Welcome to the Geographies of Orthodoxy project
Van der Weyden, Descent from the Cross

Patterns of Textual Affiliation in the Manuscripts of Nicholas Love’s Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ1

Written by: Professor Michael Sargent (City University of New York)
Code by: Gavin Mitchell, Michael Goodall and Stephen Kelly (Queen's University Belfast)

In forty-nine surviving originally complete manuscripts and nine early prints, Nicholas Love’s Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ survives in three primary textual forms, designated α, β and γ. These three forms of the text are distinguishable both in a small number of major textual variations, and in a very large number of minor verbal variations. Each of the three major textual groups is further divisible into two or three sub-groups, designated α1, α2 and α3, β1 and β2, and γ1 and γ2, respectively. The α group is attested by approximately 360 minor variants throughout the text,2 β by 85, and γ by 180.3 The γ group is not completely self-consistent: although the group as a whole is attested throughout the text, the γ2 sub-group appears to have been conflated with β in the latter half of the text. Of the three primary groups, it is most probable that β represents Love’s original version and that α represents later, authorial revision, while γ is scribal in origin. All three of the major versions of the text are found in manuscripts dating from the beginning of the fifteenth century, and all three are attested in numerous independent variants; whenever two of them agree against the third, the evidence of the underlying Latin text shows that the unique reading is in error. This, and the fact that the number of representative manuscripts of each group is large enough to justify the use of recension in establishing the text in places where there is no Latin to refer to, provides us with the basis for a critical text in all but the small number of major textual variations.

dependency map

Click to view the Map of Affiliations of MSS of Love's Mirror (opens new window)

Two of the major affiliational groups of manuscripts of Love’s Mirror are attested by early manuscripts with strong connections to Mount Grace Charterhouse: β1 MS Tk2 belonged to Joan Holland, the widow of the founder of the house, and α1 MS A1, written perhaps a decade later, belonged to Mount Grace itself. At least one other α1 manuscript, on the other hand, MS Ad1, is older than A1, and may date to the same decade as Tk2; and MS Mu probably belonged to Margaret Neville, the wife of Thomas Beaufort, the ‘second founder’ of Mount Grace after the Lancastrian accession. Two other β1 manuscripts, the early fifteenth-century MS Bc, and its later descendent MS Ad3, are the only copies to name Nicholas Love as the author. One other early manuscript with an important connection is the β2 MS Fo, which belonged to Sybil de Felton, abbess of the Benedictine convent of Barking, who died in 1419. Although the γ group is also attested in two manuscripts from the beginning of the century, MSS Ar2 and Tr2, this group does not have the kind of connections with Mount Grace that both α and β have, nor does it have their steady pattern of transmission: the bulk of the γ manuscripts were not copied until the second quarter of the fifteenth century.

The overall shape of the Mirror is stable: it is almost invariably preceded by a Table of Contents, and comprises chapters of meditations divided according to the days of the week, such that Monday occupies the narrative up to the birth of Jesus, his circumcision, the Epiphany, and the presentation in the temple (Candlemas). Tuesday comprises the narrative from the flight into Egypt through Jesus’ baptism; Wednesday begins with Jesus’ temptation in the desert, and continues through the years of Jesus’ public ministry, concluding with the conversion of Mary Magdalene (with the addition of a defence of oral confession), Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, and the disciples’ plucking grain in the fields on the Sabbath. Thursday begins with the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, contains the chapter on Martha and Mary (which includes, in both the Latin and English versions, a discussion of the active and contemplative lives) and the raising of Lazarus (which gives occasion for a further defence of oral confession), and ends with the Last Supper and its discussion of the sacrament of the Eucharist. Friday comprises the meditations on the Passion, beginning with the agony in the garden, and ending with the return of Mary, John and the other women to Jerusalem after the burial of Jesus. The single chapter for Saturday narrates what Mary and the apostles did on that day, and Jesus’ descent into hell. The Sunday section comprises the apocryphal account of Jesus’ appearance to his mother, the canonical accounts of the resurrection and the appearances of Jesus to his apostles and disciples, the Ascension, and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Love then adds a further chapter for the feast of Corpus Christi, the ‘Treatise on the Sacrament’. The major variations in the text are as follows.

The ‘Attende’ note and the ‘N–B’ annotations4

Following the Table of Contents in all non-acephalous α and β manuscripts, but only in γ2 MSS Pm2 and Sc (which are elsewhere conflated with β1), is the ‘Attende’ note, which describes how Love has signaled various additions that he has made to the text by a marginal ‘N’ where his insertion begins, and a ‘B’ where he returns to his pseudo-Bonaventuran source (p. 7, ll. 1-8):

Attende lector huius libri prout sequitur in Anglico scripti, quod vbicumque in margine ponitur litera N verba sunt translatoris siue compilatoris in Anglicis preter illa que inseruntur in libro scripto secundum communem opinionem a venerabili doctore Bonauentura in Latino de meditacione vite Jesu Christi. Et quando peruenitur ad processum & verba eiusdem doctoris inseritur in margine litera B, prout legenti siue intuenti istum librum speculi vite Christi lucide poterit apparere.5

