Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

William of Malmesbury: The Miracles of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

William of Malmesbury: The Miracles of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Article excerpt

William of Malmesbury: The Miracles of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Edited and translated by R. M. Thomson and M. Winterbottom. [Boydell Medieval Texts.] (Rochester, NY: The Boydell Press, imprint of Boydell & Brewer. 2015. Pp. lxvii, 154. $115.00. ISBN 978-1-78327-016-3.)

In the 1120s and 1130s, English Benedictine monks produced an influential and remarkable set of collections of the miracles of the Virgin Mary. Unlike earlier Marian miracle collections produced on the Continent and the more usual type of miracle collection being compiled at English shrines in the period, the stories in these English Marian collections were cosmopolitan, ranging widely in time and place, with stories of the Virgin's miracles in Italy, Spain, and the eastern Mediterranean as well as in northern Europe. William of Malmesbury's lengthy text of some fifty-three chapters holds an important place within this flowering of Marian collections: it represents, as the editors of this text put it, "the culmination of this first creative impulse, before its spread to the Continent and incorporation in much larger collections, from the late twelfth century onward" (p. xviii).

William's collection has been edited twice before, once in 1959 in an unpublished Ph.D. thesis and again in 1968. This edition, including a facing-page translation, is the first title in the "Boydell Medieval Texts" series. It was undertaken by two scholars, Rodney Thomson and Michael Winterbottom, who have edited and translated nearly all of William of Malmesbury's other works. Their combined efforts have given William's Marian collection the edition it deserves, and will make this important text far more widely available and accessible.

Much of the edition's introduction is taken up by a discussion of how the editors decided to order the chapters of the collection, necessary because there are only two manuscripts that preserve William's text, and both have problems. The first manuscript is a preliminary version of the collection which appears to include a "pending file" of stories that William planned to integrate into a text at a later date. The second manuscript, though it is clearly William's later, revised version of the text, is missing quires and badly fragmented. In addition to their painstaking comparative analysis of these two manuscripts, the editors draw on a number of other manuscripts that contain selections and abbreviations of William's stories to aid them in their reconstruction of the text as a whole. …

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