Building upon the seminal scholarship of Mary Rouse and Richard Rouse, who published an extensive study of the Manipulus florum in 1979 that includes editions of Thomas' Preface and his list of authors and works (Preachers, pp.251-310), The Electronic Manipulus florum Project provides an Open Access critical edition of this florilegium, as well as a number of related Open Access research materials and various auxiliary resources (see Project Description). In an article on concordances, alphabetized indices and other reference tools developed during the 12th and 13th centuries, the Rouses emphasized that their purpose was to enable users "to find immediately" (statim invenire) the desired passage; the same utilitarian impulse informed the compilation and organization of florilegia. Thus, this project simply seeks to extend Thomas of Ireland's original intention into the digital age.
This digital humanities resource should be very useful to editors of sermons and other texts whose authors employed the Manipulus, or an intermediate text derived from it, as a resource. It should also have much broader utility for teaching purposes as a compendium of authoritative sources which reflects the medieval mentality on a wide variety of topics. Nevertheless, this florilegium should not be regarded as a strictly medieval text; the large number of early imprints (the Rouses [Preachers, pp.243-4] identified 34 editions published between 1550 and 1650) indicates that it was widely used well into the 17th century, evidence both of its enduring importance and the continuity of certain aspects of intellectual culture from the later Middle Ages into the Early Modern era. It is for this reason that the critical edition has been collated against five printed editions from the late 15th and 16th centuries.
In addition to providing a practical resource for editors of late medieval and early modern texts, and for instructors dealing with those eras, the Electronic Manipulus florum should also prove useful to scholars in determining how this influential florilegium served to transmit a large body of wisdom literature to the European populace, primarily through the medium of sermons. The selection and organization of these authoritative excerpts and proverbs is an important aspect of the intellectual and cultural history of late medieval and early modern Europe that has been largely unappreciated in the absence of a critical edition of this text; the provision of this Open Access edition is intended to facilitate scholarly appreciation of this florilegium.
In the process of compiling this critical edition, it became apparent that about 1000 of the "quotations" in the Manipulus vary significantly from the original source or sources. In many cases, Thomas or the compiler of an intermediate resource employed by him (or both) paraphrased the original source, or interpolated and/or omitted words from the source text, or spliced together two or more separate passages (sometimes from different works by the same author, and occasionally two or more works by different authors). These unique textual traditions enable scholars to trace the reception of the Manipulus with considerable precision in tracing its influence on late medieval and early modern Latin texts, and also vernacular texts whose authors sprinkled Latin phrases throughout their writings, as exemplified by Matthew Steggle's work on Thomas Nashe.
While textual scholars have traditionally privileged the study of original sources, there is growing interest among intellectual historians and philologists in the reception, appropriation and transmission of fragmentary texts as a significant cultural phenomenon worthy of serious study. Florilegia such as the Manipulus constitute a rich body of evidence for this area of scholarly research into the history of mentalities. This resource is intended to facilitate and promote this approach to textual scholarship.