Medieval Studies Rate Manuscript (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 61)
by
Wendy Matlock
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0240

Introduction

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 61 is often referred to as the Rate manuscript after the codex’s scribe, who signs the name nineteen times throughout the volume of 162 paper folia and often adds drawings of fish and roses at the ends of texts. The codex measures about 418 mm by 140 mm. It likely was produced for urban household use, given its strong interest in domestic life, including practical material for household maintenance such as recipes and accounting advice along with poems for lay devotion and popular entertainment. Watermark evidence suggests production dates between 1479 and 1610, but the scribe’s hand precludes a date after the first decade of the 16th century, so scholars typically use c. 1500 to date the manuscript. Dialect places Rate in Leicestershire. Little otherwise is known about Rate, but his careless copying and idiosyncratic editing combined with the codex’s unusual format suggest he was an amateur scribe producing the volume for his own or his household’s use. The manuscript compiles forty-one works, although some numbers include multiple or incomplete texts. Its eclectic contents, primarily in Middle English excluding macaronic works and three Latin epigrams, range from short didactic poems and prayers to long devotional treatises like The Northern Passion. It includes literature from a wide range of times and places. Among the earlier are the late-13th-century Saint Eustace and The King and His Four Daughters, which translates part of Robert Grosseteste’s Anglo-Norman Le Château d’Amour, but a majority date to the 15th century. Some are extant only in the Rate manuscript; for example, The Debate of the Carpenter’s Tools and The Feasts of All Saints and All Souls are unique. Other texts, however, circulated widely in later medieval England (e.g., A Prayer to the Virgin Mary, preserved in forty other manuscripts and itself excerpted from the immensely popular Speculum Christiani). Ashmole 61 is noteworthy for its five popular romances: four are signature Middle English tail-rhyme romances—Sir Isumbras, The Erle of Tolous, Lybeaus Desconus, and Sir Cleges—and the fifth is Sir Orfeo. It also includes two comic poems in tail-rhyme stanzas, Sir Corneus and King Edward and the Hermit. The manuscript as a whole compiles works concerning good manners, correct conduct, and the claims of the afterlife, issues of great interest to 15th-century readers. It is often compared to other 15th-century miscellanies, such as Cambridge University Library MS Ff.2.38; Edinburgh National Library of Scotland MS Advocates 19.3.1; Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Rawlinson C. 83; and the Lincoln Thornton MS.

General Overviews

There are no book-length overviews or studies of the Rate manuscript. Most scholarly examinations look at individual texts or specific genres, and because of Rate’s idiosyncratic copying practices, editors tend to use other sources as copy texts when they exist. Blanchfield 1991a, a dissertation completed at the University College of Wales, remains indispensable in its careful study of the codex. Blanchfield 1991b and Blanchfield 1996 offer foundational characterizations of the scribe and his bias toward religious and family themes. Wiggins 2012 introduces the manuscript to popular audiences.

  • Blanchfield, Lynne S. “‘An Idiosyncratic Scribe’: A Study of the Practice and Purpose of Rate, the Scribe of Bodleian Library Ms Ashmole 61.” PhD diss., University College of Wales, 1991a.

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    In this dissertation, Blanchfield describes Rate’s practice, purpose, and personality as revealed in the contents he selected for the manuscript and his practice of scribal editing. She also uses historical records to try to identify him and his social background. The dissertation transcribes the whole manuscript in a second volume.

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    • Blanchfield, Lynne S. “The Romances in Ms Ashmole 61: An Idiosyncratic Scribe.” In Romance in Medieval England. By Maldwyn Mills, Jennifer Fellows, and Carol Meale, 65–87. Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 1991b.

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      In this foundational study of Rate’s scribal practices and identity, Blanchfield argues that he adapts the romances to conform with his moral and didactic interest in family values and describes her efforts to identify Rate in Leicester city records.

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      • Blanchfield, Lynne S. “Rate Revisited: The Compilation of the Narrative Works in the MS Ashmole 61.” In Romance Reading on the Book: Essays on Medieval Narrative Presented to Maldwyn Mills. Edited by Rosalind Field, Jennifer Fellows, Gillian Rogers, and Judith Weiss, 208–220. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1996.

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        This article seeks to identify thematic groupings within the whole manuscript, finding it tripartite: (1) pragmatic instructional verse; (2) narratives on the ill consequences of wrath and infidelity, including romances and exempla; and (3) narratives on heaven and hell. Blanchfield concludes that Rate was more interested in content and tone than in genre when selecting works to copy.

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        • Wiggins, Alison. “Scribes and Settings.” In The Romance of the Middle Ages. Edited by Nicholas Perkins and Alison Wiggins, 61–87. Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2012.

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          This chapter addresses a popular audience in a beautiful book produced to accompany the Bodleian Library’s 2012 exhibition. Wiggins confidently identifies the scribe as “John Rate” and describes his manuscript as an extremely conservative and systematic reading program (pp. 78–82). Wiggins also describes the drawings, providing a color illustration of the Shield of the Passion from folio 106r.

