Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Manuscript of the Month: Her Book, Written by Her Own Hand

July 27th, 2021

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz is conducting research on pre-1600 manuscripts at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Each month she will be writing about a manuscript she has worked with and the current KU Library catalog records will be updated in accordance with her findings.

Kenneth Spencer Research Library MS C66 contains a copy of a translation from Latin into Italian of the De theologia mystica [On Mystical Theology], also known by its opening words, the Viae Syon lugent [The Ways of Zion Mourn], along with two much shorter tracts added later. Composed sometime in the second half of the thirteenth century, the exact date of the De theologia mystica in Latin is unknown. Furthermore, its authorship has been subject to debate. In some medieval manuscripts, it is attributed to St Bonaventure, a thirteenth-century Franciscan scholar; however, this is generally accepted to be false. More recently, scholars have argued that the work was composed by Hugh of Balma. Yet, his identity has also been debated. He is now thought to be the same Hugh who was the Prior of the Charterhouse of Meyriat, a Carthusian monastery in Vieu-d’Izenave, France, between 1289 and 1304. The translation into Italian is thought to have been undertaken in or before 1367 by the Jesuit Domenico da Monticchiello. Not much information exists about Domenico either, but he is known also to have translated into Italian the Vita Christi [Life of Christ] by Ludolph of Saxony, another Carthusian scholar. The name of neither the author nor the translator is provided in the copy of the De theologia mystica as we have it in MS C66, where it is indicated only that the work was by a venerable friar of the Carthusian order.

Although Hugh of Balma and his De theologia mystica have received some scholarly attention in recent decades, including a full translation into English in 2002, its medieval Italian translation does not share the same fate. The most recent and the only modern edition is from the mid-nineteenth century, published as part of a series of editions of works by or associated with St Bonaventure. MS C66 was one of the two manuscripts that were used as primary witnesses to the text by Bartolomeo Sorio in this 1852 edition of the De theologia mystica. At the time, the manuscript was part of the collection of Domenico Turazza (1813 –1892), a renowned mathematician considered to be the founder of the School of Engineering at the University of Padua. In this edition, Sorio thanks Turazza for loaning the manuscript to him to study and prepare the edition (p. 54). A note Sorio wrote to Turazza, presumably when he returned the manuscript, is now bound together with the medieval manuscript as part of MS C66.

Image of the beginning of Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian on folio 1r. Venice, Italy, 1500. Call # MS C66.
Beginning of Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian on folio 1r. Venice, Italy, 1500. Call # MS C66. Click image to enlarge. See the Digital Scriptorium record for MS C66 for additional images.

In his edition, Sorio relies heavily on MS C66, especially since the other manuscript he chose was lacking the second half of the work. Despite that, he does not provide much information on the manuscript itself. Although he mentions that the manuscript is dated and the scribe is named at the end of the text, he omits certain details, such as the name of the scribe, not only in his preface but also in the edition of the text. At the closing of the De theologia mystica in MS C66 on folio 81r, the scribe records when and where the manuscript was copied and her name:

Scrita nel monast[er]io de le done de Sa[n] Fra[n]çesco della crose de Vei[n]esia de lordene de S[an]c[t]a Chiara de hoserva[n]çia. Nelliani del n[ost]ro signor mis[er] Ih[es]u Chr[ist]o 1500 finito a di 3 deçe[m]brio. S[uor] Le? Bol?. E tu lezitore prega Dio p[er] el scritore. Amen. De s[uor] Lena […]. Sc[ri]to de sua mano.

Written in the women’s monastery of San Francesco della Croce in Venice of the observant order of St Clare. Finished in the 1500th year of our poor lord Jesus Christ on December 3. Sister Lena […]. And you, reader, pray God for the writer [scribe]. Amen. [The book] of sister Lena […]. Written by her own hand.

Thus, we know that the manuscript was completed on December 3 in the year 1500 in Venice, Italy. Not only that; according to the colophon, MS C66 was copied in a women’s monastery. Although Sorio only mentions that the manuscript was copied by a Clarist nun (“Monaca Clarissa,” p. 29), the nun who copied MS C66 wrote her name on it: sister Lena.

Image of the ending of Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian on folio 81r (left), with the scribal colophon of Sister Lena.
Ending of Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian on folio 81r (left), with the scribal colophon of Sister Lena. Venice, Italy, 1500. Call # MS C66. Click image to enlarge.

