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les Enluminures

HUGO DE FOLIETO (Hugh of Fouilloy), De claustro animae (On the Cloister of the Soul)

In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment
Northern Italy (Venice?), c. 1230-1240

TM 949
  • 57.500 €
  • £49,400
  • $65,000


i (paper) + 132 + i (paper) folios on parchment (of varying quality with multiple different leaf sizes, occasional original holes, and offcuts), early modern foliation in pen top outer corner recto, complete (collation i8 ii8 [3 and 6 are single] iii8 [3 and 6 are single] iv8 v8 [3 and 6 are single] vi-xvi8 xvii4 [2 and 3 are single]), horizontal catchwords lower inner margins, signed in roman numerals center lower margin on the last leaf of each quire except quire seven, ff. 9 and 128 with small guards, ruled lightly in lead with the top two horizontal rules full across on some folios, full-length vertical bounding lines, prickings in outer margins still visible on most leaves (justification 191 x 117 mm.), written in an rounded Italian Gothic bookhand in two columns of 28-29 lines beginning both on (f. 1), and below the top ruled line, guide notes for chapter titles often visible in outer margins, red rubrics, two five-line penwork flourished initials (ff. 1 and 2), 2- to 3-line red initials, some with pen flourishing, minor staining and worming generally not affecting the text. Quarter bound in nineteenth-century brown marbled paper and tan cloth over pasteboard, spine with four raised bands, handwritten lettering on spine in black ink: “119 / Hugonis De Floriano / Tractatus de claustro corporis et animae / Pergamena / Secolo XIV,” minor damage and scuffing to upper and lower boards along the edges, some minor wear to the spine, in sound condition.. Dimensions 265 x 178 mm.

This stately volume, with large accomplished script and decorated red initials, is an unstudied addition to a group of North Italian copies of an influential treatise on the monastic life by a twelfth-century author.  Still in need of a critical edition, Hugo’s text was a true “best-seller” in the Middle Ages, and the author’s use of monastic architecture to correlate with the cloistered life is innovative and makes for captivating reading.  The manuscript was once part of the collection of the notorious nineteenth-century book thief, Guglielmo Libri.


1.Evidence of the script, penwork initial, and early provenance (see below) support an origin in Northern Italy, possibly in Venice, in the second quarter of the thirteenth century.

2. Contemporary corrections, occasional nota marks, pointing hands, and other marginal comments are evidence of use; later hands supply corrections as well as several chapter headings which the original scribe omitted

3. Belonged to the Dominicans in Venice quite early in its history; their late thirteenth-century(?) ownership inscription, late thirteenth- early fourteenth-century, is found on f. 132v, in an early cursive gothic script (note the use of double-looped ‘a’): “Hic liber est armarii fratrum predicatorum de Venecia <quondam?> fuit fratris/ [followed by an erasure; continues over the erasure in a contemporary hand] cuius auctor fuit hugo de folieto est de clustro [sic] anime / Hic liber debet esse in septimal bancha ex parte ecclesie.”

4. This manuscript may have been one of the four copies of Hugh of Fouilly’s De claustro animae which are listed as part of the library collection of San Giovanni e Paolo (St. John and Paul), the principal Dominican church in Venice, in the 1650 catalogue of public and private manuscripts in Venetian libraries by Jacobi Philippi Tomasini (Tomasini, 1650, p. 29); the library was secularized in the nineteenth century.

5. Marginal notation in an early modern hand in the bottom middle center of f. 1, “Editus a Magistro Hugone de Floriano.

6. Almost certainly in the collection of Guglielmo de Libri (1803-1869); see Libri sale, Sotheby’s, March 28,1859, lot 505.

7. Clipping from a subsequent English sale, inside front cover.

8. The manuscript was acquired by Rev. Patrick Brady of the Diocese of New York (d. 1894), known collector of rare European books and paintings (Portrait and Biographical Record, 1893; on his collecting, see also Gwara, 2018). Upon his death in 1894, his library was donated in its entirety to St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie (Yonkers), New York; their library stamp, f. 1.

9. Modern owners’s and dealers’s notes include: in ink, front flyleaf “$2-1,” which has been later crossed out in pencil, under which is written “$1- 5”; back flyleaf, in pencil, price codes or other notations in two hands.


ff. 1-25v, [Prologue, book 1], Incipit tractatus de claustro corporis et anime, “Rogasti nos frater amantissime quantenus aliqua remedia temptationum …; [ff. 1v-2], Incipit capitula primi libri claustralis, incipit, “Quod incipientibus hedificare … i; … Quod iiiior sunt in religione notanda, xvii”; ff. 2-25v, Incipit liber primus. Quod incipientibus hedificare querendus est locus fundamenti, “Incipientibus hedificare querendus est locus fundamenti ... committentes finem ponamus."        

