TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures


In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment
Southern Europe (Spain?), c. 1175-1200

TM 878
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i (modern parchment) + 129 + i (modern parchment) folios on parchment (moderate quality, fairly frequent use of offcuts, e.g. f. 3 and 4, 20, 28v-29, long narrow  hole f. 6, once sewn, some leaves quite dark, others very white), lacking one leaf (collation i-v8 vi4 [structure uncertain, but complete] vii8 [-1 before f. 45 with loss of text] viii-xvi8 xvii6), catchwords, some trimmed, lower middle margin quires one to four, and in the lower inner margin in some later quires (e.g., f. 52v), quire five signed with a roman numeral center lower margin, layout varies with ff. 1-44v (Apocalypse), with text and gloss ruled very lightly in brown crayon, and ff. 45-129 (Catholic Epistles), with the biblical text ruled in hard point with full-length vertical bounding lines, and the gloss ruled as need in brown crayon (justification biblical text, ff. 1-44v, 132 x 47 mm.; text and gloss 132 x 125-92 mm.; ff. 45-129, biblical text 122 x 36 mm; text and gloss 125-122 x c. 122 mm.), copied by at least four scribes: ff. 1-44v; 45-99v; 100-123v; 124-129, in rounded proto-gothic scripts with fourteen lines of biblical text on ff. 1-44v, and thereafter with ten lines of biblical text, one- to two-line red or blue initials, larger red initials at the beginning of most of the Catholic Epistles with simple blue decoration, THREE LARGE INITIALS in red with blue penwork, five-line space left for initial on f. 1 now completed with an added red initial with the opening words of the text in elongated ornamental capitals in red and blue, original imperfections in the parchment, first folios darkened with some spots, some stains including outer margin ff. 76-86 (no impact on text), outer margin f. 124 cut away, else good condition.  Bound in modern brown leather over early wooden boards, spine with two raised bands lettered in gold, “Apocalypsis/ et/ Epistolae/ Catholicae:/ MS.,” preserving portions of the covers of an earlier binding, Italian or Spanish, fifteenth- or sixteenth-century, laid down as the central panel on the back and front borders, blind-tooled with concentric compartments with repeated impressions of small tools including rope-work, a quatrefoil in a rectangle, a lamb and flag, and others, in excellent condition, slight damage to top of spine, modern cardboard half-slipcase.  Dimensions 205 x 145 mm.

This manuscript, almost certainly Spanish in origin, includes the complete biblical text of the Apocalypse and the Catholic Epistles, accompanied by patristic and medieval commentaries.  The last book to enter the Canon, and traditionally, the final book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse was an important and often controversial presence in medieval thought, as it is today.  It held a special place in Spanish culture, exemplified by the many beautiful illuminated manuscripts of Beatus of Liébana’s commentary copied there in the tenth through the twelfth centuries.


1. Evidence of script, decoration, and binding suggest this was copied in Southern Europe, quite likely in Spain in the latter part of the twelfth century, c. 1175-1200.  The script is a rounded proto-gothic bookhand, abbreviating ‘q’ in the southern fashion (with a horizontal line through the descender), ‘pp’ written together, and other round letters touching, considerable horizontal compression, both straight and round ‘d’ and ‘s’ used, straight ‘r’ seems to be most common, tironian-7 used for “et,” some use of e-cedilla.  Evidence for its origin in Spain includes:  the ‘z’ in the first line of the gloss in the outer margin of f. 2, and in the text, f. 3, line 2; some of the abbreviations are characteristically Spanish, including “hnt” for “habent,” ‘n’ with a superscript line for “non,” “oms” for “omnes,” the second scribe abbreviates “qui” with a ‘q’ with a line through the descender and a hook (e.g.,  f. 49); and spellings, such as “hostendit” on f. 49v.  The later gothic cursive hand found on ff. 127-129v, also uses the Spanish abbreviation, “os” for “omnes.”

