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92 (MED), So woll I now this werk embrace‥God grante I mot it wel achieve. c1450) Merlin (1899) 609 (MED), Merlin‥wolde achieue that he hadde be-gonne.

See further “Middle English – an overview: Our surviving documents” for a discussion of some of the issues involved.

In the new edition of OED, the dating of Middle English sources mostly follows that adopted in the Middle English Dictionary.

Thus quotations from the Ancrene Riwle reflecting the copy of the text preserved in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 402 are cited as follows: c1230 (▶? Many sources are dated only by the date of the manuscript.

a1200) Ancrene Riwle (Corpus Cambr.) (1962) While quotations reflecting the copy of the text preserved in London, British Library, MS Cotton Cleopatra C.6, which some date very slightly earlier, are cited as follows: ? In some instances this is because we know with some confidence that the writing of the text and of the manuscript were (roughly) contemporary. Rolls Abbey of Durham (1899) It is also the case with some literary texts, such as the Ayenbite of Inwyt by Dan Michel of the Northgate (which we know survives in a ‘holograph’ manuscript in the hand of the author, dated 1340): 1340 Ayenbite (1866) In other instances, we must cite by manuscript date alone because there is no clear indication that the date of composition of the texts that it contains was any different, e.g.: c1325 in G. Brook Harley Lyrics (1968) A few sources (although some of them frequently cited ones) are cited only by the date of composition.

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(Hengwrt) (2003) c1405 (▶c1385) Chaucer Knight’s Tale (Hengwrt) (2003) c1405 (▶c1390) Chaucer Sir Thopas (Ellesmere) (1871) c1415 (▶c1387–95) Chaucer Canterbury Tales Prol.

(Corpus Oxf.) (1868) Compare similarly: a1413 (▶c1385) Chaucer Troilus & Criseyde (Pierpont Morgan) (1881) c1430 (▶c1386) Chaucer Legend Good Women (Cambr.

This is the case with most non-literary records, such as financial records, legal documents, wills, inventories, etc., e.g.: 1363 Statutes Ireland (1907–14) 1440 in J. This generally follows the policy of the Middle English Dictionary, in which the composition date is often given as the only date when it is less than 25 years earlier than the date of the principal manuscript.

In a number of cases, there is the additional complication that the manuscript tradition and the nature of the available scholarly editions mean that quoting from an edited text is the best available option for lexicographical purposes.

The certainty of both types of dates can vary considerably.

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