03.12.03, Jones, A Lost Work by Amalarius of Metz

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Milton McC. Gatch

The Medieval Review baj9928.0312.003


Jones, Christopher. A Lost Work by Amalarius of Metz: Interpolations in Salisbury, Cathedral Library, MS. 154. Henry Bradshaw Society for the Editing of Rare Liturgical Texts. London: Boydell Press, 2001. Pp. v, 303. ISBN: 1-870-25214-4.

Reviewed by:
Milton McC. Gatch
Union Theological Seminary

In 1998, Christopher A. Jones published as Nr. 24 in the series Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England, an edition of the Eynsham monastic customary, Aelfric's Letter to the Monks of Eynsham, developed from his Toronto Dissertation of 1995. One of the major contributions in that study was the discovery that Aelfric's source for what had seemed to be an unknown and expanded variant of the so-called Retractio prima, an abbreviation of Amalarius's Liber officialis, could be found in Salisbury, Cathedral Library, MS. 154. The manuscript, somewhat postdating Aelfric, contains a text of the Retractio, "with considerable re-arrangement and interpolation," an ancestor of which was the source of "almost all of Aelfric's extra 'Amalarian' teaching" (Aelfric's Letter, p. 64). The Salisbury manuscript, not at that time properly cited and described in catalogues, had not been noticed by J.-M. Hanssens in his magisterial studies and edition of the work of Amalarius.

In the earlier study, Jones treated the expanded and rearranged version of Salisbury 154 as the work of an anonymous redactor. The passages in question, primarily documented in England but possibly of Breton origin, seem only to have circulated with attribution to Amalarius as their author, however, and Jones's later ruminations on them have led him to conclude that they derive from an early and otherwise unknown work of Amalarius: "The evidence of style, sources and emphases in the several passages, strongly suggests that their origin lay in a separate work by Amalarius himself, albeit one that has not survived, save in excerpts variously conflated with one subset of R1 [Retractio prima] manuscripts" (10).

R1, constructed from the third edition of Liber officialis, was considered the work of a third party by Hanssens-- a thesis that Jones thinks questionable, although he leaves final resolution of the matter to David Dumville's forthcoming edition. As to the text of the Salisbury version, it has been reorganized to correct flaws in R1. Salisbury, it is argued, is "a derivative and further reworking of the basic R1, " and its unique passages "must be considered as elaborative interpolations from an outside source or sources, not as vestiges of some earlier version of the R1 itself" (32). The interpolated passages of the Salisbury text (save passages drawn from Smaragdus and Gregory I) seem, in their rhetorical strategies, common motifs and appeal to the authority of supposed Roman liturgical practice, to betray common authorship.

Arguing that the additions to R1 in Salisbury must derive from a lost work of Amalarius himself, Jones turns to works by Amalarius that antedate the Liber officialis. It is not possible here to summarize the long and complex argument in this section of the study. Suffice it to say that Jones concludes that the only alternative to the authorship of Amalarius for the source underlying the additions to R1 is to posit an author with unparalleled stylistic and intellectual likeness to Amalarius and access to all of his works, especially to very rare early writings. The lost work would have been roughly contemporary with or slightly later than the Geminus codex, with which it shares many characteristics and which, perhaps like the lost work, was not intended for widespread circulation. Indeed, Jones thinks it possible that, as Amalarius worked up his passages on the Triduum and the office in the 'lost' work the idea for the "much grander design" of the Liber officialis emerged and began to take form (123). A copy of the early text survived, however, and was used by an editor of R1 to create the text that appears in the Salisbury manuscript. Aelfric's quotations and leaves appended to Cambridge, Trinity College MS. B.11.2 are external witnesses to the early 'lost' work.

The final section of Jones's introduction to his edition of the lost work discusses its significance. There is little in the passages themselves that is new to liturgical history. More important is that the lost work testifies to Amalarius's earliest reflections on the Office and the observance of Holy Week, "much as the Geminus codex stands to the exhaustive exposition of the Mass in the third book of the Liber officialis." Between the composition of these works, about 815, and the first edition of the Liber officialis shortly after 820, "Amalarius radically reconceived his own projects," moving from rather literal exposition of the liturgy to "more freely figurative readings," at first of the Mass and later of the Office (177). There is a fascinating consideration of Amalarius's habits of mind: his reuse of elements from earlier writings, often with striking changes, and his tolerance for inconsistency. And there are interesting suggestions about reflections in his work of the great theological debates of his age: not only on the issue of images but also the Adoptionist controversy and the doctrine of the soul.

The volume concludes with a meticulous edition of the lost work and an expert translation. Appendices inventory the contents of Salisbury 154 and give sample collations to support Jones's stemma for the affiliation of the Anglo-Breton witnesses to R1 and the Salisbury text.

Jones's work is a major contribution to the study of Amalarius of Metz--and a remarkable offspring of his magisterial edition of a minor Anglo-Saxon work, the Letter to the Monks of Eynsham.

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Milton McC. Gatch

Union Theological Seminary