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Literature Compass 3/3 (2006): 331340, 10.1111/j.1741-4113.2006.00342.

Middle English Translations of Medieval Encyclopedias


Michael W. Twomey*
Ithaca College

Abstract

A medieval encyclopedia was an educational text describing the natural and human worlds that was used primarily within an institutional setting such as a monastery, cathedral school, or university. A few encyclopedias were also sources for exempla used in medieval sermons both in Latin and in the vernacular languages. Only two such encyclopedias were translated into English: Bartholomaeus Anglicuss De proprietatibus rerum was translated by John Trevisa in 1398/9, and a French version of Honorius Augustodunensiss Imago mundi made by Gossouin of Metz in 124550 was translated by William Caxton as Mirrour of the World (printed 1480/1481 and 1490). These are both popular translations that render their originals rather literally than freely. Trevisas technique preserves the Latin terminology of the original, which suggests that his translation is meant to speed up searching for the English reader while it preserves the key terms of Bartholomaeuss Latin. Caxtons technique is to anglicize the original thoroughly, down to place-names and local color, while he also expands his original somewhat via his stylistic preference for restatement in doublets and triplets.

Introduction Any discussion of medieval encyclopedias must begin by defining terms, because encyclopedia is not a medieval word. It is a fifteenth-century humanist coinage from the Greek words enkuklios paedeia (in Latin orbis doctrinae the circle of learning) that describes an educational program for acquainting a student with all bodies of knowledge. Its earliest OED attestation is in Thomas Elyots The Governor (1531).1 Encyclopedia has been applied to medieval books by projecting the modern sense of the term back. Modern scholars often use the term to designate any ambitious, encyclopedic work; hence encyclopedia has been applied to literary texts such as Dantes Commedia as well as to mappae mundi (maps of the world) such as the famous Hereford Cathedral map.2 In this essay encyclopedia refers to a searchable text describing the natural and human worlds that was written for educational and reference purposes and used chiefly in an institutional setting such as a monastery, cathedral school, or university.3 Examples would be Isidore of Seville,
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Etymologiae (636); Rabanus Maurus, De rerum naturis (842 852); Honorius Augustodunensis, Imago mundi (c.111039);Alexander Neckham, De naturis rerum (c.1200); Bartholomaeus Anglicus, De proprietatibus rerum (c.1240); Thomas of Cantimpr, Liber de natura rerum (c.1240); and Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum maius (c.125060). Encyclopedias tend to indicate their educational purpose in prefaces, and they are made searchable both by topical organization schemes and by tables and indices. Sometimes these tables and indices are part of the manuscripts overall plan, and sometimes they are custom-made by readers. Some encyclopedias were sources for exempla used in medieval sermons given both in Latin and in the vernacular languages.4 From a modern perspective, medieval encyclopedias seem conservative, even old-fashioned, for they tend to depend on ancient authorities and even on earlier encyclopedias for example, Plinys Historia naturalis (dating from 77) and Isidore of Sevilles Etymologiae. However, by preserving cultural memory in a textual form that permits authors from various historical periods and geographical areas to speak as it were simultaneously, a medieval encyclopedia functions as a library between two covers. Only two such encyclopedias were translated into English. Bartholomaeus Anglicuss De proprietatibus rerum (on the properties of things) was translated by John Trevisa (who lived c.1342 1402) in 1398/9. It survives in eight manuscripts and in one printed edition (by Wynkyn de Worde, 1495, STC 1536) from before 1500.5 A French version of Honorius Augustodunensiss Imago mundi made by Gossouin of Metz in 1245 50 was translated by William Caxton (who lived ca. 1422-ca. 1492) as Mirrour of the World (1480/1481 and 1490, STC 24762).6 It is notable as the first printed book in England to have a program of illustrations.7 If Latin served as the international language of scholarship, what was the need for encyclopedias in English? Translations mark a languages political and cultural arrival to power. Translations (but not of encyclopedias) into Anglo-Saxon English began to appear in the reign of King Alfred (871 899). After the Norman Conquest there were relatively few English translations from Latin and French until the reign of Richard II (137799), when the number increased steeply. But while it became desirable to have English versions of Latin and French texts, the original versions continued for a time to be read. After Trevisa made his English version of Bartholomaeuss De proprietatibus rerum, five Latin manuscripts and sets of extracts that we know of were copied in England, compared with the eight of Trevisas English text. Nevertheless, we have good evidence from wills and booklists that many more Latin (and French) manuscripts continued in use.8 Scholars who study late-medieval translation into the vernacular tend to classify translations as either academic or popular. Academic translation was practiced in the arts curriculum as part of the study of rhetoric. It involved the practice of inventio (discovery of material), which constituted a form of interpretation or commentary that could both represent and displace the original. True to its etymology, the very word translation in this context
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implies change.9 Popular translation, on the other hand, stayed as close as possible to the source text, striving for literalness, or what we might call accuracy. The Middle English translations of encyclopedias in this essay can be considered popular translations, because they compare closely with their originals. Trevisa as Translator of Bartholomaeus The scholarly consensus is that Trevisa was a competent translator of Latin, and that even if he willingly sacrificed accuracy for intelligibility in his earlier translation of Higdens Polichronicon, in the De proprietatibus rerum he strove for accuracy.10 However, this consensus depends on the text represented in the Oxford edition, the methodology of which has been challenged recently. Two problems have been cited. First, the editors consulted only two Latin witnesses: a manuscript (Bodleian 749) copied in England and a printed text (Strasbourg 1485) that reflects the Continental rather than British textual tradition of Bartholomaeuss text. Second, the Trevisa manuscript chosen as the base Middle English text, MS A (BL Addit. 27944), turns out under scrutiny to be much further away from Trevisas presumed holograph text than two other Trevisa manuscripts, MSS D and E (BL Harley 4789 and Bodleian e Musaeo 16). Indeed, the stemma itself (1:xiv; explained in 3:26 35) shows that the base manuscript used in the edition is one of the two furthest from Trevisas original, whereas MSS D and E are closest. It is thus possible that, on the one hand, conjectural emendations based on the Latin text lack sufficient authority because they do not depend on a text close to the one Trevisa is likely to have used, while, on the other hand, the Middle English text itself is at times doubtful because its basis is the wrong manuscript.11 Despite these caveats, Trevisas aims as a translator of De proprietatibus rerum are clearly enough discernible in the Oxford edition. The intellectual world that Trevisa presents is that of Bartholomaeus at the University of Paris in the early thirteenth century. He stays so close to Bartholomaeuss text that in effect he uses contemporary Middle English to represent a body of learning and a learned language that were 200 years (and more) removed from his own. In the manuscripts, the title of the work as a whole, the titles of individual books and chapters, the title of the proemium that Trevisa composed in English verse, and citational formulas (ut dicit Isidorus, Luce 12, etc.) are all in Latin. Most important, throughout the text, Trevisa left Bartholomaeuss Latin vocabulary in Latin, untranslated into English. One instance will have to suffice here. Book I (De deo), chapters 3 15, is about how earthbound human language can signify a transcendent deity. In the following extract from chapter 8, De nominbus concretis (concerning concrete nouns), Bartholomaeuss original and a Modern English translation of the Latin follow Trevisas Middle English:12
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Nownes at betokeneth in e manere of nownes concret at tokene formes in suppositi[o] oir in subiectio be concret, as deus, creator, and oir swiche, and tokene generalliche e essenciam of God. But ey beth som tyme itake for thessencia and somtyme for a persone. Nomina concreta sunt que ad modum concretorum significantium formas in suppositio significant quasi formam in subiecto, ut deus creator, et similia, que generaliter significant divinam essentiam, sed quandoque supponunt pro essentia, quandoque pro persona. Concrete nouns are those which, following the manner of concrete signifiers, signify forms in supposition as a form in subjection, such as God the creator and the like, which generally signify the divine essence but which sometimes substitute for the essence and sometimes for the person.

