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Vol. 30 La Estorie del Evangelie

A parallel-text edition.

Celia Millward (ed.) 

La Estorie del Evangelie is a metrical life of Christ based on the gospels, probably first composed in Norfolk in the late thirteenth century. Despite the French title no source in French has been identified, and the poem is likely to be an original English work. It was apparently popular, as it survives in seven manuscripts (including the Vernon manuscript) widely spaced in terms of date and place of writing. Several have previously been printed, but all the extant versions are incomplete in one way or another, and no critical edition has ever been produced, nor has the longest version ever  been published. Because of the complexity of the textual situation (fully discussed in the Introduction) and the absence of an obvious base manuscript, this new edition presents all the known texts printed line-by-line in parallel, which both facilitates comparison and allows the poem to be read as a continuous unit. ‘La Estorie del Euangelie’ survives in seven manuscripts, though all versions are incomplete in one way or another – even the longest breaks off well before the end. A Middle English work that has survived in so many different manuscripts written in several geographical areas and over a period of more than a century must have been very popular. Nevertheless, no critical edition has been published, and two of the extant versions, including the longest one, have never been printed. One of the reasons for the poem’s neglect is probably the fact that none of its surviving versions is complete; one must read at least three or four of the versions to get a good idea of what the original poem was like. No single line of the poem is attested by more than four versions, and approximately half the lines survive in only one or two texts. This edition of the ‘Estorie’ presents all the known texts of the poem, printed in parallel to facilitate easy comparison and to allow the poem to be read as a continuous unit.