TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

PS.-BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX, Meditationes; WILLIAM OF SAINT-MARTIN OF TOURNAI, Flores sancti Bernardi (Flowers of St. Bernard), excerpts; PETRUS DE ASPELT, Statutes of the Provincial Council at Mainz in 1310; [ANONYMOUS], Summary of Parts of GRATIAN, Decretum

In Latin, decorated manuscript on paper
Western Netherlands, Northern Rhine (Westphalia?), c. 1500-1525

TM 884


i (paper, from an early printed Missal) + 207  + i (paper, from the same early Missal) folios on paper, watermark, partially obscured, but it is certainly an angular letter P, with two lines, possibly above a rod with quatrefoil, identifiable with Piccard Online 109628, Wesel, 1511 (and numerous similar, Piccard Online 109693, Xanten, 1507, 109610, Arnhem, 1526, 109896, Wesel, 1505-6, etc.), modern foliation in pencil top outer corner recto, complete (collation i-xx10 xxi7 [structure uncertain, probably wanting a last leaf as a cancelled blank]), no catchwords or signatures, frame ruled in blind (often difficult to see and many leaves appear unruled) (justification 152-148 x 100-98 mm.), written in an upright well-spaced hybrida script in two columns of 26- to 28-lines, ff. 1rv and 206-207, two columns of 30 lines, ff. 123-205v, lemmata in a larger, more formal gothic bookhand, majuscules stroked in red, red rubrics, 1- to 2-line red initials, four 3-line red initials, and one 2-line (f. 165v) with red pen decoration often including flowers (initial f. 22v particularly lavish), two fore-edge tabs, area of blank page on verso of last leaf repaired with modern paper (no text underneath), some spots and small stains, else in good and solid condition. Quarter bound in thick wooden boards of the period, left uncovered, fastening back to front, only brass catch remains, early printed paper leaves as endleaves (and marks from others inside front cover now removed), large piece of a fifteenth-century document in German and early paper leaf, inside back board, spine with blind-tooled pigskin laid on, rebacked and restored, some worm holes and scuffs, but in good condition.  Dimensions 204 x 143 mm.

An interesting example of a practical manuscript copied in the early years of the sixteenth century, decades after the invention of printing.  The scribe/compiler was actively involved in tailoring its contents to specific needs, copying only selections of some texts.  No other copies of the summary of Gratian’s Decretum have yet been identified.  Questions of the exemplars used (whether printed editions or other manuscripts), as well as the relationship of this substantial codex with four manuscripts by the same scribe now bound as independent volumes, are of special interest.


1. Copied in the first quarter of the sixteenth century in the Western Netherlands or Rhineland (Westphalia?) as suggested by evidence of the script and watermarks in this volume and in a closely related group of manuscripts certainly copied by this same scribe.  His script is a distinctive widely spaced hybrida; flourishes on the ‘r’ and the split top of ‘l’ particularly stand out as characteristics of this hand.  The manuscripts in this group also feature idiosyncratic pen flourishes with various flowers that are as easily identifiable as the script.

Based on the evidence of the script and decoration, as well as the identical format found in four other manuscripts, we conclude that the substantial codex described here was once an even larger volume. The other parts of this codex are found described on this site, formerly TM 612, TM 615, TM 646, and TM 647, and are now in institutional collections (Houghton Library, Harvard University, and the Library of the University of Michigan); there may be another volume at the University of Notre Dame.  These four volumes included a total of 161 leaves, and were all sold, like this one, by the same auction house in 2012.  The present f. 63, in fact, includes what appears to be older (but modern) foliation in pencil, “173.” 

2. In 1521 the volume was checked by a Catholic censor, [G]erhard Lufft; his inscription on back board, “Iste liber conparatus est a me fratre erardo lufft anno 1521.”  We have been unable to find any other information on Lufft, but in 1531 he also inspected and inscribed another book, an incunable, now in the Würzburg University Library (Hubay, 1966, no. 1095).  Despite the rapid spread of Luther’s teachings in Germany, Würzburg remained a Catholic stronghold throughout the sixteenth century.

