Rare Books Blog

February 16, 2010

Fragment: Decretales Gregorii IX, with gloss (Bologna or Avignon)
Date: c. 1240-50
Found in: Massa, Antonio. De usuris. Rome: Valerio Dorico, 1557.

The landscape of medieval jurisprudence changed radically in the 12th century, when the monk Gratian’s revolutionary collection of canons and decrees known as the Decretum began to circulate, quickly becoming the core textbook for canon law. During the decades that followed, scholars and students identified many issues that current canon law was unable to resolve, and because of this, more and more bishops sent queries to the papacy seeking guidance for cases in their diocesan courts. The letters that the popes sent back to these bishops were known as “decretals.” Since there was no system of court reporting, jurists who wished to keep abreast of the law would copy any decretal they came across. These informal private collections rapidly gave way to more systematic compilations that found their way into the canon law curriculum. Concerned by the lack of an “official” body of updated canon law, Pope Gregory IX instructed the canonist Raymond of Peñafort to assemble an authoritative supplement to the Decretum. The Decretales Gregorii IX (commonly referred to as the Liber extra) was made official canon law in September 1234.

The fragment visible here contains the end of Book 1, Title 14 and the beginning of Book 1, Title 15 in the second column, along with the standard academic commentary on that passage (known as the “gloss”) in the first column. The standard gloss for the Decretales Gregorii IX was written by the jurist Bernard of Parma in the 1260s. The beginning of Title 15 (on anointing the sick) is marked by illuminated initials in both the gloss and the main text. Inside the front cover of the wrapper (not visible here), a medieval reader has carefully marked a passage (from X 1.14.14) using a drawing of a small hand (a notation called a manicula). The passage reads, in translation, “For it is preferable, especially in the ordination of priests, to have a few good ministers than many bad ones, for if a blind man leads another blind man, both will fall into the pit.”

     – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

POSTSCRIPT: Richard Rouse (UCLA) believes the manuscript originates in Italy or Avignon; Susan L’Engle (Saint Louis University) believes the manuscript is from Bologna and dates it 1240-1250.

Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 16, 2010

Fragment: Sextus liber decretalium (Bologna or Padua)
Date: c. 1320-1330?
Found in: Bologna (Italy). Statutorum inclytae civitatis … Bononiae, vol. 2. Bologna: Giovanni Rossi, 1569.

 

Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) held a doctorate in canon and civil law and, like Gregory IX seventy years earlier, sought to update and expand the body of canon law jurisprudence. He did so by commissioning a new collection of decretals, which he sent to the universities in 1298 with instructions that it be incorporated into the canon law curriculum. The Sextus liber decretalium (the Sixth Book of Decretals, often simply called the Liber sextus) thus took its place beside the Decretum and the Decretales Gregorii IX as a core element of the Corpus iuris canonici. The standard gloss of the Liber sextus was written by Giovanni d’Andrea in the early 1300s.

In the fragment of the Liber sextus seen here (from Book 5, Title 2, Chapter 20) Boniface himself discusses techniques for questioning suspected heretics. Giovanni d’Andrea’s gloss surrounds the main text. The manuscript was probably copied in Bologna as the script is characteristic of Bolognese gothic book hands.

     – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

POSTSCRIPT: Richard Rouse (UCLA) assigns an Italian origin to the manuscript and calls attention to the line fillers, which look like exclamation points. Susan L’Engle (Saint Louis University) believes the manuscript is from Bologna or Padua, 1320-1330?, and notes the “Italian script, text keyed to gloss by letters of alphabet, an Italian practice.”

Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 16, 2010

 

Fragment: Epistolary (Northern France)
Date: c. 1175-1250

Found in: Bartolomeo, da Brescia. Casus Decretorum. Basel: Nicolaus Kessler, 1489.

The parchment used here as a pastedown comes from an epistolary and shows the epistle readings for two Masses. The first reading is 1 Peter 1:1-7, which was for the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter in Antioch (Cathedra Sancti Petri in Antiochia) on February 22. Originally this feast, commemorating Saint Peter as the first bishop of Antioch, was probably a Christianization of the ancient Roman holiday known as Caristia, when families gathered together to honor the dead and settle feuds. The second column features part of the reading for the feast of Saint Mathias the Apostle on February 24 (Acts 1:15-26). Note the red and blue pen-flourished initials used to mark the beginnings of the readings.

     – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to Richard Rouse (UCLA) for clarifying the origin of the manuscript fragment.

Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 16, 2010

Fragment: Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah / Vidal of Tolosa’s Maggid Mishneh
Date: c. 1300-1500
Found in: Milan (Duchy). Constitutiones dominii mediolanensis. Novara: Francesco Sesalli, 1567.

Between 1170 and 1180 the famous rabbi, physician, and philosopher Moses Maimonides (d. 1204) compiled a comprehensive compendium of Jewish law (halakha) that he named the Mishneh Torah. While many people opposed the Mishneh Torah when it first circulated, Maimonides defended it as a necessary distillation of existing legal reasoning into a practical code. Regardless of the attacks, the Mishneh Torah rapidly became one of the core texts within Jewish law.

