The Medieval Review 16.01.05

Poole, Kevin R., ed. and trans. The Chronicle of Pseudo-Turpin: Book IV of the Liber Sancti Jacobi (Codex Calixtinus). New York: Italica Press, 2014. pp. 178. $20.00 (paperback). ISBN: 978-1-59910-290-0 (paperback).

Reviewed by:

M. Alison Stones
University of Pittsburgh

This is a welcome English translation of one of the most popular Latin epics of the Middle Ages about the exploits of Charlemagne in Spain and the death of Roland at Roncesvalles. A mixture of historical fact and fabulous fiction, falsely attributed to the authorship of an eye-witness, Archbishop Turpin of Reims, the text is extant, with variants, in more than two hundred manuscripts dating between the mid-twelfth and fifteenth centuries. Key elements were inserted into many more histories like the Speculum historiale of Vincent of Beauvais and the Grandes chroniques de France, while Pseudo-Turpin's account, as it is generally called, was translated in whole or in part into most European vernaculars. Thomas Rodd (who acquired one of the fourteenth-century copies in Spain and sold it to the then-British Museum, now London, British Library, Additional MS 12213) published excerpts from the text in English in 1812 and there has not been an English version since. [1] So the present translation fills a lacuna. But the many complexities surrounding the text, its origins, transmission, and reception, its various versions, and its "errors," deliberate or accidental, are presented at a rather superficial level, misleading in places, and sometimes plain wrong.

As is reasonable in the absence of a comparative edition of the Latin, Poole bases his translation on just one of many copies, namely the Jacobus manuscript kept at the Archivo Catedral of Santiago de Compostela, where it has been since at least the third quarter of the twelfth century (an abridged copy was made directly from it in 1173 by a monk of Ripoll). This copy, generally held to be the oldest and best version, says it is called Jacobus (Jacobus iste liber vocatur), but is generally known as the Codex Calixtinus after the purported author of large parts of the compilation, or the Liber sancti Jacobi. In the Santiago manuscript and in eleven copies from the twelfth to the eighteenth century, the Pseudo-Turpin forms book four of a five-book compilation in honour of St. James, apostle of Spain, containing the liturgy of the feasts on 25 July, 3 October, and 30 December (book 1); the twenty-two miracles of St James (bk 2); the translation of the body of St. James from the Holy Land to Spain (bk 3); The Pilgrim's Guide (bk 5); and various additions including a false bull, more miracles, and pilgrim songs. Debate surrounds key issues of authorship. The texts are full of attributions to fictitious and genuine authors--Pope Calixtus II, Pope Innocent II, Cardinal Robert, the patriarch of Jerusalem, Fulbert of Chartres, Aimery the papal chancellor, Aimery Picaud, and many others—including, for book 4, Archbishop Turpin. But the Pseudo-Turpin also enjoyed a robust manuscript tradition without the rest of Jacobus. [2]

The various editors of the Latin have struggled with the manuscript tradition and its implications. The sheer numbers of surviving copies have so far deterred anyone from attempting a critical edition: despite the claim on the title-page to be an "edition and translation," the present work is a translation and introduction, not an edition. Most editors have chosen Jacobus as their base manuscript, notably Meredith-Jones, Whitehill, and Herbers/Santos Noia; the Spanish translation by Abelardo Moralejo is also based on Jacobus. [3] But the earliest editor of the Pseudo-Turpin, Ciampi, used a manuscript in Turin (BN I.V.36); Castets used copies preserved in Montpellier, primarily H 31 with variants from five other copies held there; Smyser used a short version (Paris, BNF lat. 17656); Thoron used Città del Vaticano Arch. S. Pietro C 128, an early fourteenth-century copy of Jacobus with variants from another fourteenth-century copy of Jacobus (London, BL Add. 12213), Thomas Rodd's manuscript referred to above. [4] The complexities of the manuscript tradition are extensively discussed in Hohler, Díaz y Díaz, and Brown, and reviewed in Stones and Krochalis. [5] Also available is a facsimile of Jacobus published by the Xunta de Galicia in 1993, with offprints of books 4 and 5 in 2004, so there is every reason to choose it as the basis for this English translation. Nevertheless, a resumé of the complexities of the manuscript tradition would have been desirable in the introduction to Poole's translation. There is work to be done on questions surrounding the numerous "errors" found in the Jacobus version: which of the other copies also transmit them? might there be a better version? what might the archetype have looked like?