ff. 25v-52, Incipit prologus ii libro de claustro, incipit, “Locuturus karissime de his que ad hedificationem…”; [f. 26], Incipiunt capitula ii libri claustri, incipit, “De hedificatione claustra, i … In capitulo non lites sed confessio, xi; [f. 26], Incipit libri ii de hedificatione claustri, incipit, “Quoniam de ordinatione claustri materialis ... sed abutuntur lege claustrali et claustri statuta turbant”; [f. 30v], Quia duodecim sunt abusiones claustri, incipit, “Duodecim autem sunt abusiones claustri … contemplationis dulcedo”; [f. 48v], Quomodo se ipsum accusat auctor huius operis, xii, incipit, “Ultimam de xii abusionibus … summa totius religionis”;  

Hugo de Folieto, De claustro animae, book two; the chapter list at the beginning of book 2 corresponds to the divisions in the text of our manuscript only thorough chapter 7, Quod duodecim sunt abusiones claustri, a chapter that often circulated as an independent treatise with the title De duodecum abusionibus claustri, frequently misattributed to Pseudo-Cyprianus (CSEL, 3, 3, 1871, pp. 152-173). From f. 30v, the text and rubrics largely adopt rubrics identifying each of the twelve abuses, some with original headings in red, others identified by a later hand in the margin. The twelfth abuse, beginning on f. 48v, is followed by one final chapter in the text (corresponding to chapters VIII and IX in the chapter list). This section completes Book 2 according to most manuscript traditions of De claustro animae; chapters 10 and 11 in the chapter list on f. 26 do not appear in the text.

ff. 52-88, Incipit prologus libri tertii, incipit, “Nosti karissime quod ea …; [f. 52v], Incipiunt capitula iii libri claustri, incipit, “Quod anime claustrum contemplatio dicitur … i, … De altari aureo et mensa aurea et candelabris, xxvii [sic, for xxviii]”; [f. 52], Incipiunt libri iii quod animae claustrum id est contemplatio dicitur, incipit, “Anime claustrum contemplatio dicitur … Vsque ad huc de templo salomonis;”

ff. 88-130, Incipit prologus iiii libri, incipit, Rogas karissime rogas et obnixius … ne aberrare videar a doctrina priorum”; [f. 88v, chapter list, book 4], incipit, “De civitate magna ...”; ff. 89-130, De tribus civitatibus, incipit, “Civitatis magne ierusalem … benedictus deus amen”;

ff. 130-131v, incipit “Et sit transitus de iudea ad gentes … faciem autem meam non videbis”; incipit, “Sermo comotionis et diuitie habens equum uotum perseueratie … Relinquitur ergo alueus ab aqua iudeus a gratia”; [ends mid col. a, f. 131v; remainder and f. 132, blank but ruled; f. 132v, blank except for ownership inscriptions from the Venetian Dominican House (see above)].

Two short texts, lacking rubrics, in the hand of the main scribe; some passages are found in the anonymous Liber Sententiarum, Migne, Patrologia Latina, volume 184, col. 1151-1154, including nos. 146, 142, 143. These texts also follow De claustro animae in University of Toronto, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, MS 05321(Online Resources; discussed below).

Hugo de Folieto, De claustro animae, books 1-4; printed in Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 176, cols. 1017-1182, from a late printed edition of 1648. Partial critical edition of book III and translation by Ivan Gobry as part of his doctoral thesis in 1965 using Paris, BnF, MS lat 2495 as his base text; Gobry, 1995, includes an updated introduction to his 1965 work.  The number of recorded manuscripts has grown significantly, especially thanks to the detailed studies by Franco Negri, who is preparing a new critical edition for Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis (Negri, 2006, 2009, and also 2010, 2011; and Sicard, 2015). The “ARLIMA” database records 515 manuscripts; see also the list in FAMA (Online Resources).

This manuscript is a new, unstudied, addition to a group of Northern Italian copies of the text dating from the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries, identified by Negri as sharing the same chapter divisions: Toronto, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, MS 05321 (formerly Les Enluminures, TM 477), Padua, Biblioteca Antoniana MS 92 and MS 102, Padua, Biblioteca Universitaria, MS 1495, and Cremona, Biblioteca Governativa, MS 22 (Negri, 2011, p. 366).  Of these, the manuscript in Toronto is the earliest, and notably, is also from Venice, where it belonged to the Augustinian Convent of San Salvatore. Its relationship to our manuscript, which belonged to the Dominicans in Venice early in its history, deserves closer exploration, especially given the fact that both manuscripts include the same addendum after book four, as well as the same chapters (whether all the manuscripts in this group include the final addendum has not yet been explored).

Hugh of Fouilloy (d. c. 1174) was probably educated at the famous Benedictine monastery at Corbie near Amiens but entered the religious life when he was a young man as an Augustinian Canon at the nearby priory of Saint-Laurent-au-Bois in the village of Fouilloy.  In 1132 he became the prior of Saint-Nicholas-de-Regny, and in 1153, the prior of Saint-Laurent.  He died around 1174, well-regarded by his contemporaries as the author of a number of very popular works, including the delightful moralizing book on birds, the Aviarium (Aviary) (Clark, 1992).  

