Rare Books Blog

February 16, 2010

 

Fragment: Breviary (England)
Date: c. 1225-1325
Found in: [Year Books, Edward III.] Regis pie memorie Edwardi Tertii a quadragesimo ad quinquagesimum. London: Richard Tottell, 1565.

 

Here we find a good example of how 15th- and 16th-century bookbinders used fragments of medieval manuscripts as “strengtheners.” Strengtheners are strips of parchment or paper that were wrapped around the inner edge of the first and last sections of a book in order to protect them at the point where the paper might otherwise rub against rough portions of the binding. The Law Library has about twenty-five early books with visible fragments of medieval manuscripts used as guards in this way. While most are not large enough to be displayed well, some of the fragments can be identified. As we learn more about the bookbinding trade in the first several decades of print, even small fragments will become valuable pieces of evidence about the distribution of manuscripts in the late Middle Ages.

The strengthener seen here is from a breviary with both sides featuring elements of the Divine Office for Holy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter). On the left side we see a decorated initial “A” beginning the first reading for the service of Matins (Lamentations 1:1-2). On the right side we see pieces of the music and text for short liturgical chants called “antiphons,” which were used to introduce the Psalms during Lauds. Notice how the initials in the antiphons have been lightly decorated with little faces.

   – 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: Mahzor
Date: c. 1300-1500
Found in: Parsons, Robert. Elizabethae reginae Angliae edictum promulgatum Londini 29. Novemb. anni M.D. XCI. [Rome?: s.n.], 1593.

Alongside the many pieces of the Christian liturgy preserved in the Law Library’s bindings, we find a reminder that medieval Europe was home to many vibrant Jewish communities as well. Michael Rand, of the Academy of the Hebrew Language in Jerusalem, has identified the fragment seen here is a folio from a mahzor, a Jewish service book used on the high holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) and the pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot). According to Rand, the folio features a liturgical poem (piyyut) of a type called yotzer. This yotzer was used to celebrate Shavuot (which falls seven weeks after Passover and corresponds to the Christian feast of Pentecost). It is titled “Ayelet Ahevim Matnat Sinai” and deals with the revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai. The yotzer bears the name “Shim’on” in the acrostic, which has led some scholars to speculate that it was composed by the 10th-century poet Shim’on bar Yitshaq of Mainz. Rand points out that this particular poem was employed in the Ashkenazic, Roman (i.e. Italian), and Romaniote (i.e., Byzantine) prayer rites, and the formal script found here (called “square script”) appears to be Italian.

This fragment has been added 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. Thanks to Dr. Ezra Chwat of the National Library of Israel for cataloging the fragment and providing additional information about it.

     – 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 .[at]yale.edu>

“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: 1350-1425
Found in: Repetitiones decem legum. [Paris: André Bocard for Jean Petit, 1507.]

The nature of the fragments used here as pastedowns is not entirely clear. The front pastedown (the first of the two images above) contains a list of benediction prayers for the Mass, some for the feast of the Virgin Mary (also known as the feast of the Assumption), and others more commonly associated with the feast of All Saints. Looking for clues on the other side of the leaf we find that the half-page of text there is severely effaced and of little help. Meanwhile, the rear pastedown (the second image) is a page from a completely unrelated manuscript (it appears to be a prayer book of some kind). We can say, however, that the front manuscript fragment is written in a low-quality version of the cursive book hand known as Anglicana, and appears to be English in origin. This judgment is supported by the fact that the title page bears an early inscription by “Cuthberti Shirbroke de Rockeland,” a cleric and doctor of canon law from a noted Norfolk family.

     – 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: Legendary (Italy)
Date: c. 975-1075
Found in: Rolandinus, de Passageriis. Flos testamentorum. Padua: Matheus Cerdonis, 1482.

From the earliest days of Christianity, the faithful (and not-yet-faithful) were inspired by the words and deeds of particularly holy people, many of whom came to be regarded as saints. Hagiography (stories about the lives of the saints) was a popular genre of literature throughout the Middle Ages, and the Divine Office even contained daily readings about the Church’s early martyrs.

Among the oldest and most beautiful fragments in the Yale Law Library’s collection, the pastedowns of this incunable are taken from a manuscript recounting the lives of early saints. At the front (not displayed) we find part of the “Fabulous Deeds” (“Acta fabulosa”) of the apostle Saint Bartholomew, written by the Pseudo-Abdia Babylonio, probably in the early 10th century. At the rear, we find the end of the “Acta fabulosa” and the beginning of “The Passion of Saint Alexander, Pope and Martyr” (“Passio Sancti Alexandri martyris papae”). Looking out from his inhabited initial, a beautifully-rendered Saint Alexander gestures towards his tale with an outstretched hand. Note that the beginning (“CUM OMNIUM”) is also marked off by a special “display script,” in this case an all-capital script called Uncial, which after the 8th century was generally only used for headings like this one.

     – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to Richard Rouse (UCLA) for clarifying the origin of the manuscript fragment. From Elizabeth A. R. Brown (CUNY), Hope Mayo (Harvard University), Alison Stones (University of Pittsburgh), and David Ganz (King’s College London): “Hope Mayo says [the fragment] could go as late as [the 12th century], but probably earlier. [The fragment is from a] Legendary. Could be a big book – one needs to see verso + the fragment at the beginning [of the volume].” Here are images of the verso of the fragment shown above and of the companion fragment in the front pastedown of the volume.

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 (Italy)
Date: c. 1350-1450
Found in: Corpus iuris civilis. 12 vols. Lyons: Guillaume Rouillé, 1581.

Each of the twelve small volumes of this 1581 edition of the Corpus iuris civilis is neatly covered in parchment featuring passages from a single unidentified work. The most noticeable feature of the text is the nearly constant citation of passages from different books of the Bible, including Kings, Daniel, Proverbs, Tobias, Ecclesiastes, and Chronicles (Paralipomenon).

     – 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: Sermon (Italy or Germany)
Date: c. 1325-1475
Found in: Bottoni, Bernardo. Casus longi super quinque libros decretalium. [Basel: Michael Wenssler, not after 1479.]

Preaching was an important part of Christian life throughout the Middle Ages. Early saints preached to the non-believers, communities listened to sermons from their priests on Sundays, monks and nuns heard sermons in their convents, and friars preached in the streets. In the words of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), “Among the many ministries that belong to the pastoral office, the virtue of holy preaching is the most excellent.”

The main text of the fragment seen here is from an as-yet unidentified collection of sermons. The passage on top is about the “tears of Christ” (lachrimae Christi), a common topic for medieval sermons. The large, red capital “D” near the bottom of the page begins a new sermon with Luke 18:10: “Duo homines ascenderunt in templum ut orarent: unus pharisaeus et alter publicanus,” that is, “Two men went up into the temple to pray: one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.” If you look carefully at these sermons, you may be able to see that the text has been “pointed,” marked with very fine strokes to indicate places to breathe and pause. The fact that the text is pointed confirms that, as we might expect, the sermon was meant to be read aloud.

At the top of the fragment is another interesting feature: a late-medieval inscription. According to this note, this printed book was given to the Carthusian monastery of St. Albans near Trier by “Frater Paulus de Muntzdail.” We know from other sources that Brother Paul held a doctorate in canon law and that, before moving to Trier to become a Carthusian, he served as the provost of the Church of Saint Mary in Flanheim, and the rector of the parish church in Kreuznach near Mainz. He died in 1487.

    – 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 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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