Dr. Tjamke Snijders

title.none: Claassens, Medieval Manuscripts (Dr. Tjamke Snijders)

identifier.other: baj9928.0803.008 08.03.08

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Dr. Tjamke Snijders, Ghent University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2008

identifier.citation: Claassens, Geert H.M and Werner Verbeke, eds. Medieval Manuscripts in Transition: Tradition and Creative Recycling. Mediaevalia Lovaniensia, Series I vol. 36. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2006. Pp. viii, 376. ISBN: $65.00 (pb) 978-90-5867-520-0 (pb).

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 08.03.08

Claassens, Geert H.M and Werner Verbeke, eds. Medieval Manuscripts in Transition: Tradition and Creative Recycling. Mediaevalia Lovaniensia, Series I vol. 36. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2006. Pp. viii, 376. ISBN: $65.00 (pb) 978-90-5867-520-0 (pb).

Reviewed by:

Dr. Tjamke Snijders
Ghent University

The conference Manuscripts in Transition, which took place between 5 and 9 November 2002 in Brussels, has led to the publication of two collections of articles titled Medieval Manuscripts in Transition. The first, subtitled Recycling Manuscripts, Texts and Images (Dekeyser and Van der Stock, eds., Leuven, 2005) had an art-historical orientation. The volume under review, subtitled "Tradition and Creative Recycling" focuses on the historical, literary, philosophical and theological aspects of the congress theme.

Given the broad theme of "recycling manuscripts" and the interdisciplinary nature of the collection, it can come as no surprise that the links between the 17 articles are not exceptionally strong. In general, the articles can be divided into two categories, one dealing with the recycling of ideas, concepts and images and the other with a more strictly material sense of recycling.

The articles that center on re-using well-established pictures, concepts or texts in a changed context start with Catherine Bel's contribution on the historiated miniatures that accompany the tale of Pyramus and Thisbé in three fourteenth-century manuscripts. She argues that these miniatures, by means of a "pictural language", form a parallel version of the tale that can shed a different light on the difficult text (24). A second article to focus on miniatures is Herman Braet's work on the portrayal of authors Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meung in several Roman de la Rose manuscripts. He distinguishes images that represent the author as scribe (either writing or presenting the finished work to a patron) from those in which the author is dreaming rather than writing, finally concluding that only Jean de Meung was seen as a real author, whereas Guillaume de Lorris was at best of secondary importance. Virginie Minet-Mahy diachronically analyses the ways in which Evrart de Conty, Jean Gerson et Jean Molinet use the classical images of the harp and universal harmony in their literary works. In a similar vein, Tania Van Hemelryck explores how mythical and historical figures from antiquity (such as Minerva, Esther, and Augustus) were used by several medieval writers to express their yearnings for peace.

Pieter Borghart subsequently attempts to determine to what extent Jacob van Maerlant's Heimelijkheid der Heimelijkheden [Secret of Secrets] derived its ethical views from Aristotle, and in what manner these antique ideas were assimilated to medieval thought (63). Several ideas are traced via the Kitab sirr al-asrar [The Book of the Secret of Secrets] to the Nicomachean Ethics. In all probability the theoretical propositions originate in the Ethics, whereas its practical applications on the political and religious world view can be attributed either to the authors of the Arabic mirror of princes or its translators, but are very difficult to trace. Martine Meuwese takes on a similar task in trying to trace some of the bestiary themes that are painted in the margins of Ms. Cambridge, Trinity College B.11.22, a Flemish Book of Hours. The most interesting of those is a series of two images, in which the first shows a fox with a hare firmly placed between its legs; both are reading. The second image shows the hare, his book thrown aside, with a bloodied bottom. This is almost certainly a nodding reference to a fragment from the Middle-Dutch Van den Vos Reynaerde, where the fox Reinaert promises Cuwart the hare to teach him the credo, an expression that can also refer to sexual intercourse.

Two articles on love conclude the recycling of ideas and concepts in this volume. Esther Mulders has traced the ways in which the Greek god Eros continued to exist in the Middle Ages. He could be used as a personification of Divine Love, of the vice of earthly love, or the ideal of courtly love. Mulders argues that the visual representation of Eros eventually became more "real" than the concept of love it referred to, so that the image could be used in any desirable context: "any interpretation of the image of love must have been appropriate" (233). In a second article on love, Wim Verbaal starts by noting that Plato's treatment of Love (in the Phaedrus and the Symposium) is constructed like a theatrical piece, with the reader in the passive role of a spectator. In Augustine's Confessions, the reader is the actual addressee of the text, and therefore less of an outsider. But Bernard of Clairvaux explicitly asks the reader to transform himself to conform to his teachings, so that Bernardus becomes the agent of a reciprocal love of the reader and the Word (335).

