                                                          An analysis of the different paper stocks that comprise BL MS Additional 16165, with an assessment of watermarks and their implications for dating. A rather technical read.

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                                                                                          • MacCracken, Henry N., ed. The Minor Poems of John Lydgate. Part 2, Secular Poems. Early English Text Society, Original Series 192. London: Oxford University Press, 1934.

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                                                                                            Edition of John Lydgate’s shorter poems on secular themes (courtly love, satirical, political, proverbial, and didactic); offers texts of all the mummings and various occasional poems, including many known to Shirley.

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                                                                                            • Machan, Tim William, ed. Chaucer’s Boece. Middle English Texts 38. Heidelberg, Germany: Winter, 2008.

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                                                                                              A critical edition of Chaucer’s prose translation of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy that uses Cambridge University Library MS Ii.3.21 as its base text. Lists and describes all ten extant manuscripts and early printed editions and collates the substantive variants found in these witnesses.

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                                                                                              Cambridge, Trinity College, MS R.3.20

                                                                                              John Shirley’s second major anthology has a complex physical composition; its constituent parts are now scattered among three different modern repositories, and some sections have been lost altogether. Lerer 1990 provides a succinct overview of the original composition of this now disassembled whole. When originally joined together the anthology began with a Middle English prose translation of Guillaume Deguilleville’s Pèlerinage de la vie humaine; Henry 1985–1988 has edited the English text and provides an explanation of its relation to the original French. The volume contains a few short poems by Geoffrey Chaucer, including the unique copy of “Adam Scriveyn” that is traditionally believed to be the poet’s jocular address to the copyist of his works. Mooney 2006 identifies this copyist as Adam Pinkhurst, a clerk at the London Guildhall. However the authenticity of Shirley’s ascription of the poem to Chaucer, and its place in the canon of Chaucer’s writings, is questioned in Edwards 2012. When complete, the Trinity codex contained more poems by Chaucer, but the manuscript as it now stands is predominantly a collection of John Lydgate’s poems; Scanlon and Simpson 2006 offers an up-to-date account of the remarkable range and variety of Lydgate’s oeuvre. His writings include the proto-dramatic works known as mummings, uniquely preserved by Shirley in Trinity MS R.3.20; Nolan 2005 assesses this type of public poetry and the significance of Shirley’s introductory rubrics and comments. The manuscript also includes a substantial number of lyric poems written in French; Connolly and Plumley 2006 explores what is known about the authors and subjects of these poems, and the routes by which they might have come into Shirley’s hands. The few prose contents in Trinity MS R.3.20 are listed in Mooney 1995.

                                                                                              • Connolly, Margaret, and Yolanda Plumley. “Crossing the Channel: John Shirley and the Circulation of French Lyric Poetry in England in the Early Fifteenth Century.” In Patrons, Authors and Workshops: Books and Book Production in Paris around 1400. Edited by Godfried Croenen and Peter Ainsworth, 311–332. Louvain, Belgium: Peeters, 2006.

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                                                                                                Investigates the provenance of the six rondeaux and twenty-five ballades in Trinity MS R.3.20, and the circulation of such material across the English Channel in the early 15th century. Pays close attention to Shirley’s headings. An appendix offers a useful first-line index of the lyrics and their other witnesses.

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                                                                                                • Edwards, A. S. G. “Chaucer and ‘Adam Scriveyn.’” Medium Ævum 81 (2012): 135–138.

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                                                                                                  Short article that questions the canonicity of the poem “Adam Scriveyn” by throwing doubt on Shirley’s reliability as a copyist.

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                                                                                                  • Henry, Avril, ed. The Pilgrimage of the Lyfe of the Manhode. 2 vols. Early English Text Society, Original Series 288. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985–1988.

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                                                                                                    A critical edition of the text with an extensive introduction. Offers a helpful overview of the text and summarizes information about its author; also gives descriptions of manuscripts (pp. xlvii–xlix for Shirley’s copy), and their relationship, and comments on translation.

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                                                                                                    • Lerer, Seth. “British Library MS Harley 78 and the Manuscripts of John Shirley.” Notes and Queries 37.4 (1990): 400–403.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1093/nq/37.4.400Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      Demonstrates that four leaves of British Library MS Harley 78, a composite manuscript assembled by John Stow, are part of a quire that originally belonged with Trinity MS R.3.20. Describes the appearance of the leaves, script, and watermarks and notes the texts copied here by Shirley.