2. The fifteenth-century blind-stamped binding on this volume was preserved when the book was rebound in modern times, and laid down on the front and back covers.  It is blind-tooled in the humanist style common in fifteenth-century Italy, with concentric compartments stamped with repeated impressions of tools of rope-work design, a quatrefoil in a rectangle, a lamb and flag, and other designs.  The lamb and flag stamp, however, is unusual.  A binding with a similar set of stamps, including the lamb and flag, although arranged in a slightly different pattern, is found on British Library, Burney MS 27, a twelfth-century glossed Mark.  The binding (and the manuscript) have been assigned to Italy or Spain.

3. Additions at the end (and a few stray indications of modern chapters) demonstrate use at least well into the thirteenth century.

4. Belonged to Lionel Robinson (1897-1983), private collection; his sale, Sotheby’s, June 24, 1986, lot 66.

5. Belonged to Joseph Pope of Toronto (1921-2010), investor banker and prominent collector of medieval manuscripts, who acquired it at Sotheby’s in 1986; Bergendal MS 80 (on this collection see Pope, 1997 and 1999, and Stoneman, 1997).

6. Private European collection.


ff. 1-44v, incipit, “Apocalipsi ihesu christi quam dedit illi deus palam … gratia  domini nostri ihesu Christi scit [sic] cum  omnibus, Amen,” Explicit liber apocalipsis Johannis apostolice Amen; [Gloss], f. 1, [first marginal gloss, inner margin], incipit, “Preparat auditores beniuolos et attentos sic et ibi Ihoannes septem eclesii”; [first marginal gloss, outer margin], “Littera sic.  Aesuta consumeret atende hanc uisionem …”; [first interlinear gloss], incipit, “Ut nichil debens” …; ff. 41-44v, [capitula list], incipt, “De ecclesiis vii et saluatoris.  De aduentu.  De terrore quatinus [sic] pristina denuo ac[tinentur].  De destructione smirneorum ecclesie …” [De Bruyne, 1914, p. 392, series A; cf. the related series I in Wordsworth and White, 1889-1954]; f. 44rv, incipit [prologue to the Apocalypse, text], incipit, “Apocalipsi iohannis tot habet sacramentum …[Stegmüller 829]”; [f. 44, gloss, outer margin], incipit, “Et uidi alterum angelum ascendentem ab ortu soli etc.  Alius angelus ihesum domini significat …”; [f. 44, gloss, inner margin], incipit, “Et yris erat etc. [Apoc. 4:3?]. Yris grece, latine arcus …”; [both these glosses end mid f. 44v (two columns, gloss only); remainder blank];

Apocalypse with the Ordinary Gloss.  Following the Apocalypse, the scribe copied a capitula list. Summaries of biblical books known as capitula lists (also sometimes, brevis, breviarium, or titiuli), were included in Bibles since the early days of the Latin Scriptures, but glossed Bible do not usually include capitula lists.  Following this, the scribe copied two prologues to the Apocalypse with glosses.  It is odd that this section follows the Apocalypse, since these are all texts that would normally be found at the beginning as prefatory texts; perhaps they were lacking in the original exemplar, and scribe consulted a second, more complete exemplar after he had copied the original text.

ff. 45-129, [James, beginning imperfectly at 1:5], incipit, “//indiget sapientia postulet a deo …”; [interlinear gloss], incipit, “quam utilis tribulatio est”; [first complete marginal gloss], incipit, “Sic credat et sic uiuat ut dignus sit …”; [f. 65, last marginal gloss], incipit, “Quidam codices habent saluabit animam suam a morte et uere qui errantem corrigit per hoc ampliora gaudia uite celestis sibi conquirit”; ff. 65-85v, [1 Peter], incipit, “Petrus apostolus ihesu chrsti electis advenis …”; [first gloss outer margin], “Aduene latine grece proseliti sic appellabant  …”; ff. 85v-99v,  [2 Peter], incipit, “Simon petrus seruus et apostolus iheus christus …”; ff. 99v-120v, [1 John], incipit, “Quod fuit ab initio …; ff. 120v-122v, [2 John]; incipit, “Senior electe domine et natus eius …”; ff. 122v-124v, [3 John], incipit, “Senior gaio karissimo quem ego diligo in ueritate …”; ff. 124v-128, [Jude], incipit, “Iudas ihesu christi seruus frater autem iacobi … et nunc et in omnia secula seculorum amen,” Expliciunt vii epistole canonice; -- ff. 128v-129v, [early addition; two prologues often found at the beginning of the Gloss], incipit, “Iacobus cognomento iustus filius marie sororis matris domini …”; “Quia in circumcisione ordinatus erat iacobus apostolus curavit … uel etiam uisibiliter irruens percellat [sic] [Stegmüller 810]”;

