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Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Q 1: There was a period of three years between the beginning of the project (at the end of 2001) and the publication of the first volume (no. 3 in the collection), and a further three between the appearance of the first and that of the second volume (no. 38). The collection consists of 42 volumes. When do you expect all the volumes to have been published?

Q 2: What is meant by the fact that the Vulgate has been edited ‘per cola et commata’ (see, for example, vol. 3, p. lvii)?

Q 3: How many folios and how many volumes were in the fifteenth-century Bible (also known as the Valencian Bible or Bible of Boniface Ferrer or even the Portaceli / Porta Coeli Bible)? Is there some disagreement over the number of folios and the number of volumes (certain people have said there are two volumes while others claim there is one)? Was this Bible actually printed?

Q 4:   Why do you call the Bible version you are publishing in volumes 2 to 21 ‘the Fourteenth-Century Bible’ if the manuscripts in which it is contained date from the fifteenth century?

Q 5:   Is it true that the version the Fourteenth-Century Bible offers is riddled with errors?

Q 6:   Is it true that not only the errors of transcription made by the scribes but also those committed by the translators themselves have been emended in the critical edition of the Fourteenth-Century Bible, as Curt Wittlin has contended in his assessment of this edition published in the Catalan Review and available for viewing on the CBCat website?

Q 7:   What is the meaning of the names Peiresc, Egerton, Colbert and Marmoutier designating the principal manuscripts in which the Fourteenth-Century Bible is to be found?

Q 8:   What is the meaning of the names Montepessulanus, Gerundensis, Vicensis and Tarraconensis designating the four vulgates collated within the Latin column in the volumes of the Fourteenth-Century Bible?

Q 9:   Why is the manuscript containing the fifteenth-century Gospels called the ‘Codex del Palau’?

Q 1:   There was a period of three years between the beginning of the project (at the end of 2001) and the publication of the first volume (no. 3 in the collection), and a further three between the appearance of the first and that of the second volume (no. 38). The collection consists of 42 volumes. When do you expect all the volumes to have been published?

A: This project required a great deal of preparatory work before publication could even begin: the overall design of the project itself, for instance, the formation of a team of almost fifty participants, the purchase of microfilm and the printing of copies taken from manuscripts, the writing of software pertinent to the edition, the drafting of editorial and transcriptive guidelines, etc. What’s more, each of the published volumes has been the result of several years’ labour. Lastly, in order to publish the volumes which make up the Fourteenth-Century Bible (vols. 2 to 21), we had to undertake the preliminary task of editing the Vulgate – an endeavour which involved collating four vulgates from within the regions of Catalonia and Languedoc – in order to arrive at the column printed on the left-hand side of each page within this set of volumes.

Since 2010, this preliminary phase is fully complete (including the collation of the four Catalan and Languedocian Vulgates), and some of the participating scholars are now finishing off the volumes on which their efforts have been concentrated over the past few years. We therefore expect the rate of publication of the volumes to increase progressively until we are able to publish two volumes per year, and sometimes three. It will proved hard, however, to fulfil the objective we initially set ourselves, namely, to have all the volumes in publication by the years 2024 to 2026.

Q 2: What is meant by the fact that the Vulgate has been edited ‘per cola et commata’ (see, for example, vol. 3, p. lvii)?

A: As is stated in the passage to which we refer the reader, it means that the text has been divided into small fragments which facilitate its being read and understood more easily (thus acting like modern-day punctuation).

Cola is the plural form of the Latin word colon, itself deriving from its Greek counterpart κῶλον), and a term familiar in English. Commata is the plural form of the Latin word comma, again deriving from its Greek counterpart (κόµµα), and once more a term which has passed into the English lexicon.

The systems of punctuation used by Greek and Latin authors varied, and were often minimal. Among the Greeks, one of the most highly-developed – though rarely adopted – examples of such a system, was that of Aristophanes: he marked the end of short sections of his text (commata) with a mid-level dot (·), that of medium-length sections (cola) with a dot placed at the level of the bottom of the text (.), and that of lengthy sections or ‘periods’ with a dot level with the top of the text (˙). Among Latin authors, St. Jerome is the most worthy of note: he made use of the system known as ‘per cola et commata’ in which (using the manuscripts of Demosthenes and Cicero as a template) the text is simply divided into short paragraphs (each of these corresponding to a sentence) so that it can be read aloud with greater ease; the cola served to define a unit of meaning, and the division enacted by the commata merely indicated a convenient point at which to draw breath; in present-day grammar, cola are, generally speaking, equivalent to sentences and commata to subordinate or coordinate clauses.

