Medieval Manuscripts in Law Book Bindings, no. 13

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.

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