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                                                                                                      • Mooney, Linne R., ed. Index of Middle English Prose, Handlist XI: The Library of Trinity College, Cambridge. Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 1995.

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                                                                                                        Lists the few items written in English prose in Trinity MS R.3.20; transcribes the first fifty and last twenty words of each item.

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                                                                                                        • Mooney, Linne R. “Chaucer’s Scribe.” Speculum 81 (2006): 97–138.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1017/S0038713400019394Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          Identifies Chaucer’s personal copyist and the figure referred to in the poem “Adam Scriveyn” as Adam Pinkhurst, a clerk at the London Guildhall. Based on extensive research among documentary sources of the period and a detailed comparison of the script of both literary manuscripts and contemporary historical documents.

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                                                                                                          • Nolan, Maura B. John Lydgate and the Making of Public Culture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511483387Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            Detailed account of Lydgate’s public poems, including those uniquely preserved in Trinity MS R.3.20 and variously described by Shirley as either mummings or disguisings. Discusses the varied royal and mercantile audiences for these entertainments and argues that the works are genuinely innovative.

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                                                                                                            • Scanlon, Larry, and James Simpson, eds. John Lydgate: Poetry, Culture, and Lancastrian England. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                              Collection of eleven essays that consider the corpus of Lydgate’s writing and his role as an official laureate poet. Shirley’s influence is noted particularly in chapter 6 (on Lydgate’s civic poetry and connections with London) and chapter 7 (on the mummings).

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                                                                                                              Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 59

                                                                                                              Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 59 consists of two originally unconnected manuscripts that were later bound together; only the first section is written by Shirley. There is no easily accessible catalogue description, but Watson 1984 offers a clear account of the composite volume. A more comprehensive even though now rather dated description is given in Hammond 1907. Like Shirley’s two other anthologies, MS Ashmole 59 contains a mixture of prose and verse. There are very few poems by Chaucer and the authorship of one item that Shirley ascribes to him is doubtful: see Boffey and Edwards 1998. As in Trinity MS R.3.20, the poetry of John Lydgate predominates, but included here are more pieces of a historical nature, such as the various extracts from The Fall of Princes; Edwards 1977 notes the great popularity of this work and the widespread tendency to quote short passages from it. Also included is Lydgate’s shorter poem “The Kings of England Sithen William the Conqueror,” on which see Mooney 1989. The prose contents of MS Ashmole 59 are listed in Eldredge 1992, which is a useful guide to the shorter prose pieces in particular. This manuscript contains two prose texts of significant length: the first is an incomplete translation of the Secretum Secretorum, which is not the same as Shirley’s own translation of this text (for which see Translations); the second is The Chronicle of the Three Kings of Cologne. Unusually both these texts contain riddling acrostics in alphabetical sequences; Boffey 1996 provides some discussion of both The Chronicle of the Three Kings of Cologne and this type of embedded literary puzzle. In general the tone of this latest collection written by Shirley’s own hand tends toward the serious and didactic and includes many short anonymous pieces of an instructional or moralistic nature that are often textually very different from other copies; it has been suggested that Shirley’s accuracy was by this stage corrupted by failing eyesight, faulty memory, and approaching senility, a view that Lucas 1981 challenges.

                                                                                                              • Boffey, Julia. “Some London Women Readers and a Text of The Three Kings of Cologne.” The Ricardian 10 (1996): 387–396.

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                                                                                                                Gives a brief description of The Three Kings of Cologne and its readers with particular reference to Shirley’s circle. Comments on the occurrence of acrostics in different copies of this text and identifies one historical individual who was named in this way.

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                                                                                                                • Boffey, Julia, and A. S. G. Edwards. “‘Chaucer’s Chronicle’: John Shirley and the Canon of Chaucer’s Minor Poems.” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 20 (1998): 201–218.

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                                                                                                                  Doubts the authenticity of three poems, copied only by Shirley and linked with Chaucer’s name. One poem, of similar content to Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women, is in MS Ashmole 59; the others, two bawdy ballades, are in BL MS Additional 16165.

