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Art. 91, La destinccioun de la estature Jesu Crist Nostre Seigneur: Introduction

Abbreviations: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); DOML: Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library; FDT: French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages (Sinclair 1979); FDT-1French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages, . . . First Supplement (Sinclair 1982); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

This prose work provides a portrait of Jesus Christ’s physical features, with special attention given to his head and face. Its source is an apocryphal letter circulating in Latin, which purported to be addressed to the Roman Senate in the reign of Tiberius Caesar, from Publius Lentulus, governor of Judea before the time of Pontius Pilate. These stated circumstances do not fit historical fact. The letter reflects, instead, a conception of Jesus as imagined by pious Christians of the Middle Ages. The fake document seems to have been made and promulgated in the thirteenth century, perhaps originally in Greek and perhaps to promote the authenticity of a visual icon. This Harley text is the only version of the Letulus Letter known in Anglo-Norman. Its placement opposite The Way of Christ’s Love (art. 92) is probably a deliberate act of juxtaposition by the scribe. It has not been previously edited or translated.

[Fol. 127va–b. ANL 488. Vising §182. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 14. Layout: Prose in double columns. The title is underlined in red. The C of Cheveus (line 4) and the l of lé oyls (line 10) are marked in red. Editions: None. Other MSS: None. Latin Source: Apocryphal Letter of Publius Lentulus: see ANL 488; Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. Publius Lentulus; Kuczynski 2012, pp. 46–51. Middle English Prose Analogue: London, BL Addit. MS 10106, fol. 49v, ed. Kuczynski 2012, pp. 39–41. Middle English Verse Analogue: From Cursor Mundi; see ANL 488; Kuczynski 2012, pp. 51–57. Translations: None.]

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