Trevisa renders Bartholomaeuss word order and vocabulary when he renders ut deus creator, et similia with as deus, creator, and oir swiche. But he restructures Bartholomaeuss syntax so as to change Bartholomaeuss hypotaxis (use of subordinate clauses) into parataxis (use of coordinate clauses) when he renders que generaliter significant divinam essentiam with and tokene generalliche e essenciam of God. What is perhaps most striking is that Trevisa does not translate all of Bartholomaeuss technical terminology, but leaves many words in Latin, which suggests that he expected a Latinate reader. Nevertheless, when he does translate a term, his is sometimes the first known use in English here, for example, noun and concrete.13 On the other hand, he sometimes uses the Latin forms of English words. For example, persone, which was already in English as early as the thirteenth century,14 occurs in chapter 3 as Latin persona: al ing at is seyd of God, it is essensia oir nocio oir persona (45, ll. 25 6). The reader is expected to read in English and Latin simultaneously, so much so that Trevisa elides the article the with the Latin essentia:thessencia. In this example,Trevisas retention of Latin terminology seems to reflect an understanding that the grammatical concept under discussion could not be illustrated except in Latin. The terminology itself has meaning only in the context of the larger discussion of essence, notion, and person in relation to God, introduced by Bartholomaeus in chapter 3. These terms are from Trinitarian theology going back to Augustine and Boethius that were codified by Peter Lombard in the Sentences (c.1150). The futility of making sense of these terms simply by anglicizing them is apparent from the Modern English translation accompanying the Latin original. In short, when confronted by Latin terminology, Trevisa favored accuracy over anglicization and, it seems, even over intelligibility. This privileging of Latin terminology suggests that Trevisas target audience were educated, Latinate readers who read Trevisas De proprietatibus rerum for information. Non-Latinate readers were included in this audience so long as they had a talent for conning Latin terms. By affording his reader the ease of reading in English combined with the benefit of Bartholomaeuss original Latin terminology,Trevisa faithfully realized the purpose of a medieval encyclopedia as a reference work that was skimmed rather than read cover-to-cover.
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Caxton as Translator of Gossouins Image du monde Caxton was not an author, and he frequently apologized for his translations, as in the Preface to Mirrour where he says he is ryght vnable and of lytil connyng to translate and brynge it in to our maternal tongue (7). Although many modern readers would agree with this modest assessment of his talents, Caxtons modesty is conventional. Caxton at least stayed close to his originals, and scholars agree that his translations are fairly typical when compared to those of his contemporaries.15 He worked under duress of time, in order to keep his presses from falling idle and his printers from finding work elsewhere. As a businessman, he appealed to his English customers by anglicizing certain details in his originals. In the Mirrour, where the French refers to the University of Paris, Caxton substituted Oxford or Cambridge; similarly the King of France became the King of England, and Bath was added as a spa town. He suppressed the originals reference to Englishmen having tails an old ethnic slur popular in France.16 Caxtons base text was London, BL MS Royal 19.A.ix, a manuscript made in Bruges in 1464 which perhaps Caxton himself owned.17 Knowing the base text makes it possible to compare Caxton to Gossouin with confidence. Thus we know where Caxton has inserted his own prose. For example, he updated the Images account of St. Patricks Purgatory (now Station Island, Ireland) with his own second-hand report from authoritative ecclesiastical and aristocratic eyewitnesses who scoffed at traditional beliefs about its being a gateway to eternity. There is no perceptible stylistic difference between Caxtons own prose and his translation of Gossouin, but Caxton signaled the insertion by switching to the first person:
. . . And when [a man] is retorned agayn fro this purgatorye, neuer shal no thyng in this world plese hym that he shal see, ner he shal neuer be Joyous ne glad, ne shal not be seen lawhe, but shal be continuelly in wayllynges and wepinges for the synnes that he hath commysed. Hit may wel be that of auncyent tyme it hath ben thus as a fore it wreton, as they storye of Tundale & other witnesse, but I haue spoken with dyuerse men that haue ben therin . . . (99) Et quant il est revenuz arrieres de cele purgatoire, jamais ne li plaira chose quil voie au siecle, ne ne rira. Mais ads est en pleur et en gemissement pour les pechiez que les genz font, et pour les maus quil leur voit faire. (134)18

