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Core Record

Title The Book of the Tales of Caunterbury, Prologue, LI. 1-12
Collection Crafts Study Centre
Calligrapher Edward Johnston
Description One sheet of a draft, written in brown ink, in a hand based on a fourteenth-century book hand, on paper.
Id Number Current Accession C.86.91.1
Subject calligraphy, draft, literature
Measurements 30.4 x 31.9 centimetres
Hand book
Material ink on paper
Ink brown
History Draft of the main text for a broadside (Victoria and Albert Museum, L.1879-1964, see 2/729). Written for presentation to Miss Louisa Puller from the Society of Scribes and Illuminators, whose Secretary, Miss Walker, had wriiten to Johnston on 22 March raising the possibility of the commission. On 21 April Johnston made his first experiments with ink and 'writing 12 lines in 1380 Book Hand'. On 22 April he 'planned and cut vellum...wrote 12 lines (smudged some)', and on 23 April he 'cleaned up smudge, tidied up, wrote red headline, correction, etc, and (planning) wording of Rubric'. On 25 April he finished the wording of the rubric, 'ruled and wrote rubric... tried to do flourishes after, rather late, and did them poorly)'. Next day, 26 April, he 'erased parts of flourishes.. and rewrote successfully...mending letters and other finishing touches'. He then made a board for the manuscript, and mounted it with vellum ties. The manuscript was sent off by Special Delivery on 27 April. Johnston's fee for the manuscript, paid on 4 May, was 5 which, after expenses had been deducted, left 4 4s 2d.
Johnston's explanatory colophon includes, on the technical character of the manuscript: "...transcribed in a free copy of an English Book Hand of about 1380 A.D. Though in its size the writing is about four times as tall as the 1380 Book Hand (in Chaucer's time the twelve lines might have been written in a space of about five square inches), yet the shapes of the Letters may be taken as somewhat like the characters in which the Tales must first have been written in a Book".
With characteristic humour Johnston added a Chaucerian colophon, which read:

Twelue lines hir late Scriueyn for to yelde,
Edward a scribe, by ordre of ye yelde,
In nineteen hundred twenty seuen Aprille,
Wrote out with yren and with fowles Quille.

On 16 May 1927 Johnston lectured to the Society of Scribes and Illuminators, 'taking the Chaucer MS as a theme'. His notes for this lecture, 2/336, revert, towards the end, to the Chaucer manuscript:

Now to go back to what we may call the imaginative or creative side - the attempt to visualise what the Thing is and decide, as far as possible, what we will do in making the Thing - such as Miss Puller's Chaucer MS.
1. I thought of these lines as writ large to make a panel wall inscription in my imitation contemporary Book Hand.
This hand I had to learn some years ago to supply a final page to a copy of Gower's Confessio Amantis of c. 1380 A.D.
The words were to be made as like their first appearance (except in size) as I could make them.
Miss Puller might not have liked only five square inches so much, and I note the probable original size for accuracy of vision - incidentally this note may answer the critic who says the MS. is not a likeness.
Rights Owner Andrew and Angela Johnston/Crafts Study Centre 2004
Style Period Period 1920s
Technique hand-lettering
 

 

 

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