The Percy Folio Manuscript
(British Library Additional MS. 27879)
from Bishop Percy's Folio Manuscript: Ballads and Romances, eds. John W. Hales and Frederick J. Furnivall (London: N. Trübner & Co., 1867).
"The Manuscript itself is a 'scrubby, shabby paper' book, -- about fifteen and a half inches long by five and a half wide, and about two inches thick, --which has lost some of its pages both at the beginning and end. Percy found it 'lying dirty on the floor under a Bureau in ye Parlour' of his friend Humphrey Pitt of Shiffnall in Shropshire, 'being used by the maids to light the fire.' He begged it of Mr. Pitt, and kept it unbound and torn till he was going to lend it to Dr. Johnson. Then he had it bound in half-calf by a binder who pared off some of the top and bottom lines in different parts of the volume." (Vol. i., xli)
"Before he learnt to reverence it, as he says, [Bishop Percy] scribbled notes over its margins and put brackets for suggested omissions in its texts. After he reverenced it, he tore out of it the two leaves containing its best ballad, King Estmere, which he had evidently touched up largely himself (ii. 600). As to the text, he looked on it as a young woman from the country with unkempt locks, whom he had to fit for fashionable society. She did not look like 'an apple stuck on the point of a small skewer,' as she ought to have done.... Percy gave her the correct appearance. She had no 'false locks to supply deficiency of native hair,' no 'pomatum in profusion,' no 'greasy wool to bolster up the adopted locks, and grey powder to conceal dust.' But all these fashionable requirements Percy supplied." (Vol. i., xvi)
After he and Hales worked with it to prepare the edition, Furnivall remarks,
"For the MS. itself, all that I have done is, to arrange and mend its fragments at the end, to stop further tears in some places by patches of gummed paper, and to prevent the further breaking-in-two of the early pages (from the weight of the first half-pages spared by the maids from Mr. Pitt's fire) by getting a binder to put a stiff guard of pasteboard behind these half pages, to carry their weight. Our constant use of the MS. also necessitated the rebacking of it; and a few bits more of eaten-through, ink-saturated patches haven been broken away by the frequent turning over of the leaves. This is the only injury to it that our fuss and care could not prevent." (Vol. i., xxiv)