In Antwerp in 1588, Christopher Plantin printed a book with the imposing title Sancti Patris Nostri
Epiphanii, Episcopi Constantiae Cypri, ad Physiologum. Eiusdem in die festo Palmarum sermo.
That book survived the turmoil of the next 415 years, traveling from Antwerp to England to North America and finally to Victoria, British Columbia, by a route that has only been partly traced. The book is now part of the Special Collections of the University of Victoria McPherson Library. This web site is an exploration of that book.

The Sancti Epiphanii ad Physiologum is a collection of texts about Saint Epiphanius (the Vitae, a life of Saint Epiphanius) and texts supposedly by him (the Physiologus, a set of moralized animal stories which were the basis of the medieval bestiary; and the In die festo Palmarum sermo, a homily on the Christian feast of Palm Sunday), along with notes and commentary by the editor, Consalus Ponce de Leon. That Epiphanius actually wrote any of the works printed in this book is in considerable doubt, particularly in the case of the Greek Physiologus, which has been attributed to several other early-Christian Greek writers. J.-P. Migne collected all of the works by and about Epiphanius in his Patrologia Cursus Completus, Series Graeca, but listed both the In die festo Palmarum sermo (which he took from the Sancti Epiphanii ad Physiologum) and the Physiologus as "doubtful or spurious." Most of the text of the book is in both Greek and Latin, with Greek being the original language.

A book is an unusual thing in that it is both an artefact and the embodiment of ideas. The book as artefact can be studied on many levels: as a unique object with a history of production, ownership, and travel; as an exemplar of all the copies that were produced; and as a representative of the way of books were published in the sixteenth century. The ideas embodied in the book can also be studied in various ways; much of the text has a history stretching from the early Christian period in Byzantium through the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance in western Europe. The Sancti Epiphanii ad Physiologum is a religious text, dealing with the life and purported writings of a Catholic Saint, and with Christian dogma; a historical document, both in what is says and in what its unspoken assumptions can tell us; and in part a political document that was shaped by the complex society that produced it.

It is the intent of this web site to study the book in as many ways as possible. Sections of the site examine the book as a unique object, analyze the text, describe the life and times of the people involved in its production, and provide transcriptions of the Latin. The entire book is also reproduced here in a high resolution digital facsimile, which allows convenient access to others who might want to continue the study the book. The study of this book is an ongoing project and is not yet complete; research will continue and this site will be updated with the results.

David Badke
April 2004