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HENRICUS DE FRIMARIA [HENRY OF FRIEMAR], De Decem preceptis (abbreviated) [On the Ten Commandments]

In Latin, manuscript on paper
Switzerland (?) c. 1408

TM 392-3

i (modern paper) + 14 + i (modern paper) folios on coarse paper with pronounced laid lines, watermark, star with five rays and a cross above, same type but different dimensions as Briquet 6011, Clermont-Ferrand 1408, Piccard 41526, Arnhem 1407-08, Piccard 41527, Arnhem 1407-8; cf. also Piccard 41528, Schaffhausen 1408 (collation, i14), quire reinforced in the center with a parchment strip from another manuscript (only a few words visible), no catchwords or quire signatures, frame-ruled lightly in lead with all rules full-length, (justification, 153-150 x 110-106 mm.), written below the top line in a quick cursive gothic bookhand in thirty-six to thirty-five long lines, two- to one-line blank spaces for initials, in legible condition, water-stained in the lower, outer corners, last folio damaged with a few words of the text rubbed away or obscured, hole outer margin. Bound in a modern pasteboard binding covered with a leaf from a fifteenth-century (?) noted Choir Book, an Antiphonal (red initials, square musical notation on a red three-line staff), in good condition, cockled. Dimensions 209 x 145 mm.

Henricus de Frimaria’s commentary on the Ten Commandments was extremely popular during the later Middle Ages, surviving in almost 370 manuscripts. This abbreviated version, in contrast, is known in only two other manuscripts. Neither text has been published in a modern critical edition. Most copies of either version are in institutional libraries (although since this text circulated under different names and titles, as well as anonymously, this data may not be entirely reliable).


1. This is one quire removed from a longer manuscript when it was bound in the late nineteenth or twentieth century in its present pasteboard binding covered with a leaf from a noted Choir antiphonal. The text is complete. The evidence of the watermark in this manuscript should not be given too much weight, since no exact matches are found in Briquet or Piccard. Nonetheless, it is an unusual watermark, and all the examples date c. 1408, suggesting that this manuscript may date from around this time. The watermarks listed are from Clermont-Ferrand in France, Arnhem in the Netherlands, and Scahffhausen in Switzerland, and very tentatively, Switzerland can be suggested as a place of origin for this manuscript.

2. Notes by dealers and collectors include front flyleaf, in pencil, “Henricus de Frimaria, De decem preceptis”; and “M.62.” The latter notation is written in the same hand as notations in MS 392 I & II suggesting that the present volume once formed part of the same, still-unidentified modern collection.


[f. 1rv, blank], ff. 2-14v, incipit, “’Audi ysrahel deus tuus unus est [Deut 6:4, or Mark 12:29].’ Sunt autem septem genera hominum que deum non colunt sed ydola varia adorant … bona opera [nostra?] interficit”;

An abbreviated version of Henricus de Frimaria (Henry of Friemar), O.E.S.A., De decem preceptis; also found in Stuttgart, Württembergische Landesbibliothek HB I 14, f. 173v, and Munich, Bayerische Staatsibliothek Clm 4781; see Stroick, pp. 37 and 74. This version of the text has never been printed, or carefully studied by modern scholars.

Henricus de Frimaria’s popular commentary on the Ten commandments circulated under a number of different titles, including De decem preceptis (“On the Ten Commandments”), Praeceptorium, Expositio decalogi, and Tractatus de decem praeceptis, among other titles, and is ascribed to a number of different authors as well, notably Nicolaus de Lyra. The usual version of the text begins “Audi Israel precepta domini … In verbis propositis sprititus sanctus circa divina precepta tria tangit ….” Zumkeller, 325, lists 293 manuscripts; see also Bloomfield 526, listing more than seventy-five additional manuscripts; discussed generally in Stroik, pp. 37-42; printed often in the fifteenth century, see Goff H-52 and N-136 to N-145, and in Antwerp in 1634 (Biblia sacra cum glossa ordinaria, VI, pp. 1737-1787). There is no modern edition.

Henricus de Frimaria (Heinrich von Friemar, Henricus de Vrimaria, Henry of Friemar, or Henricus de Alemania) was born in the middle of the thirteenth century, c. 1245, at Friemar near Gotha in Thuringia. At an early age he entered the Order of the Hermits of St. Augustine. He studied theology in Paris, and taught there until 1318. Throughout his life, he served his order in a number of prominent positions, including serving as the Provincial of all of Germany, c. 1290-99, and 1315-18. His later career was spent as regent master at Erfurt, where he died c. 1345. His numerous writings establish him as an important late medieval thinker, mystic, and preacher (It should be noted that there are at least four Augustinians known as Heinrich von Friemar, two of whom were authors; the Heinrich we are speaking of here is Heinrich von Friemar the Elder).

His works were extremely popular during the late Middle Ages, and they survive in over six hundred manuscripts in Latin, German and Dutch. De quattuor instinctibus Divino, Angelico, Diabolico, et Humano (“About the four instincts–divine, angelic, diabolic and human”), an original discussion of the discernment of spirits, survives in over one hundred and fifty Latin manuscripts, as well as in eighteen Dutch and German versions. He also wrote, De celebratione Missae (“About the celebration of Mass”), a detailed ascetical and mystical commentary on the Mass that was intended for clergy. He was the author of numerous additional works, including an account of the origins of the Augustinian hermits, Tractatus de origine et progressu ordinis fratrum eremitarum S. Augustini.

The roots of the Hermits of St. Augustine (now known as the Augustinian Friars) go back to a number eremitical groups in Italy in the twelfth century, but the Order adopted a mendicant lifestyle in the thirteenth century. After the approval of their constitutions by Pope Alexander IV in 1256, the Order grew quickly and founded many houses throughout Europe, including many in Germany. Throughout the later Middle Ages, they were known for their learning.


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

Schneyer, Johannes Baptist. Repertorium der lateinischen Sermones des Mittelalters für die Zeit von 1150-1350, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie und Theologie des Mittelalters 43, Münster, 1969-80.

Stroick, Clemens. Heinrich von Friemar; Leben, Werke, philosophisch-theologische Stellung in der Scholastik, Freiburg, Herder, 1954.

Zumkeller, A. Manuskripte von Werken der Autoren des Augustiner-Eremitenordens in mitteleuropäischen Bibliotheken, Würzburg, 1966.

Online resources

Briquet Online (Kommission für Schrift- und Buchwesen des Mittelalters
der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften)

Piccard Online

Manuscripta mediaevalia (online catalogue of manuscripts in German Libraries)

Bautz, Friedrich Wilhelm. “Heinrich von Friemar” (Biographisch-bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon):

Zumkeller, A. “Heinrich v. Friemar der Ältere,” in Lexikon des Mittelalters, Stuttgart: Metzler, [1977]-1999, vol. 4, col. 2091, in Brepolis Medieval Encyclopaedias - Lexikon des Mittelalters Online

The Augustinian Hermits
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07281a.htm (Catholic Encyclopedia, “Hermits of St. Augustine)

Order of St. Augustine

With an extensive History of the Order

and a biography of Henry of Friemar