Although there is a fair amount of individual variation in the ‘N–B’ notes (e.g. the simple initials ‘N’ and ‘B’ alternating with ‘N.B.’ or ‘B.N.’, or ‘N’ transcribed as ‘nota’), they are present in some form at the same points in the text in even the earliest manuscripts, and would thus have been authorial. Since, without the ‘Attende’ note, the meaning of these marginal initials would only have been clear to the author or someone in personal communication with him (or someone who, having compared the Middle English text with the underlying Latin, noticed the coincidence of the initials with the variation of the Middle English text from its original), and since the ‘Attende’ note occurs in the earliest manuscripts of all affiliational groups, it, too, must have been in the archetype, and its lack in all γ1 manuscripts, as well as in γ2 MS Tr2, must have been by omission in the hype-archetype of γ.

The ‘Memorandum of Approbation’

A particularly significant fact of the textual history of Love’s Mirror is the absence in the earliest manuscripts of all affiliational groups of the ‘Memorandum’ recording Archbishop Arundel’s approval of its publication (p. 7, ll. 9-21):

Memorandum quod circa annum domini Millesimum quadringentesimum decimum, originalis copia huius libri, scilicet Speculi vite Christi in Anglicis presentabatur Londoniis per compilatorem eiusdem .N. Reuerendissimo in Christo patri & domino, Domino Thome Arundell, Cantuarie Archiepiscopo, ad inspiciendum & debite examinandum antequam fuerat libere communicata. Qui post inspeccionem eiusdem per dies aliquot retradens ipsum librum memorato eiusdem auctori proprie vocis oraculo ipsum in singulis commendauit & approbauit, necnon & auctoritate sua metropolitica, vt pote catholicum, puplice communicandum fore decreuit & mandauit, ad fidelium edificacionem, & hereticorum siue lollardorum confutacionem. Amen.6

The Mirror had thus begun to circulate before the ‘original copy’ that the ‘Memorandum’ speaks of had been presented to Archbishop Arundel, or at least before it was thought important to record that fact in the individual manuscripts. The majority of manuscripts with the ‘Memorandum’ were in fact produced during the archbishopric of Arundel’s successor, Henry Chichele (1414-43). Neither of the two manuscripts dated (on paleographic and art-historical grounds) to the beginning of the fifteenth century have the ‘Memorandum’; of those produced later in the first quarter of the century, MS Mu, which probably belonged to Margaret Neville, the wife of Thomas Beaufort, lacked the ‘Memorandum’ as, originally, did MS A1, into which it has been added by another hand. All later manuscripts, as well as the incunabula, which also belong to the α1 affiliational group, have it. No α2 manuscript of whatever date has the ‘Memorandum’; all complete α3 manuscripts do. In the α textual tradition, the ‘Memorandum’ invariably follows the ‘Attende’ note, after the Table of Contents, at the head of the text. Two-thirds of the β manuscripts lack the ‘Memorandum’: it occurs in only one β1 copy of the first quarter of the fifteenth century, MS Ry2, and four other, later manuscripts; it is not found in the β2 affiliational group. In β, the ‘Memorandum’ occurs following the ‘Treatise on the Sacrament’, at the end of the text. The ‘Memorandum’ also occurs at the end of the text in one-third of the γ manuscripts: the mid- to late-fifteenth century γ1 MSS Tr1 and Ha, and the three mid-century London γ2 MSS Wa, Pm2 and Sc. All of these manuscripts show evidence elsewhere of contamination with the β tradition; other γ manuscripts lack the ‘Memorandum’.

As a whole, the evidence suggests that greater care was taken to ensure that the ‘Memorandum’ accompanied the text of Love’s Mirror in α1 copies than any other affiliational group, or, equally, that α1 was not widely circulated before the ‘Memorandum’ was added. The same was probably true of α3, although the only copy of this group surviving even from the mid-fifteenth century, MS Ad4, is acephalous, and thus lacks the ‘Memorandum’ in any case. The hype-archetype of the α2 affiliational group may already have been written before the ‘Memorandum’ came to be added to the text, on the other hand, since no copy of this group has it. The β1 affiliational group, like α1, was already in circulation before the ‘Memorandum’ was recorded. The fact that it always follows the ‘Treatise on the Sacrament’ in the five manuscripts in which it occurs (counting the γ1 MS Tr1 here, because it has a β1 text of the ‘Treatise’) does, though, indicate either that a substantial proportion of the manuscripts of this group derive from a single hype-archetype in which this addition was made, or at least that they were transmitted in close enough circles that the ‘Memorandum’ could be added in at the appropriate place, by their several independent scribes. No manuscripts of β2 have the ‘Memorandum’; nor do those of γ, with the exception of MS Tr1, mentioned above, the textually idiosyncratic MS Ha, and the closely affiliated group Wa, Pm2, Sc.

