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In memoriam Professor R.B.C. Huygens (1931-2022)

Updated: Oct 5

On September 16, 2022, Professor R.B.C Huygens, until 1997 professor of Medieval Latin at the University of Leiden (The Netherlands), passed away at the age of 90.

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What Professor Huygens has achieved as a text editor is generally acknowledged to be the “nec plus ultra”, to quote the motto printed on his obituary.

Professor Huygens' relationship with Brepols and the Corpus Christianorum was exceptionally longstanding. In 1956, long before the publication of his first edition in the Continuatio Mediaevalis series, as a twenty-five-year-old historian, Huygens had already contributed to the then still young journal Sacris Erudiri with an immediately authoritative edition of the poem on the Life of Mohammed by Walter of Compiègne (SE, 8, p. 287-328). If we consider the editions of Professor Huygens in the Continuatio Mediaevalis, the first thing that stands out is that over the years he has created his own sub-corpus that has substantially enriched the genre of crusader literature. More than twenty years of research into William, Archbishop of Tyre (c. 1130-1186), led to the edition of his Chronicon (CCCM, 63 and CCCM, 63A, 1986), the publication of which was perfectly timed to coincide with the 800th anniversary of the death of its author. To his masterly edition Professor Huygens was able, through extensive research in the Vatican archives, to add William’s long-lost autobiographical chapter. The two-volume 1986 edition was republished in the “Scholars Version” series in 2014 (CCSV).

In addition to the actual history of the crusades, Professor Huygens has also made accessible texts that inform us about daily life in the crusader states. One example suffices: after the reconquest of Jerusalem, religious tourism in the Holy Land once again flourished, a phenomenon witnessed by the three twelfth-century pilgrimage accounts, published together in one volume (CCCM, 139) in 1994. These publications fully justify the reputation that Professor Huygens enjoyed as a specialist in the history of the Crusades.

But he did not limit himself to this particular domain of medieval history – even if the “long twelfth century” remained his preferred period. His text editions, fifteen CCCM volumes in total, in addition to numerous journal articles, monographs and translations, cover the most diverse times and genres of Medieval Latin literature: from Carolingian exegesis (Christian of Stavelot’s Expositio super Librum generationis; CCCM, 224, 2008) to 11th-century polemic literature (Berengar of Tours’ Rescriptum contra Lanfrancum; CCCM, 84, 1988) and 13th-century hagiography (Jacques of Vitry’s Life of Marie of Oignies; CCCM, 252, 2012) to various “curiosa”, the most intriguing title of all undoubtedly to be found in volume CCCM, 62 (1985), viz. the Apologia de barbis, a plea for the beard.

In all editions he published in his more than fifty-year career, Professor Huygens has always assumed full responsibility as a text editor, which means that he made clear his choices for each text, and explained and applied them consistently. He synthesized his own experience as a text editor in the masterly essay Ars edendi (BEEC, 2), which he himself described all too modestly as “a practical introduction to editing Medieval Latin texts”.

With the passing of Professor Huygens a magister of this ars edendi has undoubtedly been taken from us.

Please download the file below for a list of Professor Huygens' Brepols publications:

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