Understanding MS A

MS A is a large single folio sheet (measuring 41 x 33 cm) of the same paper as that used to make up the fair copy notebook MS B (where the same kind of paper is folded and cut). It is earlier than MS B and contains 365 lines of Home at Grasmere which correspond to lines 192-457 of the B text (our Reading Text) as well as two additional lines which were not copied into the fair copy manuscript.

The manuscript is entered in two hands over six folded "columns". Most of it is written by Wordsworth, but lines 278-321 at the bottom of Column 2 and most of Column 3 are entered by Mary Wordsworth.

The status of the text is fair copy but not final fair copy. It is not a first draft or rough draft. It is a copied text and must have been preceded by some other manuscript, now lost. However, it is also not a final cleaned-up version of a text and contains quite a lot of revisions and errors. It may be a first fair copy text, held between earlier draft (now lost) and the first full fair copy of MS B. The text of MS A was almost certainly written up in preparation for MS B.

The Cornell edition starts in the far right corner of the large sheet, which it labels Column 1a, then gives the top and bottom of that column working round the sheet -- from 1 on the front to 2-3-4 on the reverse side and then round again to 5 and 6. The paper is confusing because it must have been entered and kept in a folded state, appearing as a single narrow column rather than in its unfolded state as we now read it.

Below is a representation of how the paper probably looked when William and Mary were writing on it. They folded it on itself to make a single column to write on. The page was also folded in half again with mid-line folds clearly visible.

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