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  • The Book Unbound. Editing and Reading Medieval Manuscripts and Texts
  • Dario Del Puppo
Echard, Siân and Stephen Partridge, eds. 2004. The Book Unbound. Editing and Reading Medieval Manuscripts and Texts. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0802087566. Pp. xxi + 236. $50.00.

For the scholars included in the volume, the New Philology (proclaimed in the special issue of Speculum in 1990) is not a threat to, nor a “liberating departure from”, their research agenda and methods. If anything, the New Philology has served as a formative influence. Besides assuming that medieval texts are subject to mouvance, the scholars understand them as social phenomenon and appreciate the importance of “ancillary” disciplines like codicology and palaeography for editing. Digital technologies inform the methodologies of the contributors, all of whom are engaged with the pragmatics of editing. History, technology, theory, and the practice of editing therefore are the principal themes of the volume. Another salient feature is that many of the contributors promote a material philological approach to old texts in an age of virtual textuality. It doesn’t get any more paradoxical or post-Modern than this. Just as we are all about to disappear into the netherworld of bytes and pixels, and just as many scholars in the computer age are deeply skeptical about recovering historical meaning, the contributors to The Book Unbound demonstrate how electronic technology and material philology can recast traditional scholarly editions.

In her study of the Cursor Mundi (“Editing Cursor Mundi: Stemmata and the ‘Open’ Text”), Anne Klinck discusses concepts of “open” and “closed” in the editing history of this long biblical paraphrase. In contrast with Richard Morris’ edition (1874–1893) of the “northern” version, Sally Horrall edited the “southern” version of this long biblical paraphrase (preserved in MS Arundel LVII, London, College of Arms), until her untimely death in 1988. She adopted a “best text” approach, whereas in his study John Thompson (1998) considers the work to be an “open” or evolving text. For Thompson therefore, the “southern version” is a transitional stage and not a new poem. Klinck concludes paradoxically that it is the methodologically more traditional Horrall who actually faces up to the possibility of the Cursor mundi as an “open text”, more so than Thompson. [End Page 96]

Methodological bias, or the lack thereof, is the subject of Julia Marvin’s appraisal of the Anglo-Norman scholar, F. W. Maitland (“The Unassuming Reader: F. W. Maitland and the Editing of Anglo–Norman”). Neither a diplomatic edition, nor a reconstruction of a non-existent text, Maitland’s edition of the Yearbook (a collection of court cases from the reign of Edward II) aims to capture the voices of plaintiffs and court officials. Leaving aside his impact on Anglo-Norman language and literature, Maitland’s sense of restraint and his use of judicium in editing reveals a profound respect for his subject matter and sets an example for other scholars.

From ethics to pragmatics, Meg Roland discusses the effectiveness of parallel-text editions as an editorial approach in her essay about Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (“‘Alas! Who may truste thys world’: The Malory Documents and a Parallel-Text Edition”). By juxtaposing the substantially different versions of the Roman War episode, for example, readers can compare and contrast variants more easily and can also interpret them in the context of the entire work. In Roland’s reading there is a greater sensibility of the material conditions of textual production than in previous editors.

Methodological individualism, as applied to manuscript studies, is an underlying theme of this volume. In his study of medieval inquisitorial practices, Peter Diehl (“An Inquisitor in Manuscript and in Print: The Tractatus super materia hereticorum of Zanchino Ugolini”) demonstrates that the more “practical” a work is, the more it is likely to be read, glossed, and transformed over time by those who put its ideas into effect. Rather than a Lachmannian approach, therefore, Diehl underscores Ugolini’s reception history by studying the relationship between textual and material features of one of the manuscript and the editio princeps (1568).

In a slightly different vein, Andrew Taylor (“Editing Sung Objects: The Challenge of Digby 23”) also underscores the interplay...


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