Translation is at the centre of Christianity, scripturally, as reflected in the biblical stories of the tower of Babel, or of the apostles’ speaking in tongues after the Ascension, and historically, where arguments about it were dominant in Councils, such as those of Trent or the Second Vatican Council of 1962–64, which, it should be recalled, privileged the use of the vernacular in liturgy.
The four texts edited here discuss the legitimacy of using the vernacular language for scriptural citation. This question in England became central to the perception of the followers of John Wyclif (sometimes known as Lollards): between 1409 and 1530 the use of English scriptures was severely impeded by the established church, and an episcopal licence was required for its possession or dissemination. The issue evidently aroused academic interest, especially in Oxford, where the first complete English translation seems to have originated. The three Latin works here survive complete each in a single manuscript: of these texts two, written by a Franciscan, William Butler, and by a Dominican, Thomas Palmer, are wholly hostile to translation. The third, the longest and most perceptive, edited here for the first time, emerges as written by a secular priest of impressive learning, Richard Ullerston; his other writings display his radical, but not unorthodox opinions. The only English work here is a Wycliffite adaptation of Ullerston’s Latin. The volume provides editions and modern translations of these four texts, together with a substantial introduction explaining their context and the implications of their arguments, and encouraging further exploration of the perceptions of the nature of language that are displayed there, many of which, and notably of Ullerston, are in advance of those of his contemporaries.
ELIZABETH SOLOPOVA is a Research Fellow and lecturer at the English Faculty, University of Oxford. JEREMY CATTO (1939–2018) was Fellow Emeritus of Oriel College in the University of Oxford. ANNE HUDSON is a Fellow of the British Academy, Professor Emerita (personal chair) of Medieval English at the English Faculty and an Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.
- 8 pp colour plates
- 216 pages, 228 x 152 mm
- Series: Studies and Texts 220; British Writers of the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period, 7
- ISBN: 9781851245635
- Publication January 2021