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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: May 2012

5 - The Latin Bible, c. 900 to the Council of Trent, 1546

from Part I - Texts and Versions


Modern scholars know a good deal more about the state of the Vulgate Bible text before and during the Carolingian renaissance than in the five centuries after 900. In an essay published in 1984, Laura Light pointed out that very little systematic study had been done on manuscripts of the Bible dating from after the tenth century, and the little work that had been done either dealt mainly with art-historical questions of manuscript production and illumination, or treated the texts primarily as witnesses to pre-900 traditions, rather than placing them within their own historical context. Despite progress in some fields, such as the study of the so-called ‘Paris’ Bible and the biblical correctoria of the thirteenth century, this state of affairs has not fundamentally changed over two decades later. This chapter will give an overview of the textual history of the Latin Bible (in the version which became known later, in the sixteenth century, as the Vulgata) after the Carolingian renaissance, tracing it through the periods of ecclesiastical and monastic reform, the rise of scholasticism and the first printed Vulgate edition in 1452/1456, until the first critical editions that were brought about by the Renaissance and the Counter-Reformation. The latter led to the text as it would be printed, with modifications, in the Sixto-Clementine edition in 1592, which would remain the standard text of the Latin Bible for centuries.

The state of modern research

Most of the modern research into the textual transmission of the Vulgate was inspired by the monumental editing project that was undertaken to replace the Sixto-Clementine edition of 1592. Between 1889 and 1954, John Wordsworth and Henry White published their critical edition of the Vulgate New Testament, based on the oldest extant gospel manuscripts, most of which dated from the ninth century. In 1907, Pope Leo VIII commissioned the complete critical edition of the Vulgate Old Testament, and entrusted the project to the Benedictine order; the first volume was issued from the abbey of S Girolamo in Rome in 1926 and the project was completed in 1994. The editing principles of the project were set out by Dom Henri Quentin in his Mémoire of 1922. The main aim was to establish the text of the Vulgate as Jerome had conceived it in the fifth century. Thus manuscripts written after c. 900 were considered unreliable witnesses, and for this reason, the more recent manuscript tradition of the Vulgate received only scant attention.

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The New Cambridge History of the Bible
  • Online ISBN: 9781139050555
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