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2002 articles 1997 articles

The rediscovery of Margery Kempe: a footnote

Hilton Kelliher

Abstract

THE year 1934 was truly an annus mirabilis for English literary studies, when over the space of three months during the summer and autumn unique manuscripts of three major works were brought to light. In July came the announce- ment by Walter Oakeshott of his discovery in theFellowsLibrary at Winchester College of a text of Le Morte d'Arthur differing in some respects from that published by Caxton in 1485, but which later proved to have been in his office at the time of printing. In August Coleridge's autograph fair copy of an early recension of Kubla Khan emerged from the Monckton Milnes collection at Crewe Hall in Derbyshire. In September a country house near Chesterfield yielded The Book of Margery Kempe, the autobiography of the fractious Norfolk mystic and pilgrim that had until then been known only from seven pages of extracts published by Wynkyn de Worde about 1501. Almost fifty years after its rediscovery the Kempe manuscript came up at public auction and was purchased by the British Library, thus becoming the last of the trio to enter the national collection.

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