Rare Books Blog

February 15, 2010

Fragment: Bible
Date: Before c. 1100
Found in: Constitutiones marchie anconitane noviter emendate. [Perugia:] Franciscus Baldassaris, 1502.

Early Latin-speaking Christians used several versions of the books of the Bible, which had been translated piecemeal from Greek and Hebrew. Between 382 and 405, the scholar and theologian Saint Jerome translated anew the entire Old and New Testaments. Jerome was born in the Balkans, educated in Rome, and spent much of his life living in seclusion in the Levant. His new Latin translation—now referred to as the Vulgate—was highly influential and by the 13th century was effectively the standard text of the Bible.

The leaf of the Bible seen here is from a manuscript most likely produced in the 11th century, though possibly earlier, making it one of the oldest texts in the Law Library’s collection. The outside of the folio features most of chapters 38 and 39 from the Book of Ezekiel. While the visible portion of the fragment is quite plain, the text on the underside is marked by two colored initials. Note how an early owner of the Constitutiones marchie anconitane, not planning carefully enough when labeling it, was forced to create a unusual ligature of “M” and “A” within the abbreviation for “marchie.”

     – 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

Fragment: Bible (Italy)
Date: c. 1100
Found in: La Pape, Guy de. Singularia Guidonis Papae. [Lyons: Jacob Giunta], 1540.

This example illustrates nicely one of the most common uses for medieval manuscript fragments in 15th- and 16th-century bindings: spine linings. Linings were used to reinforce the spines of books before their covers were applied, and the strength and flexibility of parchment made it an attractive choice for this duty. The Law Library has over thirty books with damaged covers that allow one to see medieval manuscript fragments used as linings; many other fragments no doubt remain hidden.

On these linings we see part of a Bible, in particular elements of Luke 1:39-40 and 1:46-47 along with both interlinear and marginal notations. These notations, known as the “gloss” (from the Latin glossa, meaning “glossary”), were assembled by scholars from a variety of commentaries on the Bible. By about 1170, manuscripts of glossed Bibles show enough similarities that one can speak of a standard or “ordinary” gloss. This ordinary gloss was an important tool for scholars and students working with scripture. As we can see elsewhere in this exhibit, glosses were also written for the core texts of Roman and canon law.

      – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to Richard Rouse (UCLA) for clarifying the dating and 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

The liturgy of the Church in medieval Europe was built around two core elements: the Mass and the Divine Office. The Mass was a once-daily celebration of the sacrament of Holy Communion. The Divine Office was a sequence of eight services that made up the devotional prayers of the canonical hours (Vigils, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline). Each day members of the clergy were supposed to attend or celebrate Mass and recite the entire Divine Office, though surely some priests found the process onerous and focused on the major services: Matins (a combination of Vigils and Lauds), the Mass, and Vespers. Laypeople were encouraged to attend Mass at least every Sunday (as well as on special feast days), but did not say the Divine Office (though lay devotional books based on the canonical hours did emerge in the 12th century).

The Christian liturgy was elaborately structured and changed from day to day, week to week, and season to season throughout the liturgical year. Furthermore, there were numerous regional variations. As a result, priests and clerics relied on service books to guide them through their local liturgy.

In the early Middle Ages, a “solemn” or “high” Mass was typically celebrated by a priest accompanied by a group of assisting ministers and a choir. They used four separate books: a sacramentary (the prayers), an epistolary (the Epistle readings), an evangelary (the Gospel readings), and a gradual (the sung elements). As demand increased for “private” or “low” Masses celebrated by a priest alone (primarily for the commemoration of the dead), the four books were combined into a single, more manageable volume. The “missal,” as this was called, almost completely replaced the separate service books by the early 13th century.

The story was similar for the Divine Office. Prior to the 11th century, several books were needed for its celebration, including an antiphonal (the musical elements), collectar (the prayers), lectionary (the scripture readings), martyrology (readings on the lives of the saints), and psalter (the Psalms). Eventually these were combined into a single volume, called a “breviary.” The popularity of breviaries grew rapidly in the early 13th century as the itinerant lifestyle of Franciscan and Dominican friars demanded a more portable service book.

It is possible that this consolidation rendered some sacramentaries, antiphonals, and other older service books obsolete, allowing their expensive parchment pages to become a source of durable bookbinding materials.

      – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

Fragment of a Breviary, c. 1225-1325, found in Regis pie memorie Edwardi Tertii a quadragesimo ad quinquagesimum. London: Richard Tottell, 1565. 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 11, 2010

Nearly 150 early printed books in the Yale Law Library have bindings that incorporate visible pieces of medieval manuscript. A number of these books are featured in the latest exhibit from the Law Library’s Rare Book Collection, “Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings.” The exhibit is on display through May 2010 in the Law Library.

In 15th- and 16th-century Europe, recycling was second nature. Bookbinders, for their part, cut apart discarded medieval manuscripts and reused the strong, flexible and expensive parchment in their bindings. These scraps reveal information about the distribution and popularity of medieval texts, the evolution of scripts, and the history of printing and binding. A precious few of them preserve the only surviving fragments of long-lost texts.

The exhibit reflects the diversity of medieval material in the Law Library’s bindings. The Bible and liturgical manuscripts are well represented, some with early forms of musical notation. Four of the law books contain legal texts in their bindings. Other examples include a sermon, a fragment of Cicero, and two Hebrew manuscripts. One of the fragments is the oldest item in the Law Library’s collection, dating from around 975-1075.

While most of the fragments are identified and tentatively dated, a couple remain mysteries. The exhibit coincides with the annual meeting of the Medieval Academy of America, March 18-20 at Yale University. Conference attendees will be invited to try their hand at identifying the fragments.

The exhibit was curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, and Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Lillian Goldman Law Library.

The Rare Books Exhibition Gallery is located in the lower level of the Lillian Goldman Law Library (Level L2), directly in front of the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Reading Room. For those unable to visit the exhibit in person, it will appear in installments here on the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog. Additional images are available in the Law Library’s Flickr gallery.

 

February 5, 2010

One of my favorite events each year is the visit by the students from the Yale Law School’s Linkages Program. Over a dozen law students from Argentina, Brazil and Chile visited the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Room on February 5. The items they viewed included Fori Aragonum [Laws of Aragon] (Zaragoza, 1496), with a splendid hand-colored shield of the city of Huesca and what one expert recently called the finest early Spanish binding he’d ever seen. I also put out our facsimile of the Treaty of Tordesillas, the agreement between Spain and Portugal that is the reason some of the students speak Spanish and others Portuguese. As usual, they had lots of questions and we had a great time. ¡Bienvenidos!

MIKE WIDENER
Rare Book Librarian

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