Editorial

Valerie Offord
Feast of the Epiphany 2004

On the feast of the Epiphany 1482 Marsilio Ficino, a priest of the Italian Renaissance, wrote a learned letter to ‘the ever invincible Federigo, Duke of Montefeltro: all happiness’.

Epiphany is a time of travel, discovery, happiness and surprise. The image of the three kings travelling from their distant countries following a star which they were sure heralded the birth of a ruler and their immense surprise when they discovered a small child lying in a manger has captivated the imagination of many over the centuries. During the 16th century at five yearly intervals at the Feast of the Epiphany the Florentine Company of the Magi, led by members of the Medici family clad in sumptuous robes, rode through the city to re-enact this scene. In Ficino’s time, the route was lengthened and the Company threaded its way from the Palazzo della Signoria to San Marco to portray scenes in Herod’s palace and the stable in the square. This spectacle has been immortalized for us by Benozzo Gozzoli’s glittering cavalcade on the walls of the chapel of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence.

There have been countless artistic representations of the adoration of the kings. For instance, William, Lord Hastings, executed in 1483 a year after Ficino wrote his letter, had owned two exquisite Flemish Books of Hours manuscripts (both on show at the current Royal Academy exhibition in London see Press Gleanings) which lay special emphasis on the subject. The fascination with the Magi’s journey from the east following the star continues to the present day. The Royal Foundation of St Katherine in Limehouse, London is moving its restored marble panel of the adoration of the kings from the cloister to serve as the centre piece of its altar. A rock from St Katherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai will be placed on the floor near it and around it an 8 pointed star with the inscription ‘We do not come to God by navigation but by love’.

This issue of the Journal contains all the attributes associated with Epiphany. William Cooper’s lead article surprises us by revealing the existence of some 14th century fragments of English translations of the New Testament which, though contemporary with, are not of Wycliffe’s school. He modestly does little more than reveal their existence and whereabouts whilst fervently expressing the hope that some scholar will take up the challenge to study the fragments, which are held in several leading British archives, in more depth.

The 1967 article ‘Tyndale A Lyric Drama’ which we reprint was discovered by a friend of the Society as he was clearing his office. The well-known dilemma arose of whether to throw it out or hand it to the Editor of the Journal. Luckily the latter course of action was adopted and we are able to read about Francis Jackson’s and John Stuart Anderson’s unusual project, a one-act opera entitled ‘Time of Fire’ based on the life and times of William Tyndale. It is interesting to note that the score was completed on Easter Day 1967, long before the Tyndale Society was thought of!

This issue has a definite musical and pictorial bias. This is reflected in the publication of the last in a series of synopses from the Antwerp Conference 2002. The paper given by Ralph Dekoninck entitled ‘From Figurae Bibliorum to Imagines Evangelicae’ was a discussion on the 16th century series of illustrated publications or ‘picture Bibles’.

Travel was certainly undertaken by those attending the 3rd Geneva Tyndale Conference in October 2003. There were participants from the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and, of course, Switzerland who happily discovered new facts and theories and formed new friendships. Mary Clow’s report in this issue captures the happy atmosphere at that Conference. The speakers’ topics gelled so well that there is a project to publish a book of the Proceedings. This will, if technically feasible, be issued with an accompanying CD of the 16th century music of the French Psalter so ably explained by Prof. Francis Higman on the Friday evening of the Conference and enlivened by a performance from a group of talented singers. In this issue we have published Prof. David Daniell’s learned sermon delivered in Holy Trinity Church, Geneva on the last day of the Conference.

Autumn proved to be a marathon for keen Tyndalians. Eunice Burton, with her customary incisiveness, has written an excellent report on the 9th Annual Lambeth Lecture and we are very grateful for Beatrice Groves’s superb report on the Annual Hertford Lecture by Brian Cummings entitled ‘Hamlet’s Luck: Shakespeare and the Sixteenth Century Bible’.

As Editor I appreciate your letters. It makes a job which can be rather lonely at times much more convivial. Without these communications I could spend hours either bleakly gazing at an empty computer screen or willing the postman to arrive with an article to publish. I hope readers find my printed selection of them as interesting as I did! Also it is nice to have people agreeing so readily to review books. This section seems to be growing apace. My attempts to keep the subjects as cohesive as possible are often thwarted, as it is easier to hold over a book review than an article when the page count becomes crucial.

It is wonderful to welcome back American News. Joe Johnson reports that a carol service was held on 17 December in Florala, Alabama similar to the one held annually in London for some years now. David Daniell’s very successful book launch in September 2003 gave the Society a fairly high media exposure in New York and finally, perhaps the most exciting news of all, a Tyndale Conference is planned for 23-26 September 2004 at Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Judith Munzinger and I would be delighted to welcome others to our Press Gleanings team. The more people involved the more subjects covered. The Ploughboys seem to be busily furrowing with both TV appearances and lecturing. Read all about them chatting up sheep in the West Country in the Ploughboy Group Notes.

It is always sad to hear of the death of a member but the death of Sir Edward Pickering, the Tyndale Society’s founder and one of our patrons, is a particularly sad blow. His widow, Rosemary, wrote to Gillian Graham (whom Sir Edward chose as his administrative assistant in 1995 when implementing his idea to commemorate Tyndale) ‘I cannot think of a period in his life which involved a project giving my dear husband more pleasure than the William Tyndale Quincentenary’. Members of the Tyndale Society are overwhelmingly grateful to him for this initiative and will miss his quiet friendly presence at our meetings.

As usual I owe a great debt of gratitude to my trusty editorial assistant, Judith Munzinger. In a spirit of helpfulness I gave her a copy of ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’ as a way of pushing the responsibility for my ignorance of the Oxford comma and other punctuation brain teasers on to her shoulders. Brilliant concept but lousy timing. Editing came to a grinding halt as she read Lynne Truss’s book from cover to cover. My sincere thanks also go to my in house formatting and scanning guru Robin and to all the contributors to this issue. Your willingness to produce copy makes editing a constant source of pleasure.

You will be well advised to read Dates for Your Diary assiduously. There are many events to attend and sign up for. By travelling to them you will be surprised to discover many new facts, happily explore new places and make new friends. Finally, to our readers in the words of Marsilio Ficino: ‘all happiness’.

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