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After the four folio editions (intended mainly for the use of the clergy), the printers produced some smaller editions for more general sale. They have survived less well than the larger volumes, and while one octavo is known from a complete copy, neither of the quartos is complete and the other octavo is known only from a small fragment. As in Edward’s reign, the small-format editions were accompanied by a psalter, and the quarto psalters reveal a conflict of ‘copyrights’. The stationer William Seres, a former household servant of Sir William Cecil (Elizabeth’s Principal Secretary) had managed in July to acquire a patent that ostensibly gave him a monopoly of psalters, and the two surviving quarto copies were printed for him rather than the Queen’s Printers. That unintended conflict, however, was soon rectified, and by the time the extant octavo was printed the conflict had been resolved.
Although Hildegard of Bingen described herself multiple times in her writings as indocta (unlearned), medieval accounts and modern scholarship reveal discrepancies and conflicting information regarding this claim. What, then, was the extent of her education? Instead of answering this question directly by interrogating the intent, meaning, or reliability of her statements and those of her contemporaries, a broader picture of educational standards, resources, and contexts for the intellectual formation of women religious in medieval Germany is investigated. Invoking the full breadth of meaning of ‘women religious’ to include nuns, canonesses, consecrated widows, beguines, and anchorites unveils a wide-ranging scope of educational activity. Contemporary sources, including monastic and canonical rules, hagiographic literature of female vitae, and concrete evidence of libraries and scribal activity in female communities elucidate details of materials, learning conditions, pedagogy, and intellectual engagement and creativity. This chapter thus contextualizes the medieval German environment of female literacy and learning with which Hildegard would have been familiar.
This chapter moves forward to the 1370s, focusing on the massive commentaries on every book of the Bible by John Wyclif, the Oxford master and heretic. Wyclif’s interpretive theories have received substantial attention, but his commentaries (or postils) remain unedited and almost wholly undiscussed, and they are often misleadingly dismissed as early or derivative minor works. In addition to demonstrating Wyclif’s eclectic engagement with earlier exegetical traditions and his apparent interest in using the postils to explore and experiment with his own new interpretations and hermeneutic theories, careful study of the manuscripts of his postils reveals that Wyclif continued to read and revise these works until the very end of his career. Commentary was a crucial mode of writing for Wyclif, and the distinctive tensions in his approach to exegesis are revealed more clearly when his postils are read alongside another unedited and largely unstudied commentary by one of his contemporaries at Oxford, the Franciscan William Woodford. Both Woodford and Wyclif find ways to offer new interpretive material in the face of the seemingly exhaustive precedent of Nicholas of Lyre’s literal postils.
This chapter seeks to intervene in recent discussions of scholastic exegetical theory, arguing that general discussions of scholastic hermeneutics (of the sort found in the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas, for example) must be read against the widely varying and often inconsistent interpretive priorities and approaches that developed, over the course of centuries, in successive commentaries on individual biblical books. The very idea of a general biblical hermeneutic was relatively uncommon (or at least much more constrained) before the scholastic period, and such general scholastic theories only served to create yet more interpretive-theoretical variegation. The intersection – or, rather, the canny deployment – of such competing theoretical claims is exemplified through sustained readings of three commentaries on the Psalter by English exegetes of the 1310s and 1320s, Thomas Waleys, Nicholas Trevet, and Henry Cossey, all three of which remain unedited and, before now, almost entirely unstudied. Cossey in particular emerges as a shrewd critic of recent developments in interpretive theory.
Drawing extensively on unpublished manuscript sources, this study uncovers the culture of experimentation that surrounded biblical exegesis in fourteenth-century England. In an area ripe for revision, Andrew Kraebel challenges the accepted theory (inherited from Reformation writers) that medieval English Bible translations represent a proto-Protestant rejection of scholastic modes of interpretation. Instead, he argues that early translators were themselves part of a larger scholastic interpretive tradition, and that they tried to make that tradition available to a broader audience. Translation was thus one among many ways that English exegetes experimented with the possibilities of commentary. With a wide scope, the book focuses on works by writers from the heretic John Wyclif to the hermit Richard Rolle, alongside a host of lesser-known authors, including Henry Cossey and Nicholas Trevet, and many anonymous texts. The study provides new insight into the ingenuity of medieval interpreters willing to develop new literary-critical methods and embrace intellectual risks.
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