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Vol. 2 Norman F. Blake Caxton’s Quattuor Sermones

Edited from the first edition, 1483

Quattuor Sermones is often associated with Mirk’s Festial, but it is uncertain whether a connection had already been established by the time Caxton printed it is 1483.  Essentially, Quattuor Sermones is a version of the English translation of Archbishop Thoresby’s Catechism, known variously as John Gaytryge’s Sermon or the Lay Folk’s Catechism.  But it comes at the end of the catechism in Middle English and is much longer than the original text. It is now divided into sections suitable for a delivery as sermons; extra elements such as the means of excommunication have been added at the end, and material from other Middle English texts such as the Commentaries on the Paternoster have been incorporated. The text reflects changing needs and aspirations in religious literature. Though not a long work, its position in the tradition leads to many ramifications in Middle English literary culture which have not so far been deeply studied.  Several manuscripts of the intervening stages between Gaytryge’s translation and Caxton’s text are extant, but they have not yet been classified let alone edited.  It is hoped that an edition of Caxton’s text will provide further impetus for the study of this area of Middle English religious literature.