10. Mar, 2020

'A New Mancini' - follow-up

I note the Richard III Society seems to have changed its mind about revisiting the Armstrong edition of Dominic Mancini’s 1483 report on events in England (see my page Ricardian Topics).

Many Ricardians are aware of prejudiced language employed by Armstrong in his translation from the Latin. This translation dates from 1936, long before modern scholarship began to realize how much prejudice against Richard III had been built on shaky grounds. Armstrong was actually working on his translation at roughly the same time that Tanner and Wright were busily producing a notable work of confirmation bias designed to prove that the bones they examined from Westminster Abbey were none other than Edward V and his brother Richard.

In 2015, in the light of my newly published research into the offices of Lord Protector and High Constable of England, I wrote an article in the Ricardian Bulletin where I pointed out that Mancini was a significant source of misinformation in this context ... and I had the temerity to suggest that the Society take on the task of a new edition of Mancini, in line with the its remit to ‘secure a reassessment’ of this kind of material.

Whilst attracting several letters of support, it was also the cue for Peter Hammond and Marie  Barnfield to pen a particularly scathing riposte accusing us of seeking ‘the interpretation most favourable to Richard in every case,’ and telling us if we didn’t like Armstrong’s translation we could always make our own.

But it wasn’t a new translation I wanted, it was a new edition! We should be encouraging an enterprise by an educational institution to examine Mancini’s original MS in Lille, produce a new and accurate transcription, and only then undertake a fresh translation with a scholarly introduction including an explanation of his lapses of understanding when it came to assumptions about England and her particular laws and precedents.

The problem with rectifying a few dodgy translations on the cheap is that the proposed reprint-plus-introduction will now remain the standard edition for another generation or more – a badly missed opportunity. In relation to many such MSS it is actually quite short, and the Society is the one organization that really should be investing in new editions of seminal contemporary texts like this. Latin is unfortunately disappearing from school curricula, so the chances of re-examination in the future are diminishing exponentially.

The one aspect of this proposal that gives me hope is that the task will be in the safe hands of Livia Visser-Fuchs, who can be relied upon to do the best job it is possible to imagine. As for Hammond and Barnfield’s suggestion of ‘a Ricardian translation’ for Society members, ‘clearly labelled as such’  (by which they mean ‘partisan’), I am confident that Livia will not be tempted in that direction.