Editing Medieval Texts

BookEditing Medieval Texts

Editing Medieval Texts

Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies


November 18th, 2015

Access Token


Other Formats



This book draws on a lengthy experience of teaching graduates how to approach medieval books. It leads the reader through the stages of the editorial process, using part of Richard Rolle's Commentary on the Song of Songs as the working exemplar. In the humane sciences, the need for texts is ubiquitous; they provide the regular objects of study. But far less prevalent than editions is any discussion of the premises underlying these objects, or the mechanisms by which they have been constructed. This volume takes up both challenges. First, in a preliminary chapter, it discusses what is at stake in any edition one might read; the persistent argument is that these represent products of modern scholarly decision-making, the imposition of various kinds of unity on the extremely diverse evidence medieval books offer for any literary work. This chapter also explains broadly various options for the presentation of texts – and the difficulties inherent in them all. The remainder of the volume is given over to a step-by-step guide to the process of editing (and eventually to a finished presentation of) a heretofore unpublished medieval text. The discussion seeks to exemplify the decisions editors routinely face, and to suggest ways of addressing them.


‘In this smart handbook, Ralph Hanna shares his insights about the process of creating an edition of a medieval Latin text, based on his extensive experience editing English vernacular poetry of the later Middle Ages. This is a book for beginners. It provides a clear and thoughtful introduction to the steps necessary to progress from an unedited text in a premodern manuscript to the formal presentation of a textual edition. One of the virtues of this book is its practical approach; Hanna walks the reader through his preparation of an edition of a small portion of a straightforward Latin prose text: Richard Rolle's commentary on the biblical Song of Songs, composed in the 1330s. Reading over Hanna's shoulder, scholars can follow the reasoning behind his editorial decisions and pick up a great deal of practical knowledge about scribal practice in the process.’
The Medieval Review

Author Information

Ralph Hanna is Professor of Palaeography (Emeritus) and Emeritus Fellow at Keble College, Oxford. He is a former Guggenheim Fellow, former Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute (Harvard University), and winner of the British Academy Sir Israel Gollancz Prize for English Language 2015. His books include Editing Medieval Texts (Liverpool University Press, 2015), Introducing English Medieval Book History: Manuscripts, their Producers and their Readers (Liverpool University Press, 2013) and Richard Rolle: Unprinted Latin Writings (Liverpool University Press, 2019).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Foreword 7
Preliminary: On Editions9
1. Collecting the Witnesses 25
2. Finding a Copy-text and Transcribing it37
3. Comparing the Witnesses, or Collation47
4. The Examination of the Variants53
5. Annotation 107
Richard Rolle, ‘Super Canticum’ 4: Edition, Collation, and Translation115
Appendix: The Manuscripts149