The Name of the Book

The first of the major variations within the text of the Mirror is that between the α and β versions of Nicholas Love’s discussion of the name of his book, in the Proem. In α, this reads (p. 11, ll. 9-18):

And so for als miche as in is boke bene contynede diuerse ymaginacions of cristes life, e which life fro e bygynnyng in to e endyng euer blessede & withoute synne, passyng alle e lifes of alle oer seyntes, as for a singulere prerogatife, may worily be clepede e blessede life of Jesu crist, e which also because it may not be fully discriuede as e lifes of oer seyntes, bot in a maner of liknes as e ymage of mans face is shewed in e mirrroure erfore as for a pertynent name to is boke, it may skilfully be cleped, e Mirrour of e blessed life of Jesu criste.

A transition sentence follows:

Forermore fort speke of e profitable matire of is boke e forseide clerke Bonauenture spekyng to e woman forseide in his proheme bygynne in is manere sentence.

The β1 version is:7

And so for as moche as in þis boke ben conteyned dyuerse ymaginacions of cristis lyff. As þe ymage of mannus face is schewed in þe Mirrour þe whiche lyffe. fro þe beguynnynge in to þe endynge euermore blyssed & withouten synne passynge alle lyues of alle oþere seyntes. as for a singuler prerogatyffe may worþely be cleped þe blyssed lyfe of Jesu Crist. Þerfore as for a pertynent name to þis boke it may skylfully be cleped The mirrour of þe blyssed lyfe of Jesu Criste.

followed by the same transition sentence. The β2 version of this passage is essentially the same as β1, with the omission of the final sentence; this same form occurs in γ1 MSS Ar2 and Pm1. The other γ1 manuscripts, and γ2 MS Ar2, have the α form, without the following transition sentence.

The β version of the explanation of Love’s title has the advantage of proceeding according to the order of the terms of the title: Mirror – blessed life – Jesus Christ, and is more obviously connected verbally to the preceding discussion of the ‘devout imaginations’ that the work comprises. The α version, however, is more clear and direct as English prose, although it inverts the order of the terms. The β2 version depends on a scribal error: the omission of the phrase between the similar words ‘þerfore’ and ‘Forþermore’. The γ version equally depends on the same scribal error in reverse: the omission of the transition sentence in a copy identical to α. Although the variations in β2 and γ are thus scribal in origin, the variation of α and β1 is stylistic, and in all probability a conscious revision in one direction or the other, either by Love himself, or some other. In other cases that we shall consider below, the direction of revision must have been from β to α, and in the present case, an alteration in the direction of clarity of expression also makes more sense; I should think that Love first wrote the β1 version, and revised the passage later to α.

The Meditation on the Ave Maria

The ending section of Chapter Three, on the Annunciation, is different in all three versions of the text of the Mirror.8 At the close of his translation of this section of the Meditationes Vitae Christi, Love adds his own meditation on the individual phrases of the Ave Maria, connecting each with one of five virtues (meekness, chastity, faith, hope and charity) and one of the ‘Five Joys of Mary’, ending with a rhyming, meditative version of the prayer (pp. 30, l. 40-31, l. 12):

Heil Marie maiden mekest.
Gret of [þe] angel gabriel in Jesu graciouse conceyuyng.
Ful of grace as modere chast
without sorow or peyne i son, Jesu blessed beryng.
Oure lord is & was with e
by trew fei at Jesu ioyful vprysyng.
Blessed be ou souereynly in women,
by sadde hope seying i sone Jesu to heuen mihtily vpsteyng.
And blessed be e fruyt of i wombe Jesus,
in euerlastyng blisse orh perfite charite e quene of heuen gloriously cronyng.
Be ou oure help in al oure nede, & socour at our last endynge. Amen.

Manuscripts of β and γ both contain one more rhyme:

Gete us þese vertues as for oure spede / to þi sone Jesu & þi plesynge.

At this point, β1 adds:

Thus þenkeþ me may be hadde contemplacioun more conueniently aftir þe ordre of þe fyue ioyes of oure lady seynt Marye in þe forseide gretynge Aue Maria &c. þan was byfore wryten to þe Ankeresse as it scheweþ here / Chese he þat lyste to rede or write þis processe as hym semeþ best or in oþere better manere 3if he kan / so þat be it one be it oþere þat þe ende & þe entent be to þe worschippe & þe pleisynge of oure lorde Jesu and his blyssed modere Marye.

Manuscripts of β2 begin the same way, but for the material from ‘þan was byfore wryten’ to the end, substitute the following:

And þis I sey nou3t to þat entent þat as ofte as þou seyst þis gretynge for to seye it in þis manere. But whan þe likeþ to haue contemplacyon of hir fyue ioyes & vertues byfore seyde to stir þi deuocyon þe more to hir worschipe & þi profyte.

Manuscripts of both α and β then conclude the chapter (p. 31, ll. 13-20):

Sien en e processe of e blessed Incarnacion of Jesu, & e bygynnyng & mynde of e ioyes of his blessed modere Marie, & e gronde of sauacion of mankynd is contened in is gospell, Missus est, as it is seide, & ou hast herd before wi gret deuocion & gostly desire owest ou & euery cristien creature here is gospel & wirchipe erin Jesu at so bycame man for oure sake, & his blessed modere Marie to whose wirchipe & profite of i soule & myn is short tretyse be wryten. Amen.

