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PS.-HUGH OF ST VICTOR, Commentary on the Augustinian Rule; Vitaspatrum, excerpts

In German, manuscript on parchment
North-West Germany, c.1400-1450

TM 855

i + 58 + i folios on parchment of moderate quality, modern foliation in pencil top outer corner, one quire, possibly more, lost from the end (collation i9 [complete, but f. 1, a singleton] ii-iv8 v9 [complete, but f. 41, a singleton] vi9 [complete, but f. 43, a singleton] vii7 [complete, but f. 52, a singleton]), ruled in ink, prickings remain (justification 135 x 95 mm.; 125 x 90 mm. on f. 1) copied in a neat and regular semihybrida libraria in one hand in two columns on twenty-eight lines (22-23 lines on f. 1) in black and red inks, four- and six-line penwork initials on f. 1; rubrication and underlining in red ff. 1-58 (f. 58v without rubrication), some minor stains and other discoloration of parchment.  ORIGINAL limp brown-leather Kopert (wallet-style) binding, sewn on four cords, much degraded, leather is very stiff, book block is now completely detached from the cover, although parchment pastedowns and contiguous flyleaves survive attached to the cover, remnant of white leather tie (a later addition?).  Dimensions c.180 x c.130 mm.

Commentaries taught monks and nuns how to interpret the laconic text of the Augustinian Rule.  This is amongst the earliest textual witnesses to the “Rooklooster” translation of one of the most influential commentaries, and one of only five—and the earliest—systematically adapted for a female readership.  Signed by its scribe, it still preserves its original limp binding, suitable for a working volume intended for regular use by the nuns to guide them in their religious lives.  It belonged to the Beguines of Kamp, and possibly to Johann Michael von Loën (1694-1776), the great-uncle to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.


1. Written in North-western Germany in the first half of the fifteenth century in a Mosel-Franconian dialect of West Central Germany (see Online Resources), based on the evidence of script, decoration, and language; evidence of the script suggests it should be dated earlier, rather than later, in the first half of the fifteenth century.

The scribe names himself in a colophon on f. 58 as broder iohannes van brubach.  A Johannes Brubach is also known as the scribe of a fifteenth-century manuscript containing texts of the life of St. Francis in Dutch translation (The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliothek, KA 26, Online Resources below), but the difference in language—that manuscript is in Dutch, this in German—makes it uncertain as to whether the Johannes Brubach of the manuscript in The Hague is also the scribe of this present manuscript.  A Johannes Brubach (d. 1428) was a canon of the Augustinian convent of the Windesheim Congregation of Marienwolde in Frenswegen, received as a canon in 1406 (Kohl, 1971, p. 111). Whether he is identical with either of these scribes remains to be determined.

2. Belonged to the Beguines of Kamp, near Boppard (diocese of Trier); their ownership mark on the verso of the front flyleaf, probably fifteenth-century, and thus likely dating not long after the manuscript was copied, “dyt boeck zolen haben de zuestere by Camp ghezlossen.” The convent is attested from 1378, originally as adherents of the Augustinian Rule (they later adopted the Franciscan Rule).  Five further manuscripts, all in German, are extant from this convent of beguines: Hamburg, Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. 213 in scrin.; Marburg, Universitätsbibliothek, Mscr. 657; Prague, Strahov Library, DG IV 17; Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. 2739 and Cod. 3023 (Krämer, 1989, p. 388).

3. Johann Kraft Hiegell (1658-1736): his acquisition mark on the inside front cover, Ex Musaeo Hiegelliano M. 1724.  Hiegell, a resident of Koblenz and medical doctor in the service of the Prince Archbishops of Trier, assembled a substantial collection of historical and natural-scientific curiosities, along with a considerable library (Online Resources below).  The manuscript Vienna, ÖNB, Cod. 2739, one of the most important collections of the sermons of Johannes Tauler, likewise belonged to the Kamp beguinage and bears the same acquisition mark of Johann Hiegell.  Later that manuscript was owned by the Enlightenment intellectual, author, and politician Johann Michael von Loën (1694-1776): see Menhardt, 1960, p. 247, and on von Loën, who was also great-uncle to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, see Elschenbroich, 1987, pp. 47-49, with all further references.

4. Subsequent provenance is uncertain. An ex libris of 95 x 110 mm. has been removed from the inside front cover, potentially that of von Loën, which would be exactly the right size (see Online Resources below); on the inside rear pastedown is a much-faded word in pencil that may read Loën.


ff. 1-58, rubric, Hy begint de bedudinghe nae deme synne vaen der regelen vnses heilighen vaders sente augustinus des biscolfes. Men sal ouch wissen dat de dit boech ghescreben haet. de haet dicke ghewandelt den namen broeder in desen namen suster. dar vm want he dit boech screyp geistelichen susteren. van Augustinus regel. hi begint it dan, incipit, “DEse nae ghescreben ghebode sint gheheysen regel. vmme dat si vns ouermits e/en bewijst wurt eyne forme rechtes lebens. Want daer vmme heyset si regel dat si recht regier oder lere…  Sonder dae emen van vch siet dat ir vyst ghebricht. de sal sich betroeben. van deme dat vor geganghen is. vnde sal sich hueden vor dat czucomende. vnde bidden dat ir ir mysdaet vergeben werde. vnde dat si in keyne becoringe ingheleiten werde”; [colophon] Hy geit v/ens da/et comment oder beduedinge van sente augustinus regel. biddet vm gods wyllen vor broder iohannes van brubach de dit boech screyf.”

