In June I’ll be starting work as the Postdoctoral Research Assistant on the ‘Towards a New Edition of the Wycliffite Bible’ project, based in Oxford’s English Faculty. I’ll be the junior member of a team of three, working with Elizabeth Solopova (the PI) and Anne Hudson (the co-investigator). The Wycliffite Bible is a late-fourteenth-century translation of the Latin Vulgate into Middle English: the first English Bible. It’s a complex and important text, but research is hampered by the fact that there is only one full edition, which was published in 1850. This edition was good for its time but has now been rather overtaken by later scholarship. We will begin (begin) producing a new edition of the whole thing by establishing a framework for the task and editing four books.

I’m sure more details will appear online soon, and I don’t want to pre-empt-them. And I should also say, by way of qualification, that the topic is intimidatingly complex. Bits of the previous paragraph could be questioned, for example:

  • The Wycliffite Bible might ‘be’ two separate translations, or it might ‘be’ a single translation which went through a significant programme of revision.
  • Or it might ‘be’ either one of the options in the previous bullet point, plus a range of later alterations.
  • ‘The Latin Vulgate’ was not a single stable entity in the fourteenth century. As readers at the time knew, the Vulgate sometimes differed from the Hebrew and Greek, and errors entered the text during copying. The translators of the Wycliffite Bible appear to have made some efforts to establish a better Latin text to work from.
  • Although the Wycliffite Bible is the first comprehensive English Bible, large parts of the Bible had already been translated or paraphrased earlier in the history of English—there are substantial Old English paraphrases, for example.

You could probably go on. There’s a lot of work to be done! I’m excited to engage with a new and large manuscript corpus, and to learn much, much more about editing. I dabbled in textual criticism in my thesis, and studying texts such as The Prick of Conscience and Speculum Vitae forces engagement with editorial decisions, but my impression is that there’s a lot which can only be learned by diving in and doing it.

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