Manuscripts of γ, on the other hand, concludes with a Latin version of the meditation on the Ave Maria, and without the closing paragraph found in both α and β:

Ave Maria virgo mitissima
digna angelica salutacione
Gracia plena Mater castissima
in tui prolis iocunda generacione
Dominus tecum, fide firmissima
in tui filij gloriosa resurreccione
Benedicta tu in mulieribus spe certissima
in eius admiranda assencione
Et benedictus fructus ventris tui Jesus
Caratitate plenissima te coronans in celesti habitacione
Esto nobis auxiliatrix
in omni angustia et temptacione Amen.

As Elizabeth Salter pointed out, the reference to a meditation on the Ave Maria that ‘was byfore wryten to þe Ankeresse’ in β1 is most probably a comparison – and not a particularly charitable one – to the meditation on the ‘Five Joys’ in the Ancrene Riwle.9 The variation among the three versions obviously represents a revision of the text, rather than scribal error. The fact that the β version itself exists in two versions, in one of which (β2, the earliest surviving manuscript of which belonged to the abbess of Barking) the alteration occludes the comparison with the Ancrene Riwle in the other, suggests that Love himself may not have been comfortable with the spiritual competitiveness of his comparison, and wrote it out. In α, the entire paragraph is omitted, although the concluding paragraph that follows does remain. In γ, the entire section is replaced by an easier, safer option: a Latin translation of the rhymed meditation. It is possible, but ultimately I do not think likely, that the direction of revision was from α to β2 to β1, with γ as a lateral development; I think it far more probable, here as elsewhere, that Love has revised from β to α, and that γ represents a possibly scribal (editorial) alternative. Here, as elsewhere, the use of Latin in the text of γ is a possible indication that its original audience was clerical.

The Chapter on the Transfiguration

Chapter Thirty, on the Transfiguration, may not originally have been included in Love’s Mirror. The preceding chapter in the pseudo-Bonaventure, based on the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, was in fact not translated: this is in a way surprising, because it contains Peter’s affirmation that Jesus was the Son of God, and Christ’s naming of him as ‘Petrus – and upon this rock, etc’.10 This is, of course, one of the primary texts used in support of papal authority, since it also refers to the power of binding and unbinding, which is one of two scriptural justifications for sacramental confession. But this element is not mentioned in the pseudo-Bonaventure, which instead proceeds immediately to Peter’s remonstration with Christ over his prophesy of his coming Passion, and Christ’s response to that, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan!’ The Meditationes draws the conclusion from this that the reader, too, should consider as inimical all that hinders her from her spiritual exercise. The immediately following meditation on the Transfiguration is almost cursory, and Love expands it in his translation to twice its length in the Latin original. Two out of three β2 MSS, Fo and Ch, lack this chapter; the third, Tk1, together with two of the three earliest β1 MSS, Tk2 and Bc, as well as three others, Ad3, Hm1 and Tk3 read ‘Of the special reward promised by Christ to those who forsake the world for his love’ at the end of the preceding chapter – a rubric referring forward to the following chapter, ‘De probatica piscina’. This would indicate that the original version of β, and thus probably of the Mirror itself, probably did not contain the chapter on the Transfiguration.

The Meditation on the Last Supper and the ‘Memorandum of Approbation’

Love completely rewrote the meditation on the Last Supper (Chapter 39), incorporating a defence of the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, and the doctrine of transubstantiation. At the center of this defence stands his account of a Eucharistic miracle: that there is a man whom he knows personally, who when handling the sacrament and meditating on the Passion, feels the physical presence of Christ poured into his own body – a miracle that Love considers more convincing than the usual accounts of blood in the chalice or the Christ-child in the elevated host. He introduces this miracle, ‘in confusion of alle fals lollardes, & in confort of alle trewe loueres & wirchiperes of þis holy sacrament’ (pl. 152, ll. 13-14). At the end of this section, there is a paragraph stating that, if God grants him the grace to do so, he will add more on this subject at the end of his book (p. 154, ll. 3-14):

Bot now cese we here awhile of is delectable gostly chewyng & tretynge of is moste deynte & preciouse mete, & take we hede forermore to e noble lesson at oure lord Jesus tauht hese disciples erwi, after at wori sopere, at is e fere article before seide, with purpose 3it if our lorde wole sende grace to touche more of is precious sacrament, & at at e last ende of is boke as in a conclusion of alle e blessede life here bodily of oure lord Jesus, acordyng so with e gracious & resonable ordinance of holi chirch, of e wori & solempne feste of is blessede sacrament, as in a perfite conclusione of alle e festes of oure lorde Jesus, whos name blessed be euere without endyng. Amen.

This paragraph (the ‘Intention paragraph’) occurs in α, β2 and γ, but not in β1.

The final section of this chapter then treats of Christ’s teaching to his apostles on Faith, Hope and Love in his final supper with them – a passage made up of quotations from the Gospel of John. Here, as elsewhere in the book, the scriptural references in Latin occur in the text of β and γ, but in the margins of all α manuscripts.

