, Volume 93, Issue 4, pp 703–722

The Naples Manuscript and the Case for a Female Readership



This paper examines evidence for the intended audience of the anonymous fifteenth-century anthology, Biblioteca Nazionale, Naples, MS XIII.B.29. All evidence is internal, but the selection of texts, their arrangement, their adjustments to the manuscript matrix, and their focus on female agency strongly suggest that this manuscript was intended for a female audience. The contents of the manuscript comprise medical recipes, three romances, a saint’s life, and a “legend”—a version of Chaucer’s The Clerk’s Tale. The relevance of each of these items to a female audience, together with an explanation of their contextual significance to the overall manuscript, is discussed. The secular nature of the contents suggests also that the intended audience consisted of secular women, and as such, the Naples Manuscript is an important document in the history of women’s culture in the Middle Ages.


Women Manuscript Agency Readership Female Audience 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English and Film StudiesWilfrid Laurier UniversityWaterlooCanada

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