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The manuscript relationships of Rudolf von Ems’s Barlaam und Josaphat with special reference to rubrication Zaenker, Karl August

Abstract

The medieval legend of the two Saints Barlaam and Josaphat has attracted wide attention since, in the nineteenth century, some of its roots were discovered in ancient Indie Buddha legends and parables. Our study limits itself to the German version by Rudolf von Ems, a free translation from a Latin source, written around 1225. Although this work was edited as early as 1818, it was not until the last decade that some detailed but rather opposite interpretations were devoted to it. All recent studies of Barlaam und Josaphat have been based on a reprint of Pfeiffer edition of 1843 which, however, has grave shortcomings: it takes only a few manuscripts and fragments into account selects their readings at random, and does not provide a reliable critical apparatus. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to work towards a new, truly critical text edition which would be beneficial to further investigations into meaning and structure of the work. Our first step was to locate all existing manuscripts and fragments and obtain photocopies of them. For the ensuing process of assessing their relationships in order to determine their individual value for a text reconsti-tution, we tried an approach different from traditional practice. Instead of basing a grouping on common readings or mistakes alone, we began by comparing the paragraph markings (rubricated initials) in the major manuscripts. We believe that they were placed originally to subdivide the narrative and that, generally, they were copied by later scribes and rubricators. During the transmissibn process involuntary or deliberate "misplacements" occurred which would show up in further copies and could thus indicate group characteristics. Therefore we listed all rubri-cation. marks in a comprehensive chart and calculated the overall agreement between the major manuscripts in percentage figures. The evaluation showed that the oldest two manuscripts C and D, as well as A and b have a very similar rubrica-tion pattern, probably still close to the original one. This likeness makes it difficult if not impossible to determine if another manuscript is related to either of these. On the other hand, a clear affinity could be established between the hitherto overlooked manuscripts G, M, and, to a lesser extent, E, as well as between W and L in the first half of the text and C and L in the second half. We had divided the total number of initials into four even sections (covering ca. 4000 verses) to see if the "agreement figure" of one manuscript to another changes markedly. A subsequent look at individual "spurious initials" (mostly faults in rubrication) confirmed the first results and established a third definite grouping, that of DKCKa (Ka is only represented by the text edition of 1818). A comparison of the smaller fragments followed in which the main criterion was their textual agreement with other manuscripts. The rubrication was also taken into account but not overemphasized since conclusive evidence was often lacking due to the shortness of most fragments. We found that in three cases fragments belonged together to one otherwise lost manuscript (dq, mF2, and el). Many of the fragments showed characteristics of the GEM-group, whereas only very few seemed related to either A, b, C, or D. This sampling of common variants and text omissions throughout the work served also to verify the results gained by the "initial method." In general, the above mentioned groupings were confirmed or slightly modified. It became clear that in some cases a straightforward text transmission (as represented in a stemma) cannot be assumed. Especially in the loosely related body of manuscripts A, b, (B), C, L, and W, there is strong evidence of contamination which would make a tentative classification futile. A critical edition should, in our view, follow the old reliable Freiburg codex D as lead manuscript and confront its text consistently with the readings and paragraphs of the other two large groupings, mainly C and G. The closing chapter outlines the spreading of Rudolf's Barlaam und Josaphat as documented in its manuscript tradition, from its limited Alpine origin to its popularity within the Teutonic Order of Knights in East Prussia until its last flowering in Southern Germany at the end of the fifteenth century.

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