The other articles in this volume have a slightly more material focus, dealing with the identification of recycled text fragments, manuscripts or authors; and their contextualization. Sharon Arbuthnot argues that the Irish compilers of the Cir Anmann, a collection of etymological explanations of names, did not slavishly copy existing texts. Instead, they were constantly regrouping, reorienting and even rewriting the fragments they borrowed. It would be interesting to relate this exclusively Irish study to the continental work on réécriture by Genette, Goullet and others. Three other articles deal (more or less directly) with the same phenomenon of réécriture in its sense of modifying an existing text for a new audience. Geert H.M. Claassens discusses Ms. Ghent, UB 444, arguing that this early fifteenth century miscellany contains an individualized version of Der vrouwen heimelijcheit [The secret of women]. Based on the name "Margareta Godevartse uut [from] Udim" that occurs as an acrostic in the first lines, combined with several unique lyrical intermezzi in which the poet expresses his love for an unnamed lady and the fact that in several cases an individual woman is addressed, Claassens concludes that the manuscript must have been a gift from the scribe/author to Margareta. Yitzhak Hen, in perhaps one of the volume's most interesting contributions, challenges the common assumption that the early Carolingians attempted to create liturgical unity through the imposition of Roman liturgical practices and books. Hen argues that the new liturgical manuscripts were mostly compendia containing both old and new prayers. Unity was not achieved by suppressing the traditional rites, but by a "rhetoric of reform" that permeated a variety of sources (158). Donna Mayer-Martin studies how Gautier de Coinci, in producing Les Miracles de Nostre Dame, borrowed melodies preserved in trouvère chansonniers but moved them towards the more florid style that was associated with praise in plainchant. Based on a study of the manuscripts, she suggests that Gautier may have gotten his inspiration as a student in early-thirteenth century Paris.

The five remaining contributions focus on the identification and contextualization of a single work. In an article co-authored by Paul Bertrand and Baudouin Van den Abeele, the fifteenth-century copy of the Macrologus is traced to the abbey of Saint-Laurent in Liège and an attempt is made to analyze the origins of the hundreds of additions, which were mostly written on obsolete archival documents. Katty De Bundel analyzes fifteenth-century Ms. Leuven, theol. 842s, which contains several religious texts that are translated from Latin into Middle Dutch. As the translation is "incompetent" (125) and seems to target a female audience, a woman scribe probably produced the codex. De Bundel notes that her argument departs "from the (assumed) premise that the Leuven codex is an autograph, perhaps an apograph, for reasons of simplicity and plausibility. For if manuscript 842S is assumed to be merely a copy, matters become highly complicated. In that case, it becomes not so much a question of whether a woman was responsible for the production of this manuscript, but rather how many women were involved in the production process." (133-4) Still, she finally concludes that the hypothesis of a single female author is "reasonably plausible" as there is no evidence to contest it (134-5). Susie Speakman Sutch shows that the text Le Chevalier Délibéré by Olivier de la Marche in Ms. Paris, S.M.A.F. 80-11 is a very exact copy (allmost a facsimile) of Ms. Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum 166. The lay-out is practically identical, as are the rubrication and miniatures, and a scribal error in the one manuscript is repeated in the other. Gilbert Trounoy traces the fifteenth century Italian author Franciscus Florius to Bruges, where he worked as a scribe. He reconstructs Florius' biography through an autobiographical novella, his other literary works and the colophons he wrote when copying manuscripts. At the end of the article, a critical edition of Florius' Visio mirabilis Florii supra Arcana Galliae is included. Finally, Livia Visser-Fuchs makes a case for Hugues de Lannoy (and not his brother Guillebert) being the author of the Enseignement de vraie noblesse, a text written to instruct knights on how to lead a truly noble life. The article ends with a comprehensive list of manuscripts containing the Intruction d'un jeune prince, Enseignement de vraie noblesse, Vraie cronique d'Escoce or the Pour ce que plusieurs, and the table of contents of the Enseignement.

Given the richness of content and the variety of the contributions, it seems a pity that the volume's introduction is kept to a bare minimum. Apart from expressing the hope that the reader will be enriched, it only states that the common thread between the articles is "the codicological aspect: what can the study of manuscripts contribute to the literary-historical interpretation or the insight into the functioning of a text in its original context" (vii). This question is never answered. The lack of interpretation and guidance is only aggravated by the fact that the articles are alphabetically ordered, thereby obscuring any overarching theme that might otherwise have been discovered. Hen's discussion of Carolingian liturgical practices is for example preceded by De Bundel's article on a fifteenth-century female scribe, and followed by Mayer-Martin's thirteenth century trouvère musical models. A chronological ordering would perhaps have been more useful, as would a thematic ordering, of which the one proposed above is but one possibility. As it is, Medieval Manuscripts in Transition does not give a thematic understanding of the recycling of medieval manuscripts, but will be eagerly consulted by specialists looking for often learned contributions in their specific fields.