Individual Versions (Latin)

  • Native Title: Vita Adae et Evae ("The Life of Adam and Eve")
  • Original Publication: W. Meyer, "Vita Adae et Evae." Abhandlungen der königlichen Bayerischen Akademie des Wissenschaften, Philosoph.-philologische Klasse. Munich: 14.3, 1878, pp. 185-250.
  • Current Edition Used: The text presented here is basically that of Meyer's edition with special notation of the additions found in Family III. The text was prepared by W. Lechner-Schmidt of Germany.
  • Translation: prepared by Berlie Custis and Gary A. Anderson
  • Extended Discussion in Stone, A History of the Literature of Adam and Eve pp. 14-30.

The Latin text was first published by W. Meyer in 1878. He relied mainly on a set of manuscripts found in Munich. Later, J. H. Mozley published another text based on a set of manuscripts found in England. Most recently a full listing of all of the known Latin texts was published by M. E. B. Halford. Most still cite Meyer's edition although numerous superior readings are to be found in Mozley.

At present 73 manuscripts of the Latin are known to exist. The Latin material has only been surveyed in a summary fashion and much work remains to be done. The Latin manuscripts are especially significant for medievalists because of the enormous significance the Vita had in spawning later vernacular versions of the life of Adam and Eve. Among these one should include those versions for which we now have excellent editions in English: the Old Irish, Saltair Na Rann, the Old French, Penitence of Adam, and Lutwin's Middle High German, Eva und Adam. The problems involved in sorting out the textual sources of these works have been usefully surveyed in the publications of Murdoch, Quinn, and Halford.

The Latin version of the tale is certainly the most complex of all. At present no critical edition of the material exists. Meyer's edition is regularly cited as authoritative in spite of the fact that numerous superior readings exist in Mozley's survey of the texts found in England. The Latin material has not been re-examined in light of the recent publication of the Armenian and Georgian editions. The Latin material is also difficult because it was subject to such extensive re-writing in the course of its transmission. Halford, indeed, has wondered whether the establishment of a single critical text is possible, so varied is the text in its multiple forms. It seems to have been rewritten each time it was copied. We may only be able to establish priority within particular narrative units. In addition, because the Latin version served as a base text for dozens of other medieval vernacular editions, it may be that a standard critical edition of this text is not to be preferred, for the establishment of a primitive text would be of little use for tracing the life of these traditions in later medieval literature.

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