The Testament of Cresseid was originally
written by hand, in manuscript form. The earliest record of it is
in the Table of Contents of the Asloan MS., c.1515 (No. 14),
"Item, the Testament of Cresseid, xxiiij," but the portion
containing it has been lost. No original manuscript copies are known
The first printed edition of the poem was published by William
Thynne in his edition of Chaucer in 1532, where he introduced it
with the words: "Thus endeth the fyfth and laste booke of Troylus:
and here followeth THE PYTEFUL AND DOLOROUS TESTAMENT OF FAYRE CRESSEYDE."
This is the oldest existing text, but in printing it, Thynne freely
substituted anglicised terms and not always accurately.
Although it has been suggested that he atrributed the poem to Chaucer,
by failing to name Henryson as the author, there is evidence that
he was aware that the former was not the writer of this work. Lines
"For worthie Chauceir, in the samin buik,''
"Quha wait gif all pat Chauceir wrait was trew,"
make it clear that this was the work of another poet.
The first extant separate issue of the Testament of Cresseid,
and the first known Scottish impression, was printed by Henry Charteris
in 1593. This was originally published as a blackletter quarto of
ten leaves, and is the first to give the author's name.
The British Library copy is the only relic of what appears to have
been a large edition; and it is the only available text in this
form (with the exception of a sixteenth century manuscript, which
was probably copied, from a printed edition of Chaucer's works)
before Alexander Anderson's black letter edition of 1663.
These notes based on the Introduction to
The Poems of Robert Henryson, Vol.1
G. Gregory Smith (ed.)
William Blackwood & Sons
Edinburgh & London