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                                                                                                                  • Edwards, A. S. G. “The Influence of Lydgate’s Fall of Princes, c. 1440–1559: A Survey.” Medieval Studies 39 (1977): 424–439.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1484/J.MS.2.306840Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Notes the abundant popularity of Lydgate’s major work in the 15th and 16th centuries, both in terms of the large number of surviving manuscripts and in the tendency of scribes to select favorite portions of the text.

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                                                                                                                    • Eldredge, L. M., ed. Index of Middle English Prose, Handlist IX: Manuscripts Containing Middle English Prose in the Ashmole Collection, Bodleian Library, Oxford. Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 1992.

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                                                                                                                      Lists the items written in English prose in MS Ashmole 59; transcribes the first fifty and last twenty words of each item.

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                                                                                                                      • Hammond, Eleanor P. “Ashmole 59 and Other Shirley Manuscripts.” Anglia 30 (1907): 320–348.

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                                                                                                                        Old scholarship but still useful for its very full listing of the contents of MS Ashmole 59.

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                                                                                                                        • Lucas, Peter J. “The Versions by John Shirley, William Gybbe and Another, of the Poem ‘On the Virtues of the Mass’: A Collation.” Notes and Queries 226 (1981): 394–398.

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                                                                                                                          Compares three versions of a Middle English poem on the Mass. Notes the tendency of scribes to rely on memory transcript and to improve upon what they copied; defends the plausibility of some of Shirley’s readings.

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                                                                                                                          • Mooney, Linne R. “Lydgate’s ‘Kings of England’ and Another Verse Chronicle of the Kings.” Viator 20 (1989): 255–289.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1484/J.VIATOR.2.301358Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            Examines the tendency in the 15th century to produce versified propaganda in support of the Lancastrian regime. Lists manuscripts of Lydgate’s verses on the kings of England and those of another anonymous Middle English verse chronicle on the same topic.

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                                                                                                                            • Watson, A. G. Catalogue of Dated and Datable Manuscripts, c. 435–1600 in Oxford Libraries. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1984.

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                                                                                                                              Contains a succinct description of MS Ashmole 59, which makes clear that only the first section of the present bound volume is relevant to a consideration of John Shirley; the second unrelated part of the manuscript, a copy of Lydgate’s Life of Our Lady, dates from the 16th century.

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                                                                                                                              Other Literary Manuscripts

                                                                                                                              As well as Shirley’s three major anthologies (British Library MS Additional 16165; Cambridge, Trinity College MS R.3.20; and Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 59), smaller examples of Shirley’s handwriting survive in a variety of contexts; for an overview with many illustrations, see Connolly 1998. Although the rest of the volume is not by Shirley’s hand, the opening quire of Huntington Library, Ellesmere MS 26.A.13 bears his motto and monogram and a series of personal inscriptions; Dutschke 1989 describes this composite manuscript, and the ways in which its different parts may have been brought together in the 15th century are explored in Hume 2013. Among the inscriptions Shirley added to this manuscript are verse quotations: it seems to have been his habit to copy favorite poetic extracts into the opening leaves of volumes that he owned or gifted, and Boffey 1996 considers one example of this practice, involving the quotation of a stanza from John Walton’s translation of Boethius. Shirley seems to have been generally inclined to write in whatever manuscripts passed through his hands, as Parkes 1978 notes in relation to Cambridge Corpus Christi College MS 61; this deluxe copy of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde is not believed to have been Shirley’s own property. More straightforwardly it is clear that Shirley used his motto and monogram to denote ownership, as in University of London Library MS 1, his copy of La Vie du Prince Noir; on this text see Tyson 1975. Sometimes Shirley’s inscription shows that he gave a book away: one such gift, to an unknown recipient, has been identified in Yale University, Beinecke Library, Osborn MS a29, a copy of Richard Rolle’s Expositio super nouem lectiones mortuorum. Shirley had some of Rolle’s English works in a small devotional anthology, Gonville and Caius College 669/646, a volume that he extensively annotated; on both of these manuscripts, see Griffiths 1992. Shirley was an active reader of his own books, often adding annotations in their margins, as in MS Cambridge University Library Ff.1.33, the book of French prose texts that he owned and partially translated (see Translations). A later manuscript by another scribe, British Library Harley 2251, which was copied from one of Shirley’s originals (see Later Copies of Manuscripts), preserves a series of marginal comments that were probably by Shirley; the comments, which disagree with Lydgate’s antifeminist views, are reproduced in Edwards 1972.