3. Sold at the Romantic Agony, April 24-25, 2012, lot 1053.

4. Previous owner’s and dealer’s annotations, inside back cover, “N11238” and “£5.”


ff. 1-22v, Incipiunt meditaciones beati Bernardi abbatis, Capitula i, incipit, “Multi multa sciunt et semetipsos nesciunt … cum sponsa prospiciens unum eumdemque dominum glorie. Qui uiuit et regnat per infinita secula. Amen,” Expliciunt meditaciones liber beati Bernardi  abbatis;

Ps.-Bernardus Claraevallensis, Meditationes de humana conditione; printed in Migne, Patrologia latina, vol. 184, col. 485-508; this manuscript divides the text into twenty-four chapters (the Patrologia edition has fifteen); Bloomfield, 1979, no. 3126, lists numerous manuscripts (probably around two hundred); see also Newhauser and Bejczy, 2008, p. 198, no. 3126. 

The text circulated often with attributions to Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), but manuscripts also attribute it to Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033-1109) and Hugh of St. Victor (c. 1096-1141); Hunt, 1961, p. 28, suggested William of Tournai as the author.

ff. 22v-63v, Incipiunt quedam exerpta ex libris beati bernrdi abbatis. Primo de dignitate prelatorum, incipit, “Si rebus raritatis [sic] precium facit … [book 3, chapter 1-11]; …; f. 32, De Obedientia in sermone ad adam monachum, incipit, “Obediencie uirtus semper …[Book V, ch. 10]”; …; f. 45, De tribulacione in sermone de ramis palmarum, incipit, “Hec est via tribulacio … [Book V, ch. 20]”; …; f. 61v, De premio eterno libro primo de consiratione [sic], incipit, “Premium est uidere deum …. Quantumcumque amplius quis deum amabit talum proprius uidebit quem cernere non est finis,” finis;

William of Saint-Martin of Tournai, Flores sancti bernardi (The Flowers of St. Bernard), a lengthy florilegium of works by St. Bernard; the scribe copied only selected chapters here, beginning with book 3, chapters 1-11, then book 5, chapter 10 (f. 32), and followed by selections (among others) including book 5, chapters 16-17, 20, 22-24, and book 8, chapters 45-48.  A complete analysis of the text would be of interest, to see which sections were chosen, and possibly if the scribe was copying from a manuscript or a printed book.  We have not identified the last chapter not identified in the printed text.

This florilegium was a popular one that survives in more than one hundred manuscripts (Elm, 1994, p. 15), and was first printed in 1470; GW 3928-3930; Stegmüller, 1976-1980, no. 1731,1 (as Ps.-Bernard of Clairvaux, but listing only five manuscripts).  Nothing is known of the author, although he was apparently from Tournai, and was active in the middle of the thirteenth century (and he is not identical with the Dominican William of Tournai (active c. 1264-1293), who was a master of theology in Paris, 1272-4).

ff. 63v-123, Incipiunt constitutiones magistri petri archiepiscopi maguntinensis, incipit, “In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti amen.  Petrus dei gratia sancte manguntinensis sedis archiepiscopus sacri imperii et per germaniam archicancellarius universis prelatis … Qui viuit et regnat per omnia secula seculorum, amen”;

Constitutions of the provincial Council of Mainz in 1310 by Petrus de Aspelt (1240/45-1320), bishop of Basel in 1294-1306, archbishop of Mainz in 1306-20, and a leading statesman of his period.  The scribe copied this text in its entirety. 

Printed in Schannat, Hartzheim, Scholl, and Neissen, 1761, 4, pp. 174-223.  Early editions Cologne, s.d; Mainz, 1509, Hagenoae, 1512, etc.; see Hain 15040; Vogt, 1913, no. 1328; Maurer, 1967 (noting the need for a critical edition).  “Manuscripta mediaevalia” (Online Resources), lists fourteen manuscripts in German libraries, and there are others, including British Library, Arundel MS 414, although our manuscript is the only manuscript of this text listed in the Schoenberg Database.

ff. 123-205v, Incipit liber decretorum de consecratione, distinctio prima, incipit, “De ecclesiarum [in larger script]. Tractat hic Gracianus de sacramentis ecclesiasticis que solis chrsitanais conceduntur.  Et agit hic … [Distinctio v] … a filio quod ipse nescit,” Explicit liber decretorum de consecracione; ff. 165v, Incipit liber decretorum de penitencia distinctio prima, incipit, “Hos breuiter [in larger script]. Hic magister proponit questionem in qua queritur an sola cordis contricione absque operis satissfactione et omnis confessione dimittatur … [distinctio 7] … que superius dixit,” Explicit liber decretorum de penitencia;

Throughout the later Middle Ages, Gratian’s Decretum, a twelfth-century collection of church or canon law, was an essential text, taught in the schools, and the subject of numerous commentaries.  The Decretum was a lengthy work, divided into three parts.  The first part is divided into 101 distinctions (distinctiones), the second part contains 36 causes (causæ), divided into questions (quæstiones), and the third part, entitled "De consecratione," focuses on the sacraments. 

