An edition of the testo minore of the MVC, adapted by Sarah McNamer from Francesco Sarri, Le 'Meditazioni della vita di Cristo'
Sarah McNamer, Georgetown University
The text presented here is adapted from Francesco Sarri’s edition, Le ‘Meditazioni della vita di Cristo’ di un frate minore del secolo XIV (Milan: Vita e pensiero, 1933). It is reproduced here in Open Access form with kind permission from the publisher, Vita e pensiero, Milan. I wish to thank Aurelio Mottolo, editorial director at Vita e pensiero, for granting such permission; and I am grateful to the library staff at Lauinger Library, especially Suzanne Chase, Meg Oakley, and Salwa Ismail, for their part in making this rare volume available to a wider community.
Why is it important to present an Open Access adaptation of Sarri’s 1933 edition at this time? This requires a word of explanation.
The Italian versions of the popular and influential Meditazioni della vita di Cristo (Meditations on the Life of Christ) have become a subject of keen interest in recent years. It had long been thought that the long Latin version of the Meditations, the pseudo-Bonaventuran Meditationes vitae Christi, was the original form of the work. Recently this has been called into question. Could the Italian versions have preceded the Latin? And if so, which of the Italian versions was composed first?
In the introduction to my critical edition and translation, Meditations on the Life of Christ: The Short Italian Text (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2018), I make the case that the text edited in that volume, the testo breve, was composed by Author A, possibly a Poor Clare, between about 1300 and 1325, and that it represents the core, original form of the MVC. Surviving in a single manuscript copy, Oxford, Bodleian Library Canonici Italian 174, the testo breve consists of a prologue and 30 chapters centering on the Infancy and Passion of Christ; the Public Ministry is not treated.
In the textual history I have reconstructed (McNamer, Meditations, xxxiii-xciv), I have hypothesized that the testo breve was then taken up, revised, “corrected,” expanded, and put into circulation in three successively longer versions: the Italian testo minore, consisting of a prologue and ca. 41 chapters, still focusing on the Infancy and Passion; the Italian testo maggiore, consisting of a prologue and ca. 96 chapters, now expanded greatly to include the Public Ministry, thereby offering a “complete” set of meditations on the life of Christ; and finally, the long Latin text, translated from the Italian testo maggiore and expanded slightly, to ca. 100 chapters. I have argued that this second campaign of expansion, revision, and translation into Latin was carried out not by Author A but by a different author, Author B, an anonymous Franciscan friar, between about 1325 and 1340 (McNamer, Meditations, xcv-cxlviii).
The hypothesis I have put forward in Meditations on the Life of Christ: The Short Italian Text will require evaluation by the scholarly community. In particular, detailed comparisons between the testo breve and the testo minore will be essential. I have commented on many differences between the two versions in the notes to Meditations on the Life of Christ, but this kind of close comparative work merits independent assessment by others. The major claims I have made, that the testo breve preceded the testo minore and that the testo minore represents an adaptation and expansion of the testo breve by a redactor (Author B), not the original author (Author A), can best be tested by placing the two full texts, the testo breve and the testo minore, side by side.
At present, however, there is no version of the testo minore in print, nor has a critical edition of the testo minore ever been produced. Several editions of the testo minore based on single manuscripts were published in the nineteenth century, including Giuseppe Donadelli’s Meditazioni dell vita di Gesù Cristo: Testo inedito del buon secolo della lingua (Milan, 1823), Ottavio Gigli’s Le meditazioni di S. Bonaventura sulla vita di Gesù Cristo (Rome, 1847), and Adamo Rossi’s edition of a manuscript from Perugia, Rome, Biblioteca Angelica MS 2213, in Quattordici scritture italiane (Perugia, 1856). None of the manuscripts has any particular textual authority, however; nor do their editors offer collations with other manuscripts.
What I present here, then, in order to facilitate further work on the MVC’s textual history and to allow others to test the claims I have made in Meditations on the Life of Christ: The Short Italian Text, is a version of the testo minore adapted from Francesco Sarri’s 1933 edition, Le ‘Meditazioni della vita di Cristo’ di un frate minore del secolo XIV (Milan: Vita e pensiero, 1933). It must be said that Sarri’s edition as a whole is, as he recognized, eccentric: as Sarri explains in his Introduction, which is reproduced here, he wished to present an edition of the “complete” life of Christ---containing the Infancy, Public Ministry, and Passion---from the Italian manuscripts. But he recognized that the better manuscripts of the Infancy and Passion sections were clearly those belonging to the testo minore category, not the surviving manuscripts or printed version of the testo maggiore. So he chose to create a serviceable, composite edition, one that yoked two disparate recensions together. For the Infancy and Passion sections, he used the testo minore recension, relying on Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana MS 1419 as his base text but occasionally noting alternative readings from five additional manuscripts of the testo minore (Biblioteca Riccardiana MSS 1286, 1348, 1358, 1404, 1675). For the Public Ministry section (chapters 18-66) he inserted the chapters from Sorio’s edition of the testo maggiore (see ‘Nota Critica,’ esp. xxviii).
What I present here are the chapters from Sarri’s edition of the testo minore. I have removed here the chapters inserted by Sarri from the Sorio edition of the testo maggiore; and I have renumbered the chapters to reflect the chapters as configured in Sarri’s base manuscript. In effect, then, I have restored here the integrity of the testo minore recension, as represented by Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana MS 1419, while retaining Sarri’s admittedly imperfect, but nonetheless valuable effort to compare MS 1419 to five other testo minore manuscripts. Sarri himself described his work as merely a “step towards” a critical edition (xxx). Until a critical edition of the testo minore is available, Sarri’s edition of the testo minore, as adapted here, is the most recent and reliable edition of the testo minore.
It should be noted that Sarri’s introduction, which assumes that the Italian versions are volgarizzamenti and that the original version of the MVC was composed in Latin by Johannes de Caulibus, reflects scholarship of the 1930s. For a thorough review of the scholarship and current debates on the original language, textual history, authorship, and date of the MVC, see McNamer, Meditations on the Life of Christ.
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