Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Manuscript of the Month: Manuscript Waste Not, or a Case in Fragmentology

August 31st, 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 9/2:31 is one of the fragments in the “Paleographical Teaching Set” that was gradually put together in the second half of the twentieth century for facilitating teaching and learning of Greek and Latin paleography at the University of Kansas. We do not have any information about the origin or the history of the fragment, and the Latin text it contains had not been identified until now (no surprise, perhaps, given the largely illegible and mutilated nature of the parchment). The manuscript has been known at the Spencer Library as the “gaudio fragment.” The reason for this is that the word “gaudio” [joy], which is repeated twice on one side of the fragment, is one of the few easily legible words. Without the identification of the text it contains, this became a practical way to refer to MS 9/2:31.

Careful investigation now has revealed that MS 9/2:31 contains part of the first chapter of the first book of the De ecclesiasticis officiis libri quatuor [Four Books on Ecclesiastical Offices] by Amalarius of Metz (approximately 780–850). Amalarius was employed at the courts of both Charlemagne (748–814) and his son and successor Louis the Pious (778–840). He was the bishop of Trier (812–813) and Lyon (835–838), and in 813 was sent as the Frankish ambassador to the Byzantine Empire, to Constantinople (modern day Istanbul, Turkey). Written between the years 820 and 832, the De ecclesiasticis officiis was dedicated to Louis the Pious.

Picture of a manuscript fragment from from Amalarius of Metz's De ecclesiasticis officiis libri quatuor used as a comb spine binding (recto side, formerly designated as verso), Germany?, around 900. Call # MS 9/2:31.
Amalarius of Metz, De ecclesiasticis officiis libri quatuor. Recto side, formerly designated as verso. Germany?, around 900. Call # MS 9/2:31. Click image to enlarge.
Picture of a manuscript fragment from from Amalarius of Metz's De ecclesiasticis officiis libri quatuor used as a comb spine binding (verso side, formerly designated as recto), Germany?, around 900. Call # MS 9/2:31
Amalarius of Metz, De ecclesiasticis officiis libri quatuor. Verso side, formerly designated as recto. Germany?, around 900. Call # MS 9/2:31. Click image to enlarge.

Since the text was previously unidentified, the sides of MS 9/2:31 were also misattributed, with the text beginning on what is thought to be the verso side and continuing some fifteen lines later on the other side. As it stands, MS 9/2:31 is less than half of the original leaf. It measures approximately 100 x 170 mm, with 12 lines of text remaining, of which only 2 lines are fully visible on each side. Although the fragment contains an early witness to the De ecclesiasticis officiis by Amalarius of Metz, its later use as a binding component is more interesting for book history.

The peculiar shape of MS 9/2:31 is due to the fact that it was repurposed at some point in its later history; the leaf was cut to shape and used as a spine lining of another codex. It was then detached from this codex before it was incorporated into the collections of the Spencer Library. Until recently, it was common for repurposed fragments to be removed from their bindings, either by booksellers or by the holding institutions, and to be inventoried (or sold) separately. There are annotations in pencil in a modern hand in the lower margin of the recto side of MS 9/2:31: “Dutch,” or more likely “Deutsch [German]” and “17th cent.” This inscription probably refers to the codex from which the fragment came, perhaps a manuscript written (or a book printed) in the seventeenth century in Germany (or the Netherlands). This specific type of lining is called comb spine lining, which takes its name from its appearance of a comb with wide teeth due to the slots along one of the edges of the parchment.

Reconstruction of MS 9/2:31 as a comb spine lining.
Reconstruction of MS 9/2:31 as a comb spine lining. Click image to enlarge.

As a comb spine lining, MS 9/2:31 would have been used vertically and it would have had another tooth, which is now missing, as seen in the reconstruction above. Furthermore, it probably had a counterpart as comb spine linings usually consist of two parchment (rarely paper) parts. A similar example of a comb spine lining, also detached from the codex in which it was found, is Cambridge, Trinity College, R.11.2/21. In this case, both parts of the lining survive, and not only that, they are made from the same leaf. So, it is more than likely that the other half of the original leaf of MS 9/2:31 was used as its counterpart in the comb spine lining.

