An edition of Guillelmus Peraldus, 'Summa de virtutibus'
06 / 2001 - 05 / 2004
The aim of this project is to prepare a critical, annotated edition of the by and large most influential text on the cardinal virtues from the later medieval period: Guillaume Peyraut (Guillelmus Peraldus, ca. 1200-1271?), 'Summa de virtutibus' (ca. 1248), section III, 'De virtutibus cardinalibus'. Peraldus, a Dominican preacher from Lyon, composed the 'Summa de virtutibus' as a counterpart of his 'Summa de vitiis' (ca. 1236); by 1250 both summae often circulated together, so that they are sometimes mentioned as a single work, by medieval readers as well as by modern bibliographers. It is important to note that the 'Summa de virtutibus' is not a specimen of speculative theology or philosophy. There are few references to Aristotle or other Greek philosophers; Peraldus rather uses the Latin Stoics (Cicero, Seneca, Macrobius) and otherwise clings to the Christian tradition, from the Bible and patristic writings to Bernard of Clairvaux. One may characterise his summae as compendia for preachers and confessors, adapted to their instructional needs and emphasising more the concrete actions of common believers than human psychology or morality in general. Their rhetoric and structure suit these pragmatic needs: the works include a large amount of illustrative material (quotations, anecdotes, exempla), which were to facilitate the moral instruction of the congregation from the pulpit. Moreover, rubrics were introduced into the text to stimulate the use of the summae as works of reference. The influence of the 'Summa de virtutibus' can hardly be overestimated. The work has been preserved in over 300 manuscripts (against 500 for the 'Summa de vitiis'), many of these originating in Dominican and Franciscan environments, and a few dozen early printed editions. For many Latin and vernacular treatises dealing with the virtues, the 'Summa' has functioned as a leading or exclusive model (which has caused many of these works to be mistakenly attributed to Peraldus). Moreover, several shorter versions of the work have been composed, some of which have been diffused in considerable numbers in their turn; some chapters have been transmitted as separate writings. Although the need for a critical edition of Peraldus' summae has been recognised, no one is thus far engaged in a project to edit the 'Summa de virtutibus'. However, an edition of the 'Summa de vitiis' is being prepared by a team of five American scholars (Kent Emery jr., Joseph Goering, Richard Newhauser, Catherine Pinchetti, Siegfried Wenzel). The American project opens excellent possibilities for co-operation, especially since both summae by Peraldus have often been transmitted in the same manuscripts. Contacts for co-operation with the American editorial team have been established. An edition of the entire 'Summa de virtutibus' is obviously most desirable, but would be impossible within the limits of a single project. In modern print, the summa would fill about 500 pages. The section on the cardinal virtues takes up 40% of the work and thus constitutes a text of a still quite considerable, but much more manageable proportions; with an introduction, commentaries, and annotations, a critical edition might well number 400 pages. It is conceivable, however, that even this more limited aim should turn out to be unattainable in the view of the overwhelming number of manuscripts and their textual variety. In that case, the project should be redirected towards the preparation of a critical edition, with the emphasis being on the description and classification of the manuscripts and the identification of Peraldus' sources; this would represent a more valuable contribution to scholarship than a precocious edition. The editorial work might be limited to one virtue alone as a case study. An edition of the other parts of the text might be the aim of a future project, possibly by the same editor. The source material of the project naturally consists first of all in the manuscripts and early editions of Peraldus' 'Summa' as well as in the shorter versions derived from the work. On behalf of the editorial work in the proper sense, the editor must make a relevant selection among this material. The main lines of transmission of the text in the thirteenth century should become evident; the material from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries should at least be classified (complete copies, partial copies, adaptations etc.). Writings which Peraldus knew and used must be studied as well; some of these are included in the source material of projects I to III. Finally, Peraldus' other works must be studied, notably his works on monastic and princely instruction: 'De eruditione religiosorum' (ca. 1260-1265) and 'De eruditione principum' (ca. 1265). Both works contain much material drawn from his summae. Comparing the treatment of virtues in Peraldus' various texts might lead to the publication of one or more detail studies.