My seventh Julian

Revelations:S Upjohn

I bought this translation while I was in Norwich last summer. It is published by the Friends of Julian, has a forward by Robert Llewelyn, and is translated by Sheila Upjohn. It is arranged as daily readings, with most chapters set out over two or three days. I really wanted to like this translation very much, but in the end was a bit disappointed by it.

My first experience of Julian’s writing was the small Enfolded in Love book, and I have always loved the way the words flowed. For a long time I didn’t realise that it was Sheila Upjohn who had done the translation, I was more aware of the fact that Robert Llewelyn had been the editor of that and the other books in the series. When I found out that there was a longer translation available I was excited to read it, and I must say that the translation itself is wonderful, but there are other things which don’t work for me.

First of all, this is not a complete translation. Most of the text is here, but it is not all here, and unfortunately for me, some of my favourite passages have been omitted, so as I read I was very aware that some things were missing.

Like the Grace Warrack translation, this is quite a sparse version, with no footnotes and no headings. The chapter numbers are printed at the bottom of the page, but that is all. I usually read two chapters of Julian every evening, and so this format didn’t really work for me, I suppose because I was not using it in the way it was intended.

In the end I had very mixed feelings about this book, but in large part I think this is due to the way I read Julian and the structure of the book being incompatible. The translation is wonderful, and if you are looking for a structured text for daily meditation, maybe a step on from Enfolded in Love, then this might be the translation for you. However, if you are familiar with the full text then this will seem a little lacking, and if you read it in any way other than the one for which it was intended then it will feel a little disjointed.

My sixth Julian

Revelations:G Warrack

I believe this is the oldest of the modern translations of Julian, and was recommended to me by an OJN oblate. It was originally published in 1901, and first brought recognition to Julian in the twentieth century. I believe there are a number of different editions of this translation, and the one I read was published by Wilder Publications in the US. It is a little larger than a standard paperback, but also quite a slim volume, containing only 107 pages.

Compared to most of the other translations I have read, this one uses more traditional language. It preserves more of the archaic vocabulary and, like the translation by Fr John Julian contains many short paragraphs, often beginning with a conjunction. I have not read Julian’s original Middle-English work, but I believe this is a reflection of how the Revelations were originally written.

Apart from chapter numbers, there are no headings or footnotes, so if you are looking for a version which is only the bare bones, this is a good one to use. There is nothing to distract you from the text. This lack of any headings, however, means that it is difficult to locate a passage unless you already know the entire text well.

I found the traditional language beautiful at times, but also quite a challenge. More modern translations are easier to understand, but for some people I think the beauty of the language will be worth the effort. If you enjoy reading the King James Bible, or the traditional language of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, then this might be the translation for you.

I was glad I had read this translation, and found quite a lot to underline in it, but also found myself thinking that I was glad that I had read more modern translations before this one. If I hadn’t I think I might have found parts of it very difficult to understand. It’s an important part of the history of Julian translations. Not a place to start, but somewhere to go when you know something of Julian and would like to read a different version her words. I am thankful that this book started the modern popularity of the Revelations; without it, there would not have been the interest which has led to so much more.

My fifth Julian

Revelations:J SkinnerMy fifth Julian is the 1996 translation by John Skinner. The copy I have has the cover in the photo above, but more recent editions have a more abstract design. It is a translation into modern English using the 1993 Middle English edition by Dr. Marion Glasscoe.

I found it to be a very readable translation; the language is accessible yet preserves what I feel is Julian’s own voice. Some chapters are headed with a quote from the paragraphs to come; others are not. There are headings at the top of each right-hand page which makes it easier to glance through the book and find a particular passage. This translation retains some of the familiar, traditional language, e.g. ‘weal and woe’ and there is a glossary at the back of the book referencing the passage where the words first appear. There is no use of ‘thou’.

I liked the appearance of the text. The page is uncluttered and does not appear as dense as the Penguin Classic edition. There are some notations to the text, but they appear at the bottom of the page and do not intrude on a contemplative reading of the text. As it says on the back of the book:

‘The poetry and rhythmic structure of the original Middle-English text are respected. Julian’s earthy and direct style are rendered here for the first time in inclusive language, which gives it a continued relevance.’

I think this is a fair claim for this translation; I have previously given copies of the Penguin Classic as gifts, but having read this translation I feel that this is a better edition to give if anyone is interested in reading more than the edited highlights of Enfolded in Love.