Alexander of Ashby’s Brevissima comprehensio historiarum : critical edition with annotation
By Greti Dinkova-Bruun
Ph.D.Dissertation, University of Toronto, 1999
Abstract: Alexander, prior of the Augustinian canons at Ashby in Northamptonshire (died ca. 1215), is one of the important Anglo-Latin authors whose works were until recently completely neglected. Now there are editions of his ‘ Meditationes‘ (1990) and his ‘De artificioso modo praedicandi ‘ (1991), but his poetical works are still unknown to the public.
The aim of this dissertation is to amend this situation by providing a critical edition and a study of Alexander’s poem ‘Breuissima comprehensio historiarum ‘, a concise versification of the historical books of the Bible. Alexander’s ‘Breuissima comprehensio historiarum’ exists in three different versions. A short version (only 704 verses) is found in York, Durham and Oxford, while the manuscripts from London and Cambridge contain much longer compositions, 1362 and 928 verses respectively. The long versions are expansions based on the short original text, but composed independently of each other with quotations from different poets–the version in London with passages from Lawrence of Durham’s ‘Hypognosticon’, and the one in Cambridge with passages from Peter Riga’s ‘Aurora’.
The poem is accompanied by a prose prologue which is preserved fully only in York and Durham. It is abbreviated and modified in Cambridge, while missing entirely in Oxford and, except for its last sentence, also in London. The edition of Alexander’s ‘Breuissima comprehensio historiaarum ‘ comprises three different, but closely related parts. First, the critical edition of the short version of the text based on all five manuscripts; secondly, a diplomatic edition of the expanded version found in London, i.e. the “Lawrence of Durham”–version; and finally, a diplomatic edition of the expanded version found in Cambridge, i.e. the “Peter Riga”–version.
The edition is preceded by three chapters, one on the versifications of the Bible from the early 12th to the middle of the 13th century, one on different aspects of Alexander’s poem, and one on the manuscript tradition and the present edition. The dissertation ends with an annotation to the text and two appendices, the first, a table of the biblical kings, and the second, a list of the glosses found in the Durham and the London manuscripts.