The ‘Middle English Meditationes de Passione

The manuscript evidence is clear that the hype-archetype of the β tradition contained the ‘Middle English Meditationes de Passione’. It is equally clear that the presence of this version of the Passion meditation disrupted the textual order of Nicholas Love’s Mirror: chapter numbering in the text and headers, in particular, are disordered, although no copy of the Table of Contents reflects this disorder.11 In all but one manuscript, the MEMPC originally preceded Love’s version, but was then excised – leaving various traces of its presence and excision. In MS Ch, which at other points appears to represent a β text independent of β1 and β2, the MEMPC does not precede Love’s meditation on the Passion. MS Ch comprises only the MEMPC, and may, at this point, represent the actual hype-archetype of β – and thus, it would seem, the archetype of the Mirror itself – more closely than any other.

I cannot think of any reason why the MEMPC should have been added to a complete copy of Love’s Mirror; but I can imagine a scenario in which it was originally used to complete Love’s Mirror, and was later replaced. If Nicholas Love was in a hurry to complete his translation of the Meditationes Vitae Christi – whether in order to present it to Archbishop Arundel or for any other reason – he might reasonably have availed himself of an already existing translation of the Passion meditation as a way of bringing his work more quickly to completion. He did not use the first chapter of this text, that on the Last Supper, but he had his own major revisions to make in translation: his version of the Last Supper chapter contains a long anti-Wycliffite excursus in defence of the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. But the latter chapters of the MEMPC were not controversial, and could have been used to move his text significantly closer to completion. Love’s version of the Passion does, in fact, begin with a characteristic alteration of the text: he moves the ‘Meditation on the Passion in general’ from the position it occupies at the beginning of the Friday section in the Meditationes Vitae Christi and the MEMPC to a point two chapters later, in the meditation on the condemnation of Christ to death on the cross.12 For the rest, Nicholas Love’s version is simply an independent translation of the same material.

The Displacement of the ‘Meditation on the Passion in General’

In all β and γ manuscripts, there are Latin notes in the Friday section of the text marking Love’s displacement of the ‘meditation on the Passion in general’ from the beginning of the Passion narrative to a point just before the Crucifixion; these do not occur in α. There are also two rubricated sub-divisions in the long first chapter of the Friday section in all manuscripts of β and γ, that do not occur in α.13

The ‘Transition paragraph’ and the ‘Intention paragraph’

Love closes his translation of the Meditationes Vitae Christi with an ‘explicit paragraph’ that reiterates the suggestion, derived from the pseudo-Bonaventuran original, that the book be read either according to the reader’s private devotion, or according to the seasons of the liturgical year, thus beginning in Advent and ending at Pentecost (p. 220, ll. 22-36):

Þus ende e contemplacion of e blessede life of oure lorde Jesu e which processe for als mich as it is here us writen in english tonge lengir in many parties & in oere manere an is e latyne of Bonauenture erfore it seme not conuenient to folowe e processe erof by e dayes of e wike after e entent of e forseide Bonauentur, for it were to tediouse as me inke, & also it shulde so sone be fulsome & not in confortable deynte by cause of e freelte of mankynde at ha likynge to here & knowe newe inges. & oo at bene seldome herde bene oft in e more deynte. Wherefore it seme to me beste at euery deuout creature at loue to rede or here is boke take e partes erof as it seme moste confortable & stiryng to his deuocion, sumtyme one & symtyme an oere, & specialy in e tymes of e 3ere & e festes ordeynet in holy chirche, as e matires bene perteynent to hem.

Following this is another paragraph (the ‘transition paragraph’) that begins with a transition from the idea of the calendar-order of the work, and proceeds to introduce the following ‘Treatise on the Sacrament’ as the appropriate reading for the feast of Corpus Christi, the final feast of the Pentecostal season, and thus of the ecclesiastical year (pp. 220, l. 37-221, l. 5):

And for als miche as at blessede & wori feste of e precious sacrament of Jesu body, in e whiche he is euery day bodily present with vs to oure mooste confort at we mowe haue here in ere is e ende & e conclusion of alle oere festes of him graciously & resonably ordeynet by holi chirch as it was seide before erfore with e grace of e holi goste & of him of whom at feest is we shole speke sumwhat more to confort of hem at treuly byleuen, & to confusion of alle fals lollardes & heritykes Amen.

This paragraph ends with an echo of both the introduction and the conclusion of his earlier account of the Eucharistic miracle that he knew of personally, and of the closing phrase of the ‘Memorandum’ of approbation: ‘erfore with e grace of e holi goste & of him of whom at feest is we shole speke sumwhat more to confort of hem at treuly byleuen, & to confusion of alle fals lollardes & heritykes’ – ‘ad fidelium edificacionem, & hereticorum siue lollardorum confutacionem.’ At this point follows the first formal explicit of Nicholas Love’s Mirror: ‘Blessede be e name of oure lorde Jesu & his modere Marye nowe & euere wi out ende Amen. / Explicit speculum vite Christi.’ In three β1 manuscripts, different combinations of these closing elements are displaced to follow the ‘Treatise’: In MSS Pr and Ll, the order is: ‘transition paragraph’ – ‘Treatise’ – ‘explicit paragraph’ – ‘Memorandum’; in MS Ry2, the order is ‘Treatise’ – ‘transition paragraph’ – ‘explicit paragraph’ – ‘Memorandum’. MS Ch, a β2 manuscript for the text of the Mirror, although not for the ‘Treatise’, lacks the ‘transition paragraph’. Two γ manuscripts have similar displacements: MS Ln ends at the bottom of a verso folio, without either the ‘explicit’ or the ‘transition paragraph’. The ‘Treatise on the Sacrament’ is added in another hand, from a β exemplar, without the ‘explicit’ or the ‘transition’ paragraphs, either before or after, or the ‘Memorandum’; and MS Tr1, which also had a β exemplar for the ‘Treatise’, displaces the ‘transition paragraph’ to follow it, preceding the ‘Memorandum’.

