The Making of Thomas Hoccleve’s ‘Series’

The Making of Thomas Hoccleve’s ‘Series’

Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 272
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    The Making of Thomas Hoccleve’s ‘Series’
    Book Description:

    Thomas Hoccleve’s Series (1419-21) tells the story of its own making. The Making of Thomas Hoccleve’s Series analyzes this story and considers what it might contribute to the larger story about book production in the fifteenth century. Focusing on four surviving manuscripts made by Hoccleve himself between 1422 and 1426, the first four chapters explore the making of the Series in context. They examine the importance of audience judgment in the selection and juxtaposition of forms, the extent to which the physical flexibility of books could serve the needs of their owners and their makers, the changing tastes of fifteenth-century readers, and the appetite for new paradigms for reform in head and members. The final chapter analyzes the most important non-authorial copy of the Series in order to ask what others made of it. While this study draws on Hoccleve’s experience, it asserts that the Series offers a reflection on, not a reflection of, his conception of book production. The ironic contrast between what Hoccleve’s narrator intends and accomplishes when making his book is its most redeeming feature, for it provides insight into the many conflicting pressures that shaped the way books were made and imagined in early fifteenth-century England.

    eISBN: 978-1-78138-520-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Note on Editions and Abbreviations (pp. ix-xi)
  5. Acknowledgments (pp. xii-xiv)
  6. Introduction: The Making of Thomas Hoccleve’s Series (pp. 1-20)

    This is not the book I initially planned to write. The version of this book that I had in my head was never the version on the page in front of me. I modified my writing as I tried to anticipate the needs and objections of potential readers. I made some changes when readers were kind enough to suggest them. I made other changes to meet the conventions and constraints of contemporary book production. While I was often frustrated that I could not seem to write the book I had in mind, this book is more interesting because it is...

  7. 1 ‘Among the Prees’: San Marino, Huntington Library, MS HM 111 and the Audience in and for the Series (pp. 21-64)

    In theSeries, Thomas is preoccupied with how he is seen and by whom, complaining that he suffers more from the fact that others refuse to see that he has recovered from his affliction than he suffered from the affliction itself. He looks into his mirror in order to understand why, but he finds nothing amiss:

    If þat I looke in þis manere

    Amonge folke as I nowe do, noon errour

    Of suspecte look may in my face appere. (C163–65)

    He seems confident that those who possess ‘conceitis resonable’ will find ‘nothing repreuable’ about his appearance and expression...

  8. 2 ‘I this book shal make’: San Marino, Huntington Library, MS HM 744 and the Structure of the Series (pp. 65-102)

    ‘Learn to Die’ appears twice in Hoccleve’s hand.¹ It concludes a compilation of religious poems in MS HM 744 and forms part of theSeriesin Durham, University Library MS Cosin V.iii.9. Hoccleve’s inclusion of ‘Learn to Die’ in theSeriescannot be read as an account of his production of the Huntington autograph since at least part of it had been written before MS HM 744 was complete.² Nonetheless, MS HM 744 helps to explain how the book’s physical form could be employed to serve the needs of makers as well as readers. When the friend arrives in the...

  9. 3 ‘That Labour Y Forsook’: Durham, University Library, MS Cosin V.iii.9 and the End of the Series (pp. 103-143)

    Perhaps the most important choice that Thomas makes, from the point of view of his spiritual redemption, is to stop translating the text he initially had in mind when he set out to make his book. After translating one of the four parts of ‘Learn to Die’, he explains why no more of the text will appear in his book:

    þat labour Y forsook,

    For so greet thyng to swich a fool as me

    Ouer chargeable is, by my leautee,

    To medle with. Ynow the firste part

    For my smal konnynge is and symple art. (LTD920–24)

    Lee Patterson...

  10. 4 ‘The Substaunce of My Memory’: London, British Library, MS Additional 24062 and The Re-Formation of Character in the Series (pp. 144-185)

    The previous chapter began to consider the extent to which theSeriescan be read, in Vincent Gillespie’s words, ‘as a coded and allusive account of the English Church’s return from sickness with the beginning of the Council at Konstanz and its determination to reform in head and members’.¹ Its story about Thomas’s attempt to recover his reputation after a mental affliction invites close comparison with the English nation’s attempt to recover from its ‘damaged reputation for orthodoxy’ at Konstanz and beyond.² Hoccleve’spersonamight therefore be understood as a personification of the determination to reform the Church and realm...

  11. 5 ‘My Skyn To Turne’: Beholding the Series in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Selden Supra 53 (pp. 186-214)

    Given Thomas’s claim that his book is meant ‘forth to goo / Among þe peple’ (D23–4) it seems reasonable to ask what others may have made of it. The premise for this chapter is that the best way to understand what people may have made of theSeriesis to examine how it was literally made. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Selden Supra 53 is the most authoritative non-autograph manuscript of theSeries, and the way it was made provides evidence that its makers and readers perceived Hoccleve’sSeriesas a compilation designed to encourage the kind of contemplation...

  12. Conclusion: ‘Go, Smal Book’ (pp. 215-221)

    This book is not the book I initially set out to write in part because the critical understanding of the fifteenth century—its literary standards, methods of book production, and religious culture—has changed considerably since I started writing it.¹ Our knowledge and understanding of Hoccleve’s place in the fifteenth century has increased in the past decade as well. Linne Mooney’s research has indeed shed a great deal of new light on his work. For example, her identification of documents written in Hoccleve’s hand in the Public Records Office has allowed her to identify his personal seal [Figure 10].² It...

  13. Bibliography (pp. 222-242)
  14. Index (pp. 243-258)


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