In typographical terms this means that cola (and likewise their corresponding sections) start at the leftmost end of the line and form a ‘French’ paragraph, that is to say, one in which the second and subsequent lines, should there be any, are indented – as can be seen in any critical edition of the Vulgate. Sections forming commata, on the other hand, begin with an indented line, as can be seen in some of the well-known Vulgate manuscripts such as the Codex Amiatinus, from Florence, or the Codex Claromontanus, from Paris. For this reason, there is often confusion between lines within the subsequent body of a colon, on the one hand, and the commata themselves, on the other. While this distinction may generally be evident in the case of manuscripts, it is not always so in that of the Oxford major critical edition of the New Testament (J. Wordsworth), even though in principle this particular edition indicates the difference between the second and subsequent lines of the cola and those constituting the commata, in the following way: If a colon does not all fit on a single line, then all its lines, with the exception of the last one, are right-justified; lines within commata, on the other hand, are not right-justified (i.e. they end before reaching the margin). Doubtless in order to avoid such typographical complications, the Rome major critical edition of the Old Testament and the user-friendly Stuttgart critical edition of the whole Bible show simply the cola (each colon corresponding to a ‘French’ paragraph, and a new line not being used to start any of the commata), even though this ploy goes without explanation in the Introduction, wherein reference is nevertheless made to ‘cola et commata’.

The CBCat is based on the Vulgata Stuttgartiensis. For this reason, prose texts within its pages are divided according to the cola (which in this case, since the text coincides in typographical terms with the way the columns are laid out in the Catalan translation, means that rather than using ‘French’ paragraphs, a forward-sloping slash (/) is employed to mark the separation between each colon). In texts of a poetic nature, however, this separation is registered by way of a new ‘French’ paragraph, as in the manuscripts we have mentioned; nevertheless, if the entire text does not fit on a single line, the second and subsequent ones are divided up as if they were commata, that is to say, by splitting the sentences as and where the syntax allows; we should bear in mind, however, that such commata need not match those found in the manuscripts (e.g. the Codex Amiatinus, etc.).

Q 3:   How many folios and how many volumes were in the fifteenth-century Bible (also known as the Valencian Bible or Bible of Boniface Ferrer or even the Portaceli / Porta Coeli Bible)? Is there some disagreement over the number of folios and the number of volumes (certain people have said there are two volumes while others claim there is one)? Was this Bible actually printed?

A: There exists a reliable body of evidence to suggest that this Bible version was indeed printed in 1478, and whereof the following point provide a summary. 1. Two years after this version was published, an edition of the Psalms was printed in Barcelona, wherein it is stated that the translation used in the latter was taken ‘from the printed Bible, which went to press in the city of València [...]’. 2. Records exist of the proceedings from the inquisitorial trial against Daniel Vives, one of those involved in making amendments to this Biblical translation. 3. A copy of this Bible was in the keeping of the Royal Library, Stockholm, until the former’s destruction by fire in 1697. 4. Most importantly of all, however, an example of the final printed page from this incunabulum is still preserved at the library of the Hispanic Society, New York.

It is this page in particular which enables us to calculate with a certain degree of exactitude how many folios were in the full incunabulum which made up the Valencian Bible. We base our calculations upon a comparison of the text with that of the (Stuttgart) Vulgate edition of which the Valencian Bible is the translation. The text on the penultimate page of the Valencian Bible opens with (the third word from) Rev 20:8 (in the Vulgate text) and finishes at (the end of) Rev 22:7. This page corresponds to 798 words of the text from the Vulgate. The total number of words in the Vulgate (excluding prologues but including the Fourth Book of Ezra) amounts to 623.206, that is to say, 781 times more text (623,206 / 798 = 780.96). The text of the Bible contained within this incunabulum, therefore, should occupy some 781 pages, that is to say, 391 folios. To this must be added possibly a certain number of apocryphal books as well as some prologues; being the total amount of about 400 folios; given such considerations, K. Haebler’s calculation (‘The Valencian Bible of 1478‘, Revue Hispanique [New York – Paris] 21 [1909] 370-387), according to which this Bible must have contained between 400 and 450 folios (that is to say, between 800 and 900 pages), and wherein he considers the two respective upper limits to be more probable, seems to have been almost spot on. In view of the number of folios and the testimony offered by one particular catalogue, it could well be a matter of a single volume; however, there is some doubt over this, since a different catalogue suggests that there were, in fact, two of these (see Guiu CAMPS, ‘Cinc-cents anys de la primer edició catalana de la Bíblia’, Revista Catalana de Teologia [Barcelona], 3 [1978] 7 and note 19). One should bear in mind, nevertheless, that the number given on the only page still preserved (i.e. 362-363) does not represent an original feature of the incunabulum, but was instead a hand-written annotation added by Joan Baptista Civera while he was inserting the page in question into his chronicle of the Charterhouse of Portaceli / Porta Coeli.

