The first ever reference to Robin Hood as a literary character, in William Langland’s Piers Plowman, refers to ‘rymes of Robyn Hood and Randolf Erl of Chestre’. The reference to ‘Randolf’ has intrigued literary historians, as no medieval narrative verse is known to survive which features Ranulf, earl of Chester, as the protagonist. This article discusses a previously unnoted catalogue entry recording an early lost manuscript copy of verses about the deeds of Ranulf, earl of Chester. The lost copy once existed in Cotton MS. Otho B. III, which was badly damaged by fire at Ashburnham House in 1731.
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