The Medieval Review 16.02.16

Andrée, Alexander, ed. Historia calamitatum: Consolation to a Friend. Toronto Medieval Latin Texts, 32. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2015. pp. viii, 108. $17.95 (hardback). ISBN: 978-0-88844-482-0 (paperback).

Reviewed by:

Joseph McAlhany
Carthage College

The Toronto Medieval Latin Series, which at over fifty years and thirty volumes merits the label venerable, has been a welcome source of inexpensive editions, usually of important but previously unedited texts. While Abelard's Historia calamitatum has received its fair share of recent editorial attention--most notably as part of Luscombe's recent text, translation, and commentary of the collected letters of Abelard and Heloise [1]--, students and scholars of medieval Latin have reason to celebrate the publication of this popular text in such an affordable and useful edition.

Following the standard format of the series, Andrée provides a text based upon a single manuscript, accompanied by minimal notes aimed at university-level readers: grammatical assistance along with the occasional trot, brief biographical and historical notices, and occasional explanations of literary allusions or philosophical arguments, all enough to bring clarity to Abelard's text without distraction. Introductory material covers with admirable concision the history of the Historia and its melding of classical and medieval morphology and syntax, including a brief glance at prose rhythm; more attention is devoted to the manuscripts and previous editions, including an explanation of Andrée's own editorial practice. A well-selected bibliography and list of sigla and abbreviations conclude the introduction, while useful appendices fill out the book's final pages: a table of readings adopted by Andrée that differ from the editions of Luscombe, Monfrin (4th ed., 1978), Muckle (1950), and d'Amboise (1616, reprinted in PL 178); separate indices for both biblical and non-biblical quotations and allusions; and an index of persons and places mentioned in the introduction as well as in Abelard's text. For ease of reference, the Latin text is supplied with line numbers as well as Andrée's own chapter divisions (slightly different from Luscombe's), in addition to folio indicators in the margin. All of this paratextual matter extends the utility of the edition beyond the classroom, and makes for a handy scholarly reference, nicely produced with only a handful of insignificant typos. [2]

The single manuscript followed for the Latin text, Troyes, Médiathèque de Grand Troyes, MS 802 (T), has recently been redated by a century, as the blurb on the back-cover emphasizes (in his brief and sober history of the text, Andrée himself does not trumpet this fact). Regardless of the redating, T is the clear choice for an edition, given its overall quality. As is practice with the series, the orthography of the manuscript is maintained, even when inconsistent, though punctuation has been added to a reasonable degree. Andrée engages in a modicum of textual editing, most often in the service of restoring sense to T, and he indicates when readings are found above erasures, in the margin, or in the hand of a corrector. Anyone who wishes to introduce students to the basics of textual criticism will discover in the spare critical notes pedagogical gems, as they illustrate the principles underlying editorial choice and the paleographical foibles behind our printed texts without the overwhelming barrage of a full apparatus criticus. Andrée also reproduces some interesting marginalia that offer a glimpse into the lives behind the text's production. For example, following a quotation at line 1423 of John 15:18 (scitote quoniam me priorem vobis odio habuit), he notes that a more recent hand has added in the margin vobis odium habui, and one wonders whether it reflects a scribe's doubt about a point of grammar or a silent emotional outburst. Andrée's edition supplies numerous opportunities for wide-ranging lessons from Abelard's life and Latinity to the production of the text itself. [3]

The notes on the Latin occasionally raise an eyebrow or two, which is perhaps expected given the varieties of grammatical descriptions and classifications available. For Andrée, the vast majority of datives are indirect objects, subjunctives almost always oblique, and quod invariably explicative, though others will prefer finer-grained distinctions that students might find more illuminating. As well, the recurring phrase "looks forward to" describes a variety of grammatical relationships, and while in only one case wrongly, [4] the vagueness of the phrase might create some confusion. Likewise, other phrases loosely applied tend toward oversimplification: for example, the so-called "triple apposition" at lines 251-252 obscures the different status of humilitatum from the other two accusatives. Nonetheless, in only a few cases has Andrée gone astray, such as the misguided explanation of the common construction quid impedit quod at lines 1033-1034, and nothing in these notes is in the strictest sense grammatically impossible. His choice of exemplary tricola may leave more rhetorically-minded readers somewhat disappointed, especially since he passes over examples such as Heloise's at lines 485-487, but more importantly, everything of possible interest in the text receives comment at some point, evidence that the notes have grown out of experience in the classroom.

Any commentary with a pedagogical focus will generate quibbles in choice and presentation, yet readers of every kind, from struggling Latin students to Abelard scholars, will discover something of value here. All who approach this edition in the spirit in which it was created will be grateful for its inclusion in the Toronto Medieval Latin Series, and Andrée and PIMS are to be applauded for producing this exceptionally useful and affordable resource.



1. David Luscombe, ed., Betty Radice, trans., and David Luscombe, trans. rev. The Letter Collection of Abelard and Heloise (Oxford Medieval Texts. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2013).

2. Only the second fuerat in the note to line 525 might cause some confusion.

3. In two instances Andrée adopts what he describes as conjectures of Orlandi (the addition of eum at line 70, and at line 441 philosophorum for -os), though both of these readings are present in the manuscript tradition and were defended by Orlandi, not conjectured. See Giovanni Orlandi, "Minima abelardiana: Note sul testo dell Historia calamitatum," Res Publica Litterarum 3 (1980): 131-138.

4. At line 509, ei does not "look forward to" prophetiae, but is a personal pronoun; prophetiae is dependent upon spiritus, which is a common phrase.

Copyright (c) 2016 Joseph McAlhany

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