Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Collection Snapshot(s): Marcas de fuego

May 11th, 2021
Marcas de Fuego on Part 1 (right) and Part 2 (left) of Spencer Research Library's copies of Fray Juan Bautista'sAdvertencias para los confesores de los naturales (1600-1601)
Marcas de fuego on Part 1 (right) and Part 2 (left) of Spencer Research Library’s copies of Advertencias para los confesores de los naturales by Fray Juan Bautista. Mexico: Por M. Ocharte, año 1600 (Parte 1); Excudebat Ludovicus Ocharte Figueroa, 1601 (Parte 2). Call Number #: B620.

Today we share two examples of “marcas de fuego” from Spencer Research Library’s collections. In colonial Mexico, “marcas de fuego” (that is, “marks of fire” or fire brands) identified a book as belonging to a particular religious order or institution. This identifying emblem (or sometimes a set of stylized initials or a name) would be burned into the edge of the text block of a book using a hot metal instrument.  The scholars and librarians associated with the Catálogo Colectivo de Marcas de Fuego (Collective catalog of fire brands) date this practice from the second half of the 16th century into the first decades of the 19th century.

The marcas de fuego shown above appear on the top edges of the two parts of Spencer Research Library’s copy of Fray Juan Bautista’s Advertencias para los confesores de los naturales. Printed in Mexico City in 1600 (Parte 1) and 1601 (Parte 2), Bautista’s Advertencias was a manual offering guidance for priests taking the confessions of the indigenous peoples of “New Spain.” Printing came to the Americas in 1539 when Juan Pablos established a printing press in Mexico City. Bautista’s text is included in that first group of editions (roughly 220 in Mexico City and 20 in Lima, Peru) printed in the Americas prior to 1601. These are sometimes known in Spanish as “Incunable Americano,” after the practice of calling books printed in Europe prior to 1501—the “cradle stage” of printing—incunabula.

Interestingly, although Spencer Research Library acquired the two parts of Bautista’s Advertencias together from the California-based bookseller Zeitlin & Ver Brugge, their marcas de fuego suggest that the two separate volumes haven’t always resided together.  Using the enormously helpful Catálogo Colectivo de Marcas de Fuego, we’ve been able to identify the fire brand that appears on each of the two volumes. 

Marca de Fuego of the Colegio de San Fernando on the text block Juan Bautista's Advertencias para los confesores de los naturales, Parte 1 (1600), Kenneth Spencer Research Library Call Number: B620.
Marca de fuego of the Colegio de San Fernando at the top (head) of the text block of Juan Bautista’s Advertencias para los confesores de los naturales, Parte 1 (1600). Call Number #: B620.

The marca de fuego that appears on “Parte 1” is that of the Colegio de San Fernando in Mexico City (see this entry in the Catálogo Colectivo for comparison). We’ll admit that this marca is among the more self-evident! The Colegio de San Fernando was founded in the 1730s as a Franciscan missionary college or seminary.  Since one of its primary purposes was to train priests for conducting missionary work with indigenous peoples, it’s not surprising to see a copy of Bautista’s Advertencias with the marca de fuego of the Colegio de San Fernando.

Marca de Fuego of the Convento del Carmen (Atlixco, Puebla) on the text block Juan Bautista's Advertencias para los confesores de los naturales, Parte 2 (1601), Kenneth Spencer Research Library Call Number: B620
Marca de fuego of the Convento del Carmen (Atlixco, Puebla) at the top (head) of the text block of Juan Bautista’s Advertencias para los confesores de los naturales, Parte 2 (1601). Call Number #: B620.

The marca de fuego on “Parte 2” appears to be that of the Convento del Carmen in Atlixco, Puebla (see this entry for comparison).  The term “Covento” in the Spanish colonial context refers to complex or facility used by a religious order, without the strong connotation of a female order present in the English term “convent.” Founded by the Carmelites, the Convento and the associated church were built the during the first two decades of the 1600s. The marca contains several elements of the Carmelite shield (the cross, the mount, and two of its characteristic three stars), and, as the Catálogo Colectivo entry for the marca notes, the initial “A” at the bottom of the marca might be an abbreviation for Atlixco. The “Convento” was dissolved in the mid 19th century and its belongings sold, but the much of the building structure still stands (with a more modern façade), though it did sustain damage in the 2017 earthquake that hit the region.

