Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Three Kings of Cologne

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Three Kings of Cologne

Article excerpt

The Three Kings of Cologne, Edited from London, Lambeth Palace MS 491, ed. Frank Schaer, Middle English Texts 31 (Heidelberg: Winter, 2000). 203 pp. ISBN 3-8253-1122-8. Eur. 46.00.

This volume presents a careful, clearly presented, and capably noted edition of a previously unedited Middle English translation of the Historia Trium Regum (attributed to John of Hildesheim) from Lambeth Palace MS 491, a manuscript which also contains an extended prose Brut and two alliterative romances. Though of limited artistic value, the translation in the Lambeth manuscript contains many syntactic curiosities which might be considered to provide valuable evidence of linguistic variation in late Middle English. After Hanna's perceptive defence of the working practices of this scribe, who was also responsible for significant, and editorially idiosyncratic, witnesses of Piers Plowman and Troilus and Criseyde, ('The scribe of Huntington HM 114', Studies in Bibliography, 42 (1989), 120-33), no critic could lightly ascribe the text's many distinctive features to imperfect scribal practice. The condition of the manuscript raises other problems. Damage to the manuscript, and occasional difficulties in determining the scribal hand, result in sporadic lacunae in the text. Schaer's response to this is enterprising, reviving some of the editorial initiative for which his scribe has become celebrated. The scribe had also produced a shorter version of the same material in San Marino, Huntingdon Library, MS 114, and Schaer uses these two versions to hypothesize a version of the Latin text from which both texts might have been translated, printing this reconstruction underneath the Middle English. At times he uses this reconstruction to determine readings where the hand is unclear, at times to 'correct' presumed scribal errors. …

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