                                                                                                                              • Boffey, Julia. “Proverbial Chaucer and the Chaucer Canon.” Huntington Library Quarterly 58.1 (1996): 37–47.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.2307/3817896Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                Investigates extracted copies of the “prosperity” stanza by John Walton, and its misattribution in one manuscript to Chaucer; includes discussion of Shirley’s copies in MSS BL Royal 20 B. xv and Huntington Library, Ellesmere 26.A.13. Suggests Shirley may have played a role in the stanza’s transmission to Scottish scribes.

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                                                                                                                                • Connolly, Margaret. John Shirley: Book Production and the Noble Household in Fifteenth-Century England. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                  Chapter 5 provides an overview of manuscripts connected with John Shirley either through his ownership or through readership, or because of gift dedications to family members and acquaintances. Gives detailed descriptions of his motto and monogram, with black-and-white reproductions of many inscriptions.

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                                                                                                                                  • Dutschke, C. W. Guide to Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Huntington Library. 2 vols. San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1989.

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                                                                                                                                    Detailed catalogue descriptions of manuscripts. The entry for MS Ellesmere 26.A.13 is in Volume 1.

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                                                                                                                                    • Edwards, A. S. G. “John Lydgate, Medieval Antifeminism and Harley 2251.” Annuale Medievale (Duquesne) 13 (1972): 32–44.

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                                                                                                                                      Notes an extract from Lydgate’s Fall of Princes in British Library MS Harley 2251 that has a series of contemporary marginal annotations. Prints the relevant stanzas and marginalia but does not actually identify the annotator as Shirley.

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                                                                                                                                      • Griffiths, J. J. “A Newly Identified Manuscript Inscribed by John Shirley.” The Library, 6th Series 14 (1992): 83–93.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/library/s6-14.2.83Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        Identifies a two-word inscription in a manuscript copy of Richard Rolle’s Expositio super novem lectiones mortuorum (Yale University, Beinecke Library, MS Osborn 19) as by Shirley’s hand. Discusses Shirley’s display script and offers images of Shirley’s inscriptions, motto, and monogram.

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                                                                                                                                        • Hume, Cathy. “The Storie of Asneth: A Fifteenth-Century Commission and the Mystery of Its Epilogue.” Medium Ævum 82 (2013): 44–65.

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                                                                                                                                          Suggests a possible patron for the 15th-century poem, The Storie of Asneth, that occurs uniquely in the third section of Huntington Library MS Ellesmere 26.A.13. Clear explanation of how the different sections of this manuscript relate to John Shirley and members of his extended family.

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                                                                                                                                          • Parkes, Malcolm B. “Palaeographical Description and Commentary.” In Troilus and Criseyde: A Facsimile of Corpus Christi College Cambridge MS 61. Edited by Malcolm B. Parkes and Elizabeth Salter, 1–13. Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 1978.

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                                                                                                                                            Compares Shirley’s inscription of a couplet from Lydgate with his copying of the same verses in two other manuscripts (with images). Doubts the likelihood that Shirley might have commissioned this high-grade manuscript.

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                                                                                                                                            • Tyson, Diana B. La Vie du Prince Noir by Chandos Herald. Beihefte zur Zeitschift für Romanische Philologie Band 147. Tübingen, Germany: Max Niemeyer-Verlag, 1975.

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                                                                                                                                              Scholarly edition of the late-14th-century French text based on the copy owned by John Shirley. Substantial introduction with description of University of London MS 1 and its close relationship to the other manuscript; also discusses the text’s literary background and literary qualities.