De Claustro animae (On the Cloister of the Soul) was by far his most successful work, a true medieval “bestseller,” surviving in over five hundred manuscripts (in whole or in part).  It includes four books, each probably written at different dates, and designed to be read autonomously. Current scholarship has suggested a date before 1149 for books one and two, and the work as a whole probably dates from the third or fourth decade of the twelfth century (Negri, 2011; Gobry, 1995, p. 25, suggesting before 1153).  Many of the surviving manuscripts in fact do not include all four books. Of the 357 manuscripts studied by Negri in 2006, 55 include all four books (12 twelfth century, 17 thirteenth century, 8 fourteenth century, 18 fifteenth century).

The work discusses the ideal life of cloistered monks and canons using the architecture of the monastery as a basis. Book I explores the construction of the monastery and the religious life, with advice on how to overcome illusions and temptations; Book II, De claustro materiali, provides the rules for monastic discipline, focusing on the virtues and vices.  This book includes the chapter, De duodecum abusionibus claustri that often circulated independently.  Book III, De claustro spirituali discusses the different physical parts of a cloister and of the monastic activities as an allegory of the soul. Book IV, De claustro celesti [or paradisi] (the cloister of heaven or of paradise), is a mystical interpretation of the cloister, compared with the heavenly city of Jerusalem.  Although Hugh was probably writing primarily for the Augustinian Canons of his own priory, the work was influential for centuries, and was read widely outside his Order. In the thirteenth century, it was embraced as a manual for religious formation by the Dominicans.  The Dominican Humbert of Romans recommended it as reading for novices when he was master general of the order (1254–63), and it was summarized by Vincent of Beauvais in his Speculum historiale in the mid-thirteenth century.


P. Alessandra, Maccioni Ruju and Marco Mostert. The Life and Times of Guglielmo Libri (1802-1869): Scientist, Patriot, Scholar, Journalist, and Thief: a Nineteenth-century Story, Hilversum, 1995.

Baron, R. “Note sur le De Claustro,” Sacris erudiri 15 (1964), pp. 249-255.

Clark, W. B. The Medieval Book of Birds. Hugh of Fouilloy’s Aviarium, Binghamton, 1992.

Cook, R. F. “Un manuscrit américain du De claustro de Hugues de Fouilloy,” Scriptorium 33 (1979), pp. 62-64.

De Marco, M. “Per la storia della tradizione di Ugo di Fouilloy, De claustro animae,” Aevum 36 (1972), pp. 172-174.

Gobry, I. “De claustro animae d'Hugues de Fouilloy: Edition critique avec traduction, introduction et notes,” thèse complémentaire de Sorbonne, 1965 (unpublished; not available for consultation).

Gobry, I. Le "De claustro animae" d’Hugues de Fouilloy, Amiens, 1995.

Gwara, Scott. “Review of manuscripts sales,” Manuscripts on My Mind.  News from the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, St. Louis University, no. 23 (January 2018), pp. 4-5.

Migne, J.-P. Patrologiae cursus completus..., vol. 176 and 184, Paris, 1854.

Negri, Franco. “Il De claustro animae di Ugo di Fouilloy: vicende testuali,” Aevum 80, no. 2(2006), pp. 389-421 (listing 357 manuscripts).

Negri, Franco. “Ancora sul De claustro animae di Ugo di Fouilloy: tradizione manoscritta,” Aevum 83, no. 2 (2009), pp. 401-409 (adding 69 manuscripts).

Negri, Franco. “Due importanti testimoni del De claustro animae di Ugo di Fouilloy (Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Reg. Lat. 119 e Chig. C.V. 117),” Miscellanea Bibliothecae Apostolicae Vaticanae 17 (2010), pp. 113-120.

Negri, Franco. “Una lettera di Ugo di Fouilloy e il suo De claustro animae,” Aevum 85, no. 2 (2011), pp. 353-367.

Pinder, Janice M. “Love and reason from Hugh of Fouilloy to the Abbaye du Saint-Esprit: changes at the top in the medieval cloister allegory,” Parergon 27, no. 1 (2010), pp. 69-83.

Portrait and Biographical Record of Orange County New York, New York and Chicago, 1895, pp. 285-286.

Sicard, Patrice. Iter victorinum. La tradition manuscrite des œuvres de Hugues et Richard de Saint-Victor, Turnhout, 2015, p. 534-553, pp. 536 (listing 637 manuscripts, complete or partial).

Tomasini, Jacobi Philippi. Bibliothecae Venetae manuscriptae publicae et privatae, Utini, 1650.

Online Resources

Hugo de Folieto, De Claustro Animae Libri Quatuor, PL CLXXVI, Documenta Catholica Omnia, http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/04z/z_1096-1172__Hugo_de_Folieto__De_Claustro_Animae_Libri_Quatuor__MLT.pdf.html             

Arlima, listing some 515 manuscripts containing De claustro anime

FAMA: Oeuvres latines médiévales à succès, brief notices on 456 manuscripts

University of Toronto, Thomas Fisher Library, MS 5321