Where in the world had the Clumber Park Chartier disappeared to? Joan Grenier-Winther, the Marianna M. and Donald S. Matteson Distinguished Professor of French at Washington State University Vancouver, really needed to examine the fifteenth-century collection of poems by Alain Chartier and others.
After all, her critical edition and translation of an unusual poem of the era was about to be published, and the Clumber Park manuscript had a version she hadn’t yet seen.
Before printing presses were invented, manuscripts were copied by hand. Mistakes could creep into one copy, and then be reproduced by scribes in subsequent copies. Grenier-Winther had examined all the known copies, or witnesses, as they’re known by professional medievalists, of “La Belle dame qui eust mercy” she was editing—all except the one in the Clumber Park Chartier.
“From the beginning of the 20th century,” Grenier-Winther says, “a lot of people have mentioned this manuscript: they knew it was beautiful and contained the poems of Chartier. The contents were cataloged. I asked scholars in Europe if they had any clue where it was, but no one did.”