Another issue neglected by Poole is the sequence of scribal hands in the Jacobus manuscript; four scribes participated in the writing of the Pseudo-Turpin and their participation could have been marked in the translation and discussed in the introduction. It is not so much a question of "slight variations in the otherwise elegant handwriting" (xv) as clear sections written by four different scribes at different times; the reasons for this are not altogether clear, but it may possibly have been to replace pages that originally contained illustrations, as suggested by Díaz y Díaz and Herbers. Only two narratives and three portrait initials are preserved in the manuscript, but they all pertain in one way or another to the Pseudo-Turpin and should all have been reproduced. Missing are the portrait of James (which admittedly is found in the liturgical part, book 1, on f. 4) and the dream of Charlemagne which begins the Pseudo-Turpin. Restored at the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid in 1966, Charlemagne's sleeping head was painted out so the picture now shows St James in bed; but the original configuration can be seen in the two fourteenth-century copies referred to above, in the Vatican and the British Library. Either would have provided an image closer to the original in Jacobus than the late fourteenth-century copy of the Grandes chroniques de France, Paris, BNF fr. 2617 (reproduced on p. 7). The scene with warriors in two registers is reproduced on the dust jacket but not in the body of the volume. Very welcome on the other hand are the pages from the Nota Emilianense, Madrid, Real Academia de la Historia, Codex 39, f. 245 (p. xxxiii) and the beautifully written English Turpines Story, San Marino, CA, Huntington Library HM 28561, f. 326 (p. xlv), both of interest in relation to the origins and reception of the Pseudo-Turpin.

As to the division of scribal hands, Díaz y Díaz has demonstrated that the quire structure for the Pseudo-Turpin section of Jacobus (ff. 162v-191v) consists of quaternions which include several reinserted cut leaves and an added bifolio (ff. 186-187, by a thirteenth-century scribe, writing about the Liberal Arts on the walls of Charlemagne's palace at Aachen). The divisions of scribal hands can be clearly seen from the facsimile and would certainly be worth indicating in the translation as they do not correlate with the chapter divisions and they shed light on the history and reception of the text--as Díaz y Díaz has noted. [6] And the chapters do not each begin on a new folio as Poole's page layout misleadingly suggests. Again, it would have been better to add the folios in the margin at the point where the changes occur, as Herbers and Santos Noia did in their transcription of the Latin. The work of scribes 3 and 4 are clearly later additions (thirteenth and fourteenth centuries); the work of scribe 2 and his flourished initials are late twelfth-century work, quite different from the work of scribe 1 and his decorator who most likely worked c. 1145. All this recopying (assuming that is what it is) bears important witness to the history of the manuscript and its manipulation between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries; and there are innumerable marginal annotations, analysed by Díaz y Díaz, which attest to continued interest in the text in later centuries. The separation of the Pseudo-Turpin and its reinsertion into the rest of the codex are summarized by Díaz y Díaz and alluded to by Poole (xxi). The sequence of scribes is as follows:

scribe 1:
ff. 163-167v (ch. 1 to half-way through ch. 8, Poole, p. 20, line 6)
ff. 172-175v (ch. 13, line 4, to one page and seven lines short of ch. 18, Poole, p. 47, line 8)
ff. 188-191v (ch. 22, one page and twenty lines short of ch. 23 to the end of Turpin, Poole, p. 79, line 19, to p. 92, line 10)

scribe 2:
ff. 168-171v (half-way through ch. 8 to four lines into ch. 13, Poole, p. 33, line 4)
ff. 176-180v (one page and seven lines short of ch. 18 to fifteen lines into ch. 22, Poole, p. 74, line 18, except for ff. 181-182v, an added bifolio by scribe 4, Poole, p. 62, line 31, to p. 67, line 21)

scribe 3:
ff. 186-187v (ch. 22, line 16, to one page and twenty lines before the end of ch. 22, Poole, p. 74, line 18, to p. 79, line 19)

scribe 4:
ff. 181-182v, an added bifolio by scribe 4, Poole, p. 62, line 31, to p. 67, line 21

Scribe 3 wrote the section about the Liberal Arts, and in it each paragraph begins with the name of an Art, marked with a pen-flourished initial alternating red and blue; that format should have been retained in the English.

The question of "author" or "compiler" is another issue that needs clarification. Poole follows Moisan [7] in confusing the papal chancellor Aimericus, a historical figure well known from other contexts, identified in the rubrics of Jacobus as the author of book V, ch. 9, along with Calixtus and, perhaps the same person, simply named as Aimericus, as the author of book V, ch. 5. It is Aimericus the chancellor who is the first signatory of the false bull of Innocent II, not Aimericus Picaudus (p. xvi). The name Aimery Picaud does occur twice in Jacobus, first in the text of the false bull of Innocent II as one of those who gave (dedit) the codex to Santiago, and secondly in the titulus to one of the songs (Ad honorem regis summi) at the end of the volume. However there is nothing to suggest that Aimery Picaud is the same person as Aimericus the Chancellor (who came from Bourges), and there is no reason to suppose that Aimery Picaud wrote, or compiled, Jacobus as a whole. Poole does not mention the other contender for compiler, Rainerius (also known as Robertus), schoolmaster at Santiago according to the Pistoia manuscript, and held by some to have played a part in the composition of the Historia Compostellana. [8] He fits the bill in most ways as compiler of Jacobus and vindicates in some measure Hohler's contention that the Pseudo-Turpin with its many grammatical errors was a teaching tool. [9] Finally, the exhibition catalogue focusing on Diego Gelmírez, bishop then archbishop of Santiago, should be included in the bibliography. [10]

