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Barlaam And Ioasaph by St. John Of Damascus

THE Greek Text, employed in this present book, and upon which the accompanying English Translation is based, is that of J. F. Boissonade, occurring in vol. iv., pp. 1–365, of his Anecdota Graeca, Paris, 1832.

Boissonade’s is the First Printed Greek edition of Barlaam and Ioasaph, and is founded on certain MSS. in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. These are four in number; viz., Codex 903 (of the eleventh cent.) which Boissonade labels A; Codex 904 (of the twelfth cent.) B; Codex 1128 (of the fourteenth cent.) C; and Codex 907 (also of the fourteenth cent.) D. But to this last-named codex Boissonade refers only when dealing with the Apology of Aristides, pp. 243–251. Boissonade appears to have favoured Codex 904 most of all, and, on p. vii of his preface, he informs us that, for the sake of brevity, he has noted only a few variations of A and C. His hopes of a new edition by Schmidt and Kapitar have not yet been fulfilled. When seeking for the best Greek text of Barlaam and Ioasaph, Migne availed himself of the labours of Boissonade, and this text he has, more or less faithfully, reproduced in his third vol. of St. John Damascene’s writings in Tome xcvi. of the Patrologiae Graecœ Cursus Completus.

In 1884 there was published at Athens, under the editorship of Sophronius, Monk of Mount Athos, another printed edition of Barlaam and Ioasaph. This was based upon parchment MSS. belonging to the Sketè of St. Anne on the aforesaid Holy Mount.

In addition to Codices 903, 904, 907 and 1128, Boissonade enumerates 16 other Greek MSS. in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. And H. Zotenberg, in his Notice sur le livre de Barlaam et Ioasaph, p. 3, gives us their numbers, and dates, ranging from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries, but says nothing about their genealogical classification. He also supplies a valuable list of Greek MSS. elsewhere. Six examples are said to be preserved in the Imperial Library at Vienna; four in the Royal Library at Munich; ten in different Libraries at Oxford. Single copies exist in the British Museum, in the Libraries of Heidelberg, Rome and the abbey of Grotta Ferrata, at Florence, at Venice, Turin, Madrid, the Escurial; at Moscow, in the patriarchal Library at Cairo, at the convents of Saint Saba (whereof St. John Damascene was monk) and of Iveron, and of St. Anne on Mount Athos. Dr. Armitage Robinson in his Appendix to The Apology of Aristides, pp. 81, 82, adds to this long list a Greek MS. at Wisbech, apparently of the beginning of the eleventh cent.; and another, of the seventeenth cent., in the Library of Pembroke College, Cambridge.

A glance at the Catalogue of Romances in the Department of MSS. in the British Museum alone is sufficient to prove the immense popularity of Barlaam and Ioasaph in the Middle Ages, and to show what material it provided for romancers, poets preachers, teachers, dramatists, writers of mystery plays, Moralities, and the like.

After the appearance of Barlaam and Ioasaph in the literary works of St. John Damascene, and following its embodiment, about the middle of the tenth cent., in Simeon Metaphrastes’ Lives of the Saints, it was translated into Latin, certainly not later than the twelfth cent.3 From this and from other Latin versions the history of Barlaam and Ioasaph passed easily into nearly every language in Europe.4

To speak only of England. Here, as elsewhere, Barlaam and Ioasaph was probably chiefly known by means of the Dominican Monk Jacobus de Voragine5 and his famous Legenda Aurea, which is a collection of lives of Saints. Barlaam and Ioasaph appear in this work, not as St. John Damascene wrote, the history, but in an abridged form. But with the invention of the Printing Press copies were greatly multiplied. The first edition of Legenda Aurea is supposed to have been printed at Basel about 1470, and of this Latin edition Caxton made a translation and ‘Fynyashed’ it at Westminster, on Nov. 20, 1483. Since then many a reprint of these Golden Legends has been made. In 1672 these was also published in London, in English prose, The History of the Five Wise Philosophers: or The Wonderful Relation of the Life of Iehoshaphat the Hermit, Son of Avenerio, King of Barma in India … A Treatise, both Pleasant Profitable, and Pious. This was written by H. P(arsons)., Gent. Subsequent editions of this work appeared in 1711, 1725 (?) and 1732; and the above was reprinted by K. S. Macdonald, Calcutta, 1895.

Dr. Armitage Robinson considers it ‘remarkable that this work, which at one time enjoyed such extraordinary popularity, should not have found its way into print in its original language before the nineteenth century.’ Perhaps it is scarcely less remarkable that it has been reserved to the year 1914 to give a full translation in English, as is now done for the first time, of this edifying and charming ‘half-Greek, and half-oriental story.’

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