The Deeds as a composite text

Contrary to prevailing scholarly opinion, we do not believe the Deeds of Wiprecht was composed by a single author in the mid-twelfth century. Although the extant manuscript dates to that time, as do a few notations within the text, we understand the Deeds as a compilation of numerous core texts composed over the course of previous decades, fused together with marginal notations and other interpolations likewise originating from various hands at different times. The extant manuscript thus constitutes a fair copy made by a scribe circa 1150 on the basis of a complicated and probably quite messy precedent. Very little of the final version of the Deeds seems to have been authored by this scribe.

We find ample evidence that the text we call The Deeds of Wiprecht is--from the preface through the story of Wiprecht's death--a kind of mosaic or collage of many indepedently authored texts. While almost none can be securely dated from internal evidence, the relative sequence of composition, emendation, and interpolation can frequently be deduced. The earliest component parts probably originated during Wiprecht's own lifetime.  From these early compositions through the final emendations made by the scribe of the extant manuscript, each of the component pieces of the Deeds constitutes a historical document.  Together they bear witness to fifty years of writing and rewriting history at Pegau.

Moreover, we believe there were at least two stages of compilation. An early compiler assembled various texts about Wiprecht and, probably, combined these with a narrative of Pegau’s founding. Alternately, this may have happened in more than one phase. It appears, however, that the scribe of the extant manuscript did more than merely copy; instead, in the process of copying, he made editorial decisions about placement and perhaps eliminated, altered, or inserted lines or blocks of text to create the final whole.

We make our case on the basis of our English translation, rather than the original Latin, in part so as to make our argument accessible to a wide audience, and in part because we believe our faithful English translation renders the rhetorical inflections in the text more accurately to Anglophone readers, itself crucial to illustrating our argument. Our own insights emerged from the translation, not from close analysis of the Latin.