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                                                                                                                                              Original Compositions

                                                                                                                                              As well as copying out the works of recent and contemporary poets such as Geoffrey Chaucer and John Lydgate, Shirley composed a small quantity of verse himself. These original compositions survive in the form of long versified prefaces to two of his anthologies and in his single-stanza bookplate. Shirley provided one of his anthologies, British Library MS Additional 16165, with a lengthy verse preface; Croft 1973 prints only an extract but helpfully pairs this with a facsimile image that allows the reader to grasp a sense of how the verses appear in their manuscript context. The verses that Shirley intended to preface his second anthology (Cambridge, Trinity College MS R.3.20 and its other now detached sections) survive only in a later copy transcribed by John Stow in British Library MS Additional 29729. Texts of both prefaces were printed in Brusendorff 1925, but the transcriptions published in Hammond 1927 are rather more accurate and include comment on their lack of literary value. The full text of both prefaces is transcribed anew from the manuscripts in Connolly 1998. The purpose of the verse prefaces seems to have been to introduce the contents of the volumes and to identify some of the authors of the texts; additionally, each proclaims Shirley’s ownership and voices a plea that the relevant book be returned to him after reading. This sentiment is also expressed in the only other piece of original verse ascribed to Shirley, his so-called bookplate stanza; the text of this was also printed in Brusendorff 1925, though the author mistakenly ascribed its authorship to John Lydgate. Both the bookplate stanza and the verse prefaces are discussed in Lerer 1993 as part of a wider assessment of Shirley’s influence. The quality of all of Shirley’s verses has been generally derided and the condemnation of them as “limping doggerel” in Hammond 1907 has not been seriously challenged by later critics.

                                                                                                                                              • Brusendorff, Aage. The Chaucer Tradition. Oxford: Clarendon, 1925.

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                                                                                                                                                Prints transcriptions of Shirley’s two versified lists of contents and the bookplate stanza on pp. 453–460. Regards the verse prefaces as poor poetry whose purpose was related to Shirley’s operation of a circulating library. Wrongly assumes the bookplate stanza to be written by Lydgate.

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                                                                                                                                                • Connolly, Margaret. John Shirley: Book Production and the Noble Household in Fifteenth-Century England. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                  Gives transcriptions of both verse prefaces in Appendix 3 and discusses these in chapter 9.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Croft, P. J., ed. Autograph Poetry in the English Language: Facsimiles of Original Manuscripts from the Fourteenth to the Twentieth Centuries. 2 vols. London: Cassell, 1973.

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                                                                                                                                                    Volume 1 contains an extract from Shirley’s verse prologue to British Library MS Additional 16165, the final section only (transcription and image), with a brief headnote.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Hammond, Eleanor P. “Ashmole 59 and Other Shirley Manuscripts.” Anglia 30 (1907): 320–348.

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                                                                                                                                                      A very full account of the contents of MS Ashmole 59 with less extensive comments about other manuscripts by Shirley. Derides the quality of the verse in Shirley’s prefaces.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Hammond, Eleanor P. English Verse between Chaucer and Surrey. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1927.

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                                                                                                                                                        Prints transcriptions of Shirley’s two verse prefaces on pp. 191–197. More accurate than Brusendorff 1925.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Lerer, Seth. Chaucer and His Readers. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                          See especially chapter 4. Analyzes and quotes extensively from the verse prefaces (which he terms “kalendars”) and bookplate. Suggests that Shirley viewed his own scribal labors as akin to those of the questing romance hero.

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                                                                                                                                                          Translations

                                                                                                                                                          John Shirley was also responsible for making English prose translations of texts originally written in French and Latin. He translated at least three texts, copies of which survive in British Library MS Additional 5467; for an outline of the contents of this manuscript, which was not written by Shirley’s own hand but by a later scribe, see the online catalogue of the British Library. The first of Shirley’s translations, The Boke of Gode Maners, is of Le Livre de Bonnes Meurs, a treatise on vices and virtues that was prepared for Jean, duc de Berry by the French author Jacques Legrand. Legrand’s work was exceptionally popular in France, where it survives in a large number of copies; Lindström 1979 outlines how the work was translated into English four times during the 15th century and also printed. Shirley’s second translation, Le Secret des Secres, is another work of advisory literature, more commonly known by its Latin title Secretum Secretorum; Manzalaoui 1977 is an edition of various English versions of this popular work, including that of Shirley. In preparing both of these translations it seems certain that Shirley found his French source texts in Cambridge University Library MS Ff.1.33, a volume that he himself owned and copiously annotated; for a description of this manuscript, see Robinson 1988. The source for Shirley’s third translation, The Dethe of the Kynge of Scotis, is not known; he claims that he is translating from a Latin chronicle, but no such narrative of the murder of James I of Scotland in 1436 has survived. For an account of the regicide, its documentary sources, and political implications, see Brown 2000. Another copy of The Dethe of the Kynge of Scotis survives in British Library MS Additional 38690; for an outline of the contents of this manuscript, see the online catalogue of the British Library, and for an edition of the text that cites variants from MS Additional 5467, see Connolly 1992. Shirley’s activities as a translator, in contrast to his scribal productions, have attracted little critical attention. Connolly 1996 offers a preliminary assessment; a fuller account, in which the author revises some of her earlier conclusions, is contained in Connolly 1998.

