Pearl Manuscript

Pearl Manuscript

From the grief of a father for his little daughter: four uniquely illuminated, world-class Arthurian poems in one volume

  1. One author, four Arthurian poems: *Pearl*, *Cleanness*, *Patience*, and *Sir Gawain and the Green Knight*

  2. The only manuscript containing them originated in southern England during the second half of the 14th century

  3. It is adorned with 12 full-page miniatures and 48 initials in red and blue

Pearl Manuscript

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Pearl Manuscript

The only source for four extremely charming Arthurian legends to survive to the present originated in southern England during the second half of the 14th century. The poems Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight all probably originated from one author and testify to the literary flowering of 14th century England with their creativity. The twelve full-page miniatures, which accompany each poem and impressively visualize them for the beholder, are also probably from the same hand. The decoration is complimented by a total of 48 initials in red and blue that visualize certain sections of the allegorical poems.

The Pearl Manuscript

The Pearl Manuscript is one of the most important manuscripts of English literature and its texts testify to the impressive flowering of literary creativity at the end of the 14th century. The four poems Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight all belong to the genre of Arthurian literature and probably originate from the same author. This person was also probably responsible for the twelve full-page miniatures, which accompany each poem. Originating in the second half of the 14th century, the precious manuscript barely escaped destruction in 1731 when a fire destroyed the library of the antiquarian Robert Cotton (1571–1631) and a large number of medieval manuscripts fell victim to the fire.

Four Allegorical Poems

The collection is named after the first poem, Pearl, which tells the tale of a grieving father, who after falling asleep finds himself in paradise and engages in a dialogue about Christian doctrine. As he awakes from this dream, he is filled with spiritual power and new confidence. The most famous of the four poems is, nevertheless, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It was first published in 1839 with other Gawain stories. The other three texts followed a short time later.

An Exciting Chivalric Romance

The Middle English chivalric romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight tells the tale of Sir Gawain, who accepted the Green Knight’s challenge to behead him. However, this came with the condition that he himself will suffer the same fate one year and one day later. After the beheading of the knight, Sir Gawain begins his journey to the place where his fate will come to pass. It is his courage that makes him the ultimate example of the chivalric codex.

The Question of the Author

The Pearl Manuscript represents the only source for all four poems and is of particular significance for research as a result. Who the author of these fairy-tale Arthurian legends is remains a mystery. Due stylistic similarities, such as the usage of alliteration, abstract ideas, and a strong Christian orientation, have prompted the assumption that all four poems stem from one author, who has been given the provisional names Pearl Poet or Gawain Poet.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Pearl Manuskript

Available facsimile editions:
Pearl Manuscript – Cotton Nero A.x – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
The Folio Society – London, 2015
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 The Pearl Manuscript

The Folio Society – London, 2015
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
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