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Joanna M. Martin (ed.), The Maitland Quarto: A New Edition of Cambridge, Magdalene College, Pepys Library MS 1408 (Boydell & Brewer, 2015)

Joanna M. Martin (ed.), The Maitland Quarto: A New Edition of Cambridge, Magdalene College, Pepys Library MS 1408 (Boydell & Brewer, 2015). ISBN: 9781897976401, 540 pp., £40.00.

Reviewed by Ruth M. E. Oldman

[1] The Maitland Quarto (MQ) is considered one of the most important collections of Scottish literature produced in the later Middle Ages. A companion manuscript to the Maitland Folio, the compilation contains a completed collection of poetry written by Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington, as well as poems by Alexander Arbuthnot and 9781897976401an anonymous author. Despite the prominence of the manuscript in Older Scots studies, previous editions of the MQ have been out of print for many years and only selections of the manuscript have been published since W. A. Craigie’s edition in 1920. It goes without saying, then, that The Maitland Quarto: A New Edition of Cambridge, Magdalene College, Pepys Library MS 1408, edited by Joanna M. Martin, has been long overdue. The edition provides a comprehensive look at the culture, textual history, and contents of the MQ and makes the details of the manuscript accessible to scholars of both Older Scots literature and medieval literature in general.

[2] As is typical with many printed editions of manuscripts, Martin begins with an Introduction that examines the contexts of the MQ and provides analysis of the poems. The subsections of the Introduction flows from a general history of the manuscript, to the text and text’s authors, to the culture surrounding the MQ, to the textual relationships between the poems and other manuscripts. The information within the Introduction is very thorough, providing enough context that those new to Older Scots studies understand the information but scholars established in the field still find useful analysis. Those unfamiliar with Older Scots literature will also find the information accessible and critically stimulating, as Martin does well placing the poems of the MQ within a greater medieval context, referencing and comparing to more popular poets William Dunbar and David Lyndsay.

[3] Another positive attribute of Martin’s critical edition is her presentation of the poems. For the most part, the transcriptions are direct from the manuscript, though as Martin explains about the edition “a fully annotated edition of MQ’s texts is required for a literary and historical appreciation of the poems. The present edition makes all of MQ’s texts available for the first time in a critical edition with full interpretative apparatus” (38). Although she retains the spelling and order of the MQ, scribal errors are edited and noted within footnotes and punctuation is editorial. While this does alter the layout and direct presentation of the manuscript, it makes the text accessible to a wider audience. By including modernized punctuation and mechanics, those unfamiliar with the intricacies Older Scots manuscripts—or medieval manuscripts in general—can better appreciate the poems.

[4] The interpretative apparatus at the end of the edition is thorough and comprehensive, making it an appropriate close to the text. Roughly as long as the manuscript itself, Martin provides detailed explanatory notes for each poem, two appendices, a glossary of Older Scots terms, and an index of first names and lines. Two things especially must be commented upon regarding the end matter: the ease of navigation and detail it provides for scholars. The way in which the information is organized makes searching through the manuscript faster and less daunting. The Index of Names allows scholars to quickly access poems that may fit with their research topics; it is as if the Ctrl-F function were applied to text. This feature streamlines the research process, allowing scholars to make the most of their time. The detail of the explanatory notes is also particularly useful to scholars, as it gives a general analysis of the poem followed by commentaries on specific lines. Without overwhelming the reader with information, it opens a dialogue that allows academics to respond with their own interpretations. One feature that was particularly attractive is the inclusion of where each copy of the poem could be found, the authorship of the poem within the MQ and other manuscripts, and the date of publication. Several poems also include the stanza type and rhyming scheme. This is, again, very useful for those conducting research on specific poems, allowing scholars to maximize their time analyzing rather than searching through additional resources.

[5] There are only two detractions from the edition that this reviewer could find. Despite a thorough Introduction, the material is at time dense and did not have the most effective flow. One example is the conversation about the authors within the MQ and the order of the MQ texts. The Introduction begins by discussing Maitland the author, his poems, and their literary culture. Martin then discusses the shaping of the corpus and how Maitland’s poems are in two separate groups. The conversation then transitions to the order of other MQ poems, followed by analyses of Arbuthnot and the anonymous verse. While there is a flow of logic, the organization of these sections seems somewhat jumbled and may be more effective in a different order. The second critique is the text does not provide images of the manuscript for comparison purposes. Martin mentions the editorial choices she made while transcribing, though there are no images that allow the reader to compare her choices to those within MQ. While one could refer to Craigie’s edition, it is out of print and likely difficult to access. The image could also contribute to the aesthetic, as otherwise the edition is solely text.

[6] The critiques above are minor when considering the benefits this text brings to Older Scots studies. Martin has filled a hole for many scholars who have needed an edition such as this for their research. Additionally, the text is not just for scholars but enthusiasts of Scottish verse. The accessibility of the edition allows those who know little about the language or history to still enjoy the beauty of the poetry. Martin is able to appeal to beginners through seasoned academics. The up-to-date, comprehensive information included is a pivotal starting point for anyone studying Maitland’s poetry or the literary cultures of the MQ. Scholars and enthusiasts of Older Scots literature and literary cultures would be remiss if they fail to add this text to their library.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania, November 2016.

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