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          Editions

          Shuffelton 2008 edits the manuscript providing detailed textual commentary about Rate’s errors, revisions, and selections. The manuscript is not fully available online, but the Bodleian Library has collaborated with ARTstor to reproduce select medieval and renaissance manuscripts, including images from the Rate manuscript. The Luna database also reproduces these manuscript images.

          • Exhortations of Jesus against the Seven Deadly Sins; Romance of King Orfew. Fifteenth Century, fol.150v-151r, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

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            This spread begins with Rate’s characteristic explicit “Amen Quod Rate” at the end of Saint Margaret. It also contains the complete text of “The Wounds and The Sins” and the beginning of Sir Orfeo. It also shows the manuscript in the 17th-century binding that was removed when the codex was rebound in 1986 and that continues to be stored with the manuscript. Available online.

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            • Lamentacio Beate Marie, Governance of Man. Fifteenth Century, fol. 106v-107r, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

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              This image includes the conclusion to The Lament of Mary, with an “Amen Quod Rate,” the beginning of The Dietary, and a fish eating a flower. Available online.

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              • Legend of St. Eustace. Fifteenth Century, fol. 001r, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

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                This page contains a false start of Saint Eustace followed by a partial table of contents. Available online.

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                • Luna.

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                  This resource reproduces the same images as ARTstor, and they are available without subscription.

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                  • The Prick of Conscience, by Richard Rolle; The Stasyons of Jerusalem. Fifteenth Century, fol. 127v-128r, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

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                    These pages display the conclusion in English and Latin to Stimulus Consciencie Minor, with an elaborate explicit and a smiling fish, before The Stations of Jerusalem begin on folio 128r. Available online.

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                    • Romance of Isumbras, Lay of the Commandments. Fifteenth Century, fol. 016v-017r, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

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                      This spread shows the ending of Sir Isumbras and all of The Ten Commandments. Rate’s explicit “Amen Quod Rate” appears at the end of both, and the pages include two fish drawings and one elaborate flower. Available online.

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                      • Romance of King Orfew. Fifteenth Century, fol.151r, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

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                        The image shows the opening of Sir Orfeo. Available online.

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                        • Romance of the Passion, Lamentacio Beate Marie. Fifteenth Century, fol. 105v-106r, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

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                          The Northern Passion concludes on folio 105v with the words “Amen, Amen, for charyté” and a fish drawing with two small flowers. A heraldic shield, perhaps depicting Rate’s interpretation of Christ’s shield, separates the two texts on folio 106r, the complete text of The Short Charter of Christ appears on folio 106r, and the first twelve lines of The Lament of Mary. Available online.

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                          • Shuffelton, George. Codex Ashmole 61: A Compilation of Popular Middle English Verse. Middle English Texts Series. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, 2008.

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                            The thorough introduction provides basic information about the manuscript and summarizes previous scholarship. Shuffelton’s detailed edition reproduces the entire manuscript with insightful explanatory and textual notes. Available online.

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                            The Manuscript

                            Rate’s manuscript, Oxford, Bodleian Library Ashmole MS 61, has received scholarly attention due to its unusual size and popular contents. This broad section includes articles that describe the codex’s physical features and seek to identify Rate’s scribal practices. Is also gathers codicological works that consider the Rate manuscript in the context of late medieval miscellanies, which gather multiple works in a single manuscript, as well as more specialized attention to compilations that include romance narratives.

                            Descriptive Analyses

                            The manuscript has been singled out for its long, narrow format, which early scholars sought to assign to minstrel use, suggesting that the portable dimensions, plain style, and popular contents suited oral performers, but critical consensus has refuted this claim and most recent scholars refer to it as an urban household book. (See section Identification of the Scribe.) Guddat-Figge 1976 provides a history of the claim that these long, narrow books were carried in saddlebags by itinerant minstrels. Hirsh 1977 and Taylor 1991 disprove the connection between the Rate manuscript and oral performance. Edwards 2010 finds the wide variety of material available to Rate reason to consider him a professional scribe or at least one on the cusp between professional and amateur manuscript producer. Johnston 2012 argues that Rate was an amateur scribe who produced the manuscript for his own household and suggests that scholars need to learn more about how books were produced outside of London. Bliss 1966 provides a careful introduction to the manuscript in his variorum edition of Sir Orfeo.

                            • Bliss, Alan J., ed. Sir Orfeo. Oxford: Clarendon, 1966.

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                              In the introduction to this edition of the three extant versions of Sir Orfeo, Bliss describes the Rate manuscript (pp. xi–xiii), considers the affiliations between the three manuscripts, and details the northern or northeast Midland dialect features in the manuscript’s version of the romance (pp. xxv–xxvii).

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                              • Edwards, Anthony S. G. “Books and Manuscript.” In The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Literature in English. Edited by Elaine Treharne and Greg Walker, 17–32. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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                                Edwards describes Rate as a professional scribe “satisfied with modestly produced manuscripts” in the section on “Professionalization of Manuscript Production” (p. 27).

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                                • Guddat-Figge, Gisela. Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Middle English Romances. Munich: Fink, 1976.

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                                  This descriptive catalogue includes a discussion of “holster books” (pp. 30–36), including Ashmole 61 in this category here and in her entry on the manuscript (pp. 249–252).

