Academic journal article The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History

An Unnoticed Borrowing from the Treatise of Three Workings in Mans Soul in the Gospel Meditation Meditaciones Domini Nostri

Academic journal article The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History

An Unnoticed Borrowing from the Treatise of Three Workings in Mans Soul in the Gospel Meditation Meditaciones Domini Nostri

Article excerpt

This note identifies the only known borrowing from an unusual devotional tract from late medieval England, Of Three Workings in Man's Soul, by the equally understudied Middle English gospel meditation Meditaciones domini nostri. Quite possibly written by Richard Rolle, the section borrowed from Of Three Workings--a detailed description of Mary reading, meditating, and rapt in spiritual ecstasy just prior to Gabriel's arrival at the Annunciation--draws attention to the importance of the Annunciation scene as a model of contemplative practice crucial for readers of the lives of Christ genre.

Meditaciones domini nostri (hereafter MDN) is a neglected example of the many surviving vernacular gospel meditations produced in medieval England. The Latin title is taken from the incipit to the short Latin prologue before the Middle English text, as contained in one of its two manuscript witnesses, Bodleian Library MS Bodley 578. MS Bodley 578 contains only this text, and dates from the first half of the fifteenth century, with an unknown medieval provenance. (1) The other witness is a larger religious miscellany, Cambridge, Trinity College MS B.15.42 (fols. 5-42v), which also dates from the early to mid-fifteenth century. (2) Its medieval provenance is unknown beyond the ownership inscription of the brother ("frater") William Caston dated 1468 on the back flyleaf; its combination of vernacular and Latin texts supports a clerical origin, as well as a sophisticated interest in contemplative and visionary activity not unlike that demonstrated by the Carthusians or Bridgettines, for example. Here the MDN lacks some four folios in the middle and four folios at the end, but is otherwise the more careful copy.

The MDN has only been edited as a 1992 doctoral dissertation by Elisabeth Blom-Smith; (3) before and after Blom-Smith's efforts, the text has received scant attention. (4) This life of Christ sorely needs a new published critical edition so that scholars can analyze it properly. As is often typical for the genre, the text begins with Mary's genealogy; follows Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection; and continues on to cover the Pentecost and more on Mary's life. Thus, in its Latin explicit before the Middle English text, the Bodley witness claims only partially accurately that MDN is "a meditation on the life and passion and resurrection and ascension into heaven of Jesus Christ according to Bonaventure out of his third, and shortest--though best--edition." (5) This somewhat academic comment identifies an authorizing source in the pseudo-Bonaventuran Meditationes vitae christi, one of the most widely read lives of Christ in medieval Europe, and well known in England by this time due to Nicholas Love's English translation, The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ, from around 1410. However, less than half of the MDN text is actually from the Meditationes vitae christi.

Rather, many other sources are woven into MDN by the compiler. Typical for vernacular fives of Christ, MDN incorporates Bible verses translated directly from the Vulgate and accompanied by careful explication, some apocryphal gospels, various patristic sources such as Jerome, excerpts from Bernard of Clairvaux's sermons, and small parts of Nicholas of Lyra's Postilla. In addition, the compiler drew extensive material from Bridget of Sweden's Revelaciones and her Sermo Angelicus, as well as Elizabeth of Hungary's Revelations, the Legenda Aurea, The Pricking of Love, and Mandeville's Travels. (6) The compilation proudly announces its reliance on Bridget's Revelaciones through red underlining in the Bodley manuscript and the marginal apparatus in the Trinity manuscript. In Trinity, nine large rubricated notes contain some variation on "Birgitta" besides the main text, in the scribal hand (out of the twelve total marginal source attributions).

One of these other marginal attributions in MDN identifies the auctor "Ricardes de Sancta Victore. …

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