The Catálogo Colectivo de Marcas de Fuego is a fascinating resource for researching provenance and the movement of books in colonial Mexico and beyond.  In order to encourage you to explore it (and marcas de fuego more generally) we share one final “snapshot” from Spencer’s collections — a photograph that we use on the page of our website that discusses Spencer’s Renaissance and  Early Modern Imprints.  Unlike the Advertenicas which was printed in Mexico City, the six volume Complutensian Polyglot Bible was printed in Spain under the patronage of Cardinal Francisco Ximenes de Cisneros in 1514-17, as noted in the volume (though actually, 1520/1521). However, at some point in the decades and centuries following its publication, Spencer’s copy travelled to “New Spain” and received its marcas de fuego.  Can you identify whose heart-shaped brand this is?  Take a look through the Catálogo Colectivo de Marcas de Fuego and then highlight the text in the square brackets to confirm your identification: [Convento de san Agustín (Puebla, Puebla), see for example the variations on the brand BJML-1005.]

Marcas de fuego of [Convento de san Agustín (Puebla, Puebla)] on Spencer Research Library’s copy of Biblia polyglotta. Alcala de Henares: in Complutensi universitate, industria Arnaldi Gulielmi de Brocario, 1514-1517 [i.e., 1520 or 1521]. Call #: Summerfield G41. (Highlight the text in brackets to reveal the source of the brand).

Both parts of Spencer’s copy of Advertencias para los confesores de los naturales by Fray Juan Bautista have been digitized and are available online (Images 1-370 are “Parte 1” and the binding of “Parte 2” begins at Image 371). You’ll also find a digitized copy of Spencer’s other “Mexican Incunable”– the 1571 edition of Alonso de Monlina Vocabulario en lengua Castellana y Mexicana (Call #: D214), a Nahuatl-Spanish dictionary–in our digital collections. To read more about both of these volumes, visit the online version of Spencer’s 2016 exhibition In the Shadow of Cortés: From Veracruz to Mexico City, where Caitlin Klepper discusses them in the section headed “The Colonization of This Land.”

  • This blog post was originally intended to post in November 2020, but was postponed due to a time-sensitive post. Since then, a colleague at another university, Michael Taylor, has written a fascinating and more detailed post on marcas de fuego for the blog of the Book Club of Washington. Take a read to dive even further into the history and nature of these bibliographic firebrands.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

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.

Manuscript of the Month: Vergil’s Aeneid and the Mathematics of Bookmaking

February 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.

One of the first manuscripts I looked at after I started working at the University of Kansas in September 2019 was Kenneth Spencer Research Library MS E71. Since I am equally interested in the reception of the Trojan War in the Middle Ages and the history of the book, this incomplete copy of the Aeneid was the perfect choice. The Aeneid is an epic poem in twelve books composed between 29 and 19 BCE by Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BCE-19 BCE), more commonly known as Vergil or Virgil. It tells the story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy after the fall of Troy and who is considered to be the ancestor of the Romans.

Vergil’s Aeneid was probably the most read and most consulted classical work during the Middle Ages and beyond. One could even go as far as to say that Vergil’s Aeneid is probably the most well-known classical work of all times. It was used as part of the curriculum in Latin probably almost immediately after its composition for centuries to come. Even today, if one were to learn Latin anywhere in the world, it is more than likely that this is the first text one would encounter in class. And, if you learned Latin with Vergil, even if you forgot everything else, you would probably still remember the opening words of the poem: “Arma virumque cano” (“I sing of arms and the man”). Romans of the first century certainly were familiar with this phrase, as this is one of the most common texts found among the graffiti that survive on the walls of the ancient city of Pompeii, which was buried under volcanic ash and pumice following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79!

MS E71 was probably copied in the first quarter of the fifteenth century in Italy, many centuries after its composition. The state of the manuscript as we have it reflects the rich history of reading, writing and ownership of the manuscript over the past five hundred years, with its leaves full of annotations by previous users and owners. It is also incomplete, missing several leaves, perhaps another indication of heavy use of the manuscript over the centuries. One of the reasons why this manuscript holds a special place in the collections of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library is that MS E71 is part of a larger gift from Robert T. Aitchison (1887-1964). The manuscript was donated along with 42 rare printed editions of Vergil’s works, one of which is an incunabulum dated to 1487 (Aitchison D1). A native Kansan, Aitchison was an artist and a book collector, and served as the president and director of the Kansas Historical Society among other things. Aitchison had purchased the manuscript from Bernard M. Rosenthal in July 1961, a mere two years before he gifted it to the University of Kansas Libraries along with the rest of his collection of Vergil’s works.