This example may suggest that only in the insertion has Caxton altered his original, but in fact he has shifted the entire moral emphasis of the passage. In Gossouins account, the person who goes into St. Patricks Purgatory emerges with a feeling for the sins that people do, and for the evil that he sees them do, whereas in Caxtons account, this person has no such universal sense of sin, but feels contrition only for his own misdeeds. And yet, Caxton takes away even this concession to the spiritual power of the place in his insertion, where he cites the eyewitness testimony of an hye chanon of Waterford and a worshipful knyght of Bruggis named sir John de Banste, who spent an entire night in St. Patricks Purgatory and experienced
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neither conversion nor the eternal damnation believed to befall the unrepentant (99). Because Caxton primarily relies on occasional insertions and deletions, and seldom alters Gossouins text, the Mirrour is at ground a literal translation and thus popular as defined above. In the Prologue to the Mirrour, however, Caxton has expanded the original by the use of doublets and triplets and by the use of parallels.19 One word of the original becomes two or three in Caxtons version; for example, Considerant que parolles sont & demeurent vaines becomes Consideryng that wordes ben perisshyng, vayne & forgeteful. Caxtons own prose, by which he expands the original, likewise favors syntactical parallelism in the form of semantic doublets and triplets: this present booke, whiche is called the ymage or myrrour of the world, ought to be visyted, redde & knowen; a man resonable may see and vndrrstande; the situacion and moeuying of the firmament; as e chapitres here folowyng shal more clerly shewe and declare and so on (6). The rhetorical difference between Caxtons Prologue and the body of the text is no doubt due to the role that the Prologue played as an advertisement for the book. As such, it required a more formal and courtly style. In his Prologue, Caxton employs other embellishments, such as aphorisms (Vox audita perit, littera scripta manet The spoken word perishes, the written letter endures); and compliments to his patron (above).20 Conclusion Trevisa and Caxton both can be considered popular translators because they stayed close to their base texts and did not engage in the academic practice of inventio by which translators changed their material. However, their motives, their methods, and their presumed audiences were nevertheless quite different. Trevisa did not explain the motive or the occasion for translating the De proprietatibus rerum, but in his Dialogue Between a Lord and a Clerk he argued for translating from Latin into English in order to bring konnyng, informacion and lore to Englishmen who had no Latin.21 The ground of Trevisas argument was his belief in educating people who for one reason or another would never have the opportunity to master Latin sufficiently in order to read the original:
som may no{t vor oer maner bysynes, som vor elde, som vor defaute of wyt, som vor defaute of katel oer of frendes to vynde ham to scole, and some vor oer dyvers defautes and lettes. some may not [master Latin] because they are otherwise occupied, some because of their age, some for lack of ability, some for lack of wealth or of friends to provide them the means for schooling, and some for other lack or hindrances.

