Book and Verse

A Guide to Middle English Biblical Literature
Author: James H. Morey
Cloth – $95
Publication Date
Cloth: 04/01/2000
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About the Book

Exploding the myth that the Bible was largely unknown to medieval lay folk, Book and Verse presents the first comprehensive catalog of Middle English biblical literature: a body of work that, because of its accessibility and familiarity, was the primary biblical resource of the English Middle Ages. The medieval Bible, much like the Bible today, consists in practical terms not of a set of texts within a canon but of those stories which, because of a combination of liturgical significance and picturesque qualities, form a provisional "Bible" in the popular imagination. As James Morey explains in his introduction, although the Latin Bible was not accessible to the average English-speaker, paraphrases— systematic appropriation and refashioning of biblical texts—served as a medium through which the Bible was promulgated in the vernacular. This explains why biblical allusions, models, and large-scale appropriations of biblical narrative pervade nearly every medieval genre.

Book and Verse is an indispensable guide to the variety and extent of biblical literature in England, exclusive of drama and the Wycliffite Bible, that appeared between the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries. Entries provide detailed information on how much of what parts of the Bible appear in Middle English and where this biblical material can be found. Comprehensive indexing by name, keyword, and biblical verse allows a researcher to find, for example, all the occurrences of the Flood Story or of the encounter between Elijah and the Widow of Sarephta. An invaluable resource, Book and Verse provides the first easy access to the "popular Bible" assembled before and after John Wyclif's translation of the Vulgate into English.


"A very handy book, highly recommended for any medievalist interested in the literary use of the Bible during the Middle Ages. Although it focuses on Middle English literature, it has much to say to scholars concerned with the various ways in which Biblical paraphrase and allusion became building blocks of the new vernacular literature. . . . Superb. . . . A model of careful (and patient) scholarship. . . . Should be in every college and university library." -- Richard K. Emmerson, Journal of English and German Philology

"Carefully researched and accessibly set forth, this current guide is an invaluable resource for scholars and teachers of Middle English literature and culture." -- Choice

"Anyone who has tried to read through the biblical literature of the Middle English period must surely be grateful for this new guide, a tool that has been lacking for too many years. . . . Morey has done an excellent job of squeezing a great deal of material into some 400 pages." -- David C. Fowler, Christianity and Literature

"Will surely find a welcome reception among those interested in biblical literature in the Middle Ages. The introductory chapters broaden our understanding of the medieval Bible, and the reference section will be an invaluable resource." -- Thomas H. Bestul, Speculum, A Journal of Medieval Studies

"Will be invaluable to scholars of Middle English because of its guide to Middle English biblical literature. . . . Morey has gathered the information and rendered it into a format that is easy to read, understand, and use. . . . Morey's work is a first step toward recognizing the existence of a vernacular 'Bible' in Middle English, and [his] guide to that literature is a much-needed reference source." -- Beth Crachiolo, The Medieval Review