Image of Bookplate of Robert T. Aitchison in the middle and the ticket of the binder, George Bretherton, in the upper left corner of the front pastedown (left) in Spencer Research Library's manuscript copy of Vergil's Aeneid, Italy (?), first quarter of the fifteenth century?. (MS E71).

Bookplate of Robert T. Aitchison in the middle and the ticket of the binder, George Bretherton, in the upper left corner of the front pastedown (left). Vergil, Aeneid, Italy (?), first quarter of the fifteenth century?. Call # MS E71. Click image to enlarge.

In the previous century, MS E71 was in the collection of another prominent book collector: Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792–1872). It is estimated that Sir Thomas had some 40,000 printed books and 60,000 manuscripts in addition to paintings, prints, photographs and other materials, which makes him the owner of the largest private collection of manuscripts in the world in the nineteenth century, or perhaps ever. The Kenneth Spencer Research Library preserves a number of manuscripts from the former Phillipps collection, which were dispersed during the years after the Phillipps’s death, such as MS C247, about which I had previously written a blog post.

According to surviving records, Sir Thomas Phillipps purchased the manuscript from Payne & Foss, an antiquarian bookseller based in London who was instrumental in procuring many of the manuscripts in his collection. It is inscribed in Phillipps’s usual manner as “Phillipps MS 12281” in ink on the lower margin of the recto of the first leaf. MS E71, a paper manuscript of currently 67 leaves, must have been unbound at the time of its purchase. It seems that it was immediately rebound by a binder who used to work for Phillipps, George Bretherton. The manuscript still has this mid-nineteenth-century half calfskin and blue cloth binding, with the binder’s ticket intact in the upper left corner of the front pastedown: “BRETHERTON, ligavit 1847” [BRETHERTON, bound 1847].

Image showing how Spencer's incomplete copy of Vergil’s Aeneid at MS E71 begins with with Book II, line 672
Vergil’s Aeneid begins with Book II, line 672 in MS E71, folio 1r. Sir Thomas Phillipps’s handwritten shelfmark in the lower margin (“Phillipps MS 12281”). Click image to enlarge.

MS E71 seems to have undergone heavy repairs in the nineteenth century, presumably during Bretherton’s rebinding process. As part of these conservation efforts, various tears and holes on the leaves seem to have been mended, usually by pasting pieces of modern paper on top of the damaged parts of the medieval paper. More importantly, paper strips were adhered to the center-folds and spine-folds of most of the leaves to support the integrity of the book. Single leaves that were presumably detached from the bookblock were also glued to other leaves, forming artificial gatherings. And finally, a lining was adhered to the spine before the book was bound. Because of all of these interventions and the rearrangement of the quires during the rebinding, the original design of the manuscript is now completely altered. For example, the current first folio of the manuscript contains Book II, lines 672-732 of the Aeneid whereas the second folio begins on Book III, line 469. So, clearly there are several leaves missing between these two leaves which now follow each other, but one would not be able to tell this immediately just by looking that the manuscript.

Image of paper strip adhered to the center-fold of folios 30v and 31r of MS E71.
Paper strip adhered to the center-fold of folios 30v and 31r of MS E71. Click image to enlarge.
Image showing the Detail from the head (top) of the manuscript showing the current quire structure for MS E71
Detail from the head (top) of the manuscript showing the current quire structure, with part of the spine lining visible. Call # MS E71. Click image to enlarge.

Due to the current condition of the manuscript, it is difficult ascertain not only which leaves originally went together as conjoint leaves but also how the manuscript was collated, that is, what the structure of the gatherings originally were. Thus, in this case, a physical examination of MS E71 alone does not help one to understand how the manuscript was actually put together.

In the past two millennia, the Aeneid was copied in manuscripts thousands of times and printed in various editions also by the thousands since its first print edition in 1469. Although there are a variety of differences on the word level in these copies, the work as a whole is fairly well-established since the early Middle Ages. That MS E71 contains this well-known work is very useful in this case because it means that we have a good understanding of how long the text is and that we can identify what parts of the manuscript are lost and even estimate how many leaves are missing. It is also helpful that the Aeneid is a verse text, meaning that each line in a given copy also would correspond to a line in this manuscript and that there would be no variations on the length of the text depending on the density of the script or the size of the leaves.

