The Medieval Review 11.06.12

Hildebrandt, Reiner and Thomas Gloning. Hildegard von Bingen Physica: Liber subtilitatum diversarum naturarum creaturarum. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, 2010. Pp. 1023. $349 978-3-11-021589-2. .

Reviewed by:

Melitta Adamson
University of Western Ontario

The late twentieth century was a time of intense interest in the medical writings of Hildegard von Bingen. It resulted in a number of sensational manuscript finds which practically overnight doubled the number of known versions of her work on healing. Scholars quickly realized that the Florence manuscript from around 1300, discovered only in 1983, was going to play a central role in any modern edition of the Liber subtilitatum diversarum naturarum creaturarum, better known as Physica, since it was vastly superior to the Paris manuscript of the fifteenth century and the printed edition of 1533 both of which had formed the basis for the 1855 edition by Daremberg and Reuss (Migne 197) that was to remain the standard edition for the next 153 years. The new millennium has brought not just one but three modern editions of Hildegard's medical writings: in 2003 a new standard edition of Cause et cure by Laurence Moulinier and Rainer Berndt which supersedes Kaiser's 1903 edition of the work; in 2008 the first diplomatic edition of the Florence manuscript of the Physica by Irmgard Müller, Christian Schulze and Sven Neumann which also offers a chapter-by-chapter comparison with the Daremberg and Reuss edition; and finally in 2010 the two- volume critical edition of the Physica by Reiner Hildebrandt and Thomas Gloning which is presently under review.

The complex history of Hildegard's medical work has made the project of a critical edition an extremely difficult undertaking, and the two editors are to be commended for taking on such a formidable task and bringing it to a successful conclusion. The fact that the critical apparatus had to be separated from the text edition in Volume I and now occupies the entire Volume II is a clear sign of the difficulties the editors faced in presenting the voluminous textual variants of the extant versions. According to the Preface, a third volume is in preparation which promises to provide a glossary of Hildegard's German terms with commentary (viii). The Introduction to Volume I contains information on the genesis and transmission of the Physica, on the editorial principles used for the edition, a brief bibliography, and two appendices. As the main source for Hildegard's medical work as well as for her Lingua ignota, the editors identify the Summarium Heinrici, an eleventh-century bilingual Latin-German work based on the Etymologies of Isidore of Seville (3). An integral part of many monastic libraries, the Summarium Heinrici circulated in a shorter and a longer version both of which, the editors contend, Hildegard had access to. The concordance of the Physica, Lingua ignota, and two versions of the Summarium in Appendix I of the Introduction serves to support their claim of a close connection between these works (30-41).

When it comes to the composition of the Physica, the editors suggest a scenario in which Hildegard probably instructed her scribe Volmar to fill only one column of each page with the basic text in order to leave room for additions, with the basic text later coming to be known as Liber simplicis medicinae, and the additions as Liber compositae medicinae. Some of the additions were also incorporated in the work Cause et cure, and Appendix II of the Introduction lists the parallels between the Physica and Cause et cure (42-45). The proposed stemma of the Physica, derived from the six versions of the variously expanded basic text (Florence, Wolfenbüttel, Strasbourg [1533 print], Brussels, Paris, Vatican) and three fragments (Freiburg, Augsburg, Bern) used for the critical edition, shows that all extant manuscripts are assumed by the editors to ultimately go back to a copy Volmar made of the original (8). They credit him for many of the Latin alternatives to Hildegard's German in the form of (interlinear) glosses. The addition of indications in the margins is seen as a later development in the transmission of the text. Given the expandable format of the Physica, it is not surprising that the critical edition based on the most comprehensive manuscript from Florence almost doubles the amount of text contained in the 1855 edition which was inadequate in other ways as well, as the editors point out (10-12).

