Monday, January 5, 2009

Adventures in bibliography

So, as if I don't have enough projects up in the air, I decided to tackle something that has been hovering in the back of my head for about a decade, which is to create a bibliography of medieval texts which have been translated into modern English. I have no idea how a professional bibliographer goes about creating such a bibliography (although I will, I hope, learn in the next few years.) But this is how I started.

First I needed a list of medieval authors. I started at the obvious place: Wikipedia. I entered the first medieval author that came to mind, Bede. I noted that the article is in several categories that will be fruitful to explore later, but see that in the "See also" section there is an article "English historians in the Middle Ages." It contains several lists, which I swipe. That article points to a second article, "List of English chronicles", which I also swipe. After collating the lists together and alphabetizing, I have a list about 100 medieval authors and texts, more than enough to start with.

First up on the list is Adam of Usk, a late 14th and early 15th century cleric, who spent some time around important people. He wrote a chronicle about the stuff he saw. I never heard of him or his chronicle before today. After reading his Wikipedia article, I'm off to find out what I can about English translations. A quick Google search finds me this blog entry, from which I find out that there was a nineteenth century translation and a late twentieth century translation. Next stop, the Library of Congress. Their catalog reveals 4 editions dated 1904, 1980, 1990 and 1997. The middle two are reprints of the 1904 edition, which I discover is the second edition. The 1997 is a new translation. I grab the pertinent information and move on. Swinging back by Google I find that Googlebooks has a preview of the 1997 edition. The preview includes the discussion of the manuscript tradition. It seems that Adam's chronicle survives in a single manuscript. The bulk of the manuscript is in the British Library (Add MS 10104), but at some point the final quire became separated from the manuscript. It wasn't rediscovered until 1885, after the first translation was published. The second edition included the text and translation of the lost quire. This explains why the reprints are of the second edition. Next stop is Worldcat, where I find the publication information for the first edition. I don't find any other English editions. I do find an Italian edition, though, which I ignore. For good measure, I check Bookfinder, but don't find any other editions. I am done with Adam. Repeat 10-20 times a day for ten years, and I might finish this project.

Adam of Usk, fl. 1400. English chronicler.
Thompson, Edward Maunde, Sir, ed. and trans.; Chronicon Adæ de Usk: A.D. 1377-1421 (London: J. Murray, 1876) (N.B. Adam's Chronicle survives in a single copy. The final quire of that copy became separated from the main manuscript at some point. It was not rediscovered until 1885. Thompson's second edition includes this fragment. The second edition, or the Given-Wilson edition are preferred over this edition.)

Thompson, Edward Maunde, Sir, ed. and trans.; Chronicon Adæ de Usk, A. D. 1377-1421, 2nd ed. (London: H. Frowde, 1904) Reprinted: Chronicon Adae de Usk, A.D. 1377-1421 (New York: AMS Press, [1980]): and The Chronicle of Adam of Usk, A.D. 1377-1421 (Felinfach, Lampeter, Dyfed: Llanerch Enterprises, 1990) (with abridged introduction).

Given-Wilson, Chris., ed. and trans.; The Chronicle of Adam Usk, 1377-1421 (Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 1997)

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