Catholic Epistles with the Ordinary Gloss. 

ff. 127-129 (margins) and f. 129v, used for theological and pastoral notes in numerous hands in the thirteenth thorough the early fourteenth century including notes on the Stella Maris as a navigational sign, and other notes on astronomy.

The complete text of the Catholic Epistles and the Apocalypse, copied in the larger script, with selections from patristic and medieval commentaries that explain the biblical text, copied in a smaller script on either side and between the lines of the biblical text.  There is no modern edition of the Apocalypse or Catholic Epistles with the Glossa Ordinaria. The editio princeps, which was printed in Strasburg in 1481 by Rusch is useful as a working edition of the Ordinary Gloss, but it often differs in important respects from the manuscripts (Zier, 2004, pp. 165-168; facsimile edition, Froehlich and Gibson, 1992, also available online; there is a current project underway to prepare an online edition, see Online Resources).  To date there are critical editions only of the Glossa Ordinaria of Canticles and part of Lamentations (Dove, 1997, and André, 2005).  There is currently no census of manuscripts of the Gloss, although steps in that direction are being made. The Gloss was enormously popular, and may survive in more than 2,000 manuscripts; there are 400 manuscripts of the Gloss in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, and perhaps 600 in the French departmental libraries alone (see Zier, 2004).  

The text known as the Ordinary Gloss on the Bible (or the Glossa Ordinaria), was one of the twelfth century’s greatest achievement, and one that had a lasting influence on the history of biblical exegesis, creating a text that was used as the standard school text to the end of the Middle Ages and even later. It consists of the biblical text, copied in a distinctive, larger script, accompanied by patristic and medieval commentaries on the text, copied in a smaller script on the same page.  Texts by numerous authors are reflected in the commentary, including Patristic authors such as Jerome, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Isidore, and Bede, and, less commonly, Origen, John Chrysostom, and Ambrose, as well as later authors such as Rabanus Maurus, John Scotus Eriugena, Lanfranc and Berengar.  The Bible and its Gloss gave readers – often teachers and students of the Bible – access to the complete biblical text and commentaries in one convenient location.

The collection that we now know as the Ordinary Gloss seems to have originated at the Cathedral School of Laon c. 1100 with the teaching of the master Anselm of Laon (d. 1117), and his pupils and successors, in particular his brother Ralph (d. 1134), Gilbert the Universal, who left Laon in 1128, and Gilbert of Poitiers, active until 1154. It was not a text written, or even conceived of, by a single author, but rather the result of a long process that gradually grew to include all the book of the Bible.  Manuscripts of the Gloss were occasionally copied as complete sets, in a widely varying number of volumes, ranging from ten or so volumes to more than twenty, but often single books of the Bible, or groups of books – like the manuscript described here – were copied as needed.

We do not know the name of the author of the Gloss on the Apocalypse, but it was one of the earliest books glossed, if not by Anselm of Laon (d. 1117) himself, or his brother Ralph (d. 1134), than by someone in their close circle.  At least three copies dating before 1140 and possibly from Laon itself are known (Oxford, Trinity College, MS 20, Reims, BM, MS 135, and Vatican City, Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, MS Reg. lat. 21).

