Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Introductory IV: The Varieties of Pseudo-Isidore

Last intro post I swear. Next time we start reading the decretals.

This is just to fill you in on the different versions of the forged decretals floating around out there -- the different recensions, as the jargon has it. It looks like the forgers didn't just draw up one version of their forged decretal collection. Instead, throughout the first half of the ninth century, they circulated the same basic texts in a variety of different arrangements.

Now it's perfectly ordinary for various recensions of a text to develop over time, randomly and with nobody's say-so. It's just what happens when you have a lot of careless clumsy scribes making manuscript copies from manuscript copies from manuscript copies as the centuries tick by. And some of the later recensions of Pseudo-Isidore appear to be just that -- recensions that arose through later scribal fiddling or accident or whatever.

But there are four versions that we can trace right back to the time of forgery -- four recensions, in other words, that we're not so sure reflect nothing more than random processes of textual development. Four recensions that maybe, just maybe, might tell us something about the aims of our forgers, the process and/or progress of their work -- four recensions that we'll have to keep in mind as we go along.

Their names come from Paul Hinschius, the nineteenth-century editor of Pseudo-Isidore who first identified and described them all. To wit:

A1: The longest and most elaborate recension -- the one that Hinschius thought was most original and that he edited, and the one that to this day people have in mind when they think of the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals.

A/B: Pretty much like A1 in Parts 1 (forged decretals from Clement to Melchiades) and 2 (conciliar stuff from the HGA), but notably shorter in Part 3 (the later papal decretals, corresponding to HGA Part 2). Its Part 3 has everything that derives from Part 2 of the HGA, and it also has all the additional forged decretals that we also find in A1 -- but it doesn't have some of the extra genuine material that we find in Part 3 of A1. Basically, A1/Part3 is expanded with some additional letters from genuine ninth-century legal collections, the Dionysio-Hadriana and the Quesnelliana. A/B has far less of this stuff. And one other point: as Horst Fuhrmann discovered, A/B seems to be textually closer to the HGA than the other early recensions. That is, in some places, when HGA has a minor error or omission or something else, A/B also has it, though this problem is corrected away in all the other early recensions. This has led some people to speculate that A/B is particularly early.

A2: The shortest of the lot -- it lacks almost everything taken from the HGA. It has Part 1 (Clement to Melchiades), but no Part 2 at all, and only the first few letters of Part 3, through Damasus. An early version before Pseudo-Isidore decided to drag the HGA into the ensemble? Or a later, stripped-down recension? Both are serious possibilities. But Zechiel-Eckes has said that A2 appears to be closer to the readings of the source manuscripts he discovered than any of the other recensions. So that's one vote in favor of earlier, rather than later.

Cluny: Until the 1970s, everyone thought that this was one of the later, unimportant versions. But then New Haven, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Ms. 442 turned up (images of the whole manuscript are online here -- just search for 'MS 442'; and full description here). It now looks like this manuscript, from the mid-ninth century, gave rise to all the later medieval copies of the so-called Cluny recension (some of which ended up at Cluny, which is why we have this daft name for it). This book is exciting because it looks like it was assembled in the Pseudo-Isidore's workshop, perhaps even at Corbie. Karl Georg Schon argued as much years ago when he first came across it. It has Part 1 and Part 3 of the Pseudo-Isidore, but no Part 2. The manuscript, full of later additions, erasures and corrections, has obviously been rearranged several times. As Paul Meyvaert first recognized, it looks like it was originally much shorter, and consisted only of Part 3.

So those are the early recensions. On this blog we're going to start digesting the material common to all the recensions (at least at first) -- that is, the papal decretals from Clement to Melchiades, and then (in Part 3), from Sylvester to (part of) Damasus (which is all that A2 has). Later on we'll progress to the later forged decretals that A2 lacks.

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