Robert Thornton and his Books

April 2014
26 black and white, 1 line illustrations
325 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Manuscript Culture in the British Isles
ISBN: 9781903153512
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
York Medieval Press
BISAC LIT011000, LIT004120

Robert Thornton and his Books

Essays on the Lincoln and London Thornton Manuscripts

Edited by Susanna Fein, Michael Johnston

Essays examining the compiler and contents of two of the most important and significant extant late medieval manuscript collections.
The Yorkshire landowner Robert Thornton (c.1397- c.1465) copied the contents of two important manuscripts, Lincoln Cathedral, MS 91 (the "Lincoln manuscript"), and London, British Library, MS Additional 31042 (the "London manuscript") in the middle decades of the fifteenth century. Viewed in combination, his books comprise a rare repository of varied English and Latin literary, religious and medical texts that survived the dissolution of the monasteries, when so many other medieval books were destroyed. Residing in the texts he copied and used are many indicators of what this gentleman scribe of the North Riding read, how he practised his religion, and what worldly values he held for himself and his family.
Because of the extraordinary nature of his collected texts - Middle English romances, alliterative verse (the alliterative Morte Arthure only exists here), lyrics and treatises of religion or medicine - editors and scholars have long been deeply interested in uncovering Thornton's habits as a private, amateur scribe. The essays collected here provide, for the first time, a sustained, focussed light on Thornton and his books. They examine such matters as what Thornton as a scribe made, how he did it, and why he did it, placing him in a wider context and looking at the contents of the manuscripts.

Susanna Fein is Professor of English at Kent State University; Michael Johnston is an Assistant Professor of English at Purdue University.

Contributors: Julie Nelson Couch, Susanna Fein, Rosalind Field, Joel Fredell, Ralph Hanna, Michael Johnston, George R. Keiser, Julie Orlemanski, Mary Michele Poellinger, Dav Smith, Thorlac Turville-Petre.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Cheese and the Worms and Robert Thornton - Michael Johnston
The Contents of Robert Thornton's Manuscripts - Susanna Fein
Robert Thornton: Gentleman, Reader and Scribe - George R. Keiser
The Thornton Manuscripts and Book Production in York - Joel Fredell
The Text of the Alliterative Morte Arthure: A Prolegomenon for a Future Edition - Ralph Hanna and Thorlac Turville-Petre
'The rosselde spere to his herte rynnes': Religious Violence in the Alliterative Morte Arthure and the Lincoln Thornton Manuscript - Mary Michele Poellinger
Constantinian Christianity in the London Thornton Manuscript: The Codicological and Linguistic Evidence of Thornton's Intentions - Michael Johnston
Apocryphal Romance in the London Thornton Manuscript - Julie Nelson Couch
Thornton's Remedies and Practices of Medical Reading - Julie Orlemanski
Afterword: Robert Thornton Country - Rosalind Field and Dav Smith


A carefully edited and well-coordinated book whose contributions both refine and extend previous scholarship . The essays collected here . offer a thoughtful and timely demonstration of what can be deduced from manuscript evidence, and a compendium of Thornton scholarship that will be of lasting use. JOURNAL OF ENGLISH AND GERMANIC PHILOLOGY

This collection is a welcome addition to scholarly resources, offering new insights on texts and on Thornton's processes of compilation, while its copious reference to previous research provides a useful introduction to Thornton studies, helpfully summarized by Michael Johnston in his introduction. SPECULUM

An interesting and very useful [collection]...essential for anyone approaching Thornton's books in the future. REVIEW OF ENGLISH STUDIES

Very highly recommended. MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

Perhaps the greatest endorsement this reviewer can give to this volume is that it reproduces the world of Thornton by creating an edited volume that reflects the scribal work of Thornton: unique, coherent, and destined to help shape the field of Middle English studies for years to come. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW

As the essays make clear, Thornton's collections will remain an essential resource for an understanding of the literary history, and to some extent the mentalité of his time. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

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