Beatrice White Prize - Previous Winners

2009 Award

Robert E. Lewis, Mary Jane Williams and Marilyn S. Miller, second edition of Middle English Dictionary: Plan and Bibliography (University of Michigan Press, 2009, 9-7804-7201-3104)

The original was issued in 1954, after the first fascicle [1952], which reminds us how long the MED took to prepare, although the web version appeared with commendable swiftness once the whole was complete . . . Even with the MED online, the printed version eases consultation and belongs on everyone’s shelves.
[Juris G. Lidaka, The Year’s Work in English Studies, V.88 (2009) p.197]

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2008 Award

Pamela M. King, The York Mystery Cycle and the Worship of the City, D.S. Brewer)

[This excellent monograph] offers a sustained and insightful close reading of the city’s cycle play (as copied into the document known as the ‘Register’ (BL Additional MS 35290) at some point in the 1460’s or 1470’s) in the context of civic religions and ecclesiastical culture. At the heart of the book is an account of the late medieval liturgy, its rhythms and resonances against which King reads the various emphases, and occasional lacunae, of the pageant cycle.
[Juris G. Lidaka, The Year’s Work in English Studies, V.87 (2008) p.268]

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2007 Award

Norman Davis, Paston Letters and Papers of the Fifteenth Century: Parts I and II (OUP; ISBN 0 1972 2421 0 and ISBN 0 1972 2422 9), and to Richard Beadle and Colin Richmond, Paston Letters and Papers of the Fifteenth Century: Part III (OUP; ISBN 0 1972 2423 7)

These volumes have been mined extensively and intensively since the 1970s as a historical trove for culture, literature, language, and more—quite rightly, given the wealth of information the documents contain. Indeed, in 1971 our reviewer commented that ‘If one could offer a prize for the year it would surely go to the monumental first volume of Norman Davis's edition of Paston Letters and Papers of the Fifteenth Century which came out for £12 (see YWES 52 [1973] 100–1). The second volume seemed to pass unnoticed in 1976; and the third was long gathering form and substance. EETS's intention to keep these massive volumes in print and Davis's original, monumental accomplishment reflect what James Gloys reported from a sermon just over five centuries ago: ‘Frendes, iij thynges be necessary ... connyng, boldnesse, and langages’ (item 919). Surely they deserve a prize now.
[Juris Lidaka, YWES 86, 208]

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2006 Award

Helen Castor, Blood and Roses: The Paston Family and the Wars of the Roses (Faber and Faber, 2005)

This book brilliantly conveys the anxious aspirational energy driving the Pastons as they struggled to improve and to maintain their position in the world. It draws a compelling picture of the hardships undergone by the nouveaux riches as legal rights over property did battle with aristocratic insistence on ancient rights and privileges—and influence, not integrity, ultimately determined the outcome of disputes. [ ] Blood and Roses will also prove invaluable to the more specialist scholar for its detail and coherence; it draws together an impressive mass of information into a well-paced narrative. The Paston letters are, of course, the key source, and they give us most of our information about this fascinating family. Castor concludes by pointing out that those things that the Pastons thought would last—buildings and memorials—have crumbled or vanished, but their seemingly ephemeral letters have assured them a secure place in English social and literary history.
[Marion Turner, YWES 85, 189-90]

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2005 Award

Simon Horobin, The Language of the Chaucer Tradition (D.S. Brewer, 2003)

This is a brilliant analysis of Chaucer's language that shows up—in the nicest possible way—the inadequacies of former studies. Some of the scaffolding of the argument betrays the book's origins as a thesis, but this also contributes to its clarity. At fewer than 200 pages this is not a big book, but it comes to some big conclusions. Horobin identifies three major areas, all pertinent to Chaucerians, which require renewed attention: the development of the London dialect needs to be reconsidered; traditional assumptions regarding the authorship of certain works need to be revisited (essentially, the Equatorie may be out of the canon, and the whole of the Romaunt may be in, on which see also his article ‘Pennies, Pence and Pans’ below); and finally the vexed question of dating Hengwrt and Ellesmere, as well as the consequences of this for the editing of The Canterbury Tales, rears its head again. An even bigger issue, and one that Horobin is not afraid to confront, is our ever-increasing reliance on the Riverside Chaucer, which, with its hybrid text, provides a convenient but lazy and inaccurate touchstone. Throughout this book Horobin argues for the crucial importance of seeing Chaucer's work and language within the context of its manuscripts; his attention to precisely this matter has produced a rare study that will interest both linguists and literary critics, whether or not they are Chaucerians.
[Valerie Allen and Margaret Connolly, YWES 84, 222-3]

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2004 Award

Ian C. Cunningham and Andrew G. Watson, the fifth volume of Neil Ripley Ker's Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries (Clarendon Press, 2002).

The four volumes of Neil Ker's Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries were published by Oxford University Press between 1969 and 1992. This index volume, produced under the direction of A. G. Watson, a former pupil of Ker's and now his literary executor, and I. C. Cunningham, provides a variety of indexes, including authors/titles; owners; geographical origins and dates of manuscripts; vernacular manuscripts; Latin and vernacular incipits; manuscripts cited; repertories cited; and iconography.
'Thirty-three years after the first volume and ten years after the fourth, I.C. Cunningham and A.G. Watson have provided the fifth volume, Indexes and Addenda to N.R. Ker's majestic Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries. ... Here we finally have the ease of access needed for the whole set ... It is a relief to have this volume at last, since the many treasures of the catalogue could be accessed otherwise only through careful scrutiny of each page and item.
[Juris Lidaka, The Year's Work in English Studies, V.83, 2004]

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2003 Award

Alan J. Fletcher, Drama and the Performing Arts in Pre-Cromwellian Ireland: a Repertory of Sources and Documents from the Earliest Times until c.1642, (Boydell & Brewer, 2001).