Q 4:   Why do you call the Bible version you are publishing in volumes 2 to 21 ‘the Fourteenth-Century Bible’ if the manuscripts in which it is contained date from the fifteenth century?

A: All the Old Testament manuscripts in this version of the Bible undoubtedly date from the fifteenth century, and the three main ones (Peiresc, Egerton and Colbert) from the latter half of that century. However, versions of the New Testament have been preserved not only in the Peiresc manuscript (the sole one to contain the entire Bible), but also in that of Marmoutier, from the mid-fourteenth century. Furthermore, the Marmoutier manuscript reveals errors of transcription and, for this reason and that of the type of language used, we believe that the version it gives of the New Testament dates from the first half of the fourteenth century. However, one can deduce that the Old Testament likewise was translated – albeit at a later date – during (the second half of) this same century, from:

(a) The kind of language it uses. Many aspects of vocabulary and morphology have been retained which were of infrequent use during the fifteenth century: nelleix ‘even; not even’; péra ‘stone’; mençónega ‘lie; falsehood’; posar ‘to rest’; lleixar ‘to leave, release, stop’, etc.; nient ‘nothing’; vinc ‘I have come’; frequent references to Déus (mod. Cat.: ‘Déu’; ‘God’) in certain Biblical books – Baruch, for example; forms of the second person past tense ending in -est (posest ‘you put, placed, etc.’; manest ‘you ordered, commanded’), etc.

(b) The quantity of copyists’ errors that the manuscripts – all exhibiting great differences from each other – contain, a fact which suggests a long and complicated history of textual transmission.

Q 5:   Is it true that the version the Fourteenth-Century Bible offers is riddled with errors?

A: The Fourteenth-Century Bible presents a version of a comparatively high standard, particularly in terms of the kind of translation it achieves (one which in many senses could be described – to use current terminology – as dynamic), though, of course, like all medieval Bible versions, it contains certain errors of translation, that is to say, certain instances in which the copyists have misinterpreted the Latin text (see, for example, CBCat vol. 3, Exod 4:9 P note; Exod 10:11 P note; vol. 6, 1Kgdms 23:13 E note ).

It must be noted above all, however, that very often errors of translation have been ascribed to it which are not such, but rather:

(a) Cases in which the copyists have corrupted the translator’s text. These are overwhelmingly frequent and have been corrected, as far as possible, in the critical edition offered by the CBCat.

(b) Cases in which the translator has translated the original Hebrew rather than the Vulgate. These have been indicated in the notes accompanying the CBCat edition.

(c) Cases in which the translator, rather than rendering the version of the Vulgate best known to us today, has taken his text from variants forming part of the vulgates in use during that period throughout Catalan-speaking territories. As a result, the Vulgate edition printed in the column on the left-hand side in the volumes which go to make up the Fourteenth-Century Bible, contains a critical apparatus which takes into account the variants from the four vulgates whose origins lie within Catalonia and Languedoc. The notes offered by the CBCat edition likewise point out such cases to the reader.

This same reader is advised to consult the following article on the matter: Pere CASANELLAS, ‘Tècniques de traducció en la Bíblia del segle XIV’ (forthcoming).

Q 6:   Is it true that not only the errors of transcription made by the scribes but also those committed by the translators themselves have been emended in the critical edition of the Fourteenth-Century Bible, as Curt Wittlin has contended in his assessment of this edition published in the Catalan Review and available for viewing on the CBCat website?

A: Certainly not; at least this has never been our aim. As far as conditions permit, the critical edition of the CBCat seeks to restore the original text, written down by the translators of this version of the Bible, in a manner that is as plausible and accurate as possible; where amendments have been made to the text, the precise wording of the manuscript is noted in the critical apparatus.

(a) There are instances in which it seems obvious that the error has been committed by the translator and, therefore, does not require emendation. Thus, in 1Kgdms 23:13 the Latin phrase ‘dissimulavit exire’ has been interpreted by Egerton and Colbert to mean ‘he made out that he wished to go elsewhere’, when in fact it means ‘He forbore to go out [to fight]’. For this reason, the text has not been amended.

(b) There are instances in which it is obvious that the error has been committed by the copyist and, therefore, does require emendation. Thus, in the case of 1Kgdms 8:16, the text given in the Vulgate and in the versions of Colbert and of Egerton is the following:

Vg: ‘servos etiam vestros et ancillas et iuvenes optimos et asinos auferet [...]’
(C: ‘Ell tolrà a vós vostros serfs e vostres serventes e los vostros bons macips e los vostros àzens [...]’)
E: ‘Ell vos tolrà vostros servents e vostres serventas e los vostros bous e vostres macips e los vostros àzens [...]’.

