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les Enluminures

PETRUS LOMBARDUS, Liber Primus Sententiarum

In Latin, illustrated manuscript on paper
[Southern Germany, perhaps Constance, c. 1440]

TM 74

65 leaves, almost complete (lacking only the last lines of last Distinction 48, Book I, and beginning of the ”Tabula,” gatherings of 12 (i10 [12-2], ii1, f. 22 misbound between ff. 10–11), iii11 [12-1, lacking folio is in fact f. 22, bound in the previous quire], iv-vi12, vii7 [6-1]); paper (watermark close to Briquet no. 15233 [Tête de bœuf et croix: Constance, 1437]), medieval foliation in red in the upper right margin from f. 46, written in dark brown ink in a highly abbreviated rounded bâtarde, text on two columns on up to 39 lines (justification 210 x 155 mm.), light plummet ruling, headings in red, rubrics in red, numerous marginal and interlinear annotations (red and brown ink), numerous letters touched in red, numerous alternating red, green and blue initials (3–4 lines high), same initials with foliate motifs extending into the margin (ex. f. 10v), 24 painted initials in blue, purple or red decorated with floral or foliate infill in various colors of ink, some with ornaments or acanthus leaves extending in the margin (ex. f. 39, f. 53v), 6 HISTORIATED INITIALS and 5 ANIMATED INITIALS in a palette composed of green, purple, blue and yellow. Bound in a modern limp vellum binding, smooth spine, modern pastedowns and flyleaves, in good general condition (some small wormholes of ff. 1–3 and on last 7 folios, without disturbing text or affecting overall condition). Dimensions 300 x 220 mm.

The most influential schoolbook of the Middle Ages, Peter Lombard’s “Sentences” is accompanied here by a rare series of charming and imaginative historiated initials colorfully painted in watercolor washes. The origin of the manuscript in the area of Lake Constance, suggested by the watermarks and confirmed by the style of the painting and decoration, enhances its artistic interest. Its marginal glosses and commentary warrant further study.


1. Watermarks, script, and style of the historiated and decorated initials all point to a German origin, probably Constance (Baden-W├╝rttemberg)

2. Nineteenth-century French owner with a handwritten ex-libris on front flyleaf: “Souvenir de Paul de Chaulus.”


f. 1, [Rubric] Incipit prologus in primo Libro Sententiarum; [Prologue], incipit, “Cupientes aliquid de penuria ac tenuitate nostra cum paupercula in gazophylacium Domini mittere, ardua scandere… “; explicit, “ …titulos quibus singulorum librorum capitula distinguuntur praemisimus. Amen”;

ff. 1v-2v [Rubric] Incipit Liber Sententiarum ; [Book I] incipit, “Veterus ac nove legis continentiam diligenti indagine etiam atque etiam considerantibus nobis… [Distinctio I] Omnis doctrina est vel de rebus vel de signis….”;