There is another significant, if a little peculiar, aspect of MS C66, which is made of paper. All the initials in the manuscript are cut and pasted from another paper manuscript! More than 200 initials that open each chapter of the De theologia mystica in MS C66 are carefully cut out and placed on the leaves. The initials are all in plain red, made in the same style and they all seem to have originated from a single book. Although Bernard Rosenthal, from whom the University of Kansas acquired the manuscript, wrote in his description that “the initials are painted on small paper slips which are glued into their proper position,” it is certain that these initials were not made for this manuscript but instead repurposed from another one. When the manuscript is examined with a fiberoptic light sheet, which is commonly used for the inspection of watermarks on paper, the text underneath the initials become more apparent. The pieces are too small, however, to identify the text of this other book. I have not noticed any misplaced initials but there are a few instances in which the letter I is pasted upside down. Yet, MS C66 is so meticulously prepared that even this seems like a deliberate choice by sister Lena.

Image of the opening of folios 28v and 29r with pasted in initials visible in Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian (MS C66).
Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian, folios 28v and 29r. Venice, Italy, 1500. Call # MS C66. Click image to enlarge.
Image of the text visible on the verso of the pasted in initials under transmitted light, in in Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian (MS C66)
Hugh of Balma’s De theologia mystica in Italian, folio 29r with transmitted light. Venice, Italy, 1500. Call # MS C66. Click image to enlarge.

From its contents to its production, MS C66 is an excellent example of the impact of monastic networks in the transmission of texts and knowledge in the Middle Ages. But there is more to it. In his recent book titled Women and the Circulation of Texts in Renaissance Italy, Brian Richardson provides Sister Lena (and MS C66) as an example for his discussion of women scribes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020, p. 101). Many texts from the Middle Ages survive anonymously; their authors are not known. This is also true for medieval manuscripts; we usually do not know who was the parchmenter or the papermaker, the scribe, the rubricator, the illuminator or the binder of a given manuscript. Often, there is a tendency to think that these occupations were assumed by men, and especially that texts were written and copied by men. More and more studies, however, now argue that this may have not been the case. Therefore, it is especially important to bring to light those examples in which one can demonstrate that a medieval manuscript was written and/or decorated by a woman, as is the case with MS C66.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from Bernard M. Rosenthal Inc. in July 1960, and it is available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open.

  • Edition of the De theologia mystica in Italian based on MS C66: La Teologia mistica attribuita a San Bonaventura, già volgarizzata prima del 1367 da frate Domenico da Montechiello Gesuato, testo di lingua citato dagli accademici della Crusca, ora tratto la prima volta dai Mss. Edited by Bartolomeo Sorio. Verona: Tipografia degli eredi di M. Moroni, 1852. 31-96. [open access]
  • Edition of the De theologia mystica in Latin and its translation into French: Théologie mystique. Edited and translated by Francis Ruello and Jeanne Barbet. 2 vols. Sources chrétiennes 408, 409. Paris: Éditions de Cerf, 1995. [KU Libraries]
  • Translation of the De theologia mystica from Latin into English: Jasper Hopkins. Hugh of Balma on Mystical Theology: A Translation and an Overview of His De Theologia Mystica. Minneapolis, MN: Arthur J. Banning Press, 2002. [open access]

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz
Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher

Follow the account “Manuscripts &c.” on Twitter and Instagram for postings about manuscripts from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.


Manuscript of the Month: From the Library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne

June 30th, 2021

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz is conducting research on pre-1600 manuscripts at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Each month she will be writing about a manuscript she has worked with and the current KU Library catalog records will be updated in accordance with her findings.

Kenneth Spencer Research Library MS C91 is a fifteenth-century collection of religious texts. It contains a copy of the Homiliae quadraginta in evangelia [Forty homilies on the Gospels] by St Gregory the Great (approximately 540–604), the Exposicio sive postilla passionis Ihesu Christi [An exposition or annotations on the passion of Jesus Christ] compiled by Herman Appeldorn (d. 1473) and a shorter text on the passion of Christ, also attributed to him in the manuscript.

