Neo-Latin poetry in English manuscripts, 1550-1700

Victoria Moul and Charlotte Tupman (King’s College London)

Digital Classicist London & Institute of Classical Studies seminar 2014

Friday June 13th at 16:30, in Room 103 (Holden Room), Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Video recording of seminar (MP4)

Audio recording of seminar (MP3)

Presentation (PDF)

This paper will discuss a proposed project (for which we are currently submitting a bid for ERC funding) to produce, for the first time, a guide to the role and significance of the very large quantities of neo-Latin poetry composed and circulated within the thriving manuscript culture of early modern England (c. 1550-1700). This will comprise both a searchable digital edition of representative examples of early modern Latin poetry in English manuscripts – accompanied by translation and commentary – and a body of scholarly publications analyzing this almost entirely unstudied wealth of material. The project will offer for the first time a sense of the quality, scope and quantity of this poetry, and of its literary and historical significance.

Neo-Latin poetry was a central part of the cultural landscape of early modern Europe, but English neo-Latin has remained almost entirely neglected by literary and historical scholarship. This is true to an even greater extent of Latin literary material in extant manuscripts, of which there is a very large quantity. Although collections of English verse in manuscript have been the focus of increased scholarly study in recent years, this has not extended to Latin poetry, although a very large number of manuscript miscellanies preserve both Latin and English verse. There has been no attempt to survey, analyze or contextualize the large volume of Latin verse in such collections, or to offer a preliminary guide to what such poetry was for: why it was written, read and copied in such numbers.

The pervasive Latin literary culture of early modern England remains widely ignored and underappreciated, both for its literary significance and relationship to vernacular literature, and for its political force and European connections. The project will build on recent strength in manuscript studies of English literary material and apply the methodologies developed in this field to Latin verse. It will address in particular three questions: the typical genres and forms of neo-Latin poetry in manuscript and how they are used; the relationship between original Latin and English poetry in the manuscript sources; and the political significance of such poetry.

This profoundly interdisciplinary project will combine expertise in classical and neo-Latin poetry with recent developments in our understanding and appreciation of early modern English manuscript culture, as well as the rapidly developing field of sophisticated digital editions, in order to open up a fascinating body of literary and historical evidence to scholars around the world.


The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.