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                                  • Hirsh, John C. “Additional Note on Mss. Ashmole 61, Douce 228 and Lincoln’s Inn 150.” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 78 (1977): 347–349.

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                                    Hirsh confirms that a professional scribe and not a minstrel produced all the Rate manuscript. Available online.

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                                    • Johnston, Michael. “Two Leicestershire Romance Codices: Cambridge, University Library Ms Ff.2.38 and Oxford, Bodleian Library Ms Ashmole 61.” Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History 15 (2012): 85–100.

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                                      Describing the Rate manuscript as “miscellaneous and amateur” compared to Cambridge, University Library Ms Ff.2.38, Johnston carefully details their shared paper stock and similar dialect to assert that the manuscripts originate from the same time period and region even though their scribes have very different practices and likely did not know one another.

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                                      • Taylor, Andrew. “The Myth of the Minstrel Manuscript.” Speculum 66.1 (1991): 43–73.

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                                        Taylor debunks the claim that a body of manuscripts belonging to minstrels exists, offering the more convincing explanation that the manuscript’s long, narrow dimensions likely reflect the format used for accounting books. Available online.

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                                        Vernacular Miscellanies

                                        Rate’s manuscript often appears in surveys of manuscripts containing miscellaneous Middle English texts. Boffey and Thompson 1989 offers an influential survey of the production of vernacular anthologies. More recently, Boffey and Edwards 2015 creates a taxonomy of the forms of manuscript collections by studying the processes that underlie the collation of contents in literary miscellanies. Louis 1998 classifies different kinds of manuscripts that include proverb literature in Middle English, among them literary anthologies and religious miscellanies. In a turn to thinking about modern access to medieval miscellanies, Connolly 2015 considers the benefits and drawbacks of facsimiles, editions, and commentaries for scholars of mixed manuscripts. Riddy 1991 shows how scholars can use A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English to analyze patterns of scribal behavior and to understand regional patterns of textual distribution.

                                        • Boffey, Julia, and Anthony S. G. Edwards. “Towards a Taxonomy of Middle English Manuscript Assemblages.” In Insular Books: Vernacular Manuscript Miscellanies in Late Medieval Britain. Edited by Margaret Connolly and Raluca Radulescu, 263–279. Proceedings of the British Academy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

                                          DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265833.003.0015Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          Boffey and Edwards describe Ashmole 61 as an “evidently bowdlerised collection of family reading” (p. 271).

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                                          • Boffey, Julia, and John J. Thompson. “Anthologies and Miscellanies: Production and Choice of Texts.” In Book Production and Publishing in Britain 1375–1475. Edited by Jeremy Griffiths and Derek Pearsall, 279–315. Cambridge Studies in Publishing and Printing History. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

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                                            Boffey and Thompson describe the Rate manuscript as a cheap, composite book suitable for family readership. They consider Rate likely to be responsible for the decorative features as well as the copying.

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                                            • Connolly, Margaret. “The Whole Book and the Whole Picture: Editions and Facsimiles of Medieval Miscellanies and Their Influence.” In Insular Books: Vernacular Manuscript Miscellanies in Late Medieval Britain. Edited by Margaret Connolly and Raluca Radulescu, 281–299. Proceedings of the British Academy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

                                              DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265833.003.0016Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              Connolly mentions Shuffleton’s edition as being unusual in presenting the Rate manuscript in its entirety (p. 287). She laments that scholars of religious and didactic texts have been less familiar with the manuscript than romance scholars (p. 292).

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                                              • Louis, Cameron. “Manuscript Contexts of Middle English Proverb Literature.” Mediaeval Studies 60 (1998): 219–238.

                                                DOI: 10.1484/J.MS.2.306454Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                Louis includes Ashmole 61 as a literary anthology that contains proverb literature (p. 222).

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                                                • Riddy, Felicity. Regionalism in Late Medieval Manuscripts and Texts: Essays Celebrating the Publication of A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English, York Manuscripts Conferences, v. 2. Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 1991.

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                                                  This influential collection of essays considers dialectology and textual transmission, essential for understanding Rate’s regional manuscript.

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                                                  Romance Collections

                                                  Because the romances in the Rate manuscript have been studied extensively, the codex is often discussed as a romance collection. Sophisticated methodologies have been used in this context. For example, Evans 1995 uses computer analysis and careful description of bibliographic artifacts to study English romances extant in various witnesses, attending to romances in composite manuscripts, and Furrow 2009 offers a reception study that delineates how 15th-century readers expected exemplarity even in secular romances. Many works seek connections between the romance narratives and other manuscript contents, including Hudson 1984, Mills and Rogers 2009, and Wade 2012. For more discussion of the romance contents, see Johnston 2014 (cited under Identification of the Scribe) and Guddat-Figge 1976 (cited under Descriptive Analyses) as well as the works cited on Sir Orfeo and Other Romances in the section on Contents of the Manuscript.

                                                  • Evans, Murray J. Rereading Middle English Romance: Manuscript Layout, Decoration, and the Rhetoric of Composite Structure. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1995.

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                                                    Evans includes a chapter on Sir Isumbras and another on Middle English Breton Lays, including Sir Orfeo. He notes that both romances appear in Ashmole 61.

