The Burley manuscript

Peter Redford
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The Burley manuscript is a miscellany compiled by William Parkhurst in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, unique in its size – over six hundred items inscribed on nearly four hundred folios – and its variety: poems and letters, essays and aphorisms, speeches, satires and sententiae, mostly in English but including Latin, Italian, French and Spanish. In this study, annotated transcriptions are given of all of the private letters in English, including those that are translations from those of the fourth-century Roman patrician Q. Aurelius Symmachus, and all the English verse. Incipit transcriptions and identification are provided for each of the other items, including those in foreign languages. The history and provenance of the collection are described in detail, with lengthy notes on memorial transcription of verse and prose, and the clandestine interception of letters. The book makes available, in a readily searchable form, texts, annotations and commentary that will have an impact on a wide range of scholarship. It will not only act as a guide to one of the English Renaissance’s most prized miscellanies, but also be found useful in a wide range of studies, illuminating such diverse subjects as, for example, the circulation of verse, the correspondence of John Donne (particularly with Henry Wotton and Henry Goodere), the self-fashioning of English gentlemen after the classical Romans of their class, and the government’s paranoiac spying on its own citizens. Literary scholars and editors, and social historians, may here draw on a deep well of contemporary writing, not readily available hitherto.

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‘Although some recent use has been made of the manuscript and there is Beal's detailed part-description of its contents, a full account of it has long been needed. Peter Redford's edition of the manuscript for the Manchester Spenser series does much to supply this … There is much good work in the edition and Redford should be congratulated for making the manuscript much better known.'
H. R. Woudhuysen, Lincoln College, University of Oxford
71.1 issue of Renaissance Quarterly
Spring 2018

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