About «Piers Plowman »
Bodley 851 contains one of the earliest known copies of Piers Plowman. It was edited in 1983 by A.G. Rigg and Charlotte Brewer, who argued that it was a copy of a draft of an Ur-text of the poem, written by Langland before he wrote A, B and C. Rigg and Brewer's assertion has aroused a good deal of controversy in Piers Plowmanstudies. Whether or not their claim is accepted, a facsimile will be of unarguable value to Middle English scholars, allowing them access either to the first version of the poem, or to an apparently unique scribal rewriting of a Middle English work. It sheds light on the way in which editors and textual critics have in the last hundred years responded to manuscript evidence, and is an important witness either to how the poem was composed, or to how its various versions were read and regurgitated by a near-contemporary.CHARLOTTE BREWER is a Fellow of Hertford College, Oxford; A.G. RIGG is at the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto.