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From biographies of the leading warriors to the grumbling of a government official, here are thirty medieval texts that have been translated in 2016. Chronicles, law books, letter collections, religious and literary works were among those edited and translated this year, many for the first time.
1. The Chivalric Biography of Boucicaut, Jean II le Meingre
Translated by Craig Taylor, Jane H.M. Taylor (Boyell)
Jean le Meingre, Maréchal Boucicaut (1364-1421), was the very flower of chivalry. From his earliest years at the royal court in Paris, he distinguished himself in knightly pursuits: sorties against seditious French nobles, ceremonial jousts against the English enemy, crusading in Tunisia and Prussia, the composition of courtly verses, and the establishment of a chivalric order for the defence of ladies, the Order of the Enterprise of the White Lady of the Green Shield. He was named Marshal of France at the age of only 27. His chivalric biography, finished in 1409, is one of the most important accounts of the life of a knight from the Middle Ages. Whilst full of praise, it is also highly partisan and carefully selective; it glosses over the darker, much less successful, side of his career – in particular his participation in the catastrophic Nicopolis crusade (1396) and his governorship of Genoa, which came to an end shortly after the completion of the biography, when a rebellion forced him to leave the city, five years before his capture at the battle of Agincourt in 1415 and death in England in 1421.
2. Faroe-Islander saga : a new English translation
Translated by Robert K. Painter (McFarland)
This new English translation of the Faroe-Islander Saga (Faereyinga saga)—a great medieval Icelandic saga—tells the story of the first settlers on these wind-swept islands at the edge of the Scandinavian world. Written by an anonymous 13th-century Icelander, the saga centers on the enduring animosity between Sigmundur Brestirsson and Thrandur of Göta, rival chieftains whose bitter disagreements on the introduction of Christianity to the Faroe Islands set the stage for much violence and a feud which then unfolds over generations of their descendants.
3. The Codex of Justinian : a new annotated translation, with parallel Latin and Greek text
Translated by Fred H. Blume (Cambridge University Press)
The Codex of Justinian is, together with the Digest, the core of the great Byzantine compilation of Roman law called the Corpus Iuris Civilis. The Codex compiles legal proclamations issued by Roman emperors from the second to the sixth centuries CE. Its influence on subsequent legal development in the medieval and early modern world has been almost incalculable. But the Codex has not, until now, been credibly translated into English. This translation, with a facing Latin and Greek text (from Paul Krüger’s ninth edition of the Codex), is based on one made by Justice Fred H. Blume in the 1920s, but left unpublished for almost a century. It is accompanied by introductions explaining the background of the translation, a bibliography and glossary, and notes that help in understanding the text. Anyone with an interest in the Codex, whether an interested novice or a professional historian, will find ample assistance here.
4. The final book of Giovanni Villani’s New chronicle
Translated by Rala Diakite and Matthew Sneider (Medieval Institute Publications)
Giovanni Villani’s New Chronicle traces the history of Florence, Italy, and Europe over a vast sweep of time-from the destruction of the Tower of Babel to the outbreak of the Black Death. This final book, which covers one of the most dramatic periods of the early 14th century, is a narrative of transformation, of crisis, in which the author, like many of his contemporaries in the mid-14th century, perceives the punishing hand of God. At the same time, this book, composed by Villani as events were unfolding, reveals-in its attention to detail, in its attempted impartiality, in its desire to make sense of events rather than simply document them-the glimmers of a new historical sensibility.
5. The divorce of King Lothar and Queen Theutberga: Hincmar of Rheims’s De divortio
Translated by Rachel Stone and Charles West (Manchester University Press)
In the mid-ninth century, Francia was rocked by the first royal divorce scandal of the Middle Ages: the attempt by King Lothar II of Lotharingia to rid himself of his queen, Theutberga and remarry. Even ‘women in their weaving sheds’ were allegedly gossiping about the lurid accusations made. Kings and bishops from neighbouring kingdoms, and several popes, were gradually drawn into a crisis affecting the fate of an entire kingdom. This is the first professionally published translation of a key source for this extraordinary episode: Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims’s De divortio Lotharii regis et Theutbergae reginae. This text offers eye-opening insight both on the political wrangling of the time and on early medieval attitudes towards magic, penance, gender, the ordeal, marriage, sodomy, the role of bishops, and kingship.The translation includes a substantial introduction and annotations, putting the case into its early medieval context and explaining Hincmar’s sometimes-dubious methods of argument.