The ‘Treatise on the Sacrament’

The inclusion, and the form, of the ‘Treatise on the Sacrament’ varies among the three basic affiliational groups. With the single exception of MS Wc, all 24 α manuscripts, of whatever sub-group, have the ‘Treatise’, and all agree in the relatively small number of verbal variations characteristic of its text in the α tradition. Manuscripts of β, which in its two affiliational sub-groups comprises fifteen manuscripts for the body of the text of the Mirror (that part, that is, that corresponds to the Meditationes Vitae Christi), is represented by 12 manuscripts in the ‘Treatise’ (MSS Tk2, Bc, Ld, Ad3, Ya1, Hm1 and Ry2, plus Sc, Ln and Tr1); MS Sc, which is sporadically a β1 manuscript throughout the body of the text, is a β1 in the ‘Treatise’, while MS Sc, its congener, is a γ2. The text of the ‘Treatise’ is represented in the idiosyncratically abbreviated MS Ha only by the ‘Prayer to the Sacrament’ with which it ends. MSS Pr and Tk4, which share a number of otherwise unique readings throughout the text, both change from β1 to γ for the ‘Treatise’, as does MS Bo2. On the other hand, MS Tr1, a γ1 manuscript throughout the text, changes affiliation to β1 for the ‘Treatise’, and in MS Ln, a γ1 manuscript that had originally lacked the ‘Treatise’, another hand has added it from a β1 exemplar. MS Ch, which varies from β2 to α2 to β throughout the text, has intervening material – including texts referred to in the Mirror, like Walter Hilton’s ‘Mixed Life’ – before an α2 text of the ‘Treatise’. Three manuscripts of the γ affiliational group, which comprises ten manuscripts throughout the body of the text, plus MSS Sc and Pm2, originally lacked the ‘Treatise’; as just mentioned, this has been supplied in another hand, from a β1 exemplar, in MS Ln. MS Tr1 changes affiliation from γ1 to β1 for the ‘Treatise’, and three β1 MSS, Pr, Tk4 and Bo2, change affiliation to γ1 for the ‘Treatise’. The γ tradition is thus represented by nine manuscripts (MSS Ar2, Tr2, Fw, Tr1, Wa, Pm2, Pr, Tk4 and Bo2) in the ‘Treatise’.

Two manuscripts of β1, MSS Ya1 and Hm1, share an idiosyncratic truncation of the text of the ‘Treatise’, and in a third, MS Tk3, the ‘Treatise’ is completed, apparently from a γ exemplar, in another hand. In these copies, the distinctio section of the ‘Treatise’, which treats of the two kinds of miracles in the sacrament – the inner miracle of transubstantiation itself, and the outer miracles, of the vision of Christ in the elevation, of flesh and blood in the chalice, or of the release from bondage, suffering or the pains of Purgatory, of them for whom the sacrament has been offered – breaks off just before the ending of its first section (the transubstantiation itself) with the words, ‘& þerfore þus I trowe & fully byleue þat it is in soþenes, þouh my kyndely reson a3eyn sey it’, without the final citation of Gregory’s dictum that, ‘Feiþ haþ no merite, to þe which mannus reson 3ifeþ experience (p. 227, ll. 34-35).’ The opening of the distinctio is marked with a rubric or a marginal note in all three textual traditions, although MSS Ya1, Hm1, Tk3, Ln and β2 share a placement of the rubric in mid-sentence, several lines before it usually occurs: ‘Thus we hauynge loue drede [of two maner of mervayles in the holy sacrament] of god...’14 Whether or not this placement of the rubric obscures the organization of the passage as a whole, it is obvious that the text as it appears in MSS Ya1, Hm1 and Tk3 is incomplete, a fact which some reader of Tk3 recognized, and corrected by copying in the remainder of the text from another source. In Hm1, the premature ending of the ‘Treatise’ leaves one line blank on the final verso folio, in which the scribe has added his name. In Ya1, the truncated ending is followed by the blessing that normally ends the body of the text of the Mirror, ‘Blessede be þe name of oure lorde Jesu & his modere Marye nowe & euere wiþ out ende Amen’,15 and the ‘Memorandum’. These three manuscripts must descend from a single copy-text in which the latter three-fifths of the text of the ‘Treatise’ was lacking.