The studies of the Gloss on the Apocalypse by Guy Lobrichon have revealed that its textual history is particularly interesting, since at least two versions existed during the twelfth century.   The glosses are based primarily on the commentaries by Bede and Haimo of Auxerre, but the personal viewpoints of its compiler are nonetheless evident, in particular his concern for clerical reform.   The author denounces economic vices such as simony, and promotes the independence of the clergy from secular control.  This early form of the gloss was substantially reworked around the middle of the twelfth century; many of the reform-minded texts were omitted in this version.  Both versions continued to be copied, however, and it is only very late in the twelfth century, and perhaps even later, that we can identify the text that will be called the Ordinary Gloss (Lobrichon, 1984, pp.106 and 109; Lobrichon, 1986). 

It is difficult to determine which version of the text is present in this manuscript, based on the available published resources.  The text in the 1480-81 Strasburg edition begins with numerous prologues, omitted here, but the opening gloss on the text is identical in this edition and in our manuscript.  The opening glosses, both interlinear and marginal, in Paris, BnF, MS lat 588, a twelfth-century Italian manuscript, are also found in our manuscript.  The beginning of the text in Valenciennes, BM, MS 75, an early copy from Saint-Amand, c. 1140-50, however, presents numerous differences.   The text – both biblical and of the glosses – in twelfth-century glossed biblical books are always of potential interest.

The gloss on the Catholic Epistles also almost certainly dates back to Anselm or his early followers.  The manuscript evidence linking this with Laon is particularly strong, and there are four manuscripts dating before 1140 probably copied at Laon (Stirnemann, 1994). The main source for the glosses was Bede’s commentary on the Catholic Epistles; Augustine and Jerome are often quoted, but through the intermediary of Bede’s commentary rather than from these commentaries themselves.  A florilegium from Cassiodorus was also used as a source; since this florilegium survives in a single copy in Laon, this is a strong argument in support of a Laon origin of this text (Merlette, 1974-1975, p. 47n; Smith, 2009, p. 53).  A comparison with the online edition of the 1480-1481 Strasburg edition (available only for Jude so far), suggests the content of this book can be called the Glossa Ordinaria, but again with many differences.

The layout used to copy the Apocalypse in this manuscript is an example of what is known as the  alternate-line format, where the scribe ruled the entire page (here in brown crayon or lead), and then copied the biblical text on every other line and the gloss on every line; the proportion of text to gloss influenced the layout with the page, so although many pages have a traditional narrow center column of biblical text (e.g. f. 3), other pages are almost entirely occupied by the Bible text, with small pockets of gloss (e.g. f. 4).  The result is a more efficient use of space on the page.  Moreover, the use of this layout means the scribe was thinking of the biblical text and the accompanying glosses as a single text; he was almost certainly faithfully copying both the text and gloss from his exemplar, which enabled him plan his layout accordingly.  The adoption of this layout signals a point in the history of the Gloss when the text was at least relatively stable (de Hamel, 1984).  The Catholic epistles in contrast are much more conservative in their layout, and in consequence there are vast amounts of blank space on most pages; they were ruled in blind for the biblical text, flanked by double vertical full-length bounding lines, with rules for the gloss added as needed in lead or brown crayon (often very faint or indiscernible). 

Evidence of the script and orthography suggests that this manuscript may well have been copied in Spain at the end of the twelfth century.  The study of the transmission of the Gloss from Laon, and other Northern French Cathedral schools and then Paris to other parts of Europe is still in its infancy, and no one to our knowledge has begun to examine its circulation in Spain.  The last book to enter the Canon, and traditionally, the final book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse was an important and often controversial presence in medieval thought, as it is today.  The special place of this biblical book in Spain is exemplified in many beautiful illuminated manuscripts of Beatus of Liébana’s commentary on the Apocalypse copied there in the tenth through the twelfth centuries.


Andrée, Alexander, ed. Gilbertus Universalis, Glossa ordinaria in Lamentationes Ieremie prophete. Prothemata et Liber 1A Critical Edition with an Introduction and a Translation, Stockholm, 2005.

De Bruyne, Donatien.  Sommaires, Divisions et Rubriques de la Bible latine, Namur, 1914.

De Hamel, Christopher.  Glossed Books of the Bible and the Origins of the Paris Booktrade, Woodbridge, Suffolk and Dover, New Hampshire, 1984.

Dove, Mary, ed. Glossa ordinaria, pars 22, In Canticum canticorum, CCCM 170, Turnhout, Belgium, 1997.