6. Two medieval Occitan toll registers from Tarascon
Translated by William Paden (University of Toronto)
Two Medieval Toll Registers from Tarascon presents an edition, translation, and discussion of two vernacular toll registers from fourteenth and fifteenth-century Provence. These two registers are a valuable new source for the economic, linguistic, and transportation history of medieval France, offering a window onto the commercial life of Tarascon, a fortified town on the east bank of the Rhône between Avignon and Arles.
7. The Danish medieval laws : the laws of Scania, Zealand and Jutland
Translated by Ditlev Tamm and Helle Vogt (Routledge)
The Danish medieval laws: the laws of Scania, Zealand and Jutland contains translations of the four most important medieval Danish laws written in the vernacular. The main texts are those of the Law of Scania, the two laws of Zealand – Valdemar’s and Erik’s – and the Law of Jutland, all of which date from the early thirteenth century. The Church Law of Scania and three short royal ordinances are also included. These provincial laws were first written down in the first half of the thirteenth century and were in force until 1683, when they were replaced by a national law. The laws, preserved in over 100 separate manuscripts, are the first extended texts in Danish and represent a first attempt to create a Danish legal language.
8. Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi: Letters to Her Sons (1447-1470)
Translated by Judith Bryce (ACMRS)
The seventy-three surviving letters written by Florentine widow, Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi (c.1406–1471), to her distant sons first appeared in print well over a century ago, but are here translated into English in their entirety for the first time. Whether for the professional historian or for the general reader interested in Renaissance Florence, they constitute a most precious testimony regarding both private and public life in the mid-fifteenth century, with themes ranging from familial relations, motherhood, marriage, and aspects of material culture to the harsh realities of political exile meted out by the Medici to their perceived opponents, these latter including her husband and, subsequently, her sons.
9. Holy Men of Mount Athos
Translated by Richard P. H. Greenfield and Alice-Mary Talbot (Harvard University Press)
Often simply called the Holy Mountain, Mount Athos was the most famous center of Byzantine monasticism and remains the spiritual heart of the Orthodox Church today. This volume presents the Lives of Euthymios the Younger, Athanasios of Athos, Maximos the Hutburner, Niphon of Athos, and Philotheos. These five holy men lived on Mount Athos at different times from its early years as a monastic locale in the ninth century to the last decades of the Byzantine period in the early fifteenth century. All five were celebrated for asceticism, clairvoyance, and, in most cases, the ability to perform miracles; Euthymios and Athanasios were also famed as founders of monasteries.
10. The History of William Marshal
Translated by Nigel Bryant (Boydell)
The History of William Marshal is the earliest surviving biography of a medieval knight – indeed it is the first biography of a layman in the vernacular in European history. Composed in verse in the 1220s just a few years after his death, it is a major primary source not simply for its subject’s life but for the exceptionally stormy period he had had to navigate. It could hardly be other than major, given that its subject was regarded as the greatest knight who ever lived and that he rose in the course of his long life to be a central figure in the reigns of no fewer than four kings: Henry II, Richard Lionheart, John and Henry III.
11. Gratian’s Tractatus de penitentia : a new Latin edition with English translation
Translated by Atria A. Larson (Catholic University of America Press)
Gratian’s Decretum is one of the major works in European history, a text that in many ways launched the field of canon law. In this new volume, Atria Larson presents to students and scholars alike a critical edition of De penitentia (Decretum C.33 q.3), the foundational text on penance, both for canon law and for theology, of the twelfth century. This edition takes into account recent manuscript discoveries and research into the various recensions of Gratian’s text and proposes a model for how a future critical edition of the entire Decretum could be formatted by offering a facing-page English translation.
12. The ultimate ambition in the arts of erudition : a compendium of knowledge from the classical Islamic world
Translated by Elias Muhanna (Penguin)
An astonishing record of the knowledge of a civilization, The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Eruditioncatalogs everything known to exist from the perspective of a fourteenth-century Egyptian scholar and litterateur. More than 9,000 pages and thirty volumes—here abridged to one volume, and translated into English for the first time—it contains entries on everything from medieval moon-worshipping cults, sexual aphrodisiacs, and the substance of clouds, to how to get the smell of alcohol off one’s breath, the deliciousness of cheese made from buffalo milk, and the nesting habits of flamingos.
13. Francesco Petrarca: My Secret Book
Translated by Nicholas Mann (Harvard University Press)
Francesco Petrarca (1304–1374), one of the greatest of Italian poets, was also the leading spirit in the Renaissance movement to revive literary Latin, the language of the Roman Empire, and Greco-Roman culture in general. My Secret Book (Secretum) records “the private conflict of my thoughts,” in the form of a dialogue between Franciscus and Augustinus in the presence of a beautiful woman, Truth personified. The discussion reveals remarkable self-awareness as Petrarca probes and evaluates the springs of his own morally dubious addictions to Fame and Love.
14. A Chinese traveler in medieval Korea : Xu Jing’s illustrated account of the Xuanhe embassy to Koryo
Translated by Sam Vermeersch (University of Hawai’i Press)
Song envoy Xu Jing wrote an official report of his 1123 visit to Korea — a rare eyewitness account of Koryŏ (918–1392) society in its prime. Officially, the purpose of Xu Jing’s visit was to console the new king, Injong, on the death of his father and present him with a letter of investiture; unofficially, he was tasked with persuading Injong to align with Song China against the newly emergent Jin dynasty. Although famous for its celadon and Buddhist paintings, the Koryŏ period is still very much terra incognita in world history because of the lack of translated source materials. The present work, the first fully annotated, complete translation of a key source text on Koryŏ, fills this gap.
15. The sword of ambition : bureaucratic rivalry in medieval Egypt
Translated by Luke Yarbrough (NYU Press)
The Sword of Ambition belongs to a genre of religious polemic written for the rulers of Egypt and Syria between the twelfth and the fourteenth centuries. Unlike most medieval Muslim polemic, the concerns of this genre were more social and political than theological. Leaving no rhetorical stone unturned, the book’s author, an unemployed Egyptian scholar and former bureaucrat named Uthman ibn Ibrahim al-Nabulusi (d. 660/1262), poured his deep knowledge of history, law, and literature into the work. Now edited in full and translated for the first time, The Sword of Ambition opens a new window onto the fascinating culture of elite rivalry in the late-medieval Islamic Middle East. It contains a wealth of little-known historical anecdotes, unusual religious opinions, obscure and witty poetry, and humorous cultural satire. Above all, it reveals that much of the inter-communal animosity of the era was conditioned by fierce competition for scarce resources that were increasingly mediated by an ideologically committed Sunni Muslim state. This insight reminds us that seemingly timeless and inevitable “religious” conflict must be considered in its broader historical perspective.
16. Angelinetum and other poems
Translated by Mary P. Chatfield (Harvard University Press)
Giovanni Marrasio (d. 1452), a humanist poet from Noto in Sicily, spent the major part of his poetic career in Siena and Ferrara before returning to Palermo in the role of a medical doctor serving the University of Palermo. In Siena, Naples, and Palermo he hovered on the edge of the courts of the Este and of Alfonso “the Magnanimous” of Aragon without ever winning the title of court poet he coveted. Marrasio was esteemed in the Renaissance as the first to revive the ancient Latin elegy, and his Angelinetum, or “Angelina’s Garden,” as well as his later poems (Carmina Varia) explore that genre in all its variety, from love poetry, to a description of a court masque, to political panegyric, to poetic exchanges with famous humanists of the day such as Leonardo Bruni, Maffeo Vegio, Antonio Panormita, and Enea Silvio Piccolomini.
17. The complete literary works of Lorenzo de’ Medici, “the magnificent”
Translated by Guido A. Guarino (Italica Press)
Lorenzo de’ Medici (1449–1492), known as Lorenzo the Magnificent, was the scion of the powerful and wealthy Medici family. A diplomat, politician, patron and friend of artists and humanists, he was also ruler of Florence from December 2, 1469 until his death. Although he died at the age of forty-three and ruled for only twenty-three years, he was well recognized for his importance to the Florentine High Renaissance, and his death coincided with the end of its golden age and with the onset of renewed strife among the Italian city-states. Lorenzo was also an author and particularly a poet. He wrote in a variety of forms, from sonnets to short stories and from eclogues to ballads. His material included love poems, comic works and devotional and philosophical discourses. His reputation as a writer has been the subject of substantial critical work, especially from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
18. Bernard of Clairvaux: Sermons for the autumn season
Translated by Irene Edmonds (Cistercian Publishing)
The thirty-eight sermons in this volume carry forth this theme, revealing the holiness of the monastic life as monks alternate through the rhythm of the day and the year between the opus Dei and manual labor, journeying faithfully through life to death and the transitus to glory. The twelfth-century Ecclesiastica Officia of the Cistercian Order required abbots to speak formally to their communities in chapter on seventeen fixed days, mostly liturgical feasts. This volume witnesses to Bernard’s fulfillment of this requirement and includes sermons for the Assumption and Nativity of the Virgin and the Feast of All Saints, sermons devoted to the feasts of particular saints celebrated during the autumn months, sermons for the time of harvest, and funeral sermons that look forward to the eternal joy in the communion of saints.
