Bridget Morris

title.none: Sancta Birgitta, Revelaciones (Bridget Morris)

identifier.other: baj9928.0206.020 02.06.20

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Bridget Morris, University of Hull,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2002

identifier.citation: Undhagen, Carl-Gustaf and Birger Bergh. Sancta Birgitta, Revelaciones Book II. Stockholm: Almquist and Wiksell International, 2001. Pp. 128. SEK 152. ISBN: 9-174-02313-6.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 02.06.20

Undhagen, Carl-Gustaf and Birger Bergh. Sancta Birgitta, Revelaciones Book II. Stockholm: Almquist and Wiksell International, 2001. Pp. 128. SEK 152. ISBN: 9-174-02313-6.

Reviewed by:

Bridget Morris
University of Hull

A major project to publish for the first time a critical edition of the Latin text of the complete Liber celestis of St. Birgitta of Sweden was commenced in 1956 and sponsored by Kungliga Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien, Stockholm (KVHAA), in conjunction with Svenska Fornskrift- Sallskapet, Uppsala (SFSS). The entire corpus comprises Books I-VIII, the Reuelaciones extrauagantes, and the so- called Opera minora: the Quattuor oraciones, Regula Salvatoris, and the Sermo angelicus. Nearly fifty years on, the project is now nearing completion, with the present volume (Book II) the latest to appear and the final volume (Book VIII) due to be published in the spring of 2002. This collective edition has at last made available the Latin text of St. Birgitta's Reuelaciones to medieval scholars, who previously had had to rely on the first printed text of 1492, by Bartholomaeus Ghotan, Lubeck. The 'Ghotan' edition readily became established as the definitive text not least because of its magnificence as an early printed book; and although it contains readings that do not occur in any of the earlier manuscripts, it nevertheless contains many misleading readings, inadvertencies and errors.

The editors of the new KVHAA edition have scrutinised all the existing manuscripts of the corpus Reuelacionum, about one hundred and fifty in total, to establish their internal relationships. These manuscripts form part of a complex process of textual transmission, which begins with Birgitta's own utterances in Swedish, and ends with Ghotan's editio princeps. In broad terms, it may be said that Birgitta received and wrote down her revelations in Swedish which were then translated into Latin by her amanuenses and confessors. Shortly before her death in 1373 she handed over the complete corpus to Alfonso of Jaen whose task was to validate their clarity and orthodoxy and to revise their linguistic form where necessary. His 'first' redaction was completed in 1377, and put before a papal commission for the canonisation process. As to its contents, it is likely that the first redaction consisted of Books I-VII only: marginalia in a manuscript written at Vadstena (which was the mother-house and heart of the Birgittine order) refer to Book VII as the 'liber ultimus'. A single manuscript, Warsaw, Narodowa, 3310 (designated MS Tb), written around 1379, probably reflects Alfonso's recension of 1377. On the death of Pope Gregory XI, a new commission was appointed by his successor, Urban VI, and in 1378 or 1379 an augmented text of the Reuelaciones was presented for examination. It consisted of an unrevised version of Books I- VII together with extra materials: the Liber celestis imperatoris ad reges (=Book VIII), which has a preface by Alfonso called the Epistola solitarii and contains 58 chapters, many of which duplicate chapters in Books I-VII; also the Sermo angelicus, which is part of the Birgittine office, and the Quattuor oraciones.

Although in their detail the relationship between the manuscripts varies from one Book to another, in the main the general division falls into two major branches, pi and beta; and a stemmatic analysis has been applied to reconstruct the archetype.

The volume reviewed here, Book II, is one of the shortest books, containing some thirty chapters, dating mostly from the 1340s, and containing revelations concerning public affairs of state and the obligations of knighthood. The edition is the product of a 'joint' editorship. It was begun by C.-G. Undhagen who completed the manuscript collation, the apparatus criticus, and comparison with the Ghotan text. Upon his death in 1997, Professor Birger Bergh undertook the completion of the edition. Scholars of Birgittine studies in the past decades will be well acquainted with the names of both editors, Undhagen above all for his edition of Book I (1978) in which he wrote a magisterial Special Introduction, giving a lucid and detailed exposition of the complex relations of the early textual history, which is essential reading for all newcomers to Birgittine studies; and Bergh for his completely dependable editions of Books V, VI and VII. Both scholars are closely acquainted with the character and vagaries of the Latin text and draw on their collective years of Birgittine scholarship to produce a text that is both authoritative and usable.

In this involuntary partnership between Undhagen and Bergh, it is possible to discern two approaches that are evident within the corpus edition as a whole, one exhaustive in its citation of references, and the other more minimalist in its concentration on the Latin text alone. These approaches highlight editorial discrepancies that have evolved rather than been prescribed. Several of the earlier editions were defended as doctoral theses and thus seem somewhat tentative; some take a purely linguistic approach to the material; some address historical issues while others (but not all) pay due regard to the Swedish text which theoretically lies behind the whole corpus but in practice is only glimpsed a small number of extant texts, mainly the so-called Birgittin-Norwegian texts. When the undertaking was begun, the editorial criteria may not have been very sharply defined, and the methods developed piecemeal as new editions appeared and as new research findings came to light. (For example the Warsaw manuscript, although known about, was not considered important by earlier editors and was therefore overlooked, whereas today it takes a central position in the scholarship; this means some revision or reappraisal of the early editions is called for, although in the end it is unlikely to alter the overall conclusions and stemmatic relationships already drawn.)

The present volume is the most concise of all the editions that have appeared to date. Perhaps this is a reflection of the joint editorship, perhaps an indication of editing-fatigue as the series nears completion, perhaps a result of increasing certainty about which manuscripts are the most important; and perhaps also because of the frequent cross-references to other books in the series, which obviates detailed discussion in the present volume. The text itself is produced from a collation of just eleven manuscripts (compare Book I in which Undhagen selected and classified some 69 manuscripts, and when his volume was at proof stage in 1968 he discovered a further nine manuscripts which led him to another ten years of work in reviewing the archetype). It includes the Warsaw manuscript from which many variants are included. The apparatus fundus is sparse and the points of textual criticism raised in the Introductory sections are usually not indicated by cross- references in the text itself; the unwary reader may thereby miss an incisive point. Likewise, although there is a useful brief discussion of the Birgittin-norsk text in the Introduction (pp. 15-16), the reader is not alerted to such passages in the textual commentary. With its concentration on the Latin text itself, there is almost no contextualization of the revelations, with an absence of the identification of persons and dates (where that indeed is possible) and likely historical events that underpin individual revelations: for instance II.3-6, and 19 all deal with the expediency of the crusades of King Magnus Eriksson to Russia, and II.13 deals purportedly with Birgitta's son Karl, although no further biographical reference is given, beyond the identification of him in the declaracio in the Ghotan edition (p. 69).

Now that a reliable Latin text of Book II, and indeed the Liber celestis as a whole, is at last available, it remains for future scholars to provide the background theological and interpretative context into which St. Birgitta 's enormous and fascinating output of some seven hundred revelations can be placed. Scholars will unreservedly welcome this contribution to Birgittine studies.