Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

An Introduction to the Glossa Ordinaria as Medieval Hypertext

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

An Introduction to the Glossa Ordinaria as Medieval Hypertext

Article excerpt

An Introduction to the Glossa Ordinaria as Medieval Hypertext. By David A. Salomon. [Religion and Culture in the Middle Ages.] (Cardiff: University of Wales Press. Distrib. University of Chicago Press. 2012. Pp. x, 188. $40.00 paperback. ISBN 978-0-7083-2494-3.)

This little book has the atmosphere of a medieval classroom, throwing out questions, debating and arguing back and forth, ranging widely over several thousand years of culture (mostly only through the voices of recent authors-a fault, if it is a fault, common in medieval writing as well). The text discusses the function and technique of reading the scriptures in the Middle Ages, using the example of the standard twelfth-century biblical commentary known later as the Glossa Ordinaria (or simply the Gloss). It is thought-provoking and densely packed. It is important to state, however, that this is absolutely not a history of the Glossa Ordinaria or even an analysis of how its text functioned. The author's sole primary source is a modern facsimile edition of a copy of the text printed in Germany in 1480-81, already 350 years after the Gloss had been compiled and at least two centuries after it had passed out of common usage. The author explains lengthily (twice) that the 1480-81 edition survives in so many copies, estimated between 180 and 250, that it must have been important, unlike (as he says each time) the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, which are rare. Exactly the opposite is true. Copies of the incunabular Glossa Ordinaria are common now because no one used them (even the printer admitted that he was unable to sell them, cited here on p. 58); Chaucer, by contrast, was read to pieces. The great period of the Glossa Ordinaria was between about 1140 and 1250. That is when it was used avidly and read across all of Europe. The author has looked at no manuscripts of that period, he sighs (again twice) that this would require access to "dozens" of libraries (pp. …

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