A Lancastrian Mirror for Princes

A Lancastrian Mirror for Princes

The Yale Law School New Statutes of England
Rosemarie McGerr
Distribution: World
Publication date: 11/15/2011
Format: Hardback 56 color illus., 24 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-35641-3
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This seminal study addresses one of the most beautifully decorated 15th-century copies of the New Statutes of England, uncovering how the manuscript’s unique interweaving of legal, religious, and literary discourses frames the reader’s perception of the work. Taking internal and external evidence into account, Rosemarie McGerr suggests that the manuscript was made for Prince Edward of Lancaster, transforming a legal reference work into a book of instruction in kingship, as well as a means of celebrating the Lancastrians’ rightful claim to the English throne during the Wars of the Roses. A Lancastrian Mirror for Princes also explores the role played by the manuscript as a commentary on royal justice and grace for its later owners and offers modern readers a fascinating example of the long-lasting influence of medieval manuscripts on subsequent readers.

Author Bio

Rosemarie McGerr is Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Medieval Studies Institute at Indiana University Bloomington. She is author of Chaucer’s Open Books: Resistance to Closure in Medieval Discourse and The Pilgrimage of the Soul: A Critical Edition of the Middle English Dream Vision.


“A Lancastrian Mirror for Princes is the first monographic study of a medieval English statute book, a deluxe Nova statuta manuscript in the Yale Law School Library, MssG +St11, no. 1. McGerr contextualizes the Yale manuscript by iconographical comparison with contemporary English manuscripts and argues convincingly that its royal portraits and allusions to the imagery of King David in prayer were shaped by Lancastrian and Yorkist dynastic struggle during these critical years of 1460–71, when the manuscript was most likely illuminated in London for a Lancastrian supporter. McGerr’s well-researched interdisciplinary study argues forcefully that the historiated initials emphasize royal power and justice based on the king’s relationship with God, so that the manuscript can be seen as a commentary on kingship and a mirror of princes. Her study is a valuable contribution to the history of the book in late medieval England.”
 — Don Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, Princeton University Library

“This book is a model of contemporary manuscript scholarship. By splicing together several disciplinary strands of medieval studies, it sheds light on Lancastrian book patrons and what they had in common with their Valois and Angevin relatives in France and other great fifteenth-century bibliophiles. Rosemarie McGerr expertly shows what pedagogical and political aims were served by the New Statutes of England codex at Yale. A strong grasp of fifteenth-century iconography and a sharp eye for tell-tale details enable her to decode the core message lodged within the manuscript’s program of miniatures, a message of opposition to Edward IV’s usurpation of the throne. A Lancastrian Mirror for Princes splendidly investigates the circumstances under which that pro-Lancastrian manuscript was first created at the behest of Queen Margaret of Anjou and then later preserved intact in spite of Yorkist supremacy. Here codicology splendidly opens the way for lucid historical inferences. ”
 — M.A. Bossy, Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and French Studies, Brown University

“The study presents an original and a highly important reading of the imagery of this distinctively illustrated copy of the 'New Statutes.' . . . Professor McGerr skillfully interweaves the study of codicology, iconography, history and literature offering fresh and expansive interpretations of the interaction of its visual and verbal discourses.”
 — James H. Marrow, Professor Emeritus of Art History Princeton University

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Margin and the Center--Framing a Reading of a Legal Manuscript
1. The Yale New Statutes Manuscript and Medieval English Statute Books: Similarities and Differences
2. Royal Portraits and Royal Arms: The Iconography of the Yale New Statutes Manuscript
3. The Queen and the Lancastrian Cause: The Yale New Statutes Manuscript and Margaret of Anjou
4. Educating the Prince: The Yale New Statutes Manuscript and Lancastrian Mirrors for Princes
5. "Grace Be Our Guide": The Cultural Significance of a Medieval Law Book
Appendix 1: Chronology of Events
Appendix 2: Codicological Description of New Haven, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library MssG +St11 no.1

Plates appear after page 000.

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