Towards a new edition of the Wycliffite Bible

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: English Faculty

Abstract

The Wycliffite Bible (WB) is the first complete translation of the Bible in English, produced at the end of the 14th century by the followers of the Oxford theologian John Wyclif. The identity of the translators remains uncertain, but the scale and scholarly nature of the project suggest the involvement of many academic translators, probably based in Oxford. Though learned and accurate, the translation was condemned and banned within twenty five years of its appearance. The legislation promulgated early in the 15th century by the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Arundel prohibited the making of new versions and the use of any recent translations without episcopal approval of both the text and owner. In spite of this, WB became the most widely disseminated medieval English work: it survives in 250 complete or partial copies. It is also the most widely evidenced of European translations of the Vulgate.

The discovery of new manuscripts and recent research on the text of the translation have rendered obsolete the only complete edition of WB published in 1850 by J. Forshall and F. Madden. A new edition is unquestionably needed, but it is at present a remote goal, not only because of the amount of work it would involve, but also because it remains unclear which principles should underlie such an edition. There is no consensus among scholars as to which manuscripts should be collated and used as the base text for different parts of the translation, or how glosses that appear in the margins of many manuscripts relate to the biblical text and should be presented in an edition; the relevance of other apparatus attached to individual manuscripts in forms clearly related to WB is also not agreed upon. The proposed inquiry aims to establish whether what are currently known as the Earlier and Later versions of the translation (believed to reflect the translators' first efforts to produce an English text and its subsequent revision) represent each a single text or a series of different redactions. It also aims to investigate the relationships between important manuscripts and their value as evidence for different parts of the text. In addition the proposed research seeks to understand better the methods of the translators' work through the study of differences between versions of the translation, particularly in vocabulary, and the study of apparatus found in manuscripts, particularly marginal glosses. The project will also explore possible ways of editing WB and how such a large body of evidence can be presented and made intelligible to a user. It will develop a methodology for editing WB and produce trial editions of two Old Testament (Proverbs and the Song of Songs) and two New Testament (the Epistles to the Romans and Hebrews) books for print and online presentation. The online edition will offer a framework for expansion when editions of other biblical books are created in future or when further materials, such as additional images or records of variants, are developed to supplement the trial editions.

Planned Impact

Libraries

The project's research outcomes will include descriptions and analysis of manuscripts, as well as images, editions and records of manuscript readings published in print and online. Availability of such materials will benefit collection description and management, and conservation work in the libraries that hold the manuscripts. The provision of such materials is an essential part of the libraries' efforts to give access to their collections to scholars, students and wider public, but the libraries usually lack the resources to carry out this work themselves, and increasingly rely on contributions from the academic community.

Religious communities, media, wider public

Though primarily aimed at researchers and graduate students the publications describing the project's findings and the project's editions will be of interest to members of religious communities and public interested in the history of Christianity, Reformation, biblical translation and the development of the English language and literacy in English. The interest in the Bible and its cultural and political impact throughout the world is consistently high, as can be seen from the number of print and online publications, novels, films and television programs concerned with the subject, aimed at widely different audiences. Both investigators have been invited to speak about WB and medieval tradition of biblical translation to groups interested in history, literature and theology, and to professional translators.

The proposed freely available online edition will address a need for an easily accessible, scholarly and user-friendly edition of WB. Such edition does not exist at present, and the only available options are difficult to access and use the Victorian edition and its partial reprints in modernised orthography with minimal commentary and apparatus.

In order to make the project's work and the online edition better known, the investigators and PDRA will record lectures aimed at the general public to be distributed via Oxford's iTunes-u. The lectures will be dedicated to the history of the Wycliffite movement, medieval biblical translation and WB, as well as specifically to the proposed project, its context, methods and findings, and draw attention to the website and suggest possible uses of the online edition. We will also organise a series of six public lectures on the history of biblical translation in the Middle Ages and early Modern period to be hosted by the Centre for the Study of the Book at the Bodleian Library. The lectures will be given by the members of the project and invited speakers and will be accompanied by an exhibition on the history of biblical translation in English in the Middle Ages.

