1. History of the project
The project was begun more than a century ago (1). In 1906, on the occasion of the First International Congress of the Catalan Language, the Languedocian scholar Raymond Foulché-Delbosc made known a project for publishing a complete set of the Catalan versions of the Bible in existence up until the end of the sixteenth century. The next year this project was taken up by the Institute for Catalan Studies (Institut d’Estudis Catalans), which, in 1908, announced the publication of ‘el text antich de la Biblia catalana’ (the ancient text of the Catalan Bible), which was supposed to have been undertaken by Foulché-Delbosc himself (transcription, introduction and notes). However, in 1914 Foulché-Delbosc had to abandon the project, officially for health reasons, without anything having ever been published.
In 1976, Guiu Camps, a Bible scholar and monk from the Monastery of Montserrat, with the support of the Bible Association of Catalonia (Associació Bíblica de Catalunya), produced a second project for the publication of the medieval versions of the Bible. Guiu Camps, who attributed the failure of the first effort to the magnitude of the undertaking, was able to count on the help of three collaborators. They began work on the project, but once again, owing to various untoward circumstances, they were unable to bring the project to a final conclusion and nothing was ever published.
The current project began in 1997, also under the auspices of the Bible Association of Catalonia. It was the initiative of Armand Puig i Tàrrech, the current chairman, who first set forth the status quaestionis concerning the subject of medieval Catalan Bible versions in an extensive study (2) and who then began the search for collaborators to carry the project out. The undertaking began in earnest during the academic year 2001-2002 when Pere Casanellas, the director of the project, was able to arrange for a secondment from the Department d’Ensenyament (Education Department) so as to be able to dedicate himself to the project full time.
2. Interest of the project
As far as the history of the Bible within Catalan-speaking territories is concerned, the publication of the Catalan versions thereof is of singular interest. This is true not only with respect to the history of such versions, but also with respect to that of the Vulgate itself, on whose Latin texts the translations are founded, in theory at least.This is especially true if one considers the fact that the volumes from the ‘Fourteenth-century Bible’ series (vols. 2 – 21) consist of the text from the Vulgate alongside the critical apparatus from the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft (German Bible Society) edition in addition to a further critical apparatus resultig from the collation of four vulgates representative of the Catalan-Languedocian setting.
But it is in the field of Catalan philology in particular that it is hoped the project will produce greater results and have a successful outcome. In 1906, in his speech before the First International Congress of the Catalan Language, Raymond Foulché-Delbosc described the ancient versions of the Bible in Catalan as ‘one of the most important texts, in terms of range and character, for understanding your [i.e. the Catalan] language’ (3). As the years went by, the fact of these texts not having been published was lamented by various scholars, such as Germà Colón and Amadeu-J. Soberanas in the pages that they dedicate to the work of Josep Balari in the book Panorama de la lexicografia catalana: ‘It is also interesting to emphasize that Balari used as a reference several Parisian manuscripts of the Bible in Catalan, and that these texts still inexplicably remain unpublished’ (4). More explicitly and more hopefully, Dr. Alfred Agustí i Farreny, Professor of Catalan Philology at the University of Lleida, wrote to us on January 24th, 2004 pointing out the interest of the project held from a linguistic point of view: ‘I have read about your project with the greatest interest — and [also] of its detailed norms of transcription — and I should like to convey to you my own congratulations as well as those of my research colleagues. For us, as scholars of Catalan philology, the publication of this Biblical corpus opens up exciting prospects as regards the study of our language.’
In fact, with the production of volume 3, the first to be published, the first fruits have already been attained. The compilation of a detailed sixty-page glossary has brought to light more than one hundred words that until now were either undocumented in Catalan or that had not been documented with the meaning with which they appear in the published text; it has also revealed the need to either correct or revise, depending on the circumstances, various articles in Catalan historical and etymological dictionaries (5).
Finally, the publication of these texts is also of interest in bringing to light other aspects of the cultural and social history of the country, such as, for example the interesting relationship between Christians and Jews during the medieval period. Thus, if one compares the Catalan version of the Bible in the fourteenth century, on the one hand, with the Latin and the original Hebrew versions, on the other, one finds that while the first of these generally follows the Latin text of the Vulgate, it also often departs therefrom, revealing a dependence on the original Hebrew text; there are even occasions on which elements from the post-biblical Hebrew tradition are introduced. All this goes to show that this translation was the work of Christians and that at least some of the translators were converted Jews who, in spite of ostensibly basing their translation on examples of the Vulgate, constantly introduced elements from the original Hebrew Bible (proper names, terminology, translations of the text that they had perhaps memorized, etc.) as well as other elements from rabbinic tradition (6).
1. For a more detailed history, see Pere CASANELLAS i BASSOLS, ‘De la Bíblia Catalana al Corpus Biblicum Catalanicum: un projecte amb gairebé un segle d’història’ [‘From the Catalan Bible to the Corpus Biblicum Catalanicum: a project with nearly one hundred years of history’], Butlletí de l’Associació Bíblica de Catalunya, no. 76 (March 2003), pp. 67-74.
2. Armand PUIG I TÀRRECH, La Bíblia a Catalunya, València i les Illes fins al segle XV. Lliçó inaugural curs 1997/98 [‘The Bible in Catalonia, València and the Balearic Islands up until the fifteenth century. Inaugural lesson for the 1997-98 academic year’], Tarragona: Institut Superior de Ciències Religioses Sant Fructuós, Arquebisbat de Tarragona, 1997. Corrected and added to by the author himself in: ‘Les traduccions catalanes medievals de la Bíblia’ [‘Catalan medieval translations of the Bible’], in El text: lectures i història [‘The text: Readings and History’] (Scripta Biblica 3), Barcelona: Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat – Associació Bíblica de Catalunya, 2001, pp. 107-231.
3. Raymond FOULCHÉ-DELBOSC, ‘La Bible en catalan’ [‘The Bible in Catalan’], in Primer Congrés Internacional de la Llengua Catalana [‘The First International Congress of the Catalan Language’], 1906 (facsimile reprint: 1985), p. 538.
4. Germà COLÓN – Amadeu-J. SOBERANAS, Panorama de la lexicografia catalana. De les glosses medievals a Pompeu Fabra [‘Panorama of Catalan Lexicography. From Medieval Glosses to Pompeu Fabra’] (Bibl. Universitària 7), Barcelona: Enciclopèdia Catalana, 1986, p. 204.
5. See Pere CASANELLAS I BASSOLS, ‘El Corpus Biblicum Catalanicum i la lexicografia catalana’ [‘The Corpus Biblicum Catalanicum and Catalan lexicography’], in MARTÍ, Sadurní (ed.), & al., Actes del XIII Col·loqui Internacional de Llengua i Literatura Catalanes (Girona, 8 al 13 de setembre de 2003) [‘Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Colloquium on the Catalan Language and its Literature; Girona, September 8th–13th 2003’], vol. 3 (Biblioteca Abad Oliva 276), Barcelona: Associació Internacional de Llengua i Literatura Catalanes – Institut de Llengua i Cultura Catalanes de la Universitat de Girona – Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, 2007, pp. 187-200.
6. See the introductory essay in vol. 3, sections 1.2 and 1.3, and the article by Pere CASANELLAS i BASSOLS, ‘La influència hebraica en la Bíblia del segle XIV’ [‘The influence of Hebrew on the Fourteenth-Century Bible’], Revista Catalana de Teologia(Barcelona) 31 (2006) 347-358.