The neat, readable, scholarly, affordable Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library series has made an immense contribution to my students’ experience of medieval literature. This volume of 22 anonymous prose Old English saints’ lives supplements the three-volume set of Ælfric’s Lives of Saints and together they provide (almost) complete coverage of early medieval vernacular hagiography. This is a remarkable achievement. Most texts presented here have not been edited for at least a century, and the editors point out six (Chad, James the Greater, Machutus, Neot, Pantaleon, and a fragment on Quentin) that have not been previously published in translation. The editors have worked with sixteen manuscripts along with a range of editions to provide not only a readable set of translations, but ideal initial guides for their further study and excellent, thoughtful, editions. The notes to the texts, in particular, are superb and provide material for much further investigation into scribal interactions with these texts. Editing from manuscripts like these, which have often been subject to different programs of revision and annotation as well as experiencing different forms of damage, is immensely challenging, and the editors deserve credit both for their careful thought about whose text they want to present and for how clearly they explain those choices.
This volume is a truly monumental achievement. It not only achieves the by-now standard practicality of the series; it also brings together genuinely obscure and vastly understudied texts together with more well-known pieces and renders them all readable and accessible. By contextualizing anonymous Old English saints’ lives with one another, it also calls attention to both the consistency of early medieval interest in hagiography and to the varied nature of that interest, with different styles and modes of translation on display. It is a fine platform for further and deeper exploration of translation practices, manuscript culture, linguistic variation, and hagiography in the period and is indispensable for any scholar working on or teaching these issues.
S. C. Thomson
The Medieval Review
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