Michael Madrinkian is an Honors English major from the class of 2012. He proceeded to graduate school at Oxford University with the goal of becoming a professor of medieval literature. Michael’s work has also been featured in LMU Magazine and Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education.
For my senior thesis, working under Professor Stephen Shepherd, I began studying a 16th century manuscript in the Hannon Library’s special collections. The manuscript, entitled The Ryche Cheyne, is anonymous, with almost no clues as to the author. Teaching myself to read Elizabethan shorthand, I transcribed the 200-page text. In my transcription, I found that it contained all of the verses in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, which were obviously taken from the Geneva Bible. Yet, I also found variances that suggested the author might have added original translations of the Greek text.
While researching the manuscript’s origins, the only clues I had were the initials E.C. on the cover. There was also a modern archival note pasted to the inside, saying that it was donated by J. Kerrigan and that the manuscript was apparently found in the “Errary [underground cellars] of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.” Beginning with the initials, I poured through records of historical figures and narrowed my search to Edmund Calamy (E.C.) as the owner. I also theorized that it was authored by Bishop Nicholas Felton, a skilled academic of the period. Going forward, I knew I needed to go to the source, England, to continue my research. Proposing my ideas to Dean Brancolini of LMU’s William H. Hannon Library, I received funding to travel abroad.
While in England, I spent time in several cities, researching at several major libraries, searching for handwriting that might match that of the Cheyne. Staying first in Oxford, I studied at the Bodleian Library, examining copious microfilms of 16th century manuscripts looking for a match, but with no luck. Traveling next to London, I studied yet more manuscripts at the British Library and the Senate House library. In the latter, I sought out a particular manuscript containing the handwriting of a scribe linked to Nicholas Felton. To my surprise, the handwriting seemed to be a very close match, and I found that my theory was very possibly true. Finally, I visited St. George’s in Windsor, where the manuscript is said to have been discovered. I was given privileged access to the Errary mentioned in the note, a 14th century treasure room, now off limits even to most staff. Finding that the room was not underground but in a tower, I realized that the note might have been untrustworthy and began to rethink my approach to its provenance. Now returned, I have begun a search to find who the donor might have been, in hopes of clarifying the Cheyne’s provenance. Additionally, Hannon Library has been contacted by the Folger Shakespeare Library, who after reading my blog on the library website, showed that they had an almost exact copy of The Ryche Cheyne. These new developments have opened even more doors, showing that my research has only begun to realize the scope of its potential.