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                                                    • Furrow, Melissa M. Expectations of Romance: The Reception of a Genre in Medieval England. Studies in Medieval Romance 11. Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 2009.

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                                                      Furrow considers Sir Isumbras, Sir Corneus, and Sir Orfeo, which are included in Ashmole 61, although she focuses on other manuscript contexts (especially the Auchinleck and the two Thornton manuscripts).

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                                                      • Hudson, Harriet. “Middle English Popular Romances: The Manuscript Evidence.” Manuscripta 28.2 (1984): 67–78.

                                                        DOI: 10.1484/J.MSS.3.1094Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        Hudson briefly surveys manuscripts containing Middle English romances, including Ashmole 61.

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                                                        • Mills, Maldwyn, and Gillian Rogers. “The Manuscripts of Popular Romance.” In A Companion to Medieval Popular Romance. Edited by Raluca L. Radulescu and Cory James Rushton, 49–66. Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 2009.

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                                                          The authors discuss the selection and grouping of romances in collections of popular romance, including the Rate manuscript, which they maintain reminds us that romances often shared features and themes with works in other genres including exemplary tales and hagiography.

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                                                          • Wade, James. “Ungallant Knights.” In Heroes and Anti-heroes in Medieval Romance. Edited by Neil Cartlidge, 201–218. Studies in Medieval Romance. Oxford: Brewer, 2012.

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                                                            Interested in the effect manuscript contexts may have had on how readers understood particular romance heroes, Wade focuses on the Rate manuscript and Cambridge, University Library MS Ff.5.48. He singles out Lybeaus Desconus as an “ill-behaved hero” in Ashmole 61 (p. 203).

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                                                            Identification of the Scribe

                                                            Rate’s life and identity have not been confidently established, so scholars have sought to locate the codex within a particular social milieu. Parkes 1973 influentially describes Ashmole 61 as a household manuscript. Shuffelton 2008 maintains that it is best understood as a household book that imagines reading as a communal duty with a communal purpose. Seaman 2013 reinforces that domestic setting by considering the multiple audiences interpolated throughout the codex. Reichl 2009 regards the manuscript as suitable for domestic performance. Hardman 2010 studies the Rate manuscript along with four other manuscripts to delineate readership and use of manuscript miscellanies within the household. Johnston 2014 maintains that the codex is a bourgeois household or family book and furthers the efforts in Blanchfield 1991a and Blanchfield 1991b to identify Rate in Leicester city archives (see General Overviews). Johnston 2015 explores class-based competition between merchants and franklins as witnessed in manuscript miscellanies.

                                                            • Hardman, Phillipa. “Domestic Learning and Teaching: Investigating Evidence for the Role of ‘Household Miscellanies’ in Late-Medieval England.” In Women and Writing, c. 1340–c. 1650: The Domestication of Print Culture. Edited by Anne Lawrence-Mathers and Phillipa Hardman, 15–33. Woodbridge, UK: York Medieval, 2010.

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                                                              Regarding Ashmole 61, Hardman concludes that the diverse texts, including simple Latin epigrams, and the decorative scheme of flowers and fish, which could be visual stimuli to memory, make the manuscript a likely book for domestic educational use.

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                                                              • Johnston, Michael. Romance and the Gentry in Late Medieval England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

                                                                DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199679782.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                In chapter 3, “Gentry Romances: The Manuscript Evidence” (pp. 90–127), Johnston details efforts to locate individuals named Rate in Leicester city archives, suggesting that William Rott, ironmonger, is the most likely match. He argues that the romances and other texts in the manuscript, particularly How the Good Wife Taught Her Daughter and The Debate of the Carpenter’s Tools, reflect urban interests.

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                                                                • Johnston, Michael. “Mercantile Gentility in Cambridge, University Library Ms Ff.2.38.” In Truth and Tales: Cultural Mobility and Medieval Media. Edited by Fiona Somerset and Nicholas Watson, 135–150. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2015.

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                                                                  Johnston studies controversies about the nature of gentility in the late Middle Ages by analyzing the exemplum “A Good Matter of the Merchant and His Son,” extant only in CUL Ff.2.38, which shares paper stock with Ashmole 61 (p. 141).

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                                                                  • Parkes, Malcolm B. “The Literacy of the Laity.” In The Mediaeval World. Edited by David Saiches and Anthony Thorlby, 555–577. London: Aldus, 1973.

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                                                                    In this study of how laymen used their literacy outside of professional activities, Parkes mentions the Rate manuscript as a compilation “for the whole family” (p. 568).

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                                                                    • Reichl, Karl. “Orality and Performance.” In A Companion to Medieval Popular Romance. Edited by Raluca L. Radulescu and Cory James Rushton, 132–149. Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 2009.

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                                                                      Reichl includes the Rate manuscript in his study of how Middle English popular romances were meant to be heard because of its reputation as a minstrel’s book, concluding that its contents are more suitable for family reading than public performance (p. 142).

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                                                                      • Seaman, Myra. “Medieval Prime Time: Entertaining the Family in Fifteenth-Century England—and Educating Students in Twenty-First-Century America.” Pedagogy 13.2 (2013): 213–228.