Image of a a reconstruction of MS 9/2:31 employed as a comb spine lining inside a codex.
Reconstruction of MS 9/2:31 employed as a comb spine lining inside a codex. Click image to enlarge.

In the codex, the teeth of the two parts of the comb spine lining would have lain over each other in the spine panel. The outer halves of each lining (the parts that are not slotted), which are called lining extensions, probably would have been adhered to the inside of the boards of the codex. From this reconstruction we can tell that the codex for which the spine lining was used was approximately 170 mm in height and had four sewing supports, which would have corresponded to the empty slots created by the teeth of the spine lining. Comb spine linings were used from the later Middle Ages onwards in continental Europe, most notably in Germany, Italy and France. The survival of fragments such as MS 9/2:31 is significant not only because of the texts they contain; they also enable scholars to study and understand medieval and early modern book structures, and in some cases localize and date manuscripts. Although often called “manuscript waste” in scholarship because the original manuscripts were discarded for whatever reason, these repurposed fragments clearly did not go to waste and there is still much we can learn from them.

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: 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.

Manuscript of the Month: Signs in the Margins and Between the Lines

May 26th, 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 C49 contains copies of two works which were originally composed a millennium apart: the translation of Sextus Pythagoreus’s Sententiae from Greek into Latin by Rufinus of Aquileia (345–410) and the Enchiridion by Laurentius Pisanus (approximately 1391–1465). Both works are collections of sayings, usually of moral nature, and the genre of sententiae (i.e., sentences) goes back to the classical times. Considering its age, MS C49 is in relatively good condition despite heavy water damage that caused discoloration of parchment on the upper part of the manuscript towards the fore-edge. The manuscript was copied by a single scribe, probably in the third quarter of the fifteenth century in Italy, and it probably is still in its original binding. We do not have any information on the exact origin or the history of the manuscript, except for an unidentified ownership inscription in the lower margin on folio 1r, which indicates that the manuscript once belonged to a Philippus (“Iste liber est d[omi]ni Philippi […]”: This book belongs to master Philippus […].)

In addition to this ownership inscription, there is a series of other writings and markings in MS C49, especially in the margins of the first part of the manuscript which contains the Sententiae. Originally written in Greek in the late second or early third century, the Sententiae by Sextus Pythagoreus includes about 500 sayings. The Latin translation by Rufinus of Aquileia in the late fourth or early fifth century, which includes 451 of these sayings, is mostly literal, although there are alterations to the text as with any late antique or medieval translation. In MS C49, the text opens with an extended version of Rufinus’s preface, and even though the sayings are copied as if they were a prose text and not numbered, they can be easily identified as each saying begins with a capital letter highlighted in red.

Image of the opening of the manuscript and the unidentified ownership inscription on folio 1r of Sextus Pythagoreus, Sententiae translated by Rufinus of Aquileia, and Laurentius Pisanus, Enchiridion. Italy (?), third quarter of the fifteenth century (?). Call # MS C49.
Opening of the manuscript and the unidentified ownership inscription on folio 1r. Sextus Pythagoreus, Sententiae, translated by Rufinus of Aquileia, and Laurentius Pisanus, Enchiridion. Italy (?), third quarter of the fifteenth century (?). Call # MS C49. Click image to enlarge, and see the Digital Scriptorium for additional images from this manuscript.

All text and marks in the margins of a manuscript are collectively called marginalia. There can be several reasons for marginalia in a manuscript; some are left by the scribes of the manuscripts and others by the readers or later owners of the manuscripts, such as the ownership inscription on folio 1r. After the copying of a text in a manuscript, for example, often scribes or others working with them would check the copy against the exemplar, the manuscript from which the copy was made. This was to ensure that the copy of the text was correct and complete, similar to modern proofreading and copyediting practices. Sometimes, they would also check the copy they had against another copy of the same text, especially if they thought what was copied was not reliable or there was lacuna in the exemplar. During both of these processes, if they encountered a missing word or a phrase, or a discrepancy, they would note this down, usually in the margins of the manuscript and sometimes in between the lines. Interventions and alterations of any kind to the main text frequently also included the use of different types of signs. Centuries later, similar practices are still in place today in the academic and publishing worlds. See, for example, the Proofreader’s Marks provided by the Chicago Manual of Style. It is possible to discern how this methodology works even when the copyediting or proofreading is done electronically, for example, via Microsoft Word Track Changes or Adobe Acrobat Comments.

