Page:The Library, volume 5, series 3.djvu/14

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This must be my excuse if I appear to have chosen as the subject of these lectures one which has little to do with bibliography in the narrower sense. It may be that I allow the term a some- what generous extension, it is certain that I shall have occasionally to deal with matters that cannot by any stretch be called bibliographical, but I hope before I have done to show how impossible it is to treat at all adequately the literary problems of the early drama without at every turn having recourse to what a friend of mine has recently styled 'the higher bibliography.' Thus my second lecture will be devoted to the strictly bibliographical problem of the relationship among a group of manuscripts, those of the Chester plays, and I shall endeavour to explain what light their divergence throws on the history of the cycle. Next I shall consider, in a single remarkable instance, that textual interdependence which characterizes several of our great cycles ; a more literary investi- gation this, yet one in which bibliographical con- siderations are constantly coming into play. Lastly, dealing with the 'Ludus Couentriae,' I shall point out that it is only by following two parallel paths of bibliographical and literary criticism that we can hope to solve the problem of that mysterious compilation. In to-day's introductory lecture I propose to consider some more general aspects of my subject, and will endeavour to make clear how the peculiar conditions under which the miracle drama arose came to leave their mark on the extant manuscripts, how therefore a biblio- graphical investigation of the latter may throw