In order to compare the text of the Aeneid as we have it in MS E71, I used the Greenough edition dated to 1900, which is available open access via the Perseus Digital Library of Tufts University. The Aeneid consists of twelve books, with each book having a different number of lines. In this edition, Book I has 756 lines, Book II 804 lines, Book III 718 lines, Book IV 705 lines, Book V 871 lines, Book VI 901 lines, Book VII 817 lines, Book VIII 731 lines, Book IX 818 lines, Book X 908 lines, Book XI 915 lines and Book XII 952 lines. So, if one were to copy the entire text of the Aeneid with no break, one would copy 9896 lines of text. If one were writing 29 to 30 lines per page, the average in MS E71, then one would end up filling about 168 leaves. Ideally, such a manuscript could have been arranged in quires of 12 leaves, for example, which would make up 14 gatherings, or in quires of 8 leaves which would make up 21 gatherings. 

The text as we have it in MS E71 begins on line 672 of the second book of the Aeneid (now folio 1r). This means that, at the very least, the first 671 lines of Book II as well as the entirety of Book I (756 lines) are missing. The last line we have in MS E71 is Book IX, line 425 (now folio 67r). Ordinarily, one would think that the rest of the work was also missing from the manuscript; however, since the copying ends on the recto of a leaf and the verso is left blank, we can surmise that the scribes of this manuscript abandoned the project on Book IX, line 425 and did not copy the entirety of the Aeneid. Thus, if they copied the text continuously up to that point, they would have had 6728 lines. We can estimate therefore that originally MS E71 must have had at least 114 folios. Therefore, it is currently lacking at least 47 leaves, 24 of which are almost certainly from the beginning. We may never be able to confidently reconstruct the original collation of MS E71, but with the help of a little bit of mathematics, we can at least point to the possible number of missing leaves and where they are missing in the manuscript!

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library was gifted the manuscript by Robert T. Aitchison in July 1963, and it is available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open.

Further literature to explore:

  • Editions and translations of Vergil’s Aeneid on Perseus Digital Library: [open access]
  • Craig W. Kallendorf. A Bibliography of the Early Printed Editions of Virgil, 1469-1850. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll, 2012. [KU Libraries]
  • The Phillipps Manuscripts: Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum in bibliotheca D. Thomae Phillipps, BT. Impressum Typis Medio-Montanis, 1837-1871. London: Holland Press, 1968. [KU Libraries]
  • A. N. L. Munby. The Dispersal of the Phillipps Library. Phillipps Studies 5. Cambridge: University Press, 1960. [KU Libraries]
  • L. R. Lind. The R. T. Aitchison Collection of Vergil’s Works at the University of Kansas Library, Lawrence. Wichita, KS: Four Ducks Press, [1963]. [open access by KU Libraries]

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: A Manuscript, Wrapped in a Mystery, Inside an Enigma

April 1st, 2020

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.

A small quarto manuscript, MS C189, previously belonged to Alpha Loretta Owens (1877–1965), a graduate of the University of Kansas. Born in Rockwell City, IA, her family moved to Lawrence, KS, after she finished high school. She completed her first degree over a century ago, in 1901, at the University of Kansas and went on to receive an MA in 1903, also from KU. She then attended the University of Chicago, where she later worked at the John Crerar Library until 1918. Following a brief post teaching French at the University of Kansas ROTC, between 1919 and 1926 she taught French at Baker University in Baldwin City, KS, where she became Head of the French Department. In 1929, she completed her PhD at Johns Hopkins University and became Professor of Modern Languages in West Virginia at Morris Harvey College (now the University of Charleston). She taught French, Spanish and German there until her retirement in 1947. Subsequently, she returned to Lawrence, where she resided until her death. Owens also was the previous owner of another manuscript currently in the holdings of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, MS J1:2, a fragmentary Torah scroll. Paul Mirecki from KU Religious Studies has been working on the history of this manuscript, the details of which were outlined in an article last year in the KU Alumni Magazine.

