Today we are spotlighting the antiquary Thomas Wright (1810–1877), an ardent scholar of Old English, Middle English, and Anglo-Norman texts, and his book of carols: Songs and Carols, now first printed, from a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (London: Printed for the Percy Society, by Richards, 1847).
The first edition contains ‘This Endris Night’ (ender = ‘recently past’, OED), and ‘Make we joy now in this fest’ (pp. 48–49). As he writes in the Preface, ‘The following very curious collection of old English Songs and Carols is printed verbatim from a manuscript at present in the possession of the Editor … This manuscript has in all probability belonged to a professed minstrel, who sang at festivals and merry makings … A rather large proportion of its contents consists of carols and religious songs, such as were sung at Christmas … Manuscript collections of songs like the present, of so early a date, are of great rarity. The only one with which I am acquainted, which may be considered of exactly the same character, is the MS. Sloane, No. 2593, in the British Museum … On a comparison of the contents of the two manuscripts, it has been found that a few of the pieces printed in the present volume are found in the Sloane MS. … but by much the larger number of the songs contained in our manuscript, including some of the most interesting and curious, appear to be unique …’ (Preface).
The Percy Society was a text publishing society, focusing on rare poems and songs, which ran from 1840 to 1852.