The Golden Legend, Volume I : Readings on the Saints, Paperback Book

The Golden Legend, Volume I : Readings on the Saints Paperback

3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Depicting the lives of the saints in an array of both factual and fictional stories, The Golden Legend was perhaps the most widely read book, after the Bible, during the late Middle Ages.

In his new translation, the first in modern English of the complete text from the Graesse edition, William Granger Ryan captures the immediacy of this rich, image-filled work, and offers an important guide for readers interested in medieval art and literature and in popular religious culture more generally.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Prose: non-fiction
  • ISBN: 9780691001531



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This review is all good news and bad news. The good news: <i>finally</i> there is a modern translation of <i>The Golden Legend</i> The bad news is, it really needs to be fuller.The <i>Golden Legend</i> was one of the most popular books of the Middle Ages, a large and much-copied edition of saints' lives. It contains large sections of the (Vulgate) Bible, and an even larger amount of pious nonsense. Plus some absolutely spectacular mis-translations of the Greek and Hebrew of the original Bible. De Voragine's original is an amazing mix of erudition and bone-headedness.But the bone-headedness hardly matters, because the book was so popular. Much of what most people knew about the various saints came from this book. It was one of Caxton's earliest publications, and there are very many early editions. That being so, its contents influenced history, simply because so many people learned their theology and church history from the Legend.So modern scholars have a desperate need for a good solid translation with commentary.Therein lies the bad news. The commentary. That isn't there. There are no notes on de Voragine's numerous absurd translations, and no citations to tell us when he is quoting the Bible or some other source, as opposed to when he is just making things up. Nor are there sufficient finding helps.And, frankly, the translation is rather wooden. That's a small objection to such an important work, but it does make one less willing to look things up.So the bottom line is, this is an important and useful book. But it really requires a separate commentary, and this edition does not supply it.