Portrait of Alpha Loretta Owens (1877–1965) when she was part of the faculty at Morris Harvey College in 1933. Source: The Harveyan, 1933.
Portrait of Alpha Loretta Owens (1877–1965) when she was part of the faculty at Morris Harvey College in 1933. Source: The Harveyan, 1933, courtesy of the Internet Archive. Click image to enlarge.

MS C189 is one of three manuscripts that were listed under “The Library of Miss Alpha Loretta Owens, Barboursville, West Virginia” in the famous Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada prepared by Seymour de Ricci with the assistance of W. J. Wilson and published between 1935 and 1940. According to the Census, all three manuscripts were examined by Wilson in 1935, when Owens was working at Morris Harvey College and living in Barboursville, WV, where the University of Charleston was originally founded and based. This is all we know about the history of MS C189; that the manuscript was purchased by Owens sometime before 1935. It is not known when, where and from whom she acquired the manuscript. Nor do we know any other previous owners or the origin of the manuscript.

A sample opening from MS C189, displaying the end of Porphyry’s Isagoge on folio 18v and the beginning of Aristotle’s Perihermenias on folio 19r.
A sample opening from MS C189, displaying the end of Porphyry’s Isagoge on folio 18v and the beginning of Aristotle’s Perihermenias on folio 19r. For more detailed information on the texts and for additional images of the manuscript, please see the record for MS C189 in the Digital Scriptorium. Click image to enlarge.

MS C189 is a remarkable object beyond the texts it contain. The textblock of the manuscript is homogeneous; that is, MS C189 is composed of a single codicological unit which was produced in one process and most openings look pretty much like the example provided above. It does not look like there are any missing leaves or like there were more gatherings either in the beginning or at the end. Parts of other manuscripts, however, were used as practical means to preserve this small book of 34 leaves as well as to support it. The binding of MS C189, which is presumably original, comes from another manuscript, as do the flyleaves in the front and the back from two others. Thus, we have one medieval manuscript that is placed inside fragments of two different medieval manuscripts and then wrapped with another one.

Front cover of MS C189 showing re-use of a manuscript bifolium Back cover of MS C189 showing re-use of a manuscript bifolium

Left: Front cover of MS C189. Right: Back cover MS C189.

MS C189 has a limp binding, in which a bifolium (that is, two conjoint leaves) from another manuscript is used as a cover in the form of a case. The repurposed parchment cover is attached to the bookblock by means of split lacing double sewing supports made out of leather. The sewing-support slips are laced out of each side of the cover through three single exit slits and then each double support returns through two separate slits, one at approximately 45 degrees above and the other at 45 degrees below the exit slits, creating a V shape. What used to be the upper margin of the bifolium (now the fore-edge turn-in of the front cover) is trimmed, with all edges of the cover left large enough to allow for turn-ins. The cover has lapped mitres; the fore-edge turn-ins lie on top of the head and tail turn-ins at the corners. There is no lining or any kind of other reinforcement and the sewing-support slips, which are mostly intact, are fully visible.

Opening with interior of the front cover of MS C189 on the left, displaying the lapped mitres and the exposed sewing-support slips, and on the right the first front flyleaf, a repurposed fragment from another manuscript.
Left: Interior of the front cover of MS C189, displaying the lapped mitres and the exposed sewing-support slips. Right: The first front flyleaf, a repurposed fragment from another manuscript. Click image to enlarge.

Considered original, in the Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, the binding of the MS C189 is described as made from two leaves of a twelfth century theological manuscript. There is no other information provided regarding the fragment. Furthermore, since then, neither MS C189 as an artefact nor this fragment now fashioning the cover of the manuscript seem to have attracted any attention from scholars.

The parchment leaf that now forms the outer cover (the recto side of the first of the two folios) of MS C189 is almost fully visible without any intervention. Except for the trimmed upper margin, it looks like the entire leaf is preserved. Moreover, there seems to be no loss of text due to trimming. Most of the text also is still readable on the cover and the turn-ins. I was able to identify the existing text as a part of Isidore of Seville’s Sententiae (Sentences). Composed in the early seventh century, the Sententiae employs the ancient and medieval literary form of collecting brief passages on a given topic. The work as a whole consists of three books (in thirty-one, forty-four and sixty-six chapters respectively) in which Isidore creates a compendium of essentials of theology in an organized manner.