Some points of translation I find perplexing: why translate heros as "knight" (5)? [11] The iconographic tradition of this very popular scene never shows James as a knight and the Latin does not justify the word; Smyser's version gives vir for heros; the anonymous Old French version gives uns granz grand biauté; and le Turpin I gives uns sires qui plus ert beaus qu'en ne peust dire. [12] It is only (so far as I know) in the Johannes version that James appears as a un bel home molt grant tot armé sor son cheval. [13] But this is not in the Latin and ought not to be in its English translation. I note that Moralejo's Spanish translation uses caballero. [14] For de itinere yspanie in the chapter list for ch. 26 and in the rubric and text of the chapter Poole uses the anachronistic term "crusade" rather than the more neutral term "journey" (iter in the Latin). Again, Moralejo translates this as cruzada. [15] This would surely be the place for a discussion of the origin and use of the term "crusade" and the circumlocutions used for it in the Middle Ages. The book, then, has some flaws but is a useful jumping-off point to stimulate a wide audience to ask further questions.



1. T. Rodd, History of Charles the Great and Orlando, 2 vols. (London, 1812).

2. The most comprehensive list of manuscripts is still the one by André de Mandach, Naissance et développement de la chanson de geste en Europe. Vol. 1: La Geste de Charlemagne et de Roland (Geneva and Paris, 1961).

3. Cyril Meredith-Jones, Historia Karoli magni et Rotholandi ou Chronique du Pseudo-Turpin (Paris, 1936, repr. 1972); W.M. Whitehill, Liber sancti Jacobi, Codex Calixtinus. Texto del manuscrito del Codex Calixtinus conservado en la catedral Compostelana, 3 vols. (Santiago de Compostela, 1944); Klaus Herbers and Manuel Santos Noia, eds., Liber sancti Jacobi, Codex Calixtinus (Santiago de Compostela, 1998); Abelardo Moralejo Laso, Casimiro Torres, and Julio Feo, trans. Liber sancti Jacobi. Codex Calixtinus (Santiago de Compostela, 1951).

4. Sebastiano Ciampi, De Vita Karoli magni et Rolandi. Historia Joanni Turpino archiepiscopi remensi vulgo tributa (Florence, 1922); Ferdinand Castets, Historia Caroli magni et Rotholandi (Paris, 1880); H.M. Smyser, The Pseudo-Turpin, edited from Bibl. Nat. Ms. 17656 (Cambridge, MA, 1937, repr. 1967). Ward Thoron, Codex quartus sancti Jacobi de expedimento et conversione Yspanie et Gallecie editus a beato Turpino archiepiscopo after MS. C. 128 of the Vatican Library (Boston, 1934). Harvard's Hollis catalogue (no. 006606996) lists a collection of photostat reproductions of thirty-seven manuscripts used by Thoron.

5. Christopher Hohler, "A Note on Jacobus," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 35 (1972), 31-80; M.C. Díaz y Díaz, El Códice Calixtino de la Catedral de Santiago. Estudio codicológico y de contenido (Santiago de Compostela, 1988); Elizabeth A.R. Brown, "Saint-Denis and the Turpin Legend," in John Williams and Alison Stones, eds., The Codex Calixtinus and the Shrine of St. James (Tübingen, 1992), 51-88; The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela, Critical Edition, eds. Alison Stones and Jeanne Krochalis, with Paula Gerson and Annie Shaver-Crandell, 2 vols., (1998), vol. 1, p. 39, n. 19.

6. Díaz y Díaz, El Códice Calixtino, 148-153, 273.

7. André Moisan, "Aimeri Picaud de Parthenay et le Liber sancti Jacobi," Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes 143 (1985), 5-52.

8. Emma Falque Rey, Historia Compostellana (Corpus christianorum continuatio medievalis 70) (Turnhout, 1988), xviii.

9. Hohler, "Jacobus"; Stones and Krochalis, The Pilgrim's Guide, vol. 1, pp. 22-24.

10. Compostelle et l'Europe. L'histoire de Diego Gelmírez, ed. Manuel Castiñeiras (Santiago de Compostela, 2010); also published in Spanish, Galician, Italian, and English.

11. Herbers and Santos Noia, Liber sancti Jacobi (cit. n. 3), p. 201 (Jacobus, f. 164v, lines 10-11), heros quidam obtimam ac pulcherrimam...habens speciem; Castets, Historia Caroli Magni (cit. n. 4), p. 3, lines 8-9.

12. R.N. Walpole, An Anonymous Old French Translation of the Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle (Cambridge, MA., 1979), p. 40, lines 19-20; id., Le Turpin français, dit le Turpin I (Toronto, 1985), p. 4, line 15.

13. Id., The Old French Johannes Translation of the Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle. A Critical Edition (Berkeley, 1976), p. 131 (ch. II, lines 11-12).

14. Moralejo, Torres, Feo, Liber sancti Jacobi (cit. n. 3), p. 408.

15. Ibid., pp. 405, 492.

Copyright (c) 2016 M. Alison Stones

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