Book Series Corpus Christianorum in Translation, vol. 37

Peter the Chanter

The Abel Distinctions

Stephen A. Barney

  • Pages: 726 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:1 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2021

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59393-7
  • Paperback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59394-4
  • E-book
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The Abel Distinctions translates the first edition of Peter the Chanter’s innovative ‘symbol dictionary’ from the late twelfth century.


"Stephen Barney has not only produced a hefty two-volume critical edition of one of the most popular and influential distinction collections - Peter the Chanter's Distinctiones Abel - for the Corpus Christianorum's Continuatio Mediaevalis series (288, 288A), but has now provided the uninitiated with an excellent one-volume translation of it (with cross-references to the Latin edition)." (Jessalynn Bird, in Sehepunkte, 03/2022)


Peter the Chanter was a master at Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris in the late 12th century. Among his many works is The Abel Distinctions, an alphabetized collection that treats key words by ‘distinguishing’ their various symbolic meanings in accordance with the traditions of biblical exegesis. The work was innovative in form and deeply conservative in content. Of special use to preachers who would shape a sermon around such sets of distinctions, it also appealed in general to clerics and laity interested in biblical meaning and allegory. The Abel Distinctions may have been the first collection of its kind; it spawned dozens of imitators through the next two centuries and more. Its immense popularity and influence is indicated by its nearly ninety extant manuscripts.

The source text of this volume appeared in Corpus Christianorum. Continuatio Mediaeualis as Petrus Cantor, Distinctiones Abel (CCCM, 288-288A). References to the corresponding pages of the Corpus Christianorum edition are provided in the margins of this translation.