Unlike many manuscripts whose origin and provenance are now lost to us, we have evidence that MS C91 comes from the medieval library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne, Germany, a Carthusian monastery. St Bruno (approximately 1030–1101), who was educated in Reims, France, and who later became the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Reims, founded the Carthusian Order in 1084 in the Chartreuse Mountains, north of Grenoble, France. This original establishment, known as the Grande Chartreuse, is the head monastery of the Carthusian Order, and Carthusian monasteries are known as “charterhouses” after Chartreuse. Despite St Bruno originally being from Cologne, there was no charterhouse in Cologne until December 12, 1334, when the Charterhouse of St Barbara was founded by the Archbishop of Cologne, Walram of Jülich (approximately 1304–1349). Although it had a difficult start due to political tensions in the region, the charterhouse began to prosper especially after it came under the protection in 1354 of Charles IV (1346–1378), King of Bohemia and later Holy Roman Emperor.

Image of St. Gregory the Great’s Homilies on folio 2r and Herman Appeldorn’s Exposition on folio 144r.
Beginning of St. Gregory the Great’s Homilies on folio 2r and Herman Appeldorn’s Exposition on folio 144r. Trier and/or Cologne, Germany, between 1451–1473. Call # MS C91. Click image to enlarge, and see the Digital Scriptorium for additional images from this manuscript.

By the mid-fifteenth century the manuscript collection of the Charterhouse of St Barbara was the largest in Cologne, at least until the library and the neighboring buildings were completely consumed by a fire in November 1451. Some manuscripts, however, would have survived, for even though the Charterhouse of St Barbara had a separate library space, one did not need to be there to work with books. The Carthusians lived a solitary and contemplative life, and much work with manuscripts, including reading, copying, and writing commentaries was carried out by nuns and monks in the solitude of their cells. Therefore, although many books surely perished during this fire, scholars have argued that some of the manuscripts the monks were consulting at the time would have been spared.

Image of the parchment binding of MS C91, the front cover of which contains an older shelfmark of the library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne: “G.xlii.”
Parchment binding of the manuscript, the front cover of which contains an older shelfmark of the library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne: “G.xlii.” Call # MS C91.

Following the 1451 fire, the collection of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne was swiftly rebuilt not only by the copying of new manuscripts by the members of the charterhouse but also through purchases and donations. MS C91 is the product of these efforts, probably put together when Herman Appeldorn was Prior of the Charterhouse of St Barbara between 1457 and 1472. MS C91 is in its original parchment limp binding with a fore-edge envelope flap that extends from the right (back) side of the cover and is secured with a brass clasp. The fifteenth-century shelfmark of the library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara is written on the front cover of the manuscript: “G.xlii.” In this system, the letter is thought to indicate the name of the author or the subject of the manuscript and the number possibly the order of acquisition. So, in the case of MS C91, “G” probably refers to Gregory, whose work is the first text in the manuscript, and “xlii” to no. 42. Another manuscript from the library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne with a very similar binding, presumably bound around the same time as MS C91, is now held at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (Ms. Codex 1164). No shelfmark survives on the front cover of this manuscript, but there is evidence that some writing was scraped off of the parchment and one may presume that the shelfmark was erased by a subsequent owner.

Although no medieval catalogs of the library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara with these shelfmarks survive, there are other manuscripts from the library with them. There are also several documents that detail the contents of the library from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, most of which have been preserved in the Historical Archive of the City of Cologne. For example, a shelf list edited by Richard Bruce Marks that was compiled in the second half of the seventeenth century includes over 550 volumes of manuscripts. In this document (Cologne, Historisches Archiv der Stadt Köln, Best. 233 Kartäuser, Repertorien und Handschriften, Nr. 14), MS C91 is assigned the shelfmark “OO 89.” In the shelf list, the print books are organized according to subject matter under the letters of the alphabet (A to H; J to N), with the letter O reserved for all manuscripts. The manuscripts are divided into four groups according to their size: O for folio, OO for quarto, OOO for octavo and OOOO for duodecimo. Measuring approximately 210 x 145 mm, MS C91 has one of these labels with “OO” adhered to its spine.

Image of the label with “OO” of the library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne adhered to the spine of the binding of MS C91
The label with “OO” of the library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne adhered to the spine of the binding. Call # MS C91. Click image to enlarge.

Furthermore, the short description for MS C91 in the seventeenth-century shelf list comes directly from the list of contents provided in a contemporary hand on the front flyleaf of the manuscript:

Conte[n]ta libri h[uius]
Quadraginta omeli[a]e b[ea]ti Gregorii p[a]p[a]e super evangelia
Collectu[m] q[uo]dda[m] sup[er] passione[m] d[omi]ni ven[erabi]lis p[at]ris H[er]ma[n]ni Appeltorn p[ri]oris tu[n]c dom[us] T[re]veren[sis] et postea dom[us] h[uius] scriptiu[m] man[u] ipsi[us] obiit 1473
Ite[m] textus passio[n]is Chr[ist]i ex [quattuor] eva[n]gelistis eiusdem.

