Transmission of Knowledge in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Tralmar) no. 267518

A book historical project financed by the Academy of Finland and the University of Jyväskylä, 1 September 2013-31 August 2017


Research team:  Lorenzo Amato (post doc, University of Tokyo/University of Jyväskylä), Joëlle Ducos (researcher, Université de Paris - La Sorbonne), Miika Kuha (research student, University of Jyväskylä), Jakub Kujawinski (post doc, University of Jyväskylä/University of Poznan), Outi Merisalo (head of the project, University of Jyväskylä), Samu Niskanen (researcher, assistant head, University of Oxford/University of Helsinki).


The nineteenth century saw the rapid development of textual criticism for  establishing the “best” and “most authentic”  forms of both Ancient and Mediaeval texts thanks to the method perfected by Karl Lachmann, who based himself on the insights gained during the eighteenth century.  Lachmann’s method has been further refined by later philologists, with, most interestingly, the use of computers in establishing the mutual relations of manuscript witnesses since the last decades of the twentieth century. However, the interest in what form the texts, both Ancient (e.g. Aristotle, Galen, Cicero, Vegetius) and Mediaeval (e.g. Carolingian historians, St Anselm of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas, thirteenth-fourteenth-century historians), were actually circulating in the Late Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, has been slow to emerge as an area of scholarly interest.  In other words:  what did the readers actually get in front of their eyes, and acted upon as, say, doctors, historians, theologians between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries?  The present project will examine this poorly studied subject from the combined view of 1) textual transmission and 2) the material characteristics of the manuscript witnesses of five types of texts: historical, epistolary, military, medical and poetical texts.  The five types have been selected for the study due to the large amount of both manuscripts preserved from the period between the thirteenth and the sixteenth centuries and early prints from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

The project will pursue and develop the methodological approach and draw upon the findings of the Academy of Finland project no. 121785 Books in transition (2008-2011, BIT).  Three members of the present team, Amato, Merisalo and Niskanen, belonged to the BIT team.

This book historical project aims at answering the following questions. 

1) Are there generic differences in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance between the transmission of historical, medical, poetical and epistolary texts?

2) What are the material characteristics such as layout, support, presence vs. absence of illumination, as well as palaeography, in mss. transmitting these types of texts? 

3) How did the introduction of the printed book affect textual transmission? The methodology combines the study of texts transmitted and material characteristics, with historical and cultural contextualisation. 

This makes it possible to

1) concretise the historical situation where the texts were read and interpreted in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance; and 

2) draw conclusions on the dissemination of the contents. 

The corpus consists of the following sections. 

1) Mss. of Gesta Francorum, Peregrinatio Antiochie, and De Hierosolymitano itinere of Peter Tudebode. The three texts provide the earliest narrative account of the First Crusade, with 17 witnesses (15 mss., twelfth-seventeenth c.; 2 prints). Of particular relevance is late Mediaeval and Renaissance use of twelfth-century mss (Niskanen);

2) Mss. of the letter collections of Anselm of Canterbury. The correspondence of Anselm (c. 500 letters) is transmitted in 41 mss. and printed editions from 1491. The most recent manuscripts are influenced by the printed editions. Even before the emergence of printing, Late Mediaeval and Renaissance copyists meticulously selected the letters to copy (Niskanen); 

3) Mss. of the medical treatise De spermate. The tradition consists of 48 witnesses (twelfth-fifteenth c.) and five prints (fifteenth-seventeenth c.) The extension of the text varies considerably; the transmission shows significant variation early on (Merisalo);

4) Mss. of the French translations of Vegetius' De re militari. There are five complete and three incomplete translations (thirteenth-fifteenth c., 47 mss. and more than two prints), with much variation (Ducos); 

5) Mss. of the Chronica Venetiarum attributed Benintendi de’ Ravagnani (1318–1365). The text is transmitted by three witnesses (fourteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth c.) (Kuha); 

6) Mss. with glosses and commentaries on historiographical texts, with special consideration of Southern Italy, especially the ms. BNF, fr. 688, probably produced in Angevin Naples (Kujawinski)

7) Mss. of the poems of Giovan Battista Strozzi the Elder (1504-1571). The poet seldom had his works printed; the only 16th-century print is posthumous. Strozzi's poems are mostly transmitted in exclusive manuscripts put together by the author, containing deliberate selections of previously existing poems, textually revised, adapted to the dedicatee, and written in elegant calligraphy (Amato).


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