Continuing Education

Continuing Education is good value and is open to all. The results of research will be disseminated through Continuing Education teaching in Oxford and Cambridge, raising awareness of medieval biblical translation as one of the most important aspects of our cultural heritage, and creating cultural and social benefits for wider public. Investigators and PDRA will organise a study day at the Department of Continuing Education, Oxford University, and a weekend course at the Institute of Continuing Education, Cambridge University, both focusing on medieval vernacular translations of the Bible.
 
Description The project's main research outcome is a selective new edition of the Wycliffite Bible. The edition is larger in scope than described in the original AHRC application: we proposed to edit four biblical books, but we have edited five books in their entirety and a substantial section from a sixth book. The functionality of the digital edition also considerably exceeds what we proposed in the application: in addition to the English text of the two versions of the Wycliffite Bible, it includes the Latin source text; in addition to traditional search facilities (wildcards, boolean operators and proximity of search terms), it offers innovative search options, such as phonetic search (disregarding orthographic variation common in medieval texts) and keyword in context concordance that allows users to view words aligned in their context within each version of the biblical translation, and to 'switch contexts' to see those precise locations in the other version and the Latin source (ensuring that texts can be compared easily and efficiently). The edition has sophisticated facilities for personal research and teaching, including annotation and sharing of annotations, comparing, extracting and saving images and sections of text. For example, the edition has a 'Personal Workspace' facility that allows a teacher to authorise access by students of an online 'workspace'. Within this space the students are able to assemble a personal collection of textual materials and images from those provided by the edition, to annotate them and send a link to their work to the teacher. All the components of the digital edition, and the text of five biblical books and their Vulgate source are currently available online.

Major research findings of the project include:
(a) an editorial methodology for the new edition;
(b) a model for online presentation of texts that survive in multiple versions or are translations, and require simultaneous display, navigation and searching of texts, images and critical apparatus;
(c) a better understanding of the manuscript and textual tradition of the Wycliffite Bible that made possible the development of an editorial methodology (see chapters 'The Manuscript Tradition' and 'The Origin and Textual Tradition of the Wycliffite Bible' in E. Solopova (ed.), The Wycliffite Bible: Origin, History and Interpretation (Leiden, 2017));
d) a discovery of an 'intermediate' version of the translation surviving in a manuscript in Oxford, resulting in a clearer understanding of the methods of the translators' work (see A. Hudson, 'Earlier Version/Later Version -- in the Wycliffite Bible is that the only choice?', in L. Ashe and R. Hanna (eds), Medieval and Early Modern Religious Cultures: Essays Honouring Vincent Gillespie on his Sixty-Fifth Birthday (Cambridge, 2019), 63-82);
e) a better understanding of the translation technique used by the authors of the two versions (see E. Solopova, 'The Wycliffite Psalms', in F. Leneghan and T. Atkin (eds), The Psalms and Medieval English Literature (Cambridge, 2017), 128-48);
f) a better understanding of the relationship of the Wycliffite Bible to earlier translations of the Vulgate into English (see E. Solopova, 'From Bede to Wyclif: the Knowledge of Old English within the Context of Late Middle English Biblical Translation and Beyond', Review of English Studies (2019), Advance Access Doi: 10.1093/res/hgz134)
g) a better understanding of the underlying Latin source of the translation (see chapter 'The Latin Text' by A. Hudson and E. Solopova, in Solopova, The Wycliffite Bible: Origin, History and Interpretation);
h) a better understanding of the language of the Wycliffite translation (chapter 'Dialect' in Solopova, The Wycliffite Bible: Origin, History and Interpretation, and A. Hudson, 'Observations on the "Wycliffite Orthography"', in S. Horobin and A. Nafde (eds), Pursuing Middle English Manuscripts and their Texts: Essays in Honour of Ralph Hanna (Turnhout, 2017), 77-98.

One of our most important achievements was securing funding from the John Fell Fund, Oxford, to employ for a year the second research assistant (Cosima Gillhammer) to produce an edition of the Wycliffite Old Testament Lectionary, a companion text circulated with the Wycliffite Bible. The Old Testament Lectionary is a liturgically organised set of Mass readings derived mostly from the Old Testament books of Wycliffite Bible. It survives in about 40 manuscripts. Though possibly the work of the original translators, it has never been previously studied or edited. The edition has now been accepted for publication by the Early English Text Society.