19. The light of the world : astronomy in al-Andalus
Translated by Robert G. Morrison (University of California Press)
This book contains an edition—with an extensive introduction, translation and commentary—of The Light of the World, a text on theoretical astronomy by Joseph Ibn Nahmias, composed in Judeo-Arabic around 1400 C.E. in the Iberian Peninsula. As the only text on theoretical astronomy written by a Jew in any variety of Arabic, this work is evidence for a continuing relationship between Jewish and Islamic thought in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The text’s most lasting effect may have been exerted via its passage to Renaissance Italy, where it influenced scholars at the University of Padua in the early sixteenth century. With its crucial role in the development of European astronomy, as well as the physical sciences under Islam and in Jewish culture, The Light of the World is an important episode in Islamic intellectual history, Jewish civilization, and the history of astronomy.
20. The Old English history of the world : an Anglo-Saxon rewriting of Orosius
Translated by Malcolm R. Godden (Harvard University Press)
The Old English History of the World is a translation and adaptation of the Latin history known as the Seven Books of History against the Pagans, written by the Spanish cleric Paulus Orosius at the prompting of Saint Augustine after the sack of Rome in 410. To counter the pagan and republican narratives of Livy and other classical historians, Orosius created an account of the ancient world from a Christian and imperial viewpoint. His work was immensely popular throughout Europe in succeeding centuries, down to the end of the Middle Ages. Around the year 900, an Old English version was produced by an anonymous writer, possibly encouraged or inspired by King Alfred. The translator actively transformed Orosius’s narrative: cutting extraneous detail, adding explanations and dramatic speeches, and supplying a long section on the geography of the Germanic world. This volume offers a new edition and modern translation of an Anglo-Saxon perspective on the ancient world.
21. The Book of Horsemanship by Duarte I of Portugal
Translated by Jeffrey L. Forgeng (Boydell)
Written around 1430, Duarte of Portugal’s remarkable treatise on chivalric horsemanship, the Livro do Cavalgar (Book on Riding), is the sole substantial contemporary source to survive on the definitive physical skill of the medieval knight. It also stands out from the body of technical writings of the Middle Ages for its intelligence, insight, and intellectual versatility, ranging from psychological reflections on horsemanship and its implications for human ethics, to the details of how to couch a lance under the arm without getting it caught on armour. Under the general rubric of horsemanship Duarte covers a range of topics that include jousting, tourneying, and hunting, as well as the physical apparatus of equestrianism and various cultural styles of riding.
22. The Life of the Patriarch Tarasios by Ignatios Deacon (BHG1698)
Translated by Stephanos Efthymiadis (Routledge)
The patriarch Tarasios holds a key position in the ending of the first period of Iconoclasm in Byzantium, with the seventh Oecumenical Council at Nicaea in 787. His Life forms an equally key source for the history and culture of the Byzantine world in the eighth and ninth centuries. This book provides a full introduction, a critical edition with English translation, and a detailed commentary and indexes for this important document. The introduction first places the text within the framework of other patriarchal biographies composed in the period c.850-950. Dr Efthymiadis then looks at Tarasios himself, as layman, patriarch, and saint, and provides a biographical sketch of the author of the Life, Ignatios the Deacon, together with a discussion of the date and reasons for the work’s composition. In addition, this new text and translation makes more accessible a highly sophisticated example of Byzantine prose.
23. On the nature of love : Ficino on Plato’s symposium
Translated by Arthur Farndell (Shepheard-Walwyn)
On the Nature of Love is a translation of Marsilio Ficino’s commentary to Plato’s Symposium. This edition makes Ficino’s Tuscan version available to English readers for the first time. On November 7, 1468, nine men gathered at Careggi, outside Florence, to honour Plato’s birthday. After the meal, the Symposium was read, and the guests – now reduced to seven – spoke on the nature of love. Ficino, who was also present, recorded what was said, and his report constitutes the text of his commentary. His work was eagerly taken up by court circles throughout Europe and became part of their standard fare for the next two centuries. In more recent times, Ficino’s commentary has exercised the minds of theologians, philosophers, and psychologists.
