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  • Speculum Curatorm: A Mirror for Curates by Ranulph Higden
  • Arvind Thomas
Speculum Curatorm: A Mirror for Curates. By Ranulph Higden. Introduction, edition and translation by Eugene Crook and Margaret Jennings. [Dallas Medieval Texts and Translations, Vol. 13.] (Leuven: Peeters. 2012. Pp. xvi, 444. €58,00 paperback. ISBN 978-90-429-2487-1.)

The appearance of Eugene Crook and Margaret Jennings’ elegant edition and translation of the first of three books of Ranulph Higden’s Speculum Curatorum could not be more timely. Among medievalists Higden is better known for his universal history, Polychronicon, and preaching manual, Ars componendi sermones. His Speculum, however, is beginning to enjoy a renaissance, particularly in regard to fraternal correction and postmedieval integration of theology and law. A product of a Benedictine monk based in Chester, the Speculum is a compendium that draws on materials ranging from Christian doctrine and legal discourse to folklore. It exists in two versions: one produced in 1340 and extant in four manuscripts; the other revised around 1350 and extant in a single manuscript.

The 1350 recension of the Speculum has a distinctive tripartite structure, with the first part dealing with the commandments, the second with the deadly sins, and the third with the sacraments. As the edition and translation by Crook and Jennings of the first part or book of the Speculum are based on the 1350 recension, it should be noted that the two recensions differ significantly with regard to intended audience, form, substance, and length. Oriented not only to priests but also to the Christian laity, the revised version of the Speculum is much longer (with 130 more chapters, of which fifty alone are devoted to the commandments). In revising the earlier version, Higden shifts the focus of the Speculum away from Archbishop John Pecham’s educational model for priests to Bishop Robert Grosseteste’s catechetical agenda as found in his Templum Domini.

To read Crook and Jennings’ edition is to encounter a voice at once familiar and fresh: familiar, because, as the editors helpfully suggest, Higden’s work belongs to the rich harvest of fourteenth-century pastoralia (such as Pagula’s Oculus sacerdotis, John de Burgo’s Pupilla oculi, and Mirk’s Manuale sacerdotis); and fresh, because Higden draws on both canon and civil law in a manner that would be comprehensible to a nonacademic audience, whether lay or clerical.

Crook and Jennings have done admirable justice to Higden’s text. To begin with, unlike many other parallel translations of medieval texts, their translation is exceptionally careful in matching the Latin text with regard to paragraph breaks and thus ensures easy comparisons between the Latin and English. Their edition is particularly well suited to the modern scholar, who can access not only Higden’s own text but also its legal sources. Crook and Jennings have taken painstaking care [End Page 818] to highlight Higden’s acknowledgment of his precise debts to canon and civil law: embedded in their translation are citations pointing to the relevant texts of the Corpus iuris canonici or the Corpus iuris civilis. Equally important and laudable, their succinct notes on each of the fifty chapters of book 1 and the index to its sources encourage and enable the reader to check cross-references without any difficulty. The translation is refreshingly literal without being leaden.

A few liberties have been taken in translating from the Latin, but they do not undermine the integrity of this well-executed edition and its translation. On pages 50–51, “canum sectatores, diurni potatores, nocturni peccatores” is translated as “cheats, drunkards, perverts,” whereas a slightly more accurate translation would be “followers of dogs [hunters], drunkards by day, sinners by night.” On pages 56–57, the biblical precept “neminem ad perfectum adduxit lex” is translated as “the law brought nothing to perfection,” which is no doubt the correct translation of the text in the Bible, but Higden changes the Bible reading from “nihil” to “neminem” (“no one”). On pages 190–91, the translation of “qui autem suscipit habitum professionis ignoranter adhuc non solempnizat” misses the adverb “ignoranter.” On page 282–83, “si dominus rem illam habet pro derelicto” is translated as “if the owner has abandoned the property” rather...


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