Our study of the literary and historical context of WB, and efforts to make related texts available in modern editions, has also resulted in E. Solopova, J. Catto, A. Hudson, From the Vulgate to the Vernacular: Four Debates on an English Question c. 1400 (Toronto, in production for spring 2020). This book is an analysis and edition of four treatises on biblical translation, one English and three Latin, that offer the most learned and detailed discussion of translation theory and practice surviving from medieval England. The edition comprises texts with facing translations and notes, and an introduction, including an account of the three main authors, a discussion of the dates of the texts, of the academic form of determination, of the main authorities of the texts, of ideological positions of the three participants, of the participants' views on biblical language and translation, views on language and translation in other Middle English theoretical discussions, an account of earlier translations mentioned by the participants, and descriptions of manuscripts.
Exploitation Route The project is the first step towards producing a complete new edition of the Wycliffite Bible. Considering the large size of the textual tradition of the translation, surviving in multiple versions and manuscript copies, accompanied by paratextual materials, this can be achieved only over a period of time as a result of a future collaborative project. Now that we have created a digital publishing environment, we are exploring the possibilities of collaborations that will extend the work on the edition beyond the limits of the current project. Our funding application to the National Endowment for the Humanities (USA), currently under review, is described in the section on Collaborations.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://wycliffite-bible.english.ox.ac.uk/#/
 
Description The project's research outcomes include descriptions and analysis of manuscripts, as well as images, and records of manuscript readings published in print and online. The availability of such materials benefits collection description and management, and conservation work in the libraries that hold the manuscripts. The provision of such materials is an essential part of the libraries' efforts to give access to their collections to scholars, students and the wider public, but libraries often lack the resources to carry out this work themselves and rely on contributions from the academic community. In addition, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, similarly to other research libraries, is interested in developing an online platform for publishing editions of texts as part of its digital collections. Such a system is urgently needed because at the moment the Library does not have a way of publishing the increasingly more numerous outcomes of research projects in digital form. The Wycliffite Bible: Digital Edition provides a model and technical solutions that can be used to develop such a system. I have demonstrated the existing Wycliffite Bible: Digital Edition to Dr Judith Siefring, Head of Digital Research, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, and proposed a joint project to develop the digital platform into a more generic application capable of supporting online editions of other texts. We make all conferences we organize open to the public and advertise them on social media to reach all interested in medieval literature, religion, scholarship and art. This has included two international conferences we organized while working on 'Towards a New Edition of the Wycliffite Bible': 'Nicholas of Lyra (c. 1270-1349) and the Late Medieval Bible' (March 2018) and 'Translation Theory and Practice in the Later Middle Ages: the Bible and Beyond' (March 2019), both attended by non-academic participants. For these conferences we sought funding independently of the AHRC grant to make them free or very low cost for the members of the public (see further information at https://wycliffite-bible.english.ox.ac.uk/#/page/academicconferences). We give public lectures and take part in educational events that allow us to present the results of our research outside the academic community. Some of our recent activities are detailed at https://wycliffite-bible.english.ox.ac.uk/#/page/publicengagement. I am a member of the panels of tutors at the departments of Continuing Education in Oxford and Cambridge, and regularly teach Continuing Education courses on medieval literature and language. I have developed a new 5-day course, based on research I have done while working on 'Towards a New Edition of the Wycliffite Bible'. The course entitled 'The First English Bible: Text and Context' will be offered for the first time at International School in Medieval Studies, University of Cambridge, 2-8 August 2020, https://www.ice.cam.ac.uk/course/medieval-studies-summer-programme-2020. The course will explore the history of biblical translation in medieval England, the Lollard movement and its role in the development of vernacular literature and theology, and manuscripts and text of the Wycliffite Bible, as an achievement of medieval craftsmanship, scholarship, linguistic and literary creativity. The International School in Medieval Studies at the University of Cambridge is one of the most popular and long-running schools in the country, and has a loyal following in the UK and internationally, with many participants attending year after year. My work on the Wycliffite Bible is well known to the participants, due to previous teaching and plenary lectures to the participants (see Engagement Activities section).
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Ludwig Humanities Research Fund
Amount £4,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Oxford 
Department New College Oxford
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 08/2018
 
Description Ludwig Humanities Research Fund
Amount £2,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Oxford 
Department New College Oxford
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2017 
End 08/2017
 