The fact that all but one of the non-atelous manuscripts of the α affiliational group contain the ‘Treatise on the Sacrament’, and that α manuscripts of the body of the text are also α for the ‘Treatise’, while fully one-third (eight out of 24) of the non-atelous manuscripts of β and γ either lack the ‘Treatise’ or change affiliation,16 suggests strongly that the ‘Treatise’ was always an integral part of the text in α, but not in β and γ. To put it another way: the ‘Treatise’ was certainly in the hype-archetype of α, but not necessarily in those of β and γ – which strengthens the observation made above, that the paragraph in the chapter on the Last Supper in which Nicholas Love recorded his intention to treat further of the sacrament of the altar at the end of The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ represents a change in his original plan.

On the other hand, we must note that the earliest manuscripts of whatever affiliational sub-groups of β and γ, like α, do in fact contain the ‘Treatise on the Sacrament’ – written in the hand of the scribe of the body of the text in each. This evidence leads to the conclusion that although the hype-archetypes of β and γ probably did not contain the ‘Treatise’, care was taken to ensure that when it was added to the text, all copies should have it. The fact that the ‘Treatise’ was copied in as an integral part of the Mirror by the scribe of the body of the text in all of the earliest manuscripts of α, β and γ shows that no version of the text could have been in circulation for very long before the ‘Treatise’ was added to the hype-archetype.

The Marginal Apparatus

The marginal notes to texts of the Mirror are also relatively stable, and must be treated as a part of the text itself, for all textual-critical purposes. There are six categories of notes: simple identifications of the underlying biblical narrative, or quotation of a text cited from scripture; identification of non-scriptural auctoritates; topical notes, directing the reader’s attention to doctrinal points (e.g. ‘Paupertas Christi’; editorial notes, referring the progress of Love’s narrative to that of his original; ‘N–B’ notes that, as described in the ‘Attende’ note, identify Love’s additions to the pseudo-Bonaventuran text (these also often take the form ‘N.B.’ or ‘B.N.’, as well as the single initials ‘N’ and ‘B’); and various forms of ‘Nota’, ‘nota bene’, or ‘notabile’. For comparative purposes, the totals of the annotations in A1, Tk2 and Ar2, early representatives of the α, β and γ textual traditions with full marginal apparatus, are as follows.

A1 (592 notes total):
Section of text Scriptural citations Auctoritates Topics Editorial N-B Nota
Monday 13 19 55 0 12 10
Tuesday 6 1 33 0 2 2
Wednesday 4 15 62 4 10 5
Thursday 19 24 81 4 33 12
Friday 25 0 20 1 14 0
Saturday 0 0 2 0 2 0
Sunday 14 14 34 1 14 6
'Treatise' 2 3 13 0 0 1
Totals: 83 76 300 10 87 36

Tk2 (655 notes total):
Section of text Scriptural citations Auctoritates Topics Editorial N-B Nota
Monday 17 25 65 1 12 9
Tuesday 6 6 43 0 0 7
Wednesday 4 20 75 4 6 9
Thursday 3 39 102 0 22 11
Friday 18 5 23 0 12 1
Saturday 0 0 1 0 2 0
Sunday 12 20 37 0 14 5
'Treatise' 2 5 10 0 0 2
Totals: 62 120 356 5 68 44

Ar2 (558 notes total):
Section of text Scriptural citations Auctoritates Topics Editorial N-B Nota
Monday 14 11 26 3 0 3
Tuesday 6 3 43 0 0 2
Wednesday 3 17 70 3 5 9
Thursday 5 32 90 0 26 11
Friday 16 0 30 0 10 1
Saturday 0 0 2 0 2 0
Sunday 12 13 48 0 12 6
'Treatise' 1 3 14 0 0 0
Totals: 57 79 323 6 55 38

It is apparent from this comparison, which is borne out amongst the manuscripts of the three affiliational groups, whatever their individual vagaries, that α has approximately 50 more marginal annotations than γ, and β has approximately 60 more than α. The difference between β on the one hand, and α and γ on the other, is particularly great among those identifying auctoritates. Of the marginalia noting topics of discussion throughout the text, γ has 23 more than α, and β 23 more than γ. The number of scriptural quotations in the margin is greater in α, since β and γ both tend to incorporate direct quotations, especially of the words of Jesus, into the text itself. More of the editorial directions occur in the margin in α, again because β and γ manuscripts tend to have them as in-text rubrics. The numbers of ‘N–B’ notes throughout the text, with exception only of the Saturday and Sunday sections, are greater in α; β, on the other hand, lacks ‘N–B’ notes in the Monday section. The text of the marginal notes in the three affiliational groups does, however, show a relatively high degree of uniformity in a part of the text that might normally be expected to be quite unstable.

Conclusion – the ‘originalis copia huius libri’

It seems probable that the reference in the ‘Memorandum’ to Nicholas Love’s presentation of the ‘original copy’ of his book to Archbishop Arundel reflects the fact that, by the time that memorandum was written, The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ already existed in more than one authorial form: an earlier draft most similar to β, insofar as can be reconstructed from the surviving manuscripts, and a revised version most similar to α. The original copy opened with a Table of Contents and the ‘Attende’ note, had the β-form of the explanation of the name of the book in its Proem, the β1-form of the end of the chapter on the Annunciation, with its comparison of Love’s meditation on the Ave Maria with that ‘written to the anchoress’, and the ‘Middle English Meditationes de Passione Domini’ for the treatment of the Passion meditation; but that it lacked the ‘Intention paragraph’and (probably) the ‘Treatise on the Sacrament’. Love later revised the explanation of the title and the ending section of the chapter on the Annunciation, and added the ‘Intention’ paragraph, his own version of the Passion meditation, and the ‘Treatise on the Sacrament’. The verbal echoes of Love’s introduction to his defense of the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, ‘for the edification of the faithful, and the confusion of heretics and Lollards’ and the ‘Memorandum’ and the ‘Transition paragraph’ suggest that the latter two borrowed from the former, and this, together with the echo of the statement of his intention to add a chapter for the feast of Corpus Christi (i.e. the ‘Treatise on the Sacrament’) in the ‘Intention paragraph’ and the ‘Transition paragraph’, as ‘the end and conclusion of all other feasts of him, graciously and reasonably ordained by Holy church,’ suggests that all of these revisions to the text of the Mirror were made are about the same time, shortly after he had received Arundel’s enthusiastic approbation. The hype-archetype of α, finally, into which all of these elements have been incorporated, with remarkably little variation evident among the surviving manuscript representatives, must represent the author’s revised version of the text.


Creative Commons Licence
This text is is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


Click the footnote number to return to the text

1 This discussion is adapted from Nicholas Love: The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ. A Full Critical Edition, based on Cambridge University Library Additional MSS 6578 and 6686 with Introduction, Notes and Glossary, ed. by Michael G. Sargent, Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies (University of Exeter Press, 2005), pp. intro 138-145, into 187-198.

2 Including, in particular, the omission of all Latin quotations, which normally precede Love’s Latin translations in β and γ, but are almost all removed to the marginal apparatus in α.

3 In collation, every variant was registered that occurred in any of the three earliest manuscripts of each affiliational sub-group, including all manuscripts written in the first quarter-century of dissemination of the text (a total of 27 MSS: α1 MSS A1, A2, Ad1, Mu, Hm2 and Uc; all α2 and α3 MSS; β1 MSS Tk2, Bc, Ld and Ad3; all β2 MSS; γ1 MSS Ar2, Bo1, Ad2 and Ln; and γ2 MSS Tr2 and Wa), on the principle that no reading failing to occur in any of these was likely to be authoritative for that sub-group. All other manuscripts were then collated against this, but readings occurring only in later manuscripts, unless demonstrating convergent variation among affiliational groups or sub-groups, persistent agreement with one of the early manuscripts within a sub-group, or (considerably less often) persistent agreement among pairs of later manuscripts, were registered only sporadically.

4 I have explored the relationship of Love’s text to its Latin sources and auctoritates further in ‘Nicholas Love’s Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ and the Politics of Vernacular Translation in Late Medieval England’, in Lost in Translation?, The Medieval Translator vol. 12, ed. Denis Renevey and Christiania Whitehead (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009), pp. 205-21.

5 Note, reader of the following book written in English, that wherever there is a letter ‘N’ in the margin, the words are added by the translator or compiler beyond those in the Latin book of the Meditation of the Life of Christ written, according to common opinion, by the venerable doctor Bonaventure. And when it returns to the narrative and words of that doctor, then there will be a letter ‘B’ in the margin, as will be readily apparent to whoever reads or examines this book of The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ.

6 Memorandum: that about the year 1410, the original copy of this book, that is, The Mirror of the Life of Christ in English, was presented in London by its compiler, N, to the Most Reverend Father and Lord in Christ, Lord Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, for inspection and due examination before it was freely communicated. Who after examining it for several days, returning it to the abovementioned author, commended and approved it personally, and further decreed and commanded by his metropolitan authority that it rather be published universally for the edification of the faithful and the confutation of heretics or lollards. Amen.

7 β1 is cited from Tk2.

8 See Mirror, pp. 28.11-31.20.

9 See Salter, Nicholas Love’s ‘Myrrour’: p. 33. The passage referred to is in The English Text of the Ancrene Riwle, ed. Mabel Day, EETS os 225 (1952), pp. 16.14-17.27.

10 Meditationes Vitae Christi, pp. 155-56; the abbreviation of the dictum on the foundation of the Church is from the Latin text.

11 This is not in fact problematic, since a Table of Contents is usually easier to compile after the book has been completed, and easier to copy than to re-compile.

12 See text below, pp. 160.38-40, 172.19-21 and Notes.

13 See the rubrics at Mirror, p. 162.12, 165.6 and 172.19-21.

14 Cited from MS Ya1 (brackets added); see Mirror, p. 226.21.

15 See Mirror, p. 221.6-7.

16 Sc and Pm2 are not counted as changing here, since they have the same affiliation for the ‘Treatise’ as for the immediately preceding section of the body of the text. If they are counted, then it is ten out of twenty-four β and γ manuscripts that change affiliation.