London, British Library, MS Egerton 1995 is a well-known miscellany of the late Middle Ages, filled like others of its kind with practical and didactic texts meant to assist its readers in their attempts at social, economic, and spiritual self-improvement. But it also contains a heretofore ignored lyric, the paradoxical “Tale of Ryght Nought.” This essay reads the poem as a playful but important response to the manuscript in which it is found and the culture that produced it. The essay touches upon issues ranging from the drive for material gain to the fear of social demotion, and from the doctrine of creation ex nihilo to the threat of Doomsday. But it also attends for the first time to many of the early modern marginalia in the manuscript, marks that reveal how several later readers responded to and ultimately transformed the themes of material and social value that Egerton 1995 so carefully curates.

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