Edited by † E. T. Silk



In 1980 I visited Professor E.T. Silk in his home in New Haven, where he was living following his retirement from Yale University’s Department of Classics. On that occasion we discussed a medieval text of great mutual interest, Nicholas Trevet’s fourteenth-century Latin commentary on Boethius – the great late-medieval exposition of De consolatione philosophiae, a source for Geoffrey Chaucer and John Walton in addition to several later commentators.

I took away with me a complete copy (a substantial typescript indeed) of the edition of this commentary on which Professor Silk had long been working. The Second World War had made travel to Europe, and hence access to the European manuscripts, quite impossible. And, in later years, failing eyesight had proved another impediment. Yet he had had managed to produce a complete “reading edition” of Trevet’s commentary, working from several manuscripts which were available to him – far from a critical edition, of course, but given the large number of surviving Trevet manuscripts, that would be a herculean endeavor indeed. This work has been the victim of its own enormous success and popularity in the late medieval and early modern periods; treatises of far less significance, and with fewer manuscript witnesses, have been edited with relative ease.

Subsequently, Professor Silk encouraged me to pass on material from this edition to any scholar who requested it. Following his death, his widow Eleanor (now also deceased) was eager to make it more widely available; to this end she had parts of it retyped and a microfilm made of this refurbished version. She provided Traugott Lawler (Yale) and H. A. Kelly (UCLA) with copies, urging them, as her husband had urged me, to lend the work freely to other scholars. In making the commentary available here in PDF files I am, I believe, acting in accordance with the intentions and wishes of Professor and Mrs Silk. I have pursued all due diligence in seeking to contact next-of-kin.

I am grateful to Andrew Kraebel for preparing these files, and to Professors Lawler and Kelly for allowing him to use their own copies of the edition for this purpose (these copies being far superior to my own typescript, which is so faint in places as to be almost illegible).

This has been done as a tribute by one Yale Professor (for such I now am) to another, with gratitude for the hospitality that the Silk family once showed to a young scholar.  I have found Professor Silk’s edition of Trevet’s Boethius commentary quite indispensable in my own work on Chaucer’s Boece, and I hope and expect that it will continue to be invaluable to scholars of Middle English literature, and of the Latin commentary tradition, for many years to come.


Douglas Tracy Smith Professor of English
Yale University
August 2012

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