Medieval Manuscripts in Law Book Bindings, no. 2

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 .[at]>

“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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