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Robert E. Lerner: Rupescissa Goes Multilingual: The Pan-European Vernacular Reception of a Latin Eschatological Prophecy

March 9, 2017, 5:15pm BST - 6:45pm
CREMS Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, Queen Mary University of London

ArtsTwo building, room 2.17
Queen Mary, Mile End Rd
London E1 4NS
United Kingdom

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This paper treats the multilingual vernacular reception of John of Rupescissa’s Vade mecum in tribulatione, written in the papal prison of Avignon in 1356. Between its composition and circa 1500 the Latin work appeared in a large number of vernacular translations: French (four versions), English, German (three versions), Italian (two versions), Czech (three versions), Castilian (three versions) and Catalan. One Castilian translation is in “aljamiado”—Castilian written in Arabic characters. Translations run from word to word, to sense to sense, to wilful tamperings.  Particularly interesting for the historian are tendentious changes. (Even word for word translations add or subtract material, often tendentiously.) The present paper will concentrate on reporting some of the most interesting. For example, the sole English translation dates from the late 16th century and appears to have been tailored to console recusants: "all this worlde shalbe gathered to gether to the holly fayth of the gennerall churche vnder the obedience of one Romayn busshup." All of the German versions expunge Rupescissa’s prediction of the coming of “popular justice,” and one dilates on the coming of an imperial hero in ways that diverge significantly from the Latin. One Castilian translation that features imperial messianism was copied in the Seville of Ferdinand and Isabella; the aljamiado text opens with “Bismallah” and transforms Rupescissa’s Antichrist into something resembling the Mahdi.  (Evidence exists that the Vade mecum was also translated in 15c Spain into Hebrew but unfortunately no copy survives.) The sole English translations dates from the late 16th century and appears to have been tailored to console recusants: "all this worlde shalbe gathered to gether to the holly fayth of the gennerall churche vnder the obedience of one Romayn busshup."

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March 3, 2017, 9:00am BST

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