The second in a projected three-volume series, this well-crafted tome brings together the early sources on Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), arguably one of the most popular saints among Christians and non-Christians alike, shedding light on his role as religious founder. The writings of Francis himself were collected in the first volume, as were the earliest lives of Francis and some liturgical documents. The editors represent the three branches of traditional Franciscanism, and together offer what are as far as I can tell all of the primary sources dealing with the first years of the Order, along with introductions and copious notes. While much of the material is repetitious, what emerges is a portrait of Francis from several different perspectives, not all of them flattering. The documents collected here represent that period of time in the life of the Order when the followers of Francis were trying to determine how to live the life that he had left them. They show various attempts to interpret his wishes for his followers. Even the different biographies were written with a view toward advancing one or another interpretation of the Franciscan Rule. Presented in roughly chronological order, the documents show the developing views on Francis and his legacy. The first, The Beginning or Founding of the Order, treats of the development from a group of companions informally gathered around him to the beginnings of what would become the Order of Saint Francis. The Assisi Compilation, dated 1244-1269, collects personal reminiscences of Francis, and offers a multi-faceted portrait. In introducing the legends and sermons by Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, the editors show how Bonaventure used the information at his disposal to a certain extent to his own ends. They note that Bonaventure's portrait of Francis became normative for a time, but was later contested. What results is a fascinating collection of documents illustrating the influence of this great man, and the struggles his followers went through in their attempts to interpret his rule in changing circumstances. Scripture quotations are put in italics, and the reference supplied in the margin. I did note one mistake: On p. 168, the reference is given as Rv. 4:12, a verse that does not exist. Surely the reference is to one of Paul's epistles. The editors have critically examined the documents, and indicate where one is dependent on another. The footnotes make reference to varying interpretations of certain passages, and relate the works to earlier Christian writings. An appendix has eleven maps, some showing the geographical or political features of the area, and two showing Assisi at the time of Francis. While the critical apparatus make this work especially valuable for scholars, all those interested in Francis of Assisi or the history of Christianity at the time will appreciate having all of these text gathered into a convenient volume.
No more bird bath type view of who Francis is. With the most up to date scholarship, Franciscan scholars have put together the best English translations with a commentary that can guide you through the medieval world in wich these early documents of Francis of Assisi were written. I find the commentary particularly useful in my own personal study as well as meditation so as to make Franciscan spirituality meaningful to today. The Volume Two focuses on Francis as the founder of the Franciscan movement of communities of lesser brothers (friars minor), poor ladies (poor Clares nuns) and the tertiaries (regulars and seculars). This is essential reading for Franciscans and franciscans-at-heart to find out what Francis has wanted his followers to do.