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                                                                        Drawing on her experience teaching the entire manuscript, Seaman shows how the collection directs individual items at subgroups within the household while still seeking to entertain the whole community. Available online.

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                                                                        • Shuffelton, George. “Is There a Minstrel in the House? Domestic Entertainment in Late Medieval England.” Philological Quarterly 87 (2008): 51–76.

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                                                                          Shuffelton argues that the Rate manuscript reflects not minstrel performance but public readings at mealtime within domestic spaces.

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                                                                          Contents of the Manuscript

                                                                          The sheer number and variety of items in the Rate manuscript precludes an exhaustive list of scholarship about each work. This section selects research that considers specific texts and generic groups that illuminate Rate’s work as a compiler of romances, devotional texts, didactic texts, and comic tales.

                                                                          Sir Orfeo

                                                                          Of all the works in the Rate manuscript, Sir Orfeo has received the most critical attention. Although most editors work with the Auchinleck manuscript version as their base text, many scholars have attended to the version in Ashmole 61. Bliss 1966 (cited under Descriptive Analyses) includes the text in its variorum edition of the poem. Many of the studies here take a reception studies approach to the poem, seeking answers to questions about ownership and audience: Brockman 1985 considers the romance as a work for children; Hines 2016 explores the ownership of medieval romance collections; and Lerer 1985 and Treharne 2010 see Rate’s version as evidence that pious readers enjoyed Sir Orfeo. Tajiri 2002 places Sir Orfeo in the context of the tail-rhyme romances that Rate copies.

                                                                          • Brockman, Bennett A. “The Juvenile Audiences of Sir Orfeo.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 10.1 (1985): 18–20.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1353/chq.0.0099Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            Brockman regards Sir Orfeo as a “paradigm of medieval literature for children” (p. 20), citing its inclusion in Ashmole 61, which he confidently describes as a household book, in support of this claim. Available online.

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                                                                            • Hines, John. “The Ownership of Literature: Reading Medieval Literature in Its Historical Context.” In Medieval English Literature. Edited by Beatrice Fannon, 13–29. New Casebooks. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

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                                                                              Hines’s historicist approach to medieval romances concludes with a discussion of the transmission of Sir Orfeo and its manuscript variants, including Ashmole 61.

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                                                                              • Lerer, Seth. “Artifice and Artistry in Sir Orfeo.” Speculum 60.1 (1985): 92–109.

                                                                                DOI: 10.2307/2852135Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                Lerer considers the prayer that Rate includes at the end of the romance as evidence that medieval readers could approach Sir Orfeo with an “eschatological focus” (p. 106). Available online.

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                                                                                • Tajiri, Masaji. Studies in the Middle English Didactic Tail-Rhyme Romances. Tokyo: Eihosha, 2002.

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                                                                                  Chapter 5, “Sir Orfeo in MS Ashmole 61: One Foot in the Tail-Rhyme World?” discusses Sir Orfeo’s relationship to the homiletic tail-rhyme romances in the Rate manuscript and compares Rate’s Orfeo to other extant manuscript versions, concluding that his text is inferior to the one in the Auchinleck but interesting as a source for reception study.

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                                                                                  • Treharne, Elaine. “Speaking of the Medieval.” In The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Literature in English. Edited by Elaine Treharne and Greg Walker, 1–13. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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                                                                                    Treharne argues that studying Sir Orfeo requires attention to scribal variations in the three extant manuscript versions. Placing the poem in conversation with the other texts in the manuscript, she finds evidence for a pious reading of the poem in Ashmole 61.

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                                                                                    Other Romances

                                                                                    Although less popular than Sir Orfeo, the four other romances in Ashmole 61 have received much scholarly attention. Many commentators seeking to define romance as a genre study Rate’s texts. Mehl 1969 surveys Middle English romances as a whole, differentiating them from the French tradition and considering their relationship to other kinds of narrative poetry. Sir Isumbras in particular has inspired scholars to think about the overlap between religion and romance. Hopkins 1990 includes it as one of the four “penitential romances” at the heart of its study, and Radulescu 2013 is also interested in Sir Isumbras as a romance with pious elements. Other works focus on single romances that appear in the Rate manuscript: Carr 1975 and Putter 2012 (Sir Cleges), Stavsky 2013 (The Erle of Tolous), and Weldon 2007 and Weldon 2009 (Lybeaus Desconus). See also the section on Romance Collections for more studies of Rate’s romances.

                                                                                    • Carr, Sherwyn T. “The Middle English Nativity Cherry Tree: The Dissemination of a Popular Motif.” Modern Language Quarterly 36.2 (1975): 133–147.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1215/00267929-36-2-133Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      Carr traces the legend of a miraculously fertile cherry tree that shares its fruit with the Virgin Mary in three genres: the drama, Ludus Coventriae; the ballad, “The Cherry-Tree Carol”; and the romance, Sir Cleges (where the virtuous hero, not the Virgin, receives the gift). He refers to the Rate manuscript in an effort to date the romance. Available online.