As for why Trevisa chose to translate De proprietatibus rerum rather than another encyclopedia for example, Isidores Etymologiae, the most widely used medieval encyclopedia in England perhaps Trevisa preferred Bartholomaeuss encyclopedia because it was relatively new and it had
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attained wide popularity as a source-text for preachers. Its attribution to an Englishman may have appealed to a nascent sense of national identity.22 Trevisas audience was apparently a popular one, as well. Although the institutional settings of academic reading are better known than the circumstances of non-institutional, or private reading, to some extent we can infer the readership of Trevisas encyclopedia from the physical evidence of the books themselves. Only one of the surviving manuscripts of Trevisa could be described as inexpensive (Cambridge, University Library MS. Ii.v.41), which would suggest that possibly it was a university teachers copy. The ornateness of the other manuscripts suggests private ownership by rather well-off patrons. The Oxford editors note that
Significantly, the two people known to have owned the book in the fifteenth century, in addition to Sir Thomas Berkeley [Trevisas patron], were both bibliophiles, Sir Thomas Chaworth and Richard Beauchamp, bishop of Salisbury.23

Trevisas audience of nobility and gentry was essentially that of Caxtons Mirrour one hundred years later. Caxton says in his preface that he translated the Mirrour
at the request, desire, coste and dispence of the honourable & worshipful man Hugh Bryce, Alderman and Cytezeyn of London, entendying to present the same vnto the vertuous, noble and puissant lord, Wylliam lord Hastynges, lord Chamberlayn vnto the most Crysten kynge, kynge Edward the fourthe. (6)

