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  • Le Sermon d'Amiens: anonyme du XIIIe siècle en langue vernaculaire. ed by Annette Brasseur
  • Daron Burrows
Le Sermon d'Amiens: anonyme du XIIIe siècle en langue vernaculaire. Édition et traduction par Annette Brasseur. (Textes littéraires français, 646.) Genève: Droz, 2018. cxciv + 218 pp.

The Sermon d'Amiens survives in a single manuscript (Paris, BnF, MS Picardie 158, R 149579, folios 131r-138v), and preserves the enthusiastic attempts of a preacher, wielding the stick of the unimaginable suffering of purgatory and hell and dangling the carrot of salvation through confession, penance, and, most importantly, donations, to secure financial contributions towards the programme of repairs to the cathedral of Amiens organized by his bishop. The sermon, which sadly breaks off near the end of an entertaining exemplum of a merchant who decided to donate his money to God (which would presumably have been followed by a stirring peroration), is a fine example of the art of vernacular preaching, full of evocative images, deftly handled scriptural material, and appeals to the audience worthy of the most gregarious of jongleurs. The sermon has been printed twice before, in editions whose failings are carefully enumerated and whose supporting materials pale in comparison with the massive structure erected around the slender critical text, which accounts for less than 10 per cent of this 400-page work. The 190 pages of Introduction cover the manuscript, the previous editions, the principles of edition and translation, the language, the length of performance (perhaps ninety-five minutes, allowing for interruptions), the extent to which the text represents the actual preached form of the sermon, the reasons for its preservation (as a model sermon or for eventual private contemplation), the identity of its author (probably Dominican, with a positivist fictional biography deduced from his manner of preaching), and a very detailed consideration of the possible dating of the text (later thirteenth century). The critical text is conservatively edited and presented with rejected readings beneath, and accompanied by a reliable facing-page modern French translation that slightly favours fluency over fidelity. Although the decision is doubtless enforced by page layout, it is a pity that the system of asterisks, highlighting biblical citations in the footnotes or indicating that there is a relevant note in the following notes, are placed in the translation and not the critical text, especially when they relate to a specific item of linguistic interest in the Old French. The critical notes are detailed and profuse, and followed by an index of names, a full glossary, an index of apophthegms, and three annexes covering religious organization in co-eval Amiens. Overall, this is an interesting text that is certainly worthy of a reliable edition, although not all will be persuaded that it merited or required quite such lavish attention as it has received in this remarkably thorough treatment.

Daron Burrows
St Peter's College, Oxford


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