Description Ludwig Humanities Research Fund
Amount £3,500 (GBP)
Organisation University of Oxford 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 03/2018
 
Description Ludwig Humanities Research Fund
Amount £2,850 (GBP)
Organisation University of Oxford 
Department New College Oxford
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2018 
End 05/2018
 
Description Pump priming research grant
Amount £46,910 (GBP)
Organisation University of Oxford 
Department John Fell Fund
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 08/2018
 
Title Wycliffite Bible Digital Edition 
Description A new online edition of the Wycliffite Bible. The edition is designed to support online publication of a selection of biblical books as a result of the current project and of the complete biblical text as a result of any future collaborative projects. The edition provides facilities that support research into the text of the translation, including sophisticated searching, comparison of texts and images provided. Particularly innovative are the following features: (a) simultaneous scrolling of the two versions of the text, their Latin source, images and critical apparatus ensuring efficient and convenient comparison; (b) visual links made between the critical apparatus and the text that allow to survey manuscript variation more quickly and easily than in a traditional edition (e.g. moving the cursor over a lemma or a variant in the apparatus at the base of the browser window will highlight the relevant part of the main text); (c) powerful search facility, including concordancing and, when viewing the search results, an ability to switch between EV, LV and the Vulgate, to view the same point in the text of different versions and compare their wording. Technological solutions developed for the edition are freely available for use by other similar projects. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The current and projected impacts are: (a) on research into the Wycliffite Bible, biblical translation more widely and medieval literature; (b) on scholarly digital publishing (it supports the publication of an important text and makes it more accessible and widely available than traditional publishing; it acts as a model for publication of large and complex texts and accompanying materials that are difficult or impossible to make available by traditional methods); (c) on teaching of medieval literature, manuscript studies, textual criticism and editing. 
URL https://wycliffite-bible.english.ox.ac.uk/#/
 
Title Wycliffite Bible Digital Edition 
Description A new online edition of the Wycliffite Bible, the first complete translation of the Bible in English produced at the end of the 14th century by the followers of the Oxford theologian John Wyclif. The edition comprises texts of the two versions of the Wycliffite translation of the Bible, the Vulgate (the source text from which the translation was made), images of manuscripts and the record of textual variants from a range of manuscripts in which the translation survives. The edition is designed to support online publication of a selection of biblical books as a result of the current project (Proverbs, Song of Songs, Hosea, Romans, Acts and Luke chapters 1-10) and of the complete biblical text as a result of any future collaborative projects. The edition also provides facilities that allow research into the text of the translation, including sophisticated searching, comparison of texts and images provided, annotation and sharing of annotations by users. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Current and projected impacts are: (a) on research into the Wycliffite Bible, biblical translation more widely, and medieval literature; (b) on scholarly digital publishing (it supports the publication of an important text and makes it more accessible and more widely available than traditional publishing; it acts as a model for publication of texts surviving in multiple versions and accompanying research materials, that are difficult or impossible to make available by traditional methods; it makes the underlying code and technologies available to other editors); (c) on teaching of medieval literature, manuscript studies, textual criticism and editing. 
URL https://wycliffite-bible.english.ox.ac.uk/#/
 
Description A Critical Edition of the Books of Job and Revelation from the First English or Wycliffite Bible 
Organisation Tulane University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Work on a joint funding proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities (USA), Scholarly Editions and Translations programme, to produce an edition of two books of the Wycliffite Bible: Job and Revelation. The proposal was submitted on 4 December 2019.
Collaborator Contribution Work on a joint funding proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities (USA), Scholarly Editions and Translations programme, to produce an edition of two books of the Wycliffite Bible: Job and Revelation. The proposal was submitted on 4 December 2019.
Impact funding proposal submitted to the National Endowment for the Humanities (USA)
Start Year 2018
 