Isidore of Seville’s Sententiae was fairly popular and there are many copies of manuscripts that survive from the Middle Ages. Indeed, we have another manuscript, MS C54, that contains the Sententiae. Therefore, when I identified the text, I was expecting the conjoint leaf whose verso is partly visible on the interiors of the cover to contain a different part of the same text. The text on the outer cover is from Book 10.11 of the Sententiae, a chapter entitled “De angelis” (On the Angels). The text on the inner cover, however, is not from the Sententiae but instead is part of a sermon attributed to John Chrysostom, who was the Archbishop of Constantinople at the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth centuries. The sermon is simply known by the title “De misericordia” (On Mercy) or by its opening words, “Tria sunt quae in misericordiae opera,” which are not visible in MS C189.

Further research revealed that this chapter of Isidore of Seville’s Sententiae was sometimes used as part of medieval homiliaries. A homiliary, or a book of homilies, is a collection of short texts consisting of lectures or discourses on a moral theme, which are also known as sermons. More research (and perseverance) revealed that there is at least one other manuscript in which both of these texts are found. In Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 3783(2), known as the Moissac Homiliary, not only do they both exist in the same manuscript but they are also in the same order that we have them.

Image of folio 279v from Latin 3783 (2) at the Bibliothèque nationale de France Image of folio 286r from Latin 3783 (2) at the Bibliothèque nationale de France

Left: The portion of “De angelis” in Latin 3783(2), folio 279v that corresponds to MS C189. Right: The portion of “De misericordia” in Latin 3783(2), folio 286r that corresponds to MS C189. Source: Gallica, Latin 3783(2), Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits.

According to the description of the Moissac Homiliary, Isidore of Seville’s “De angelis” opens a gathering of eight folios and the pseudo-John Chrysostom’s “De misericordia” closes it, with a series of shorter texts with similar topics in between the two (folios 279 to 286). The Moissac Homiliary is dated to the mid-eleventh century and is thought to have been compiled in Moissac Abbey in south-western France. What is now the binding of MS C189 probably looked like this manuscript in its original form. Both the cover of MS C189 and the Moissac Homiliary are written in late Caroline minuscule and both are laid out in two columns on folios of approximately the same size. The cover of MS C189 has 38 lines to a page whereas the Moissac Homiliary has 37 but seems to be a little bit more compact and has large initials in the beginning of each section. (We do not know whether the cover of MS C189 originally had any illuminated initials in the same places.) If the biofolium we have as the cover of MS C189 was indeed part of a larger book with a similar arrangement with six bifolia in between the two leaves we have, the two texts would fall more or less to the same places. It seems more than likely, therefore, that MS C189 and the Moissac Homiliary are related, possibly one copied from the other.

Additional research on MS C189, with all of its features and fragments, would certainly yield further answers as to how the manuscript came to be and perhaps even how it ended up in Alpha Loretta Owens’s collection in the early twentieth century.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from Book Nook in May 1966, 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

Manuscript of the Month: Putting the Spotlight on the Once Influential Translation ‘On the Life of a Tyrant’ by Leonardo Bruni

February 25th, 2020

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. 

According to our records, it has been some years since any researcher looked at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, MS C68, a paper manuscript of 16 leaves arranged in a single quire. MS C68 contains a single text, a translation into Latin of a work in Greek called the Hiero by Xenophon. Xenophon (c. 431 BCE–354 BCE) was an ancient Greek historian and the Hiero is significant as being his first work to be translated into Latin as far as we know. This translation into Latin by Leonardo Bruni was completed at the very beginning of the fifteenth century, in May 1403, under the title of the De vita tirannica [‘On the Life of a Tyrant’]. Leonardo Bruni (1370-1444), a renowned Italian humanist, translated several classical works from Greek into Latin including those of Aristotle and Plato as well as other works by Xenophon.

Xenophon’s Hiero is a short piece, set as a dialogue between Hiero I, tyrant of Syracuse in Sicily from 478 to 467 BCE, and Simonides of Ceos (c. 556–468 BCE), a lyric poet. They discuss how the lives of a tyrant and an ordinary citizen differ with regard to joys and sorrows. Framed as a conversation between a ruler and a wise man, the Hiero is left somewhat open-ended, with Hiero arguing that a tyrant has far fewer pleasures and many more and much greater pains than an ordinary person and Simonides offering advice on how to improve Hiero’s life by enriching himself with friends and employing deeds of kindness.

