Kitchin dated this manuscript ‘saec. xvii’ while Peter Beal, in his on-line Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts 1450–1700, estimates ‘mid-16th century’, which is more appropriate given the script. However, given the first watermark, which is known as one of John Spilman’s, it must date after the establishment of his mill in c. 1588 (Allan Stevenson, ‘Tudor Roses from John Tate’, Studies in Bibliography, 20 (1967), 15–34 (27n); H. R. Woudhuysen, Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts 1558–1640(Oxford, 1996), 327).
There is no internal evidence to reveal the creator of this manuscript who, because of the paper stock, must have been working, at the earliest, at the very end of the 1580s. Early in its life, a reader, who adds the publication details at the foot of fol. 1 (and so has a copy of the printed book on the desk), adds marginalia in a secretary script. These are often Biblical citations (eg fol. 11, 18v [vertical], 21, 40v, 63v) but on occasion note the use of Church Fathers (eg fol. 29v-30).
The only certain moment in the history of the volume is provided by a note at the centre left of fol. iii: ‘Edward Gregory’ (s. xviii). There were two Housemen of that name, father and son. The elder was born 1677 or 1678, matriculated 24 May 1694, took his BA in 1698, was ordained deacon the following year and priest on 16 March 1701, becoming vicar of Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire in 1708. It was in that year and place that his son was born; he matriculated on 3 July 1724 and took his BA in 1728, being ordained deacon the same year and priest in 1730, at the same time as he was instituted Rector of St Olave’s, Chichester (AO, AO mod., CCEd). Judging from the likely date of the script, it is perhaps more likely that it is the son who signed the manuscript.
It would, however, be legitimate to doubt whether the manuscript came to ChCh directly from him: it does not appear in the New Library catalogue or show any sign of having been given a shelfmark placing it in that arrangement or in the Wake Archive. This might suggest a late date of arrival, possibly post-1800, as additions were still being made to the New Library catalogue up to the turn of the century. The Donors’ Register (MS LR 1) does not shed light on this and we are left with the only certainty being that it had arrived in time to appear in Kitchin’s 1867 catalogue (50).