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  • Le Secret des secrets: traduction du XVe siècle by Pseudo-Aristote
  • Keith Busby
Pseudo-Aristote, Le Secret des secrets: traduction du XVe siècle. Édité par Denis Lorée. (Classiques français du Moyen Âge, 179.) Paris: Honoré Champion, 2017. 455 pp., ill.

Redactions of the Latin Secretum secretorum, a translation of the Arabic Kitâb Sirr al-asrâr, were widely diffused in the Middle Ages, and gave rise to numerous versions in various vernaculars. The divergences between the texts in the langue d'oïl, composed between c. 1270 and c. 1420, make strict delineation of versions difficult, and some remain unedited. The most egregious desideratum is the much modified and interpolated rendering of the Irish Dominican, Jofroi de Waterford, and his Walloon collaborator, Servais Copale, of c. 1300. Denis Lorée's excellent edition is of the C-version, dating from the beginning of the fifteenth century and surviving in twelve complete and eleven incomplete copies. The manuscripts of this redaction are described and analysed in detail, and there is a customary study of the language of the base manuscript, Paris, BnF, fr. 1087; Lorée explains his editorial principles succinctly. A spot check shows the relatively short text itself to have been accurately transcribed, while the variants are copious and the rejected readings clear and generally justifiable. It is a pity they are not printed in two tiers at the foot of the page, but the extent of the variants and the series format render this impossible; another format might have imposed a more economical choice of variants. The explanatory notes are indispensable for the understanding of a text which is part mirror for princes, part hygiene treatise, and part encyclopaedia of nature. It will be largely unknown to specialists of medieval French literature, although the 'edition' of Philippe de Tripoli's original Latin text by Roger Bacon of c. 1270 is reasonably familiar to scholars of Franciscan culture. The glossary and index of proper names are functional, if not overgenerous. In addition to the text of the Secret itself, the most useful part of this publication is doubtless that section of the Introduction that lays out with admirable clarity the development of the corpus of Secret texts from the Arabic original through the Latin translations and adaptations to the various versions in French. A summary provides a handy guide to the content of the C-text. Lorée's edition of this Secret des secrets reflects the expanding range of medieval French texts currently being studied by scholars. Didactic, encyclopaedic, and scientific texts are finally being viewed as a complement to the usual canon of classics. They have much to tell us about the medieval world view and about their own place in a wider context of medieval literary culture where our discreet modern categorization into genres does not necessarily apply. [End Page 594]

Keith Busby
University of Wisconsin-Madison


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