In Egerton there is clearly no error of translation from the original Latin; its roots lie, rather, in the copyist, who must have read bous (oxen) instead of bons (goodliest) in an earlier Catalan manuscript (whose text doubtless read like that of Colbert) and chosen to fill out the meaning of the sentence by repeating the possessive vostros/vostres (your) preceded by the conjunction e (and) in front of macips (young men) on account of the additional, intruding noun, which had taken over the possessive connected to the former.

The Egerton text, therefore, has been revised, reference being made in the critical apparatus to the corrupt version of the manuscript.

(c) Lastly, we may come across cases which are not so clear, such as that of Ex 20,17, wherein resides, in all probability, according to Curt Wittlin, a translator’s error (i.e., one he feels does not need amending); we, on the other hand, are quite sure that it is an error on the part of the copyist (i.e., one, that is to say, which demands revision):

Vg: ‘non concupisces domum proximi tui’
P: ‘No cobejaras la cosa de ton proïsma’
E: ‘No cobejaràs la cose de ton proysme’
C: ‘No cobejaràs la cosa de ton proïsme’

The Catalan manuscripts all share the same misreading of the noun cosa (‘belongings’) for domum (Cat: ‘casa’; ‘house’). In our estimation, there is a very marked probability that the error came from the copyist rather than the translator. Our reasons are these: 1) Bible translators in the fourteenth century had a pretty solid command of Latin and only rarely made mistakes; furthermore, they made highly accurate translations of the Latin text (except on those few occasions they were translating from the Hebrew). It is inconceivable, therefore, that they should have been unaware of the meaning of a word as common as domum and that they should have rendered it as cosa (or ‘belongings’); 2) Those who copied these manuscripts were often extremely lax (spelling the same word within the same line, for instance, quite differently; Peiresc even skips entire chapters of the text; etc.; one only has to cast a glance at the text and critical apparatus of the CBCat to be made aware of this complete lack of care) and, therefore, it would not have been at all out of the ordinary for a copyist to have changed the word casa into cosa, insofar as the text makes sense either way. The fact that the copyist’s error should have recurred in all three manuscripts simply means that it came into being at an early stage of the text’s transmission, prior to its multiplication in the three current manuscripts, namely Peiresc, Egerton and Colbert.

Q 7:   What is the meaning of the names Peiresc, Egerton, Colbert and Marmoutier designating the principal manuscripts in which the Fourteenth-Century Bible is to be found?

A: Manuscripts are named according to the town and library where they are preserved as well as to the catalogue number the library has assigned them. However, in order to refer to them as conveniently and straightforwardly as possible, they are generally denominated by terms indicating the locations in which the manuscripts are kept, as well as the sites and collections from which they originated, etc. In the case of the first three aforementioned manuscripts, the names correspond to people who donated or from whom originated a collection or stock of books contained within a library, among whose number could be counted the manuscript in question. Thus, Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580-1637) was a French antiquarian and humanist (who discovered the Orion nebulae), a set of whose books is preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. In 1829, Francis Henry Egerton, eighth Earl of Bridgewater, made over a collection of manuscripts to the British Museum, while relatives of his subsequently added to this collection. Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683), Secretary of State under Louis XIV, put together an important library; by 1728, years after he had died, the collections in his library had begun to scatter, though a significant part of its stock had been acquired by the library of the King of France. Marmoutier, on the other hand, is the name of a Benedictine abbey, close to Tours, where one of the manuscripts we have been using to prepare the edition of the New Testament for the Fourteenth-Century Bible had its origins.

Q 8:   What is the meaning of the names Montepessulanus, Gerundensis, Vicensis and Tarraconensis designating the four vulgates collated within the Latin column in the volumes of the Fourteenth-Century Bible?

A: See previous answer. These Latin adjectives indicate the town wherein each manuscript is preserved or whence it originates. The Montepessulanus manuscript is so called because it originates from Montpellier, even though it is currently to be found at the British Library Harley Collection. The Gerundensis manuscript is so called because it is kept at the Gerona Public Library, even though it originates from the monastery of Sant Feliu de Guíxols, where it remained until 1835. The Vicensis manuscript is preserved within the Capitular Library in Vic, the very town in which the copy was made. The Tarraconensis manuscript resides at the Pontifical Seminary Library in Tarragona, having come originally from the Escaladei monastery.

Q 9:   Why is the manuscript containing the fifteenth-century Gospels called the ‘Codex del Palau’?

A: This manuscript once formed part of the archives in the possession of the Count of Sobradiel (which also included the archives from the Requesens family, dating from the fifteenth century), who resided in the former Minor Royal Palace (Palau Reial Menor) in Barcelona (3, Carrer de Palau), which, with the exception of its chapel, was demolished in 1859. In 1922 the chapel and adjoining house passed to the Society (or Company) of Jesus, who later transferred the Palace Archives (Arxiu del Palau) to the Centre Borja in Sant Cugat del Vallès.