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                                                                                      • Hopkins, Andrea. The Sinful Knights: A Study of Middle English Penitential Romance. Oxford: Clarendon, 1990.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198117629.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        In chapter 4, titled “Sir Ysumbras,” Hopkins minutely compares the plots of Sir Isumbras and Saint Eustace, both poems copied by Rate (p. 119–143).

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                                                                                        • Mehl, Dieter. The Middle English Romances of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969.

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                                                                                          This survey catalogues romances as short, long, or homiletic, including four from Ashmole 61 (Sir Orfeo, Libeaus Desconus, and The Erl of Tolous are shorter romances, while Sir Isumbras is a homelitic one). Mehl describes Ashmole 61 as the work of an amateur in the appendix (p. 261).

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                                                                                          • Mills, Maldwyn. “A Mediaeval Reviser at Work.” Medium Aevum 42.1 (1963): 11–23.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/43627012Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            Mills compares surviving versions of Libeaus Desconus, including the one in the Rate manuscript. Available online.

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                                                                                            • Putter, Ad. “Arthurian Romance in English Popular Tradition: Sir Percyvell of Gales, Sir Cleges, and Sir Launfal.” In A Companion to Arthurian Literature. Edited by Helen Fulton, 235–251. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

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                                                                                              Putter demonstrates that the three romances in his title are examples of the how romances moved between script and oral performance. He discusses the Rate manuscript as a book produced for a gentry family (p. 243).

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                                                                                              • Radulescu, Raluca L. Romance and Its Contexts in Fifteenth-Century England: Politics, Piety and Penitence. Woodbridge, UK: Brewer, 2013.

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                                                                                                Tracing themes of the suffering king and genealogical anxiety in pious Middle English romances from the deposition of Richard II through the 15th century, Radulescu studies Sir Isumbras in chapter 2, including a discussion of the manuscript contexts in which it appears (pp. 66–86).

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                                                                                                • Stavsky, Jonathan. “‘Gode in All Thynge’: The Erle of Tolous, Susanna and the Elders, and Other Narratives of Righteous Women on Trial.” Anglia 131.4 (2013): 70–93.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1515/anglia-2013-0064Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  Stavsky maintains that The Erle of Tolous develops a pragmatic ethics instead of the God-sanctioned righteousness of its antecedents and analogues in Middle English tried-heroine narratives, briefly considering the textual variants in Ashmole 61 (pp. 553–554).

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                                                                                                  • Weldon, James. “‘Naked as She Was Bore’: Naked Disenchantment in Lybeaus Desconus.” Parergon 24.1 (2007): 67–99.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1353/pgn.2007.0062Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Weldon discusses the nature of women and marital consent as themes in Lybeaus Desconus, including information about textual variants among its six manuscript versions. Available online.

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                                                                                                    • Weldon, James. “The Naples Manuscript and the Case for a Female Readership.” Neophilologus 93.4 (2009): 703–722.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1007/s11061-009-9144-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      In this argument that women owned Biblioteca Nazionale, Naples, MS XIII.B.29, Weldon compares the reconciliation scene in Lybeaus Desconus as preserved in both the Naples and the Rate manuscripts. Available online.

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                                                                                                      Devotional Texts

                                                                                                      Rate’s devotional materials are numerous and varied. In terms of contents, they include saints’ lives (Saint Eustace and Saint Margaret), exempla (The Knight Who Forgave His Father’s Slayer, The Jealous Wife, The Incestuous Daughter, and The Adulterous Falmouth Squire), prayers, meditative works, and religious lyrics. Scholars have been much less interested in these materials from the Rate manuscript than in the romance texts, corresponding to a trend that Connolly 2015 laments (cited under Vernacular Miscellanies). Much of the scholarship listed here concerns texts and contexts for Rate’s devotional texts and not Rate’s texts themselves: Bestul 1996 and Pickering 1973 (The Northern Passion), Davidson 2009 (The Incestuous Daughter), Harrison 1999 (The Feasts of All Saints and All Souls), Meale 1990 (the Marian legends), Sanok 2013 (Saint Margaret), Traver 1925 (The King and His Four Daughters), Woolf 1968 (religious lyrics and exempla), and Zacher 1976 (The Stations of Jerusalem). In contrast, Salter 2011 models how close attention to manuscript contexts advances understanding of lay reading habits and devotion in a study of a “Complaints of Christ” prayer.

                                                                                                      • Bestul, Thomas H. Texts of the Passion: Latin Devotional Literature and Medieval Society. Middle Ages Series. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.

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                                                                                                        Primarily interested in Latin Passion narratives, Bestul does discuss vernacular accounts, including the Northern Passion, one of the longest works in the Rate manuscript.

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                                                                                                        • Davidson, Clifford. “Dux Moraud: Criminality and Salvation in an East Anglian Play.” Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 22 (2009): 128–143.

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                                                                                                          In this study of the Dux Moraud, extant in a record of a single actor’s part, Davidson refers to The Incestuous Daughter from Ashmole 61 as a possible analogue to the fragmentary play. Available online.

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                                                                                                          • Harrison, Anna. “Community among the Saintly Dead: Bernard of Clairvaux’s Sermons for the Feast of All Saints.” In Last Things: Death and the Apocalypse in the Middle Ages. Edited by Caroline Walker Bynum and Paul Freedman, 191–204. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.

