The Historye of the Patriarks
Cambridge, St John’s College MS G.31 contains the only witness to the Middle English ‘Historye of the Patriarks’ which can be dated with some confidence to the fifteenth century. This text translates the Genesis section of Peter Comestor’s ‘Historia Scholastica’ as it was mediated through its Old French translation, the ‘Bible Historiale’ of Guyard Desmoulins. It is evident that the compiler also made direct use of the ‘Historia Scholastica’ as well as the Vulgate, and added his own explanatory comments. It begins with a truncated version of Comestor’s prologue and ends imperfectly at the death of Jacob. ‘The Historye of the Patriarks’ is an often boldly idiomatic vernacular translation of a portion of the Bible from a period when Thomas Arundel’s ‘Oxford Constitutions’ still had influence. This edition presents the English text in parallel with the Latin ‘Historia Scholastica’, the Old French ‘Bible Historiale’, and the Vulgate. It includes textual apparatus, commentary, and glossary. The Introduction discusses the nature and significance of this translation in terms of the religious climate of the fifteenth century and in relation to its various sources.