Image with enlarged pop-outs showing three examples of marginal and interlinear interventions on folios 16v-17r of MS C49.
Examples of marginal and interlinear interventions on folios 16v-17r. Call # MS C49. Click image to enlarge.

In the case of MS C49, most of the marginal and interlinear additions and corrections seem to have been made by the same hand, either the scribe who copied the text or a contemporary who could have been another scribe, an editor or a reader. Since this second hand mostly adds corrections to the main text, we can be fairly certain that they were checking the copied text against the exemplar. Here are three examples of interventions from folio 17v:

In the first case, the text is corrected by adding a missing sentence in the outer margin. This usually happens when the scribe originally skips a word, a phrase or a sentence and later notices that they made a mistake. Instead of copying the entire page again, which would be costly and time consuming, they make a note of the missing passage. In order to ensure that the additional text is inserted into the right place, the place where the insertion needs to be made in the main text is first marked with a sign and later a corresponding sign is placed together with the additional text in the margin. In this case, the sign employed in MS C49 looks like an exclamation mark with two dots. These types of signs are called signe-de-renvoi (i.e., “sign of return”) or tie marks. They are used in pairs and link the main text to a marginal annotation.

In the second example, on line 15 of folio 17r, the word “verbis” has a series of dots underneath. In this case, it seems that the scribe made another mistake by copying a word that is not part of the text. In these cases, again, instead of copying the entire page, they signaled a deletion of the extraneous word or phrase. There are differing practices to indicate a deletion in medieval and early modern manuscripts, depending on the scribe and where and when a manuscript is copied. What is used here is an omission technique called subpuncting or underdotting, in which a series of dots are placed under the letter or the word that is to be omitted from reading. Today, one usually crosses out a passage or a word when there is a mistake. Nevertheless, this medieval practice is thought to have given way to the modern ellipsis, which indicates omitted words in a text.

The sign seen in the third example has a slightly different use; it is not a direct intervention to the text. Instead, it is utilized to mark an important passage. The symbol in the shape of a pointing hand is called a manicule (from the Latin word manicula, meaning “little hand”), and it is found in the margins of medieval manuscripts and later on in printed books to draw attention to a section of a text. There are over two dozen manicules in MS C49. If this pointing hand sign seems familiar, it is because it is the same symbol that one sees when one moves their pointer over a hyperlink today!

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from Charles S. Boesen in February 1959, and it is available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open.

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: Tracking the Two-Hundred-Year Ownership Trail of a Fifteenth-Century Manuscript

April 28th, 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 D2 is a fifteenth-century paper manuscript that contains the Epigrams of Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis, approximately 40 CE–approximately 104 CE). Originally written to celebrate the opening of the Colosseum in the year 80 CE, the Epigrams are a series of short, satirical poems reflecting different aspects of Roman life. In this manuscript the Epigrams are prefaced by a letter written by Martial’s contemporary and friend, Pliny the Younger (61/62 CE–114 CE), to another friend, Cornelius Priscus, on the occasion of Pliny hearing of Martial’s death. According to a colophon found at the end of the text, MS D2 was copied by Jacopo Tiraboschi of Bergamo and was completed on October 19, 1470, probably somewhere in Italy.

Image showing the colophon in MS D2 on folio 184v, in which the scribe mentions their name (“Iacobus Tirabuschus B[er]gomensis”) and the date of the completion of the copying of the manuscript (“MoccccoLxxo die decimo nono Octobris”) in Martial, Epigrams, Italy (?), October 19, 1470. Call # MS D2.
The colophon in MS D2 on folio 184v, in which the scribe mentions their name (“Iacobus Tirabuschus B[er]gomensis”) and the date of the completion of the copying of the manuscript (“MoccccoLxxo die decimo nono Octobris”). Martial, Epigrams, Italy (?), October 19, 1470. Call # MS D2. Click image to enlarge. See the Digital Scriptorium record for MS D2 for additional metadata and images.