This book contains:
Forty homilies on the gospels of the blessed pope St Gregory,
A certain collection on the passion of our lord by the venerable father Herman Appeldorn, then the prior of the house of Trier, and afterwards of this house, written by his own hand, died 1473,
Also a text on the passion of Christ from the four evangelists, by the same [Herman Appeldorn].

Image of the opening of the manuscript and the table of contents and the ownership inscription on the front flyleaf on MS C91
Opening of the manuscript and the table of contents and the ownership inscription on the front flyleaf. Call # MS C91. Click image to enlarge.

Above this brief table of contents on the first flyleaf of MS C91, there is also a donation inscription:

Ex donation[n]e d[omi]ni Jo[?] Warendorppe p[ro]ve[n]it nobis h[ic] lib[er] quoad Omelias Gregorii
This book, as far as Gregory’s Homilies, comes to us from the donation of Johann? Warendorppe.

Unfortunately, the identity of this donor Warendorppe is unknown; Richard Bruce Marks reports that there are eighteen people with the same name in the list of graduates from the University of Cologne before the year 1500 (p. 16). The donation inscription and the table of contents are written by the same hand, presumably around the same time the contents of the manuscript were copied. Taken together, they tell us that what is now the first part of the manuscript (Gregory’s Homilies) was commissioned by Warendorppe and that the remainder was authored and copied by Herman Appeldorn. These two parts must have been put together shortly after their copying, with the addition of the flyleaf with the donation and contents information when the manuscript was bound. There is very little known about Herman Appeldorn, although his name is recorded in other manuscripts as part of purchases and donations made to the library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne during his priorship. He is thought to have composed three works: Sermones dominicales [Sunday Sermons], De passione domini [On the passion of Christ], and De institutione novitiorum [On the education of novices]. None of these works seem to have been published and it is possible that MS C91 contains the only copy of the De passione domini.

The recent provenance of MS C91 is quite well known. After the dissolution of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne in 1794 during the French Revolution, some of the manuscripts were sent to Paris, others to a new school founded in Cologne and the rest were sold. During these sales, some hundred and thirty-six manuscripts were acquired by the book and art dealer Johann Matthias Heberle (Antiquargeschäft mit Auktionsanstalt Cologne) and then sold in 1821 to Leander van Ess (Johann Heinrich van Ess, 1772–1847), a theologian and book collector from Warburg, Germany. MS C91 was one of these. Only a few years later, in 1824, Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792–1872) purchased the entire collection of Leander Van Ess, including those manuscripts that formerly belonged to the Charterhouse of St Barbara. In 1910, at the beginning of the twentieth century, as part of an auction of Phillipps manuscripts, MS C91 was sold by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge to J. & J. Leighton, booksellers and bookbinders in London. Soon afterward, in 1912, the manuscript was purchased from J. & J. Leighton by Robert Ranshaw (1836–1924), a master draper and an art collector from Louth, Lincolnshire.

In his 1974 study, Richard Bruce Marks aimed at reconstructing the manuscript collections of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne and identified the current whereabouts of over 250 manuscripts that were included in the seventeenth-century shelf list. MS C91 was among those he was not able to locate. Indeed, Spencer Library holds two former Van Ess and Phillipps manuscripts from the library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne, neither of which was identified by Marks: Phillipps MS 642 (now MS C64) and Phillipps MS 646 (now MS C91). Both of these manuscripts can now be added to the list.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from Internationaal Antiquariaat (Menno Hertzberger & Co.) in September 1960, and it is available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open.

  • The most comprehensive study in English on the Library of the Charterhouse of St Barbara in Cologne: Richard Bruce Marks. The Medieval Manuscript Library of the Charterhouse of St. Barbara in Cologne. 2 vols. Analecta Cartusiana 21. Salzburg: Institut für Englische Sprache und Literatur, Universität Salzburg, 1974.
  • Other blog posts from the “Manuscript of the Month” series on former Sir Thomas Phillips manuscripts at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library: https://blogs.lib.ku.edu/spencer/tag/sir-thomas-phillipps/

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz
Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher

Follow the account “Manuscripts &c.” on Twitter and Instagram for postings about manuscripts from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.