                                                                                                                                                          • British Library.

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                                                                                                                                                            General search facility to British Library’s collections. Search by manuscript name and number to bring up a catalogue entry with details of textual contents; no images. Not easy to use. For MS Additional 5467, check online. For MS Additional 38690, check online.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Brown, Michael. James I. East Linton, UK: Tuckwell, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                              A biographical study of the adult rule of James I of Scotland that provides a readable account of the murder of the king. Revised edition (first published Edinburgh: Canongate Academic, 1994).

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                                                                                                                                                              • Connolly, Margaret. “The Dethe of the Kynge of Scotis: A New Edition.” Scottish Historical Review 71 (1992): 46–69.

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                                                                                                                                                                An edition of The Dethe of the Kynge of Scotis based on British Library MS Additional 38690 with variant readings cited from John Shirley’s more expansive version in British Library MS Additional 5467. An important source for studies of later medieval Scottish history.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Connolly, Margaret. “‘Your Humble Suget and Seuytoure’: John Shirley, Transcriber and Translator.” In The Medieval Translator. Vol. 5, Traduire au Moyen Âge. Proceedings of International Conference of Conques, 26–29 July 1993. Edited by Roger Ellis and René Tixier, 419–431. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Preliminary account of Shirley’s activities as a translator. Notes his attraction to works of advisory literature and draws attention to his tendency to amplify his sources.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Connolly, Margaret. John Shirley: Book Production and the Noble Household in Fifteenth-Century England. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Offers a detailed analysis of Shirley’s translation techniques in chapter 6. Discussion of his translations from French pays close attention his source texts in CUL Ff.1.33 and its annotations. Argues that Shirley’s account of the murder of James I of Scotland might depend on privileged information.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Lindström, B. “The English Versions of Jacques Legrand’s Livre de Bonnes Meurs.” The Library, 6th Series 1 (1979): 247–254.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1093/library/s6-I.3.247Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      Preliminary analysis and comparison of the various Middle English translations of Legrand’s text. Condemns Shirley’s version as the worst translation.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Manzalaoui, M. A., ed. Secretum Secretorum. Early English Text Society, Original Series, 276. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Presents nine English versions of the text, including a parallel edition of Shirley’s translation with its French source and an edition of the different version Shirley copied in MS Ashmole 59. Introduction provides some sense of the long history of this pseudo-Aristotelian text and its vast number of manuscripts.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Robinson, P. R. Catalogue of Dated and Datable Manuscripts in Cambridge Libraries, c. 737–1600. 2 vols. Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 1988.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Volume 1 contains a brief description of Cambridge University Library MS Ff.1.33; a sample facsimile is offered in volume 2. [20]

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                                                                                                                                                                          Later Copies of Manuscripts

                                                                                                                                                                          John Shirley’s influence can be traced in other manuscripts in addition to those written by his own hand; the evidence for this lies in his distinctive headings and comments, sometimes including reference to his name, and his idiosyncratic spellings of certain words, all of which were often reproduced by later 15th-century scribes in what Boffey 1985 terms neo-Shirleian compilations. A list of eight manuscripts that contain one or more texts apparently derived from Shirley’s copies is provided in Mooney 2003 in an attempt to build a picture of a network of scribes operating in London in the second half of the 15th century. One such copyist is the so-called Hammond scribe, first identified in Hammond 1905 and named after her; this scribe relied on texts from Shirley’s autograph manuscripts when compiling two miscellanies of English verse, British Library MS Harley 2251 and British Library MS Additional 34360. Various textual associations can be traced between these manuscripts and Shirley’s own copies: Edwards and Jenkins 1973 demonstrates one such connection. The scribal output of the Hammond scribe is now recognized to be very substantial; on his prolific output, see Mooney 2000. An unknown number of manuscripts written by Shirley have not survived: one such is the textual ancestor of British Library MS Harley 7333, discussed in Shonk 1999. Sometimes Shirley’s influence has been wrongly attributed: Pace 1951 dismisses the possibility that the Chaucerian texts in British Library MS Cotton Otho A. xviii might have derived from Shirleian exemplars. In the 16th century the antiquarian John Stow handled many manuscripts associated with Shirley and made a partial copy of Cambridge, Trinity College MS R.3.20 in British Library MS Additional 29729; on Stow’s collecting of medieval historical materials, see Gadd and Gillespie 2004.

