Rare Books Blog

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 16, 2010

Fragment: Aquinas’s Commentary on the Metaphysics
Date: c. 1375-1475
Found in: Barbier, Jean. Viatorium utriusque iuris. [Strassburg: Johann Pruss, 1493.]

The philosopher and theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas (c. 1226-1274) lived at a time of great intellectual development in European society. The works of Aristotle were being translated into Latin and widely disseminated at the same time that the first Christian universities were being founded. The nature of the relationship between reason and faith was being explored and debated across the continent, and Aquinas would ultimately become one of the most influential thinkers on this topic. Born in southern Italy, Aquinas entered the University of Naples before joining the Dominican Order and travelling to northern Europe where he studied under Saint Albertus Magnus (d. 1280), a pioneer in the application of Aristotelian philosophy to Christian thought. Late in his life, Aquinas wrote commentaries on twelve of Aristotle’s works.

The manuscript leaves used as pastedowns at the front and rear of this volume contain part of Aquinas’s Commentary on the Metaphysics (Book 7, Lecture 13) written in the early 1270s. Excerpts from Aristotle are underlined in red, and the rest of the text is Aquinas’s detailed discussion of that passage. The radically abbreviated 15th-century script employs many symbols (sigla) that stand in for groups of letters or even entire words. At the left edge of the fragment we can see small “pricking holes,” between which the scribe would have ruled parallel lines to help him write the text straight across the page. The Commentary on the Metaphysics was first printed in Paris in 1480, then again in Venice in 1493.

     – 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: Cicero’s “Dream of Scipio” (Italy)
Date: c. 1275-1325
Found in: Jame, Pierre. Aurea et famosissima practica. [Lyons: A. Dury, 1527.]

The parchment used to cover this volume features a portion of Cicero’s “Dream of Scipio” (“Somnium Scipionis”), the sixth book of his De re publica (completed in 51 BCE). Cicero wrote De re publica as a Roman version of Plato’s Republic, and the “Dream of Scipio” is the only substantial piece of the work to survive. In the dream, the grandfather of the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus appears and tells Scipio about the composition of the heavens, the fleeting nature of worldly fame, and the immortality of the soul (the latter two topics are mentioned in the visible fragment).

The “Dream of Scipio” survives because the late-antique Neo-Platonist philosopher Macrobius (fl. 395-423) wrote a commentary on the dream, to which an early copyist appended a complete copy of Cicero’s text. Macrobius’s commentary - which contained an elaborate system of dream classification - was highly respected in the Middle Ages. It served as one of the most important avenues of transmission for Platonist ideas, and as a foundational source for the Scholastic movement and medieval science in general. The “Dream of Scipio” is mentioned in the French dream-poem the Roman de la rose (13th century) as well as Geoffrey Chaucer’s dream-poems (14th century). Approximately fifty manuscripts of Macrobius’s commentary are known.

     – 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

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.

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