Saturday, July 7, 2012

Book Review: The Rule of Saint Benedict (Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library)

With the feast of Saint Benedict days away, it seems only appropriate to review the most recent Latin-English edition of Benedict's rule. Translated by Bruce Venarde, the latest edition comes to us as an entry in the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library series and this volume holds the distinction as both one of the strongest entries to date in the series and the best overall edition of the Rule of Saint Benedict widely available.

Vernarde has produced a fine translation. While there are a few things I might translate a little differently, overall, his translation works well. Although, for those persons linguistically inclined, the real prize is the Latin text presented in this edition. The Latin text used for this edition is that of the St. Gall manuscript, thought to be the most representative of Benedict's actual style of all the extant copies of the rule. Written in a manner that largely reflects the spoken Latin of the sixth century in central Italy (outside of Rome), the St. Gall manuscript provides Latin and Italian scholars the delightful opportunity of examining some of the conventions of spoken Latin and comparing them to the earliest examples of Italian or the central dialects. This is one of those rare instances where one has an actual text that helps trace the rise of Italian vernacular from the tongue of the vulgus.

For the monastic, this edition gets you closer to Benedict's most subtle intentions. For the linguist, this is another piece in the transition from Latin to Italian (dialects and all).

You may purchase the book here.