Ps.-Hugh of St Victor, Commentary on the Rule of St Augustine, in German translation.  The twelfth-century Latin commentary on the Augustinian Rule, of uncertain authorship and frequently attributed to Hugh of St Victor, was variously translated into Dutch and German in the course of the later medieval and early modern periods.  Of the eight main versions identified by Kramp, this is a hitherto unknown textual witness to the fifth type, known as the “Rooklooster” translation since the two earliest manuscripts belonged to the Augustinian canons of the Windesheim Congregation at the Rooklooster in the Forêt de Soignes, south of Brussels, which is known in twenty-seven manuscripts (Kramp, 2009, pp. 111-19, 124-27, and 134-36).  

In this manuscript the text is, as its rubric indicates, consistently rewritten for a female audience, a phenomenon known from four other manuscripts, though all later (Kramp, 2009, pp. 135 and 214-15).  The text is edited in the “Rooklooster” version from one of those manuscripts rewritten for a female audience (Darmstadt, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, Hs. 983, in the ripuarian dialect of German) in Kramp, 2008, pp. 254-367.  This manuscript, which to judge by the script should be dated earlier, rather than later, in the first half of the fifteenth century, is amongst the earliest textual witnesses to the “Rooklooster” translation of Ps.-Hugh’s Commentary, and the earliest evidence for its systematic adaptation for a female readership.

f. 58v, incipit, “[M]En leest eyn exempel in vitaspatrum van eyme abt de heys iohannes. doe he sterben solde. doe stonden syne broder by eme. vnd baden e/en da/et he e/en saen wlde vyst dar si mede mochten ir leben besseren…”; f. 58v, incipit, “[E]yn heylich vader sprach. bidde god da/et he dir scryen vnde weynen gheben wlle in dijn hertze. vnde oetmuedicheit…”; f. 58v, incipit, “[E]yn heilich vader vertalt vnde saede. It waren dri gesellen de hatten sich seer liep vnde worden moniche…”.

Excerpts from the Vitaspatrum, in German translation.  The enormous collections of exemplary texts and sayings associated with the Desert Fathers, known in the Latin West as the Vitaspatrum, enjoyed a massive circulation and influence as foundational texts of the Christian monastic tradition, including numerous translations, in full and in part, into German and Dutch (Williams and Hoffmann, 1999, cols 449-66).

These three short excerpts may be taken, as suggested by the Handschriftencensus entry for this manuscript, reliant on the authority of Werner Hoffmann, from the so-called “Kölner Vitaspatrum-Sammlung,” hitherto unedited, and known in thirteen manuscripts, though only two of the full collection: see Williams and Hoffmann, 1999, cols 461-62.  One of those complete manuscripts is digitized (Berlin, Staatsbibliothek – Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Ms. germ. fol. 593: see Online Resources); the first of the three short dicta preserved in this manuscript corresponds to the first text of c. 21 at fol. 50ra, although the text is sufficiently different to raise doubt as to whether this manuscript is indeed a fragmentary witness to the “Kölner Vitaspatrum-Sammlung.”

In the first of the three dicta here, an abbot John is asked on his death-bed for an edifying instruction: he states that he had never pursued his own will, and never taught anyone to do anything that he himself had not himself done.  In the second, an anonymous father offers a series of instructions to ensure that one’s heart remains at peace: to think of one’s own sins, not judge others, be submissive to others, have nothing to do with women, children, or heretics, and so forth.  The third is an exemplum told by a holy father of three comrades who became monks, one of whom sought to reconcile others who were in conflict; it breaks off incomplete, as the final quire(s) have been lost.


Kohl, Wilhelm. Die Bistümer der Kirchenprovinz Köln. Das Bistum Münster, vol. 2, Die Klöster der Augustiner-Chorherren, Germania Sacra. N.F. 5, Berlin, 1971.

Krämer, Sigrid. Handschriftenerbe des deutschen Mittelalters, part 1, Aachen-Kochel, Mittelalterliche Bibliothekskataloge Deutschlands und der Schweiz. Ergänzungsband 1 Munich, 1989.

Kramp, Igna Marion, ed. Mittelalterliche und frühneuzeitliche deutsche Übersetzungen des pseudo-hugonischen Kommentars zur Augustinusregel, Corpus Victorinum. Textus historici 2, Münster, 2008.

Kramp, Igna Marion. Renovamini spiritu / Ernüwent den geist üwers gemütes. Deutsche Übersetzungen als Modernisierung im späten Mittelalter, Corpus Victorinum. Instrumenta 2, Münster, 2009.

Menhardt, Hermann, Verzeichnis der altdeutschen literarischen Handschriften der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, vol. 1, Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin. Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für deutsche Sprache und Literatur 13, Berlin, 1960.

Williams, Ulla, and Werner J. Hoffmann. “Vitaspatrum”, 2Verfasserlexikon 10, 1999, cols 449-66.

Online Resources

Berlin, SBB-PK, Ms. germ. fol. 593 (Kölner Vitaspatrum-Sammlung)


Elschenbroich, Adalbert. “Loën, Johann Michael von,” Neue Deutsche Biographie 15, 1987, pp. 47-49 [online version]

The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KA 26, manuscript description

The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KA 26, manuscript description with colophon

Handschriftencensus, entry for this manuscript, with (correct) determination of dialect

Johann Kraft Hiegell (1658-1736)

Johann Michael von Loën (1694-1776), his exlibris

“Kamp,” Monastic Matrix

TM 855