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Letter from W. W. Greg to H. S. Bennett

Standlands, River, Petworth, Sussex.—Refers to his catalogue of English manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College (see O.11.5), and to his plan—long since abandoned—of compiling a corpus of all English manuscript works down to 1500.

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Transcript

Standlands, River, Petworth, Sussex
25 Sept. 1944

Dear Bennett

When I drew up that catalogue of 100 English MSS at Trinity, at the time I was librarian, I naturally hoped that the College might see its way to print it. Then came the last war and any idea of the sort had of course to be abandoned. By the time things settled down again I was busy in other fields, and moreover the catalogue I knew had become in some respects out of date. Had I examined it I should probably also have found it unsatisfactory. So I did no more about it and finally deposited the MS in the Library for the use of any one who might be interested. I need hardly say that it is at the disposal of you or of any body else who should be able to use it as a basis for further work.

During the last war I dreamed of compiling a corpus of all English manuscript works down to 1500. It would have been a big undertaking. I estimated, on a very rough basis, that there [are] some 5000 MSS surviving, exclusive of legal and diplomatic documents, private letters, and collections of recipes. I envisaged the work in three parts. (1) A catalogue, possibly roughly chronological, of the actuall† MSS, with full bibliographical descriptions, giving particular attention to the make-up and growth of the MSS when these were not written all at one time. (2) A catalogue of the works they contained, giving the MSS of each and such information as was possible concerning the relation of the MSS. (3) An atlas containing some hundreds of facsimiles of pages from the manuscripts, especially the dated or datable ones, with transcripts and palaeographical notes. I also had in mind a catalogue of all works to 1500 giving a brief literary account of each with and† specimen of some 50 lines transcribed exactly from the oldest or most authentic MS. An ambitious project! which I need not say I have long since abandoned.

Best wishes

Yours
W. W. Greg

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Marked at the head in pencil, ‘Letter to H S Bennett, Emmanuel College, given by H S Bennett to Trinity College Library.’