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07.02.02, Riera i Sans, et al., eds., Biblia del segle XIV: Exode, Levitic

07.02.02, Riera i Sans, et al., eds., Biblia del segle XIV: Exode, Levitic

This publication of the fourteenth-century Catalan translations of Exodus and Leviticus is the first and, thus far, only published volume in the projected series of Catalan Bibles known as the Corpus Biblicum Catalanicum. This ambitious series, with over forty volumes projected in total and with ten currently under simultaneous preparation, aims to produce critical editions of all biblical translations made into Catalan through the end of the nineteenth century. The project is being undertaken by the "Bible Association of Catalonia" (Associacio Biblica de Catalunya) and the volumes are being edited and published through the Benedictine Abbey of Montserrat, on the outskirts of Barcelona. The realization of this project has been long in the making. Begun in 1906 at the First International Congress of the Catalan Language when eminent French Hispanist Raymond Foulche- Delbosc announced a plan to edit all known versions of Catalan Bibles through the sixteenth century, the project was quickly adopted by the Institute of Catalan Studies (Instit d'Estudis Catalans) but lost momentum in less than a decade. The project, modified to include medieval Bibles only, was begun again in 1976 under patronage of the Associacio Biblica, only to quickly stall again. The current effort, coordinated by the current co-directors of the Association Armand Puig i Tarrech and Pere Casanellas i Bassols, began in 1997.

As the coordinators describe the project (both in the presentation of this volume and on the project's website (, the interest of the project derives in part from the light it sheds on the history of the transmission and use of the Bible throughout Catalonia, but aims especially to make a contribution to the field of Catalan philology for which these unpublished biblical manuscripts represent a treasure trove of undocumented vocabulary and examples of usage. The publication of the fourteenth-century biblical texts, which is projected to span volumes 2-21 of the whole series--by far the most voluminous section of the project--also contributes to the wider study of the history of other romance Bibles in the Iberian Peninsula. Most of the earliest surviving biblical translations into Castilian, both based on the Vulgate and directly on the Hebrew, have been edited and published, and critics have continued to lament for many decades the lack of comparable editions of any Catalan Bibles. Although the fourteenth-century Catalan Bible manuscripts are all based on the Vulgate Latin and not the Hebrew text, the series editors have projected two volumes (34-5) to consider the Hebrew Bibles from Catalan-Speaking regions and biblical texts in Hebrew (including Hebrew translations of the New Testament) translated from or influenced by Catalan (with modern Catalan translations). Other volumes aim to include fifteenth-century Valencian Bibles (22-23), fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Psalters (24-27), rhymed Bibles (29- 30), Bible stories (31-33), translations made between the sixteenth century and the beginning of the renaixenca revival movement in Catalan language and culture (through ca. 1800, including volumes 36- 37), translations made since the eighteenth-century renaixenca (38-41), and one volume of "penitential" Psalters (a separate grouping of Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, and 130 for use in penance, especially during Lent) from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries (42). Although it is not mentioned in the descriptions of the project, one supposes that the earliest testimony of relevant biblical material, that found in late twelfth-century homiletic materials known as the Homelies d'Organya (Biblioteca de Catalunya, MS. 289, 1v-7v), as well as similar early homiletic material (such as that in Biblioteca de Catalunya ms. 479), will be addressed either in the overview of Latin texts in Catalan-speaking regions planned for the first volume of the series or in the volume of biblical fragments (28), including some earlier than 1300 CE, up through the fifteenth century.

As explained in the preface, the publication of the series of fourteenth-century Bibles has begun with Exodus and Leviticus in this volume rather than Genesis because the publication of the first biblical book will be accompanied with a general introduction of all fourteenth-century Bibles and will therefore be published last in this series.

The work of this volume, as will be the case for most of the volumes projected in the series, is really a collaborative effort and different scholars were responsible for separate aspects of the edition such as manuscript transcription, critical apparatus and glossary, and introductory material.