In the presentation of their text of the Physica in Volume I, the editors visually separate the additions to the basic text through the use of italics, while the German words are highlighted through the use of bold print (49-383). Following two appendices that list the Latin and German terms in the Florence and Wolfenbüttel manuscripts, and the indications (384-406), the editors provide a brief description and edition of the Berlin fragment previously edited by Heinrich Schipperges in 1956, but they exclude the part already contained in the 2003 edition of Cause et cure by Moulinier and Berndt (407- 431). Much shorter than the Introduction to Volume I, the Introduction to Volume II explains the conventions used for the apparatus and its tripartite form: Apparatus A for the variant spellings and indications, Apparatus B for the full text of variant passages, and Apparatus C for the variant spellings of German terms. Parallels, if any, with the two partial German translations of the Physica for which modern editions exist (Speyerer Kräuterbuch, German appendix to the Paris manuscript) are marked at the beginning of each new entry in the apparatus.

With the critical edition of the Physica by Hildebrandt and Gloning, Hildegard scholarship has taken a big leap forward. There is no doubt that the two volumes are the result of many years of painstaking work in deciphering, comparing, and collating the often vastly divergent versions of the text. Much of this manuscript work was carried out as a labor of love by Reiner Hildebrandt, emeritus professor from the University of Marburg, with the help of Thomas Gloning from the University of Giessen. This in-depth knowledge and comparison of the manuscripts has given Hildebrandt valuable insights into the genesis of the Physica and the history of its transmission. As the modern editor of the Summarium Henrici, Hildebrandt was also intimately familiar with the work that turned out to be a key source for Hildegard in that it provided her with the structure of the terms she was to cover in her description of nature and its medicinal properties. With the Liber simplicis medicinae, the Liber compositae medicinae, and list of indications as its variously integrated building blocks, the Liber subtilitatum diversarum naturarum creaturarum is also shown by Hildebrandt and Gloning to be a work that from its very inception incorporated material which was to reappear later in the spin-off known as Cause et cure.

The critical edition is solid and will clearly become the new standard edition of the Physica, and yet this reviewer feels that an important opportunity was missed with this publication. A thorough, scholarly introduction of the kind contained in the 2003 edition of Cause et cure would have elevated the work to a higher level and made it the premier reference work on the subject. As it stands, the Introduction to Volume I appears hastily written, not well organized, too sketchy and yet repetitive in places. Instead of providing the definitive description of the extant manuscripts and printed editions of the Physica used for the critical edition, the Introduction refers the reader to earlier descriptions by Moulinier, Struck, Embach and others. Why the fragments of the Physica in three Vatican manuscripts, published by Moulinier in 1993 and 1999, were not included, is not entirely clear (21). Furthermore, the Introduction to Volume I makes no mention of the modern editions of German versions of parts of the Physica, and only in the Introduction to Volume II does the reader learn that references to these editions are included in the apparatus. The in- depth study of Cause et cure published in 2003 brought to light the fact that only books III and IV appear to be genuine works of Hildegard while the rest was augmented with material from other medieval authors. Consequently, the assertion in the Introduction to Volume I of the Physica that, aside from the Summarium Heinrici which provided the structural framework, all else springs from Hildegard's originality must be taken with a grain of salt (3). After all, some 150 years lay between the composition of the Physica and the Florence manuscript. But perhaps the greatest shortcoming of the critical edition is the lack of a comprehensive bibliography. The brief bibliography provided in Volume I (26-28) only lists works mentioned in the Introduction to that volume and otherwise refers to the complete Hildegard Bibliography from 1998, while the few bibliographic references in Volume II are simply integrated in the text of the Introduction. It would have been worthwhile to bring the bibliography, at least as it relates to Hildegard's medical writings, up-to-date. This would have ensured the inclusion of important works from the last decade. As it stands, the critical edition by Hildebrandt and Gloning makes no mention whatsoever of the 2008 edition of the Physica based on the Florence manuscript, surely one of the most significant publications in the field of the last few years and of utmost relevance, one would assume, to the editors of a critical edition who used the same Florence manuscript of the Physica as their lead manuscript. It is hoped that the planned third volume will rectify some of these oversights, and round out the set with an in-depth study and detailed bibliography of Hildegard's premier medical work.