The text in this manuscript is a summary of two sections of the text, the third part, “de consecratione” (with five distinctions), and the third question of the thirty-third causa of the second part on penance (with seven distinctions).  Each section begins with the opening works in Gratian’s text, clearly distinguished from the summary that follows since they are copied a different, larger script.  Following these lemmata are short summaries of the chapters.  We have not identified other copies of this text, although the fact that our text does not begin with the opening chapter of the Decretum makes identification more difficult.

ff. 205-207v, Nota ex libro iiii decretalium, Ex consilio lat[eranse], incipit, “Monachi precio non in monasterio  … pontifex possit licentiam indulgere.”

Four extracts presumably from the Decretals of Gregory IX, commonly referred to by commentators as the Decretalium, many of the passages excerpted discuss monks.

This is an excellent example of a practical manuscript copied in the early years of the sixteenth century, decades after the invention of printing.  The scribe/compiler seems to have been actively involved in tailoring the contents to specific needs, copying only selections of some texts (for example the lengthy florilegium of the works of St. Bernard), but copying other texts in full (for example, the Constitutions of the provincial council of Mainz from 1310).  The summary of two parts of Gratian’s Decretum is of particular interest, and has not yet been identified in other copies.  Closely related to a small group of five manuscripts by this same scribe that were once part of this volume, their varied contents reflect the broad religious and intellectual interest of our scribe/compiler.

The original manuscript was a substantial miscellany.  Among the works it included were spiritual treatises, many of special interest to monks, and many attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux (as in the manuscript described here); to name a few examples, Arnulfus de Boeriis, Speculum monachorum, a text, possibly by a Cistercian author, with short aphorisms on the monastic life, Ps. Augustine, Speculum peccatoris, an ascetic text, often attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, and Isidore of Seville, Synonyma, popular in the later Middle Ages for its emphasis on inner spirituality.  This evidence suggests this miscellany may have been copied for use in a Cistercian monastery.  The range of texts it included was remarkably wide, including theological texts, astronomy, canon law texts, and works of practical theology. The re-emergence of the manuscript described here will allow scholars to reconstruct volume as it originally was copied; it promises to shed interesting light on the history of books and monastic scholarship in the early sixteenth century.


Bloomfield, Morton W., et al. Incipits of Latin Words on the Virtues and Vices 1100-1500, Medieval Academy of America Publication 88, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1979.

Elm, Kaspar, ed. Bernhard Von Clairvaux: Rezeption Und Wirkung Im Mittelalter Und in Der Neuzeit, Wolfenbutteler Mittelalter-Studien, Wiesbaden, 1994

Hubay, Ilona. Incunabula der Universitätsbibliothek Würzburg, Wiesbaden,1966.

Hunt, R. W. “The Collections of a Monk of Bardney. A Dismembered Rawlinson MS,” Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies V (1961), p. 28. 

Maurer, Helmut. “Zu den Inskriptionen der Mainzer Provinzialstatuten von 1310,”  Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte; Kanonistische Abteilung 53 (1967), pp. 338-346.

Newhauser, R. and Bejczy, I., A Supplement to Morton W. Bloomfield et al., ‘Incipits of Latin Works on the Virtues and Vices, 1100-1500 A.D.’, Instrumenta Patristica et Mediaevalia 50, Turnhout, 2008.

Schannat, Johann F., Josephus Hartzheim, Hermann Scholl, and Aegidius Neissen.  Concilia Germaniae 4, Cologne, 1761, pp. 174-223.

Stegmüller, Fridericus. Repertorium biblicum medii aevi, Madrid, 1950-61, and Supplement, with the assistance of N. Reinhardt, Madrid, 1976-1980.

Vogt, Ernst, ed. Regesten der Erzbischöfe von Mainz von 1289-1396, Leipzig, 1913, 1,1, no. 1328.

Online Resources

Digitized from the Bayerische SB, Flores sancti bernardi, 1503


Manuscripta Mediaevalia

Haarländer, Stephanie, “Peter von Aspelt,” Neue Deutsche Biographie 20 (2001), p. 222 https://www.deutsche-biographie.de/gnd118052640.html#ndbcontent

Bayerisches SB, Latin text of Gratian, Decretum

Columbia Digital Collections
Corpus iuris canonici, pars one (Gratain, Decretum)