School Stemma

A couple of days ago I published a post about an adaptation of the Great Stemma that appears in the bibles of Parc, Floreffe, Foigny and Burgos. For a long time, my working name for that diagram has been the Lesser Stemma, built on the sense that it employs fewer diagrammatic features than the original 5th-century document.

It has been rightly pointed out that this is misleading, since in sheer bulk it is one of the biggest biblical stemmata ever made.

Counted in pages -- 18 -- it is bigger than the other versions. (Epsilon: 16 pages. Alpha and Beta: 14.) Counted in words, it is vast, inflated with supplementary material from Isidore's Quaestiones including the elaborate allegorical account of the Wandering in the Desert divided into 27 stages or mansio. Even counted in roundels -- Burgos has 529 of them -- it is on a par with the other versions which have an average of 540.

So I began to think about a better name for it.

One idea was to name it from its aggressive intention, which was first identified nearly three decades ago by Yolanta Zaluska. The new stemma employs the techniques of the old one, but to oppose the Great Stemma's purpose. The original explains Jesus's dual ancestries as a mother-plus-father descent. The revision explains the doubling as an effect of Jewish society's levirate marriage custom. One might therefore compare the new stemma to a ship captured by an enemy. Taken as a prize, it sails with a new crew and turns its guns against its former owners. However there is no simple, obvious word to describe this repurposing phenomenon.

One might equally well consider the uses of the new work. The original Stemma was a rather flashy infographic designed to demonstrate at a glance certain ideas about chronology and descent. The new stemma was more like a turgid textbook, loaded up with etymologies, explanations and lists (like that of the prophets). Like a textbook, it has been checked for its doctrinal orthodoxy and has clearly been approved for use by the impressionable student monk. It is not there for easy reading, but to supply information that can be learned by rote and tested.

From this more educational purpose, it might be best to describe the new version as a "school stemma". That is the working name I will employ for it in the next stage of research.

I have fixed the tabulation of "School Stemma" pages on my catalog page, and have discovered that two pages of the Foigny Bible version are online, though in low resolution: the page with Sem and Joktan, 4r, and the Incarnation page, 11r. These two links to the BNF images database work intermittently, but not always.

Zaluska, Yolanta. ‘Entre texte et image: les stemmata bibliques au Sud et au Nord des Pyrénées’. Bulletin de la Societé nationale des antiquaires de France (1986): 142–152.

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