We do not know any other details about the circumstances in which MS D2 was copied nor do we have any information on the whereabouts of the manuscript during the three or so centuries after its completion. The history of MS D2 in the past two centuries, however, is rather exciting and can be reconstructed, especially by consulting modern sale and auction catalogs of manuscripts. Provenance (previous ownership) of manuscripts is an important branch of historical bibliography that has gained more and more prominence in the past few decades. The bedside book for provenance researchers, beginners and experts alike, is David Pearson’s Provenance Research in Book History: A Handbook, which was recently published in a revised edition. The most important resource for those interested in the history of any pre-1600 manuscript, moreover, is the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts, an ongoing, community-driven project to track the historic and current locations of manuscript books across time and place. Initiated by Lawrence J. Schoenberg in 1997, the database is currently managed by the Schoenberg Institute of Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries under the direction of Lynn Ransom.

The first trackable mention of MS D2 comes from a Sotheby’s auction catalog dated to February 26, 1821. The long title of the auction catalog indicates that this “singularly rare collection of manuscripts” previously belonged to “Saibanti and Canonici” and that the manuscripts were “brought to this country [the United Kingdom] by the Abbe Celotti.” Abbé Luigi Celotti (1759–1843) was a Venetian abbot who later became a book dealer and this three-day 1821 auction, which included 542 items, was one of his earliest and most important sales. There is no indication in the catalog as to which manuscripts originate from the collection of Matteo Luigi Canonici (1727-1805) or from that of Giovanni Saibante of Verona (flourished first half of the eighteenth century). Both Canonici and Saibante were Italian book collectors and several of their manuscripts were either auctioned off in Britain or purchased by British collectors in the nineteenth century. Based on the name of its scribe and its Humanistic script, it is very likely that MS D2 was originally produced somewhere in Italy and it almost certainly did not leave Italy until it was put to sale by Celotti through Sotheby’s in this 1821 auction.

Image from Google Books showing the title page of the 1821 Sotheby’s auction catalog (left) and the catalog entry no. 278 that corresponds to MS D2 (right).
The title page of the 1821 Sotheby’s auction catalog (left) and the catalog entry no. 278 that corresponds to MS D2 (right). Source: Google Books.

Following the 1821 auction in London, the manuscript is listed in the inventories of a number of booksellers and appears to have entered into the collections of a series of prominent British book collectors. The next mention of MS D2 is found in the 1836 auction catalogue of the manuscripts that previously belonged to Richard Heber (1773–1833), an English book collector. Heber presumably purchased the manuscript from Celotti at the 1821 Sotheby’s auction. In the 1836 auction of Heber’s manuscripts, MS D2 was purchased by Thomas Thorpe (1791–1851), a well-known bookseller in London from the 1820s until his death. In fact, MS D2 bears an inscription on folio 186v that reads “Thomas Thorpe.” Immediately after, however, during the same year, the manuscript was purchased from Thomas Thorpe by Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792–1872), who had Payne & Foss, another London-based bookseller, purchase several other manuscripts from the 1836 auction of Heber’s collection. I have previously written about one of those manuscripts, now with the shelfmark MS C247, which is also part of the collections of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Indeed, there are over a hundred manuscripts from the former Phillipps collection currently housed at Spencer Research Library.

Image of the Spine of MS D2 with remnants of a rectangular Phillipps label
Spine of MS D2 with remnants of a rectangular Phillipps label. Click image to enlarge.

With an estimated forty thousand printed books and sixty thousand manuscripts, Sir Thomas Phillipps had the largest private manuscript collection in the world at the time. MS D2 is inscribed “Phillipps MSS 9677” in ink on the front pastedown and there are remnants of a rectangular Phillipps label with a typeset number, with only “96” remaining, adhered to the tail of the spine. The Phillipps numbers, both in the form of a paper label adhered to the spine of the bindings and as handwritten notes, usually on the first couple of leaves of manuscripts, are one of the identifying features of manuscripts that once belonged to Sir Thomas Phillipps. MS D2 has a modern binding but the fact that there is a Phillipps label on the spine suggests that the medieval manuscript was already rebound with its current, modern binding when this manuscript was being accessioned into the Phillipps collection. There is a binder’s ink stamp belonging to John P. Gray & Son Ltd., a bookbinder based in Cambridge, in the lower left corner of the back pastedown. However, there is no date associated with this stamp and it is likely that this was the result of a repair undertaken rather than a full rebinding of the manuscript.