Image of the leaf, with ornamental initial, giving the beginning of Leonardo Bruni's preface to his Latin translation of Xenophon's De vita tirannica. Italy, first third of the fifteenth century. Call # MS C68
Beginning of Leonardo Bruni’s preface to De vita tirannica, his Latin translation of Xenophon’s Hiero. Italy, first third of the fifteenth century. Call # MS C68. Click image to enlarge.

Knowledge of the Greek language was very rare in the Latin West in the later Middle Ages. Leonardo Bruni learned Greek from Manuel Chrysoloras (c. 1355–1415), who was a diplomat of the Byzantine Empire in Italy. In 1396, Chrysoloras was invited to come to Florence as a professor of Greek by Coluccio Salutati (1331–1406), the Chancellor of Florence, who was also a renowned humanist scholar and a book collector. Salutati was also the patron of Bruni, who succeeded Salutati as the Chancellor of Florence. In his preface to the translation, Bruni refers to the De vita tirannica as a libellus–a little book or a booklet–and dedicates it to Niccolò Niccoli, who he thinks would “embrace Xenophon with a particular love.” Another Florentine and a friend of Bruni, Niccolò Niccoli (1365–1437) was also a protégée of Salutati and is credited for developing the Italian cursive script.

Opening showing the end of the preface and beginning of Xenophon's De vita tirannica in a Latin translation by Leonardo Bruni. Italy, 14--. (MS C68)
End of the preface and beginning of De vita tirannica in MS C68. Click image to enlarge.

The lack of interest in MS C68 may be explained with what Brian Jeffrey Maxson calls a “small amount of scholarship” on the work in modern times. Even though Bruni’s De vita tirannica had made available to readers in Latin an otherwise inaccessible text in Greek and was very popular during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, it has received little attention in modern scholarship. There is neither a modern edition nor a translation of the work into a modern language. Nor are there any comparative studies dealing with both the Greek and the Latin versions of the story. We know, for example, that Coluccio Salutati published a treatise titled the De tyranno [‘On the Tyrant’] in 1400 and the topic of good rulership was being discussed in his political and scholarly circles. Therefore, it can hardly be a coincidence that Bruni titles his translation the De vita tirannica instead of keeping the original, that is the tyrant’s name, Hiero. Another indicator that Bruni’s translation was read and circulated widely is that this short translation was published in print editions at least eight times within a span of thirty years between 1470s and the end of the century, and our MS C68 is one of estimated 200 manuscript witnesses of the translation that survive today.

Neither the origin nor the early history of MS C68 is known. However, the examination of script and the watermarks in the manuscript put the date of origin to somewhere in the first third of the fifteenth century. This means that MS C68 was probably copied during Bruni’s lifetime.

Image of the bookplate of Bookplate of Sigurd & Gudrun Wandel in MS C68, which features a cherub riding a tortoise.
Bookplate of Sigurd and Gudrun Wandel on the front pastedown of MS C68. Click image to enlarge.
Oil portrait of elf portrait of Sigurd Wandel, painting in front of easel with Gudrun Wandel. Denmark, early 20th Century.
Self-portrait of Sigurd Wandel with Gudrun Wandel. Denmark, early 20th century. Source: Lauritz Christensen Auctions, Denmark.

As it currently stands, MS C68 has a modern binding, perhaps from the nineteenth century, and carries the bookplate of Sigurd and Gudrun Wandel on the front pastedown. Sigurd Wandel (1875–1947) was a Danish painter, who later became the director of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, and Gudrun Wandel (1882–1976) was his first wife. At least two other books with the same bookplate from their collection in Denmark ended up in the United States and are now at the Penn Libraries.

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.

  • Read a translation from Greek into English of Xenophon’s Hiero on Perseus.
  • Read more about translations from Greek into Latin in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries here: Paul Botley. Latin Translation in the Renaissance: The Theory and Practice of Leonardo Bruni, Giannozzo Manetti and Desiderius Erasmus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN: 978-0521837170
  • Read more about the context in which Leonardo Bruni translated the Hiero here: Brian Jeffrey Maxson. “Kings and Tyrants: Leonardo Bruni’s Translation of Xenophon’s Hiero.” Renaissance Studies 42.2 (April 2010): 188–206. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1477-4658.2009.00619.x

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz
Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher