The manuscript source of Caxton's second edition of the 'Canterbury Tales' and its place in the textual tradition of the 'Tales'
For many years, scholars have thought that the manuscript source used by William
Caxton to correct his first edition of the Canterbury Tales was a manuscript probably
of the very best quality. In 1939, Thomas Dunn wrote a doctoral thesis on the subject,
and for his research he used the Manly and Rickert collation cards. Technological
advances made in the last decade of the twentieth century have made it possible to
collate the witnesses of the Tales using computerised tools.
This work presents an analysis of the stemmatically significant variants found in Cx2
and attempts to offer a plausible hypothesis concerning the position of the manuscript
source of Cx2 in the textual tradition of the Canterbury Tales. This thesis is organised
in eight chapters. Chapter 1 focuses on the scholarly work surrounding Caxton's
second edition and his editorial practices; chapter 2 contains the bibliographical
description of one of the copies of Cx2; chapter 3 studies the question of the order of
the tales; chapter 4 offers a synthesis of what, for the purposes of this particular
research, is understood as a textual variant; in chapters 5,6 and 7 the analyses of the
data and some partial conclusions can be found. The findings of this work appear in
the conclusions (chapter 8). There is an electronic appendix to this work in which data
that were not deemed essential to its understanding can be found. The electronic
appendix includes the complete collation of Cx2 against Cxl, collations of all the
available witnesses and variants which were considered repetitive or uninformative.
This work shows that witnesses of the text which have remained unclassified up to
this point might be genetically related. Especially evident is the relationship between
Ad3 Ch Ha4 and the manuscript source of W. It also appears that Cx2 shares with
El and Gg variants which originated below the archetype. This thesis suggests that
more work is required in order to clarify the stemmatic relations in the textual
tradition of the Canterbury Tales.