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                                                                                                            Harrison’s analysis of five sermons for the Feast of All Saints provides useful context for Rate’s unique legend, The Feasts of All Saints and All Souls.

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                                                                                                            • Meale, Carol. “The Miracles of Our Lady: Context and Interpretation.” In Studies in the Vernon Manuscript. Edited by Derek Pearsall, 115–136. Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 1990.

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                                                                                                              Focused on texts in the Vernon Manuscript, Meale studies miracles of the Virgin legends like The Jealous Wife.

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                                                                                                              • Pickering, Oliver S. “An Unpublished Middle English Resurrection Poem.” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 74.2 (1973): 269–282.

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                                                                                                                Pickering prints and discusses the Story of the Resurrection from Cambridge University Library MS Dd. 1.1, which derives from The Northern Passion (item 28 in Ashmole 61). Rate’s item 36 The Legend of the Resurrection shares this theme and source. Available online.

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                                                                                                                • Salter, Elisabeth. “Evidence for Devotional Reading in Fifteenth-Century England: A Comparative Analysis of One English Poem in Six Manuscript Contexts.” In Vernacularity in England and Wales, C. 1300–1550. Edited by Elisabeth Salter and Helen Wicker, 65–97. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2011.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1484/M.USML-EB.3.4943Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  Salter seeks evidence of lay reading habits in six manuscript versions of the “Complaints of Christ” prayer that appears as The Wounds and the Sins in Shuffelton’s edition of the Rate manuscript. She concludes that Rate’s text emphasizes emotional impact over affective contemplation, including changes that suggest the scribe believes the prayer is about the seven deadly sins rather than Christ’s suffering.

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                                                                                                                  • Sanok, Catherine. Her Life Historical: Exemplarity and Female Saints’ Lives in Late Medieval England. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

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                                                                                                                    Chapter 3 on “Fictions of Feminine Community in Bokenham’s Legendary” provides useful context for Rate’s hagiographic account of Saint Margaret (pp. 50–82).

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                                                                                                                    • Traver, Hope. “The Four Daughters of God: A Mirror of Changing Doctrine.” PMLA 40 (1925): 44–92.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/457268Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      Traver studies the origins and development of the allegory of the four daughters. Available online.

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                                                                                                                      • Woolf, Rosemary. The English Religious Lyric in the Middle Ages. Oxford: Clarendon, 1968.

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                                                                                                                        Woolf’s indispensable study of the commonest form of medieval literature—short, meditative poems—provides context for Rate’s devotional works and explicitly discusses The Lament of Mary (p. 257), The Sinner’s Lament, and The Adulterous Falmouth Squire (pp. 321–322).

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                                                                                                                        • Zacher, Christian K. Curiosity and Pilgrimage: The Literature of Discovery in Fourteenth-Century England. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.

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                                                                                                                          Zacher’s foundational study of medieval pilgrimage provides a useful context for exploring The Stations of Jerusalem and Rate’s abiding interest in the events of the Passion and the biblical world.

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                                                                                                                          Didactic Texts

                                                                                                                          The many didactic texts in the Rate manuscript contribute to its designation as a household miscellany, and they have been a productive site for study of the manuscript. Riddy 1996 offers a foundational study of How the Good Wife Taught Her Daughter. Louis 1998 studies How the Wise Man Taught His Son. Critten 2015 reverses the trend that studies the conduct texts in Ashmole 61 in order to illuminate the romances and focuses on the didactic works themselves. Hargreaves 1976, Morrissey 2015, and Sponsler 2001 attend to the works attributed to John Lydgate in the manuscript. Some recent studies discuss Rate’s didactic works in diachronic accounts of medieval culture. In particular, Flannery 2012 explores the personal and social elements of late medieval ideas about shame, calling for more work on how the concept appears in medical, conduct, and advisory texts, and Bailey 2008 and Bailey 2012 investigate the types of households that accessed didactic literature in the medieval and early modern period.

                                                                                                                          • Bailey, Merridee L. “In Service and at Home: Didactic Texts for Children and Young People, C. 1400–1600.” Parergon 24.2 (2008): 23–46.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1353/pgn.2008.0013Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            Bailey argues that medieval courtesy literature tends to prioritize elite households, whereas 16th-century texts emphasize the nuclear family. She discusses Stans Puer ad Mensam, which is the seventh text in the Rate manuscript, as an example of the early courtesy literature. Available online.

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                                                                                                                            • Bailey, Merridee L. Socialising the Child in Late Medieval England, C. 1400–1600. Woodbridge, UK: York Medieval, 2012.

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                                                                                                                              To demonstrate that households and schools socialized children, Bailey consults a variety of courtesy texts. Ashmole 61 receives particular attention in chapter 2 on “Readers,” which considers how scribes modified courtesy texts for nonelite audiences.

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                                                                                                                              • Critten, Rory G. “Bourgeois Ethics Again: The Conduct Texts and the Romances in Oxford, Bodleian Library Ms Ashmole 61.” Chaucer Review 50 (2015): 108–133.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.5325/chaucerrev.50.1-2.0108Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                Critten argues that the five conduct texts in the Rate manuscript articulate a broad range of attitudes toward the ideals and practicability of good conduct. Available online.

