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Frederic Madden: Wikis


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Sir Frederic Madden (February 16, 1801 - March 8, 1873), was an English palaeographer.

The son of an officer of Irish extraction, he was born at Portsmouth. From his childhood he displayed a flair for linguistic and antiquarian studies. In 1826 he was engaged by the British Museum to assist in the preparation of the classified catalogue of printed books, and in 1828 he became assistant keeper of manuscripts. In 1833 he was knighted, and in 1837 succeeded Josiah Forshall as keeper of manuscripts. He did not get on well with his colleagues, and retired in 1866.

Madden was the leading palaeographer of his day. However, his ignorance of German prevented his ranking high as a philologist, although he paid much attention to the early dialectical forms of French and English. His minor contributions to antiquarian research were numerous: the best known, perhaps, was his dissertation on the orthography of Shakespeare's name, which, mainly on the strength of the Florio autograph, he contended should be "Shakspere."

On his death, he bequeathed his journals and other private papers to the Bodleian Library, where they were to remain unopened until 1920.


He edited for the Roxburghe Club Havelok the Dane (1828), discovered by himself among the Laudian manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, William and the Werwolf (1832) and the old English versions of the Gesta Romanorum (1838). In 1839 he edited the ancient metrical romances of Syr Gawayne for the Bannatyne Club, and in 1847 Layamon's Brut, with a prose translation, for the Society of Antiquaries. In 1850 the magnificent edition, in parallel columns, of what are known as the "Wycliffite" versions of the Bible, from the original manuscripts, upon which he and his coadjutor, Forshall, had been engaged for twenty years, was published by the University of Oxford.

In 1866-1869 he edited the Historia Minor of Matthew Paris for the Rolls Series. In 1833 he wrote the text of Henry Shaw's Illuminated Ornaments of the Middle Ages; and in 1850 edited the English translation of Joseph Balthazar Silvestre's Paléographie universelle.




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