As Armand Puig i Tarrech explains in his introduction, the fourteenth- century series is based on three fifteenth-century manuscripts of fourteenth-century Catalan translations, one complete in three volumes (Bibliotheque Nationale de Paris ms. esp. 2-4, known as the "Peiresc" manuscript), and two one-volume manuscripts of the Old Testament (British Library ms. Egerton 1526 and BNP ms. esp. 5, known as the "Colbert"). A fourth manuscript, "Marmoutier" (BNP ms. Esp 486) contains a contemporary version of the New Testament in Catalan. Puig i Tarrech, following up on his earlier critical work on medieval Bible translations, considers not only the history of the three main manuscripts, but also the possible relationship between them, their respective use of the Latin Vulgate as a base text, the occasional influence of Hebrew, and the possible translators and revisers. He specifically notes, through abundant examples, some of the key features distinguishing these fourteenth-century Catalan Bibles, such as the literalness of the translation and, above all, the frequent doubling of one Latin term into two synonymous words in Catalan. The detail of the specific consideration of paleographical evidence as well as the transmission and provenance of each evinces a commendable scholarly rigor in keeping with the philological standards of biblical textual criticism.

Although Jaume Riera i Sans is responsible for the transcriptions of the texts, which are presented in parallel columns alongside the Vulgate text reproduced from the standard Vulgata Stuttgartiensis, a good portion of the detailed presentation of the text seems to have fallen to Pere Casanellas i Bassols, who provided the critical apparatus, notes and glossary to the transcriptions. The critical apparatus for both the Latin and the Catalan texts is extensive including, for the former, critical notes related to the Stuttgart Vulgate as well as a separate apparatus concerning variants in other Vulgate versions. For all three Catalan texts, Casanellas i Bassols provides both a philological apparatus containing variants and textual errors as well as notes on semantic and hermeneutic issues. The philological apparatus is thorough in every respect without being overbearing or superfluous. The apparatus supports Riera i Sans's transcribed text, but the technical usefulness of the notes does not outweigh Casanellas i Bassols's other critical contribution to this volume, the extensive glossary of medieval Catalan terms and usage not found in modern dictionaries, including over one hundred words and usages not attested to elsewhere. The glossary for this one volume exceeds sixty pages, and the definitions are thoroughly informed by the existing bibliography on medieval Catalan biblical texts and other similar medieval glossaries. Even though this single volume is of very limited scope and use without the rest of the projected volumes in the series, the glossary makes this volume alone an indispensable reference for studies in medieval Catalan.

Although the translations presented here all seem to be based on the Vulgate and not the original Hebrew, there is some question as to the identity and background of the translators. Not only does the text show occasional influence from the Hebrew text-influence which Puig i Tarrech calls "undeniable" (XXXI), the texts even include some content from the post-biblical rabbinical tradition. For example, in addition to many specific examples of clear influence of the Hebrew text (such as when the translation matches the Hebrew but not any known Vulgate version), the translations of certain specific terms in Ex 25-40 show familiarity with specific terms relating to Jewish ritual and devotion not derivable from the Latin. Moreover, there are even some examples in which the Catalan translations seem to be following rabbinical traditions, adding details found in the Targum or Midrash that do not appear in either the Vulgate or the Hebrew text. Based on this evidence, Puig i Tarrech proposes that the most likely translators for the fourteenth-century Bibles were converted Jews, well-versed in Latin but also naturally familiar with certain aspects of Jewish tradition. Such a hypothesis is tantalizing, because it suggests that these biblical texts also might shed light on Christian-Jewish relations in fourteenth-century Catalonia. Although he does propose this possibility, he does not explore the implications of such an idea in detail, especially as they relate to our knowledge of Jewish-Christian polemics in Aragon in the wake of the thirteenth- century Dominican missionizing campaigns. This sort of oversight epitomizes the only real deficiency--if it can even be called that--in this volume: because the attention is so heavily placed on philological rigor and textual criticism, interpretation and explanation of contextually relevant issues is spare. The editors, probably for the better, have left much interpretive work to be done by later scholars.

Although the overall goals of the Corpus Biblicum Catalanicum project are Herculean in their scope and detail and the past history of false starts does not necessarily bode well for a full or swift completion of the project, the publication of the first volume marks an important new beginning. As the first actual fruit of this project so long in the making, the publication of this volume creates a new momentum that will hopefully lead to the successful publication of subsequent volumes both in this fourteenth-century series and in the later projected volumes. Given the thoroughness of the conception and the philological rigor of the execution, it is hard to find much fault with this project as it has been executed so far. This first published volume has set the standard very high for the other parts in the series and one hopes, albeit with a little healthy skepticism, that in the regular appearance of the other forty-one volumes over the coming decades, the inheritors of this project will continue to match the caliber of this inaugural volume.