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                                                                                                                                • Flannery, Mary C. “The Concept of Shame in Late-Medieval English Literature.” Literature Compass 9.2 (February 2012): 166–182.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-4113.2011.00868.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  The section on “Conduct and Advisory Texts” discusses How the Wise Man Taught His Son with How the Good Wife Taught Her Daughter and Stans Puer ad Mensam with Dame Courtesy as paired conduct poems in the Rate manuscript (pp. 177–178). Available online.

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                                                                                                                                  • Hargreaves, Henry. “Lydgate’s ‘A Ram’s Horn.’” Chaucer Review 10.3 (1976): 255–259.

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                                                                                                                                    While operating under the impression that Rate was a professional entertainer, Hargreaves explores the variants between the Ashmole 61 and Ellesmere versions of Lydgate’s work of estates satire, observing that Rate’s additions turn “the laugh in his last extra lines against his own class” (p. 257). Available online.

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                                                                                                                                    • Louis, Cameron. “Authority in Middle English Proverb Literature.” Florilegium 15 (1998): 85–123.

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                                                                                                                                      Louis includes Rate’s version of How the Wise Man Taught His Son as an example of parental authority in this study of proverb collections from the later Middle Ages (p. 98).

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                                                                                                                                      • Morrissey, Jake. “‘To Al Indifferent’: The Virtues of Lydgate’s ‘Dietary.’” Medium Aevum 84.2 (2015): 258–278.

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                                                                                                                                        Morrissey explores the success of Lydgate’s The Dietary, which survives in fifty-seven manuscripts and several early printings, by placing the poem in its material and intellectual contexts. He notes that Rate’s version emphasizes the governance of man more than medical knowledge (pp. 270–271).

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                                                                                                                                        • Riddy, Felicity. “Mother Knows Best: Reading Social Change in a Courtesy Text.” Speculum 71.1 (1996): 66–86.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/2865201Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          Considering What the Good Wife Taught Her Daughter in its manuscript contexts, including the Rate manuscript briefly, Riddy argues that the poem participates in a bourgeois formation of femininity. Available online.

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                                                                                                                                          • Sponsler, Claire. “Eating Lessons: Lydgate’s ‘Dietary’ and Consumer Conduct.” In Medieval Conduct. Edited by Kathleen Ashley and Robert L. A. Clark, 1–22. Medieval Cultures. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                            Sponsler’s sophisticated study of the “Dietary” attends to the poem’s insights into private eating as consumption. Sponsler cites the poem’s popularity among 15th-century scribes as evidence for the marketability of advice about dietary practices.

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                                                                                                                                            Comic Texts

                                                                                                                                            The materials in this section consider three works in the Rate manuscript—Sir Corneus, King Edward and the Hermit, and The Debate of the Carpenter’s Tools—that have little in common beyond their humor. Kendrick 2008 offers a useful overview of the comic tradition in Chaucer’s era and mentions Sir Corneus. Ohlgren 2000 discusses King Edward and the Hermit in a study of the Gest of Robyn Hode. The Debate of the Carpenter’s Tools intrigues scholars because it survives only in the Rate manuscript (see Johnston 2014, cited under Identification of the Scribe), and also, as Salzman 1952 and Wilson 1987 show, because it preserves a specialized vocabulary for carpentry. Masciandaro 2007 and Matlock 2014 study The Debate for its ideas about labor and the household.

                                                                                                                                            • Kendrick, Laura. “Comedy.” In A Companion to Chaucer. Edited by Peter Brown, 90–113. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                              Kendrick describes Sir Corneus as a burlesque lay (p. 90).

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                                                                                                                                              • Masciandaro, Nicola. The Voice of the Hammer: The Meaning of Work in Middle English Literature. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                This study of how Middle English literature represents labor, and how writing itself constitutes labor, begins with a discussion of the absent carpenter in The Debate of the Carpenter’s Tools (pp. 1–2).

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                                                                                                                                                • Matlock, Wendy A. “Reworking the Household in the Debate of the Carpenter’s Tools.” English Studies 95.2 (2014): 109–130.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1080/0013838X.2014.882112Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  Matlock places the poem in the tradition of medieval debate poetry to explore the poem’s ideas about patriarchal authority and the place of apprentices in the household. Available online.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Ohlgren, Thomas H. “Edwardus Redivivus in a ‘Gest of Robyn Hode.’” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 99.1 (2000): 1–28.

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                                                                                                                                                    Ohlgren cites King Edward and the Hermit as an example of the motif that Edward III met his subjects in disguise. Available online.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Salzman, Louis Francis. Building in England, Down to 1540: A Documentary History. Oxford: Clarendon, 1952.

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                                                                                                                                                      Salzman refers to the poem in the chapter on “Tools.”

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                                                                                                                                                      • Wilson, Edward. “The Debate of the Carpenter’s Tools.” Review of English Studies 38.152 (1987): 445–470.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/res/XXXVIII.152.445Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        Wilson edits the poem, describes the manuscript, and argues that The Debate of the Carpenter’s Tools was intended for performance at a guild meeting. Available online.

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