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MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN WOMEN

Part 1: Manuscripts from the British Library, London

Publisher's Note

This project fills a definite need for original source material relating to Medieval and Early Modern Women. It contains important texts by key women authors, manuscripts bearing illustrations of women, and sources describing the lives of women in this period.

Part 1 draws upon the manuscript resources of the British Library. It contains the first known autobiography in English - that of Margery Kempe (c1373-c1439), the mystic and traveller - and the earliest extant English diary proper - that of Lady Margaret Hoby (1571-1633) - which started as a spiritual and confessional diary but changed over time into an account of her life.

There are no less than 13 manuscripts relating to Christine de Pisan (1363/4-c1429) as the British Library is one of the foremost repositories of her work. A particular gem is Harleian 4431, known as ‘the Queen’s Manuscript’ and prepared under the author’s supervision. It is a richly illuminated volume containing the majority of her works and many pictures of the author in the process of writing. There are texts of Le Livre de la Cité des Dames, Le LIvre des Trois Vertus (both discussing the social position of women), the Corps de Policie, and Le Livre des fais d’Armes et de Chevalerie. Another fine text is Royal 15 E vi which was a present to Margaret of Anjou, Queen of Henry VI, and includes other famous Romances and Chansons de Geste.

Marie de France (fl.1181), the earliest known French woman poet, is also well represented, as she lived in England for some of her life and was much admired by English writers from the 12th century onwards. The 3 manuscripts featured cover various versions of her Lais - stories of love and adventure - including the famous Lay de Lanval Chevalier de Arthur Roy de Bretagne.

Another beautifully illustrated manuscript is the Queen Mary Psalter (Royal 2 B vii), made for an unknown patron in the early 14th century and later presented to Queen Mary Tudor in 1553. This volume is a valuable source of iconographic data as it contains over 800 images, many documenting strong female characters from Eve to Bathsheba.

Further women writers represented are: Katharine Aston (1619-1658), Katharine Austen (1628-1683), the diarist, Jane Barker (c1652-1727), Mary (Roper) Clarcke (c1522-1572), translator, Bridget of Sweden, Grace Cary, Lettice Cary (her Life), Elizabeth Jocelyn, Julian of Norwich (c1343-c1413), the visionary and recluse, author of Revelations of Divine Love, Jane Lumley (1537-1576), Katharine Parr (1512-1548), the sixth wife of Henry VIII and one of only eight Englishwomen published between 1486 and 1548, Margaret Roper (1505-1544), educated by her father, Sir Thomas More, and Erasmus, and Rose (Hickman) Throckmorton (c1527-1613), represented by her autobiography.

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