[The Canterbury tales].

Chaucer, Geoffrey, -1400 [Browse]
Manuscript, Book
  • Middle English (1100-1500)
  • English
[London, England] ; [between 1400 and 1500]
215 leaves : parchment, paper ; 293 x 202 (195-225 x 120-140) mm bound to 295 x 223 mm.


Former owner
Library of Congress genre(s)
Rare books genre
Getty AAT genre
Summary note
One of approximately 84 extant manuscripts of The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer's poem about pilgrims traveling to Canterbury exchanging tales along the way. This MS has the order of tales A B1 Fa Eb D Ea Fb Ga C B2cdef H I.
  • Incipit: “First on þis wal was peyntid a forest, In wich ther dwellith nethir man nor best, With knotty and knarry brokyn’ treis old, And stobbis sharp and hidous to be hold…”
  • Explicit: “But certis these lordshippis doith vrong þat be nymyth her bondfolk thingis þat they nevir gave hem. Augustinus de Ciuitate dei libro”
  • Ms. codex.
  • Title supplied by cataloger.
  • Third preliminary leaf contains a list of contents. Folio 2v contains a table giving times of sunrise and sunset for 20 days from 1 January to 5 June, and pen trials including the opening line of the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales. Running titles.
  • Collation: Parchment and paper ; fol. ii (modern paper) + i (19th-century tipped-in) + i (parchment) + i (contemporary paper flyleaf) + 215 (paper and parchment) + iii (modern paper); quires 1-22 and 28-29 are paper, 23-27 are parchment ; partial previous foliation crossed out ; modern foliation in pencil.
  • Layout: 34-39 lines per page ; ruled.
  • Description: Written by two scribes in Anglicana with some Secretary features, the second scribe is believed to be the Beryn Scribe. To the manuscript’s five parchment quires were added paper portions in the period 1450-1460 with much cutting and editing of the text. Watermarks on later end papers only.
  • Decoration: Rubrication for incipits and explicits. Rubricated running titles are preceded by blue paraphs; 3-line blue initials; beginnings of tales have 3-line blue initials with red penwork; running titles.
Binding note
Contemporaneous binding. England, 15th century. Sewn on five alum-tawed double thongs laced into cushioned quarter-sawn oak boards (10 mm thick) through five channels. Brown leather spine. Remains of four nails for a leather tie on the upper board and a brass plate with four nails on the lower board.
Language note
Middle English;
Knight’s Tale (incomplete); Miller’s Prologue and Tale; Reeve’s Prologue and Tale; Reeve’s Prologue and Tale; Cook’s Prologue and Tale; Man of Law’s Prologue and Tale; Squire’s Prologue and Tale; Merchant’s Prologue and Tale; Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale (imperfect); Friar’s Prologue (incomplete) and Tale; Summoner’s Prologue and Tale (imperfect); Clerk of Oxford’s Prologue and Tale (imperfect); Franklin’s Prologue and Tale; Second Nun’s Prologue and Tale; Physician’s Tale; Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale; Prioress’ Prologue and Tale; Sir Thopas Prologue and Tale; Melibeus Prologue and Tale; Monk’s Prologue and Tale; Nun’s Priest’s Prologue and Tale; Manciple’s Prologue (incomplete) and Tale (incomplete); Parson’s Prologue and Tale (incomplete).
In the library of the Tollemache family of Helmingham Hall, Suffolk, from the 16th century, if not earlier. Sold from their collection by Sotheby's where it was purchased by the bookseller Laurence C. Witten in February 1963. Purchased by Princeton University Library, chiefly with funds provided by Robert H. Taylor (1908-1985), Class of 1930, and Christian A. Zabriskie (d. 1970), New York City, with additional support from Arthur A. Houghton, Jr., Kenneth H. Rockey, Class of 1916, and Ernest C. Savage, all of whom were members of the Friends of the Princeton University Library.
Source acquisition
Gift Robert H. Taylor.
Medieval & Renaissance manuscripts in the Princeton University Library, volume 2, pages 317-321.
Other format(s)
Also available in an electronic version.
Place name(s)
England London
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