My Feet Are Cut Off
- Gilte Legende Vol. I edited by Richard Hamer and Vida Russell
Early English Text Society (Oxford), 496 pp, £65.00, November 2006, ISBN 0 19 920577 9
- Gilte Legende Vol. II edited by Richard Hamer and Vida Russell
Early English Text Society (Oxford), 1036 pp, £65.00, August 2007, ISBN 978 0 19 923439 4
For every medieval manuscript we possess, scholars estimate that at least ten have perished. The compendium of Latin saints’ lives known as the Golden Legend, with its staggering thousand exemplars, must have been second only to the Bible in popularity. Compiled by the Dominican Jacobus de Voragine around 1260, it became a standard text on every preacher’s bookshelf and was translated into every vernacular. Its first English version, the Gilte Legende – produced by ‘a sinful wretch’ in 1438 from a French intermediary – enjoyed only modest success before it was overtaken by Caxton’s print version in 1483. But this long-awaited edition from the Early English Text Society presents an opportunity to reflect on the meanings that saints’ lives held for medieval culture. (Readers who prefer modern English can consult the excellent translation by William Granger Ryan, published by Princeton in 1993.)
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