OF all the old English ascetical works which were extant before the
Reformation none have maintained their reputation longer than Walter Hilton's
"Scale of Perfection." Hilton was a canon of Thurgarton in Nottinghamshire, and
died in 1395. His "Scale of Perfection" is found in no less than five MSS. in
the British Museum alone. Wynkyn de Worde printed it at least three times -- in
the years 1494, 1519 and 1525. Many other editions were printed at the same
After the Reformation it was a favourite book of
Father Augustine Baker's, the well-known author of "Sancta Sophia," and his
comments on it are among his MSS. at Downside. In 1659 Father Baker's
biographer and editor, Dom Serenus Cressy, O.S.B., published an edition of the
"Scale," the title-page of which claims that "by the changing of some
antiquated words [it is] rendered more intelligible." Another edition appeared
in 1672, and yet another in 1679.
Within our own times two editions have been published -- one by the late Father Ephrem Guy, O.S.B., in 1869, the other, a reprint of Cressy's, in 1870, with an introduction by Father Dalgairns on the "Spiritual Life of Mediaeval England." Cressy's text has again been used in the present edition, and Father Dalgairns's Essay is also reprinted in this volume.