Introduction
Harley manuscript geographies
in Harley manuscript geographies
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The Introduction describes the shifting place of the Harley manuscript within English literary history. Following early promotion by nationalist antiquarians (impressed by its unique vernacular poems), the volume enjoyed a period of historiographical consequence, followed by decline into oblivion. After description of Harley 2253 as a material object and rehearsal of its publication history, there follows enumeration of thirteen ‘Aspects of the miscellany’ as a codicological form particular to this era. ‘Harley manuscript geographies’ next examines two related methodologies: first, the burgeoning subfield of ‘literary geography’, and second a materialist philology (or History of the Book) approach known as ‘manuscript geography’. Harley 2253 remains famous for certain Middle English items (chiefly, love-lyrics and political songs). Yet the compilation is linguistically mixed (containing Anglo-Norman and Latin), diverse of genre, and fascicular (produced in sections later stitched together). Appreciating the constitutive irony of Harley studies—that this variegated artefact, so often at odds with itself, keeps being sutured into ‘whole’-ness by commentary upon it—prepares the way for subsequent chapters. These undertakings are distinct textually and topically, but share a baseline proposition: that the Harley manuscript is a book interpretively produced, as much as it is a storehouse of vernacular treasures found.

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