24. Gesta Romanorum : a new translation
Translated by Christopher Stace (Manchester University Press)
The Gesta Romanorum are tales drawn from a wide variety of sources, such as classical mythology, legend and historical chronicles, and are accompanied in almost every case by allegorical Christian interpretations. They were enormously popular throughout the Middle Ages, and had a huge influence on many other authors, such as Boccaccio, Chaucer, Gower, Hoccleve, Shakespeare, Bernard Shaw and Thomas Mann. The Gesta is therefore a foundational work of western European literature – as well as one whose lively, well-crafted and often entertaining narratives hold a continuing appeal for contemporary readers.
25. Harima fudoki : a record of ancient Japan reinterpreted
Translated by Edwina Palmer (Brill)
Harima Fudoki, dated to 714CE, is one of Japan’s earliest extant written records. It is a rich account of the people, places, natural resources and stories in the Harima region of western Japan. Produced by the government as a tool for Japan’s early state formation, Harima Fudoki includes important myths of places and gods from a different perspective to the contemporaneous ‘national’ chronicles. This document is an essential primary source for all who are interested in ancient Japan.
26. John Benet’s chronicle, 1399-1462 : an English translation with new introduction
Translated by Alison Hanham (Palgrave Macmillan)
John Benet’s Chronicle, 1399-1462 is the first English translation of a fifteenth-century Latin chronicle which has been much used by medievalists since it was published in 1972. Lively and entertaining, it richly deserves the much wider readership that translation can now attract. The introduction argues that John Benet, vicar of Harlington, was only the — rather inefficient — copyist of a chronicle composed by an unidentified writer. Internal clues suggest that the real author was a Londoner who was exceptionally well-informed about events and people in the period of the Wars of the Roses.
27. A corresponding Renaissance : letters written by Italian women, 1375-1650
Translated by Lisa Kaborycha (Oxford University Press)
Women’s vibrant presence in the Italian Renaissance has long been overlooked, with attention focused mainly on the artistic and intellectual achievements of their male counterparts. During this period, however, Italian women excelled especially as writers, and nowhere were they more expressive than in their letters. In A Corresponding Renaissance: Letters Written by Italian Women, 1375-1650 Lisa Kaborycha considers the lives and cultural contributions revealed by these women in their own words, through their correspondence. By turns highly personal, didactic, or devotional, these letters expose the daily realities of women’s lives and their feelings, ideas, and reactions to the complex world in which they lived. Through their letters women emerge not merely as bystanders, but as true cultural protagonists in the Italian Renaissance.
28. Bar Hebraeus: The ecclesiastical chronicle : an English translation
Translated by David Wilmshurst (Gorgias Press)
The Ecclesiastical History of Bar Hebraeus is an important source for the history of the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Church of the East. It deserves to be widely read, but has never before been fully translated into English. David Wilmshurst, a noted historian of the Church of the East, has now provided a graceful and accurate English translation of the Ecclesiastical History, with the aim of winning this important text the readership it deserves. Wilmshurst’s elegant translation is complemented by a well-informed and helpful introduction, several pages of maps and a comprehensive index of places and persons.
29. Old English psalms
Translated by Patrick P. O’Neill (Harvard University Press)
The Latin psalms figured prominently in the lives of the Anglo-Saxons, whether sung in the Divine Office by clerics, studied as a textbook for language learning by students, or recited in private devotion by lay people. They were also translated into Old English, first in prose and later in verse. Sometime in the middle of the eleventh century, the prose and verse translations were brought together and organized in a complementary sequence in a manuscript now known as the Paris Psalter. The prose version, traditionally attributed to King Alfred (d. 899), combines literal translation with interpretative clarification. In contrast, the anonymous Old English verse translation composed during the tenth century approaches the psalms in a spirit of prayer and devotion. Despite their differences, both reflect earnest attempts to capture the literal meaning of the psalms.
30. A Byzantine monastic office, 1105 A.D. : Houghton Library, MS gr. 3
Translated by Jeffrey C. Anderson and Stefano Parenti (Catholic University of America Press)
This book centers on a Greek text that was likely compiled in Constantinople, in 1105, for use in one of the monasteries located there. The book is a liturgical psalter, containing the fixed structure (the ordinary) in both the Greek original and in English translation, as well as a description of the hours themselves. The extensive commentary explains the development of the monastic office, and the particular history of the translated manuscript, while brief notes clarify and explain, in a way suitable for non-liturgists, the more-technical aspects of the offices. Based on a single dated manuscript, the book presents the first, full example of the daily structure of monastic hours as they were celebrated at a time when services had reached a degree of maturity. The book, by presenting the ordinary of the offices, compliments recent work on the propers of the office, and thus helps to complete our picture of the medieval monastic office in Byzantium.