                                                                                                                                                                          • Boffey, Julia. Manuscripts of English Courtly Love Lyrics in the Later Middle Ages. Woodbridge, UK: Brewer, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                                            A scholarly survey of the manuscript contexts of Middle English secular poetry, restricted to those that seem to have been written down between c. 1400 and 1530. Notes a number of substantial verse anthologies that betray Shirley’s influence.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Edwards, A. S. G., and A. W. Jenkins. “A Hymn to the Virgin: By Lydgate?” Medieval Studies 35 (1973): 60–66.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1484/J.MS.2.306131Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              Edition of Middle English lyric based on BL MS Harley 2251. Briefly notes agreements between this manuscript and MS Ashmole 59. Accepts Shirley’s ascription of authorship and argues that this poem should be accepted into the canon of Lydgate’s works.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Gadd, Ian, and Alexandra Gillespie, eds. John Stow, 1525–1605, and the Making of the English Past. London: British Library, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Collection of fifteen short essays that collectively assess the influence of Stow’s construction of a political, literary, and social history of London in the Elizabethan Age. Topics covered include Stow’s annotations to the manuscripts he owned.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Hammond, Eleanor P. “Two British Museum Manuscripts.” Anglia 28 (1905): 1–28.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Discusses in detail two manuscripts that were copied from Shirley exemplars, British Library Additional 34360 and British Library Harley 2251. Remains the best published description of these two manuscripts.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Mooney, Linne R. “A New Manuscript by the Hammond Scribe Discovered by Jeremy Griffiths.” In The English Medieval Book: Studies in Memory of Jeremy Griffiths. Edited by A. S. G. Edwards, Vincent Gillespie, and Ralph Hanna, 113–123. London: British Library, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Lists the fourteen manuscripts now associated with the Hammond scribe and speculates on his network of connections in late-15th-century London.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Mooney, Linne R. “John Shirley’s Heirs.” Yearbook of English Studies 33 (2003): 182–198.

                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/3509025Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      Brings together the evidence for the network of scribes who inherited Shirley’s manuscripts, investigating what they copied from Shirley and how they might have gained access to his books. Draws comparisons between Shirley and the later Hammond scribe.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Pace, George B. “Otho A. XVIII.” Speculum 26 (1951): 306–316.

                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/2852409Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        Notes an 18th-century transcription of four Chaucerian poems from this fragmentary burnt manuscript. Textual examination reveals no direct influence by Shirley, aside from a general similarity in the headings.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Shonk, Timothy A. “BL MS Harley 7333: The ‘Publication’ of Chaucer in the Rural Areas.” Essays in Medieval Studies 15 (1999): 81–91.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Argues that this huge manuscript, whose copy of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales shows distinctive signs of Shirley’s influence, was produced by professional scribes in the environs of Leicester Abbey rather than by monks at the abbey itself.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Critical Evaluations

