Rare Books Blog

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 .[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: 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 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.

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.

 

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