Introduced by Graham James, Bishop of Norwich
Translated by Barry Windeatt
Illustrated by Gemma Black
One of the most significant works in English mysticism, and is the first known book written in English by a woman.
Julian of Norwich continues to inspire devotion today, yet still little is known about her life. In 1373, at the age of 30, she was struck down by a terrible illness and at the point of death was seized with 16 visions, or ‘shewings’, which would become both the Short Text, written soon after her experiences, and the Long Text, in which Julian offers a deeper and more reflective examination. Having possibly taken her name from the church where she was confined as an anchoress – voluntarily sealed away in a cell attached to the church at Norwich – she spent decades in contemplation of God’s love.
‘Julian of Norwich is one of the most famous spiritual figures of the Middle Ages ... This new translation conveys the beauty of her prose and her belief that we are beings capable of spiritual transformation’
Written in a simple, expressive style, Julian’s account is both vivid and affecting. Her visions contain the Passion of Christ, the Virgin Mary and the love of God, who reveals to her the entirety of creation in a ball ‘as small as if it had been a hazelnut’. Her direct manner and questioning nature make Julian an engagingly modern voice, and she envisions a loving God who promises an eventual end to suffering: ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’
Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, has written a thoughtful introduction that praises the accessibility of Julian's work, observing that ‘the spirit of her writings has a lightness which has travelled well down the centuries’. This edition is artfully decorated with a series of calligraphic designs by Gemma Black, while the binding reflects the contemplative nature of Julian’s writings.
Julian of Norwich (c.1342–after 1416) is the first writer in English who can be positively identified as a woman. Little is known of her life, but she dates her revelations to May 1373 and states she was thirty years old when they occurred. Her name is probably taken from the parish church St Julian at Conisford in Norwich where, in her later life, she lived as an anchorite and mystic. Known through the long and short texts of her 16 revelations, she has become one of the most celebrated figures of the English Middle Ages.
Barry Windeatt is Professor of English at Cambridge University and Vice-Master of Emmanuel College. His publications include Chaucer’s Dream-Poetry: Sources and Analogues (ed. and trans. 1982), Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde: A New Edition of The Book of Troilus (ed. 1984), The Book of Margery Kempe (trans. 1985), Chaucer Traditions (ed. with Ruth Morse 1990), The Oxford Guides to Chaucer: Troilus and Criseyde (1992), English Mystics of the Middle Ages (ed. 1994), Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde: A New Translation (trans. 1998), The Book of Margery Kempe (ed. 2000; The Folio Society, 2004), Troilus and Criseyde (ed. 2003).
Graham James read History at the University of Lancaster before training for ordination at Cuddesdon Theological College, Oxford. Ordained deacon in Peterborough in 1975, he later worked in Welwyn Garden City as a team vicar and then at Church House, Westminster, where he had responsibility for overseeing the selection procedures for candidates for ordination in the Church of England. In 1987 he became Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury and was consecrated Bishop of St Germans, Cornwall, in 1993. In 1999 he became Bishop of Norwich, where he continues to serve. His publications include The Lent Factor (2014), which features Julian of Norwich.
Gemma Black is an artist, teacher and calligraphic designer. She received her diploma in Calligraphy and Bookbinding from the Digby Stuart College, Roehampton, London, and subsequently studied printmaking and watercolour at the CEC Australian National University. In 1991 Black received a Winston Churchill Fellowship to study in Europe. She is an Honoured Fellow and Fellow of the prestigious Calligraphy & Lettering Arts Society, UK. Her work is housed in private and public collections including the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, the European Parliament, and Parliament House Canberra.
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