Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/626

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was already beginning to lift. By means of a recent discovery the present writer has ascertained that in this very library a copy of the books of the Old Testament from Genesis to Ruth in Greek existed early in the fifteenth century. The manuscript, now at Oxford, is of Grosseteste's date, and was very probably brought by him to England.

There were younger contemporaries of Grosseteste and of Bacon, who carried on the work of the great teachers, and that in no unworthy fashion. At Ramsey Abbey (where the influence of the former may fairly be suspected, for it lay in his diocese) a small band of scholars were in possession of the whole of the Old Testament in Hebrew. They had bought up the libraries of the suppressed synagogues at Huntingdon and Stamford. One among them, Prior Gregory, had furthermore studied Greek: a bilingual Psalter remains to attest the fact. At a somewhat later date the stores of Hebrew manuscripts accumulated by his predecessors enabled Laurence Holbeach, a monk of the same House, to compile a Hebrew Lexicon.

Another great work was set on foot in the second half of the thirteenth century,—a work whose existence is hardly suspected now-a-days. This was nothing less than a literal translation from Hebrew into Latin of the greater part of the Old Testament-clearly a work of English scholars, for all the known manuscripts which contain any part of it are of English origin, and are preserved in English libraries. Of the originators of this enterprise, and of the character of their work, we may look to learn more; but even in our present state of knowledge we can very confidently predicate of them that they owed their inspiration to the influence of one or other of the two great champions of the "original tongues."

It must not be supposed that for England alone is claimed the honour of having attempted a scientific treatment of the Sacred Text at this time. The principal impulse to study seems to have been given by Englishmen, it is true; but work was also being done outre mer. Before the middle of the thirteenth century the Dominicans of Paris had attempted the task of systematically correcting the text of the Latin Bible. The results, however, were not happy, in the opinion of the man best qualified to judge of them. Bacon is, indeed, unsparing in his strictures. The work had been undertaken without adequate knowledge of the original tongues, and carried on without reference being made to the oldest and best manuscripts of the Vulgate. The consequence is that the Paris "correction," of which there were two editions, is "the worst possible corruption and destruction of the text of God." But Bacon was not merely a destructive critic. It was seemingly a friend and correspondent of his own, William de Mara, who eventually compiled a Correctorium based on a sound knowledge of Hebrew. On its composition he spent not less than forty years; and it is believed that he derived material assistance from Bacon himself in the course of his work.