Title Digital Edition website 
Description The Wycliffite Bible Digital Edition website (https://wycliffite-bible.english.ox.ac.uk) has been developed with the following features: • Upload edited books and variants as DOCX files • Add new variants and annotations through the web browser • Download the text as TEI XML, including variants and annotations that have been added through the Web Browser in addition to the uploaded text • Browse the Earlier and Later Version texts side by side and in sync • Optionally add the Vulgate text and Manuscript images to side columns which sync with the Wycliffite Bible text • Search the Wycliffite Bible texts and the Vulgate utilising wildcards, phonetic variation, boolean operators and proximity of search terms • Limit Searches to specific books or chapters and to the Earlier and Later Versions or the Vulgate • Construct a keyword in context concordance to view words aligned in their context within the Earlier or Later Version, and "switch contexts" to see those precise locations in the other version and the Vulgate • Bookmark locations within the texts and take "snapshots" of the state of the entire interface to return to a specific configuration of texts and images • View your own annotations, variants, bookmarks and snapshots in a "workspace" and share the workspace with other authorised users through a specially generated link The code underlying these features will be made freely available via Oxford Research Archive after the end of the project. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2019 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact The Digital Edition website gives the widest possible access to texts we edited and supports both simple reading and sophisticated research on these texts. 
URL https://wycliffite-bible.english.ox.ac.uk
 
Description Der Klang der Bibel 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Daniel Sawyer recorded part of Song of Songs from the Wycliffite Bible for the Akademientag at the Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities on 17 June 2019. You can listen to the recording at Der Klang der Bibel ('The sound of the Bible') webpage presenting readings from medieval translations of the Bible into different languages.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://bibeluebersetzer.badw.de/der-klang-der-bibel.html
 
Description Biblical Texts in Latin and the Vernacular 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Cosima Gillhammer explained the different functions of Latin and the vernacular in the medieval Church, and discussed English Biblical translations from the Middle Ages at Eleanor Parker's blog 'Introducing Medieval Christianity'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://introducingmedievalchristianity.wordpress.com/2019/12/05/biblical-texts-in-latin-and-the-ver...
 
Description Discovering the medieval world through Chaucer 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact teaching a 5-day course at Medieval Studies Summer Programme, Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://www.ice.cam.ac.uk/course/medieval-studies-summer-programme
 
Description Masterpieces of Old English Poetry, Oxford University Summer School for Adults 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A course on medieval poetry taught at Oxford University Summer School for Adults, 1-15 July 2017. The school has an excellent reputation as the oldest summer school for adults in Britain and attracts an international audience (British, North American, eastern and western European, Asian). The course had an excellent feedback with several students expressing commitment to further study of medieval literature.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/about/oussa
 
Description Masterpieces of Old English poetry 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact teaching a 5-day course on Old English poetry at Medieval Studies Summer Programme, Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://www.ice.cam.ac.uk/course/medieval-studies-summer-programme
 
Description Oxford Research Unwrapped 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Daniel Sawyer recorded a passage from Genesis from the Wycliffite Bible for use in the light and sound art installation at the 'Oxford Research Unwrapped' event on 15 November 2019 at TORCH, as part of the national Being Human festival.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://beinghumanfestival.org/event/research-unwrapped/
 
Description The First English Bible: Text and Context 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Elizabeth Solopova will teach 'The First English Bible: Text and Context' at Medieval Studies Summer Programme, Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge, 2 - 8 August 2020. The course will explore the history of biblical translation in medieval England, the Lollard movement and its role in the development of vernacular literature and theology, and manuscripts and text of the Wycliffite Bible, a great achievement of medieval craftsmanship, scholarship, linguistic and literary creativity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.ice.cam.ac.uk/course/medieval-studies-summer-programme-2020
 
Description The Lollard Bible: the Greatest Medieval English Best-Seller, Library Lates: Designing English 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A talk at an evening event in the Weston Library in Oxford on 23 February, 2018, to accompany an exhibition 'Designing English'. The event was one of a series of events, 'Library Lates' , when the library stayed open in the evening with several education talks, workshops and demonstrations running at the same time. The event was widely advertised to the general public, very well attended and got an excellent feedback.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/whatson/whats-on/upcoming-events/2018/feb/library-lates-designing-engl...
 
Description Translating the Bible: the Wycliffite Revolt, Medieval Studies Summer Programme, Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A plenary lecture 'Translating the Bible: the Wycliffite Revolt' and two courses on medieval literature taught at Medieval Studies Summer Programme, International Programmes, Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge, 7 August - 11 August, 2017. The plenary lecture was attended by c. 120 participants and each course had 15-20 participants. The programme attracts an international audience (British, North American, western and eastern European, Asian). The courses and the lecture had an excellent feedback.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.ice.cam.ac.uk/course/medieval-studies-summer-programme