                                                                                                                                                                                          Broad agreement exists about the importance of John Shirley as a disseminator of 15th-century vernacular literature. Shirley’s significance as a preserver of the shorter poems of Geoffrey Chaucer and John Lydgate has been recognized, in particular, since the 16th century with the earliest acknowledgment of these activities found in remarks made by the antiquarian John Stow, for which see Kingsford 1971 (cited under Historical and Cultural Overviews). Editors of Middle English texts in the 19th century, and especially of Chaucer’s poems, regarded Shirley as the greatest of authorities on these works and valued his scribal headings for the information they offered about matters such as authorship, whereas 20th-century editors, in works such as Pace and David 1982, have been more circumspect, still acknowledging Shirley’s importance but critical of some of the readings he offers. The debate about the quality of Shirley’s scribal work (was he a good or a careless copyist?) continues; it was taken a stage further in Lerer 1993, which suggests that perhaps Shirley might have invented some of the texts that he copied. Another dichotomy in scholarly interpretation lies in the overall assessment of Shirley’s literary activities: was he an amateur enthusiast or a professional business man? The discovery of documentary evidence from 15th-century London that linked Shirley with the rental of four shops led the author of Brusendorff 1925 to claim that from these premises Shirley ran a flourishing commercial scriptorium. This view has been taken up by many later commentators in works such as Greenberg 1982 without much attempt to interpret the historical sources intelligently. Doyle 1983 offers a brief response to Greenberg 1982, stressing the need for a more cautious approach to the documentary evidence. Green 1980 offers an alternative interpretation of the shops and espouses the idea that Shirley’s engagement with manuscripts was more amateur than professional. Edwards 1997 restates the commercial theory, viewing Shirley as a salesman whose primary audience was mercantile rather than courtly. A rounded assessment of Shirley’s scribal activities that places them firmly within the context of his longstanding career in the service of Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, is offered in Connolly 1998; this is still the only book-length assessment of Shirley’s life and work.

                                                                                                                                                                                          • Brusendorff, Aage. The Chaucer Tradition. Oxford: Clarendon, 1925.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            Interprets Shirley’s rental of four shops as an indication of a well-developed copying business, requiring the employment of several other scribes. Deeply influential on later 20th-century assessments of Shirley and the source of the commercial theory of his activities.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Connolly, Margaret. John Shirley: Book Production and the Noble Household in Fifteenth-Century England. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Based on extensive primary research. Argues that the noble household was the primary context for the circulation of Shirley’s manuscripts during his lifetime. Concludes that Shirley lent books but did not sell them. Notes that his manuscripts enjoyed an afterlife in late-15th-century London, and they were copied by later scribes.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Doyle, A. I. “Retrospect and Prospect.” In Manuscripts and Readers in Fifteenth-Century England. Edited by Derek Pearsall, 142–146. Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 1983.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Short survey of the state of English manuscript studies in the early 1980s. Argues for a more cautious approach in assessing the nature of manuscript production, especially with regard to the ambiguous nature of Shirley’s activities. Critical of Greenberg 1982.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Edwards, A. S. G. “John Shirley and the Emulation of Courtly Culture.” In The Court and Cultural Diversity. Edited by Evelyn Mullally and John Thompson, 309–317. Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Interprets Shirley’s manuscripts as down-market productions and argues that they were intended for a noncourtly audience with snobbish pretensions. Regards Shirley’s prefaces as elements in a sales strategy and the content of Shirley’s headings as largely name-dropping; concludes that Shirley’s activities were commercially driven.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Green, Richard Firth. Poets and Princepleasers: Literature and the English Court in the Late Middle Ages. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    Dismisses the commercial interpretation of Shirley’s activities and offers alternative explanations for Shirley’s rental of shop premises. Interprets Shirley as an antiquarian and lover of literature rather than a professional scribe or publisher.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Greenberg, Cheryl. “John Shirley and the English Book Trade.” The Library, 6th Series 4 (1982): 369–380.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1093/library/s6-IV.4.369Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Restates the view that Shirley was a commercial entrepreneur operating a bespoke trade in manuscripts, a bookshop, and a lending library. Uses a sociological approach and presents Shirley as a stationer but offers no documentary evidence to support this.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Lerer, Seth. Chaucer and His Readers. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        Chapter 4 examines the canonicity of Chaucer’s minor poems, particularly ‘Adam Scriveyn,’ Chaucer’s jocular address to his personal scribe, for which Shirley’s copy in Trinity MS R.3.20 is the only witness. Sustained New Historicist analysis of the invention of Chaucer’s reputation in the 15th century and Shirley’s part in this process.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Pace, George B., and Alfred David. A Variorum Edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Vol. 5, The Minor Poems; Part 1. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          Presents texts of Chaucer’s minor poems with variant readings from all known manuscripts. Each poem prefaced by a critical introduction and collation of readings. The editors express a more qualified opinion of the value of Shirley’s copies of these poems.

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