Image showing the Number given by Sir Thomas Phillipps on the front pastedown (left) and initials of Thomas FitzRoy Fenwick on the verso of the end flyleaf (right) of MS D2.
Number given by Sir Thomas Phillipps on the front pastedown (left) and initials of Thomas FitzRoy Fenwick on the verso of the back flyleaf (right) of MS D2. Click image to enlarge.

After his death, Phillipps’s library was inherited by Katharine Fenwick, his daughter, and was later passed on to Thomas FitzRoy Fenwick (1856–1938), his grandson, who oversaw the sales of the Phillipps collection over several decades. We know that Fenwick examined MS D2 in 1891 as his initials are found in the upper left corner of the verso of the back flyleaf: “T.FF 1891.” Within a few years of this inscription, the manuscript was sold by Fenwick at a Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge sale in 1895, during which it seems to have been purchased by Harold Baillie-Weaver (1860–1926), a British barrister and a book collector. Only three years later, in March 1898, the manuscript was purchased by Bernard Quaritch (1819–1899) during the sale of the collection of Baillie-Weaver by Christie, Manson & Woods. Bernard Quaritch was both a book collector and a bookseller, also based in London. In the late nineteenth-century, Quaritch had become one of the biggest traders in antiquarian books and manuscripts in the world. After his death, his bookselling business was continued by his son, Bernard Alfred Quaritch (1871–1913), and the company he founded still survives today as Bernard Quaritch Ltd, owned by John Koh.

MS D2 later appears in two of Quaritch’s sale catalogs, first immediately after its purchase in 1898 (Catalog no. 180, item no. 40) and then in 1902 (Catalog no. 211, item no. 153). The manuscript seems to have been purchased in 1902 by Sir Thomas Gibson-Carmichael (1859–1926), only to be sold a year later in a Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge sale of his collection. Gibson-Carmichael was a Scottish politician who held governorships in the British Empire. Since the manuscript reappears in a sale catalog of Quaritch in 1905, we can only assume that the younger Quaritch purchased the manuscript back during the 1903 Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge sale. However, only two years later, in 1907, MS D2 is again listed by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge and this time it is sold to another bookseller, Francis Edwards Ltd, who listed the manuscript in their catalog in 1909. Established in 1855, also in London, Francis Edwards is another bookseller who continues to operate today.

The history of this fifteenth-century manuscript is a testament to the lively book trade business centered around London in the nineteenth century. After changing several hands, appearing in at least ten sale catalogs and briefly entering collections of famous British collectors in less than a century, the ownership trail of MS D2 goes cold for some twenty years following its appearance in the 1909 Francis Edwards catalog. We do not know whether the manuscript was sold at that time, and if it was to whom. The ongoing “Cultural Values and the International Trade in Medieval European Manuscripts, c. 1900-1945” project led by Laura Cleaver might provide us further clues in the future as to the whereabouts of the manuscript in the early decades of the twentieth century. About two decades later, in 1930, MS D2 is listed for sale by E. P. Goldschmidt & Co., which was founded by E. P. Goldschmidt (1887–1954), a scholar and a bookseller, also based in London. Whether the manuscript was sold in 1930 is also unclear. It is listed again by E. P. Goldschmidt & Co. in 1955, just after Goldschmidt’s death and it is possible that it remained in the inventory of the bookseller for twenty-five years when it was purchased in 1956 by the University of Kansas. Since then, for the past 65 years MS D2 has had its longest stay in its recent history in the same collection. You can track the history of MS D2 yourselves, examine the open access records of different sales and catalogs, and contribute to the history of the manuscript through the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from E. P. Goldschmidt & Co. in May 1956 and it is available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open.

For the texts in this manuscript, see:

    • Martial. Epigrams. Edited and translated by D. R. Shackleton Bailey. 3 vols. Loeb Classical Library 94, 95, 480. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993. [KU Libraries]
    • Pliny the Younger. Letters. Translated by Betty Radice. 2 vols. Loeb Classical Library 55, 59. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969. [KU Libraries]

For introduction to provenance research, see:

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.