But if Caxtons intended readers were members of the court of Edward IV, Caxtons motives for translating the Image du monde are not as clear-cut. As a businessman, Caxton marketed books that he thought he could sell, whereas for patrons he printed on speculation. These two business practices complemented one another, since the interest of a named patron could stimulate sales. If only we knew the names of the buyers of printed books! The evidence of inscriptions, handwriting, page layout, and decoration (or its absence), make it is possible at least to venture a reconstruction of the patronage and readership of a single encyclopedia manuscript produced by a scribe. Such is the case of Trevisas De proprietatibus rerum. On the other hand, the readership of a printed encyclopedia such as Caxtons Mirrour, which exists in multiple copies owned by anyone who had the interest and the asking price, is in large measure unknowable due to the lack of evidence of purchases and ownership.24 The best evidence we have that these two encyclopedias remained marketable in the age of print is that printed versions continued for a time to be published. However, the publishing history is brief. After Wynkyn de Wordes edition of Trevisa in 1495, there is Thomas Berthelets in 1535 (STC 1537), followed by Stephen Batemans augmented and in many ways modernized version of 1582, called Batman uppon Bartholome, His Boke De proprietatibus rerum, enlarged and amended , printed by Thomas East (STC 1538).25 After Caxtons second edition of the Mirrour in 1490, Laurence Andrew published The Myrrour and Descrypcyon of the
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Worlde . . . in about 1527 (STC 24764). Given the correlation between printing and the spread of classical and humanist writings in England, the wonder is not that these medieval encyclopedias were reprinted only a few times, however. It is that they were reprinted at all. Notes
* Correspondence: Department of English, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY 148507281, USA 1 1.13: The circle of doctrine . . . is in one worde of greke Encyclopaedia (OED, s.v. encyclopaedia). Further on the origin of encyclopedia see Twomey (2004) and sources cited therein. 2 For various applications of encyclopedia, including its use to describe mappae mundi, see the essays in parts one and two of Pre-Modern Encyclopaedic Texts (1997). Dantes Commedia is treated as an encyclopedia by Mazzotta (1993). The Hereford mappa mundi and other maps may well have been conceived as two-dimensional visual encyclopedias. See the discussion of the Hereford maps text, the texts ancient sources, the maps manner of public display during the Middle Ages, and the existence of verbal commentaries such as the Expositio mappe mundi (exposition of world maps) in Westrem (2001, xvxli). 3 See Twomey (1997, 2002, forthcoming). Still useful is the bibliographical guide to medieval encyclopedias in Twomey (1988). 4 These are the encyclopedias of Alexander Neckham, Bartholomaeus Anglicus, Thomas of Cantimpr, and Vincent of Beauvais; see Berlioz and de Beaulieu (1994). 5 See Trevisa (197588). Two additional fragments of Trevisas translation in London, BL Additional 45680 are printed by Bitterling (1977). For a biography of Trevisa, see Waldron (2004) and Fowler (1995). Still very useful is Edwards (1984). 6 See Gossouin (1913) and Caxton (1913). Generally on Caxton see Blake (1984, 2004). Other Anglo-Norman versions are listed in Twomey (1988, 189 90). The Manual of Writings in Middle English part 25,Works of Science and Information, includes as encyclopedias Trevisas Properties and Middle English versions of the pseudo-Aristotelian Secretum secretorum, or Secret of Secrets. In my opinion, because it is limited to health, precious stones and herbs, justice and rulership, military strategy, and physiognomy, the Secret of Secrets is rather a mirror for princes than an encyclopedia. Similarly, another educational dialogue, Honoriuss Elucidarium, cannot be compared with encyclopedias of the natural world because of its focus on religion, and is therefore excluded here. 7 The illustrations are derived from woodcuts in a Middle Dutch printed edition (Haarlem 1486). Also notable is that it was printed on the best English-made paper of its day, by John Tate of Hertford, and that De Wordes printers copy survives nearly complete as New York, Columbia University, Low Memorial Library MS. Plimpton 263. See Cambridge History of the Book in Britain (1999), plate 3.8; and Hellinga (1999), here citing 967 and 104. 8 Latin manuscripts produced in England after 1400 are numbers B30, L43, L62, L63, L104 in Meyer (2000). Meyer lists ownership, where known, for every existing manuscript, extract, and fragment of Bartholomaeus; but for a more succinct, if less complete, review of English ownership, see Seymour (1974), which lists twenty-three complete and fifteen partial manuscripts known to have been in England in the Middle Ages, plus thirty-six medieval owners of manuscripts of Bartholomaeus. It is seldom possible to match ownership evidence, such as wills, with surviving manuscripts. 9 See Copeland (1991, 4) as well as Burnley (1989). 10 For example, see Lawler (1983) and sources cited therein. 11 See Edwards (2002). 12 See Trevisa (197588), here quoting from 1:48, ll. 48, which I have silently corrected. Citation to Bartholomaeuss Latin original is to my text of Book 1 in vol. 1 the forthcoming MnsterLouvain-la-NeuveOrlans edition, De proprietatibus rerum (2006), which is described in Bartholomaeus Anglicus, De proprietatibus rerum (2005). 13 OED noun (n). 1 and concrete (adj.) 4, this latter citation being earlier than the OED citations. 14 OED person III.4,V.7.

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15 16

Knapp (1988, 65). I owe these observations to Blake (1969, 127) and Prior in Caxton (1913, xviiixix). 17 Blake (1969, 356); cf. Caxtons Preface (1913, 7) where Caxton refers to this manuscript. 18 Quoted from Gossouin (1913). 19 Here quoting Blake (1969, 157) and using his side-by-side comparison of the French original with Caxtons translation (155). 20 Blake (1969, 15860). 21 The Dialogue is attached to five manuscripts of Trevisas translation of Higdens Polichronicon; see Waldron (Trevisas Original Prefaces on Translation, John Trevisa). 22 Bartholomaeus was erroneously known as de Glanville/Glanvilla from as early as the fourteenth century: see Seymour (2004). 23 See Trevisa (1975 88, 3:10); the Chaworth and Beauchamp manuscripts are described on pp. 1924. 24 For a discussion of the difficulties in assessing ownership of printed medieval encyclopedias in England and for a report of the handful of printed encyclopedias whose ownership can be ascertained after 1500, see Twomey (2004, 814). 25 For a discussion of the changes and additions that Bateman introduced into Trevisas version of Bartholomaeus, see Twomey (2004, 846).

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