For the first phase of the MVC Project, we learned the script of SIU’s copy of the Meditationes Vitae Christi manuscript and compared the manuscript to the published scholarly edition of the text, noting any differences.
Now we are on to the second phase of our task. SIU’s copy of the MVC is unique, but not simply because it contains a few noteworthy textual variants. Aside from (potentially) being one of the oldest copies of this piece of literature in existence, it contains an epilogue that—to the best of our knowledge—no other copy of the MVC has. Phase two involves transcribing this epilogue so that it can be published and translated.
The epilogue of SIU’s MVC occupies the front and back of the last seven sheets (except for the end page) of our copy of the manuscript, for fourteen pages in all. The first page of the epilogue seems to give us some indication that a new section, and not just another chapter, is beginning. Rather than starting at the top of the page, the scribe left about three lines from the top blank. Other than the first page of the prologue, this is the only time such a large amount of space is left between the top of a new sheet and the first line.
I really feel privileged to be part of transcribing this fresh, unpublished material. I can’t wait to get farther along in this process. I will try to share more about the epilogue in another post when we get farther along.
Most of what we had been doing in phase one, as I said before, was comparing the SIU copy to the printed edition and noting where the SIU manuscript differed. When we examine these differences, a pattern becomes noticeable: the SIU manuscript disproportionately shares variants with the manuscripts from Munich, Germany[**]. From the prologue through the end of the tenth chapter, SIU’s MVC shares twenty five, twenty two, and eighteen variants respectively with the Munich manuscripts (F, I, C). By contrast, the SIU MVC only shares ten variants with the Cambridge manuscript (A) and only four variants with one of the London manuscripts (H). That is a big difference. While I haven’t done variant tabulations like these for the entire manuscript, I am willing to wager that this trend continues; which indicates that somewhere the SIU manuscript and the Munich manuscripts share a common textual ancestor. I am certain that there is a “family” connection between the SIU manuscript and the Munich manuscripts.
On a more personal note, early last month I got the opportunity to give a talk about my work with the manuscript. Dr. Haubendreich, one of SIU’s German professors, had one of his classes in the Special Collections department to look at some old texts; and he kindly asked me to explain why SIU’s MVC is so noteworthy and to summarize our research. I was able to explain some of the more interesting points of the manuscript, like its connection to the Munich manuscripts, a few of its unique variants, and especially its age and the epilogue.
Even though the talk wasn’t formal, I enjoyed it greatly and got a lot of positive feedback. I think I was even able to get off topic just long enough to discuss the massiveness of the New Testament textual tradition, and how much more reliable it is compared to other texts from antiquity. Manuscripts, and textual criticism in general, is a big hobby of mine, and I enjoyed getting to share it with Dr. Habaubendreich’s class.
The entire MVC Project in general is an amazing opportunity. I am so thankful that the Lord allowed me to be a part of it!
**I am referring specifically to the Munich manuscripts listed in the critical edition.
M. Stallings-Taney, M. ed. 1997. Iohannis de Caulibus: Meditaciones vite Christi. CCCM 153. Turnhout: Brepols