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Reviewed by:
  • The Abingdon Apocalypse (British Library, Add. 24555) ed. by Daron Burrows
  • Keith Busby
The Abingdon Apocalypse (British Library, Add. 24555). Edited by Daron Burrows. (Anglo-Norman Texts, 74.) Oxford: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 2017. xvi + 168 pp., ill.

It is difficult to overestimate the contributions made to medieval French and English studies by the Anglo-Norman Text Society since its inception in 1936 and first publication in 1939. The contributors include some of the great names of British and Canadian Romance philology, such as Dominica Legge, Mildred Pope, T. B. W. Reid, the largely unsung Alexander Bell and A. T. Baker, and, more recently, Brian Merrilees, A. J. Holden, Delbert Russell, Tony Hunt, and Ian Short. The list, of course, is highly selective. The high quality of the editorial work and presentation in the regular, occasional series, and plain texts during the last decades owes much to the tireless efforts and oversight of Short and Hunt. Daron Burrows has already published an excellent edition of La Vie de Saint Clement (3 vols, 2007–09), and the work under review here maintains his high standard. There are a number of illustrated vernacular versions of the Apocalypse of St John and accompanying commentary in Old French verse and prose, many of which are insular productions. In BL, MS Add. 24555 (c. 1270), the Latin text is on the verso with parts of the Anglo-Norman Apocalypse and commentary on the facing recto. A list of abbreviations and extensive bibliography is followed by an Introduction which includes a careful description of the manuscript, sections on palaeography, sources, nature and methods of the translation, language, author, date, audience, and establishment of the text. Burrows edits both the Anglo-Norman and Latin Vulgate texts of the Apocalypse. In appendices there are concordances of the Abingdon text with that of other versions and manuscripts, Vulgate Latin, and Anglo-Norman, a conspectus of biblical quotations, ample notes to the text, a full glossary, and index of proper names. Burrows eschews a detailed analysis of the relationship between the text and the many illustrations in the manuscript, although he hints at the rich potential of the subject (pp. 6–8). The edition and apparatus are immaculate, and any scholar interested in the role of Anglo-Norman in the spiritual world of late thirteenth-century England will want to read Burrows's work, which will also be indispensable to art historians and others working in Apocalypse studies. I will, however, close this review on a less optimistic note. There are few younger scholars in post today, other than Daron Burrows, with the philological skills and inclination necessary to produce an edition of this kind (pace the great debate on what a critical edition should be in the twenty-first century). Italy has upheld its own philological traditions and France still pays somewhat more than lip service to the great editorial enterprise begun in the nineteenth century. In general, however, the straits are dire. It is incumbent on the community of medievalists to convince universities and graduate students that the critical edition in both Anglo-Norman and the continental manifestations of the langue d'oïl constitutes activity and training that should be encouraged and rewarded. [End Page 278]

Keith Busby
University of Wisconsin–Madison


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