Emmerson, R. K. and McGinn, B.  The Apocalypse in the Middle Ages, Ithaca, New York, 1992.

Froehlich, Karlfried and Margaret T. Gibson, eds. Biblia Latina cum Glossa Ordinaria : Facsimile Reprint of the Editio Princeps Adolph Rusch of Strassburg 1480/81, Turnhout, 1992.

Lobrichon, Guy. “Conserver, réformer, transformer le monde ? Les manipulations de l'Apocalypse au Moyen Âge central,” in The Role of the Book in Medieval Culture, ed. Peter Ganz, Bibliologia 3-4, Turnhout, 1986, vol. 2, pp. 75-94.

Lobrichon, Guy.  “Une nouveauté : les gloses de la Bible,” Le Moyen Âge et la Bible, Bible de Tous les Temps 4, ed. Pierre Riché and Guy Lobrichon, Paris, 1984, pp. 95-114.

Lobrichon, Guy.  “L’Ordre de ce temps et les désordres de la fin. Apocalypse et société, du IXe à la fin du XIe siècle,” The Use and Abuse of Eschatology in the Middle Ages, ed. W.Verbeke, D.Verhelst and A.Welkenhuyzen, Louvain, 1988, pp. 221-241.

Merlette, Bernard. “Écoles et bibliothèques à Laon du déclin de l’Antiquité au développement de l’Université,” in Actes du 95e congrès des sociétés savantes (Reims, 1970), Paris, 1974-1975, vol. 1, pp. 21-53.

Pope, Joseph.  One Hundred and Twenty-Five Manuscripts.  Bergendal Collection Catalogue, Toronto, 1999, MS 80.

Pope, Joseph.  “The Library that Father Boyle Built,” in A Distinct Voice: Medieval Studies in Honor of Leonard Boyle, O.P., ed. Jacqueline Brown and William P. Stoneman, Notre Dame, 1997, p. 159.

Smith, Lesley.  The Glossa Ordinaria:  The Making of a Medieval Bible, Leiden and Boston, 2009.

Stegmüller, Fridericus.  Repertorium biblicum medii aevi, Madrid:  Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, 1950-61, and Supplement, with the assistance of N. Reinhardt, Madrid, 1976-80.

Stirnemann, Patircia, “Où ont été fabriqués les livres de la glose ordinaire dans la première moitié du XIIe siècle?,” in Le XIIe siècle : mutations et renouveau en France dans la première moitié du XIIe siècle, ed. Françoise Gasparri, Paris, 1994, pp. 257-279. 

Stoneman, William P. “A Summary Guide to Medieval and Later Manuscripts in the Bergendal Collection, Toronto” in A Distinct Voice: Medieval Studies in Honor of Leonard Boyle, O.P., ed. Jacqueline Brown and William P. Stoneman, Notre Dame, 1997, pp. 197.

Weale, James and Lawrence Taylor.  Early Stamped Bookbindings in the British Museum, London, 1922, no. 38.

Wordsworth, Iohannes and Henricus White, eds. Novum Testamentum latine : secundum editionem Sancti Hieronymi ad codicum manuscriptorum, Oxford, 1889-1954.

Zier, Daniel. “The Manuscript Tradition of the Glossa Ordinaria for Daniel and Hints at a Method for a Critical Edition,” Scriptorium 47 (1993), pp. 3-25.

Zier, Daniel. “The Development of the Glossa Ordinaria to the Bible in the 13th Century: The Evidence of the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris”, in La Bibbia del XIII secolo: storia del testo, storia dell esegesi, G. Cremascoli and F. Santi, eds., Florence, 2004, pp. 155-184.

Online Resources

Glossae.net:  Glosses and Commentaries to the Bible in the Middle Ages (includes discussions, bibliography, and extensive links to sources, and an electronic edition based on the fifteenth-century printed edition, in progress)

Link to digitized fifteenth century edition of the Glossa Ordinaria

British Library, Burney MS 27

Database of Bookbinding, Burney MS 27

TM 878