Binyamin Elizur, Head of the Department of Ancient Hebrew at the Academy of the Hebrew Language in Jerusalem, informs us that the small text on the left of the leaf comes from Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah. The portion visible here is from the section on “Financial Damages” (Nizke Mammon), chapter 1, subsection 9. The larger writing to the right is the corresponding passage from the Maggid Mishneh, an exegetical commentary on the Mishneh Torah written by the Catalan rabbi Vidal of Tolosa (1283-1360). According to Elizur, the noteworthy and unusual thing about this fragment is that Vidal’s commentary is written in large letters, while Maimonides’s text is written in small letters on the side. He speculates that the leaf may have originally contained only the commentary, and that passages from the Mishneh Torah were added in the margin later. He notes that the script, both large and small, appears to be Sephardic semi-cursive from the 14th or 15th century.

Dr. Ezra Chwat of the Department of Manuscripts, National Library of Israel, notes that the publication date of the host volume, 1567, “is precisely on the spike of redeployment of Jewish manuscripts” as they were confiscated by the Inquisition in Italy; see Mauro Perani & Enrica Sagradini, Talmudic and midrashic fragments from the Italian Genizah: reunification of the manuscripts and catalogue (Firenze: Giuntina, 2004), pp. 124-125.

Dr. Chwat has added this fragment to the online catalog of Hebrew manuscripts maintained by the Department of Manuscripts, National Library of Israel; the record (in Hebrew) can be viewed here.

     – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 16, 2010

Fragment: Gradual (Italy)
Date: c. 1425-1525

Found in: Naples (Kingdom). Capitula regni una cum apparatu, ac utilissimis, et necessariis prioribus. [Campagna: Domenico Nibbio], 1561.

This cover is made from an Italian gradual and features part of the tract (tractus) from the Mass on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. Tracts replaced the alleluia chants during Lent and other penitential times of the liturgical year. Early tracts consisted of verses from a single psalm, but this later example is based on Matthew 21:33. In its entirety, the tract reads, “Et maceriam circumdedit et circumfodit et plantavit vineam Soreth et hedificavit turrim in medio ejus.” That is, “And he enclosed it with a wall, and surrounded it by a trench; then he planted a vineyard of Sorec grapes, and he built a tower in the middle of it.”

While most of the manuscript fragments in this exhibit were recycled into bindings centuries ago, this one was probably used fairly recently, perhaps early in the 20th century (the Law Library acquired this volume in 1947). It was not uncommon for booksellers to use the large pages from manuscript graduals and other choir books to re-cover volumes as a way to make early books more attractive. In fact, some German monastic libraries had been doing the same thing since the 17th century.

     – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to Richard Rouse (UCLA) for clarifying the origin of the manuscript fragment, and to William Mahrt (Stanford University) for the following: “The text is an Old Testament canticle (I think from Isaiah), Matthew is only quoting it. Tracts are Psalm texts, but for Holy Saturday, the pieces are on canticles (from other books of the O.T.); they are set to the same kind of melodies as mode-eight tracts of Lent, and so are sometimes called tracts, but are more properly called canticles. Their melodies are the simplest usage of the tract formulae, simpler than the other tracts. The incipit of the canticle is ‘Vinea facta est’.”

Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 16, 2010

Fragment: Unknown
Date: c.1475-1525
Found in: Caccialupi, Giovanni Battista. De pesionibus tractatus uere aureus. Rome: F. Minizio Calvo, 1531.

The vast majority of medieval manuscript fragments found in the Law Library’s bindings are in Latin, but not all of them. In addition to the two Hebrew fragments elsewhere in this exhibit, there is a large, later fragment in what appears to be a form of German, and two very late fragments in French. All three of these fragments are awaiting definitive identification. One of the French fragments (perhaps a deed of sale for a piece of property?) is seen here being used as a “wrapper,” a means of protecting a printed text without applying a hard cover.

     – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 15, 2010

In 15th- and 16th-century Europe, reusing and recycling was second nature. Linen rags were turned into paper, human urine was used to create lye, iron was melted down and refashioned. Bookbinders, for their part, cut apart discarded medieval manuscripts and reused the strong, flexible parchment in their bindings. Untold numbers of these fragments have survived until the present day, some completely hidden and others strikingly obvious. Each of these slips of parchment can help historians recover a bit more information about the distribution and popularity of medieval texts, the evolution of scripts, and the history of printing and binding.

The Yale Law Library houses nearly 150 early printed books whose bindings incorporate visible pieces of medieval manuscript. These fragments range in size from tiny scraps that can barely be seen, to entire sheets used to cover large volumes. Regardless of their size, each fragment offers both a keyhole peek into the medieval world, and a glimpse of Europe as it encountered the power of print.

In this exhibit we have tried to display books that reflect the diversity of medieval material that can be found in the Law Library’s bindings. As you explore, note the many styles and grades of medieval script, and the way scribes organized information and decoration on the page. Also, mark how bookbinders used the fragments, and the range of medieval texts to which they had access. (Bear in mind that books were often bound far from the city where they were printed.)

Only a small portion of the Law Library’s medieval material is featured in this exhibit. In addition to the many fragments, the Rare Book Collection holds 21 complete medieval legal manuscripts, and 136 books printed before 1500. If you would like to make use of these materials for your own research or teaching, please contact the Rare Book Librarian.

     – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

Fragments from a liturgical service book, ca. 1225-1325, bound in a volume of Year Book reports for the reign of Henry VI (London, 1500?-1547?). Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

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