Nearly two decades in the making, the book is a magnificent achievement, transcending the provision of a definitive volume of the drama records to offer the foundations of a cultural history of performance in medieval and early modern Ireland. In addition to the sections on the historical, geographical and archival contexts of the records, there are copious notes and an all-too-brief introduction to the Gaelic and English traditions of performance. Among the treasures of the volume is a fascinating account of documents describing the arrangement of musicians and other entertainers in royal halls c. 700, which bespeaks a highly complex and diverse performance culture - in theory at least - at a very early period. The records themselves, drawn from Irish, Latin, French and English texts, ranging from chronicles, prose narratives and verse to more conventional documentary sources, are arranged alphabetically and each is well annotated (and where necessary translated). Generous appendices print proclamations, play prologues and other accounts that describe or mention performance at greater length. Clearly a labour of love as well as a work of great scholarship, this volume, weighing in at nearly 650 pages, is no little room, but it offers near-infinite riches for readers to explore and delight in.
[Greg Walker: The Year's Work in English Studies V.82, 2003]

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2002 Award

Julie Stone Peters, Theatre of the Book, 1480-1880: Print, Text and Performance in Europe, (Oxford University Press, 2000).

Theatre of the Book explores the impact of printing on the European theatre, 1480-1880. Far from being marginal to Renaissance dramatists, the printing press played an essential role in the birth of the modern theatre. Looking at playtexts, engravings, actor portraits, notation systems, and theatrical ephemera as part of the broader history of theatrical ideas, this illustrated book offers both a history of European dramatic publication and an examination of the European theatre's continual refashioning of itself in the world of print.
Information supplied by Oxford University Press

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2001 Award

Kevin S. Kiernan, The Electronic Beowulf (University of Michigan Press/British Library Publications, 2000).

The great Old English poem, Beowulf, survives in a single manuscript that was badly damaged by fire in 1731, and further deteriorated before it was rebound in 1845. Some sections are now preserved only in the two eighteenth-century transcripts by the Icelander Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin and his hired scribe. Making innovative use of a digital camera, ultraviolet fluorescence, and fiber-optic backlighting, Kevin Kiernan has assembled an archive of digital images that provides not only high-quality facsimiles of what is readily visible in the manuscript, but also of hundreds of letters and parts of letters hidden by the nineteenth-century restoration binding. Joining modern technology with knowledge of the poem in its manuscript context, Kiernan significantly advances our understanding of the manuscript and offers important new information about this major literary work.
The Electronic Beowulf provides a comprehensive collection of images of the entire composite codex, British Library MS Cotton Vitellius A. xv, including the Southwick Codex and the Nowell Codex (which contains the Beowulf manuscript). It also includes linked images of many hundreds of readings hidden by the nineteenth-century paper frames; the complete eighteenth-century Thorkelin transcripts of Beowulf in the Danish Royal Library; and two early nineteenth-century collations (one by John Conybeare in 1817, and one by Sir Frederic Madden in 1824) of the 1815 first edition by Thorkelin with the manuscript, before it was rebound in the paper frames. Supporting the digital images, The Electronic Beowulf features an SGML-encoded transcript and edition, both displayed in HTML for viewing with a network browser. Powerful search facilities for both the transcript and the new edition facilitate extensive and varied investigations of the manuscript as well as of an edited version of it that engages readers in the paleographical and linguistic challenges the manuscript poses.
Information from University of Michigan Press

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2000 Award

s Christopher A. Jones, Aelfric's Letter to the Monks of Eynsham (Cambridge University Press, 1999).

Though best known today for his old English homilies, the Anglo-Saxon scholar Aelfric also composed a Latin 'letter' to his fellow monks at Eynsham (Oxfordshire) containing a detailed outline of their daily and seasonal round of prayer and other duties. The document offers a rare glimpse of what ordinary monks in Anglo-Saxon England were expected to know and do. This book contains a new edition of the Latin letter, a textual commentary, and the first complete English translation of the work. Dr Jones also provides substantial introductory chapters which establish the exceptional importance of the Eynsham letter for our understanding of late Anglo-Saxon monasticism and church history.

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1999 Award

David Hillman and Carla Mazzio, editors,  The Body in Parts: Fantasies of Corporeality in Early Modern Europe (Routledge, 1997).
The Body in Parts examines how the body its organs, limbs and viscera were represented in the literature and culture of early modern Europe. Why did sixteenth- and seventeenth-century medical, religious and literary texts so often imagine the body part by part? What does this view of the human body tell us about social conceptions of part and whole, of individual and universal in the early modern period? As this volume demonstrates, the symbolics of body parts challenge our assumptions about 'the body' as a fundamental Renaissance image of self, society and nation.

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1998 Award

Peter Robinso, Geoffrey Chaucer's The Wife of Bath's Prologue on CD-ROM, published by Cambridge University Press.

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