ff. 2v-4v [Distinctio II]; ff. 4v-6v [Distinctio III]; ff. 6v-7v [Distinctio IV]; ff. 7v– 8v [Distinctio V]; ff. 8v-10v [Distinctio VI]; ff. 10v-[11]-12 [Distinctio VII] ; ff. 12-14 [Distinctio VIII] ; ff. 14-15v [Distinctio IX] ; ff. 15v-16v [Distinctio X] ; ff. 16v-17 [Distinctio XI]; ff. 17-18 [Distinctio XII]; ff. 18-18v [Distinctio XIII]; ff. 19-19v [Distinctio XIV]; ff. 20-21v [Distinctio XV]; ff. 21v-22 [Distinctio XVI]; ff. 22v-24 [Distinctio XVII]; ff. 24-25v [Distinctio XIX]; ff. 25v-28v [Distinctio XX]; ff. 28v-29 [Distinctio XXI]; ff. 29-30 [Distinctio XXII]; ff. 30-32 [Distinctio XXIII]; ff. 32-33 [Distinctio XXIV]; ff. 33-34v [Distinctio XXV]; ff. 34v-36 [Distinctio XXVI]; ff. 36-37v [Distinctio XXVII]; ff. 37v-39 [Distinctio XXVIII]; ff. 39-40 [Distinctio XXIX]; ff. 40-40v [Distinctio XXX]; ff. 40v-42v [Distinctio XXXI]; ff. 42v-44 [Distinctio XXXII]; ff. 44-45v [Distinctio XXXIII]; ff. 45v-47v [Distinctio XXXIV]; ff. 47v-48v [Distinctio XXXV]; ff. 48v-49v [Distinctio XXXVI]; ff. 49v-50v [Distinctio XXXVI]; ff. 50v-52 [Distinctio XXXVII]; ff. 52-53v [Distinctio XXXVIII]; ff. 53v-54v [Distinctio XXXIX]; ff. 54v-55v [Distinctio XL]; ff. 55v-56v [Distinctio XLI]; ff. 56v-57v [Distinctio XLII]; ff. 57v-59 [Distinctio XLIII]; ff. 59-59v [Distinctio XLIV]; ff. 59v-61 [Distinctio XLV]; ff. 61-63 [Distinctio XLVI]; ff. 63-64 [Distinctio XLVII]; ff. 64-64v [Distinctio XLVIII] [lacking last lines of Distinction XLVIII (48); f. 64v [Explicit] “ … Judeus et dyabolus sed illi mala voluntate… “.

ff. 65-65v [Tabula] incipit, “[Que sunt ille proprietates] quibus distinguntur proprie…utrum passions sanctorum deamus velle”; “Explicit tabula primi libri sententiarum”;

Peter Lombard (born Novara, Italy, c. 1100; died c. 1160-64) studied at Bologna, later at Reims and Paris. In 1148, he was at Reims with Robert of Melen (they were called magistri scholares), and about the same time he wrote his “Sentences.” He then became professor at the school of Notre-Dame. In 1158 or 1159, he was appointed Archbishop of Paris, a position he held for only a short time. It is his “Sentences” that made him famous and gave him a special place in the history of medieval theology. Divided into four books organized as a long series of questions, the work covers the whole body of theological doctrine and unites it in a systematized whole. It reveals a debt to Abelard, Hugh of St. Victor, and Gratian, whose Decretum dates from c. 1140. Toward the thirteenth century, the books of the “Sentences” were divided into distinctiones, a Latin word that first meant a pause in reading, then a division into chapters. The “Sentences” became the most influential schoolbook of the Middle Ages, and it was required reading at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Paris.

The present manuscript contains the 48 Distinctiones of Book I, including its Prologue and Table. Book I deals with the evidences for the existence of God, including the Trinity, on God’s attributes, on providence, predestination, and evil. Numerous marginal commentaries and annotations on the Distinctions written by several scholars add to the interest of this manuscript. A particularly lengthy digression covers the margins of folios 42v-43.

There are many manuscripts of the “Sentences”: the Collegio S. Bonaventura edition of Peter Lombard lists178 manuscripts for the twelfth and thirteenth centuries of which 17 are from the twelfth century, the oldest dated 1158 (pp. 153-154). The “Sentences” remained popular into the fifteenth century, and it circulated widely both in monastic and lay circles throughout Europe, in France, Italy, England, the Low Countries, and Germany. It was often printed, first in Strasburg before 1468 (Printer of Henricus Ariminensis; Goff P-478) and many more times before 1500, sometimes with commentaries (e.g., Goff P-486).


f. 1, Peter Lombard as bishop in an initial C [upientes aliquid de penuria attenuita], prefacing the Prologue;

f. 1v, David playing the harp in an initial V [eterus ac nove legis continentiam], prefacing the beginning of Book I, on the old and new law;

f. 18, Three cherubs in combat, one with a sword, another with a spear, and a third with a bow-and-arrow in an initial P [ost hoc considerandus est], prefacing Distinction 13, on the “generation” of the Holy Ghost;

f. 21v, Pentecost, in an initial N [unc de spiritu sancto], prefacing Distinction 16;

f. 25v, Trinity on a purple background, in an initial N [unc postquam trinitate trium], prefacing Distinction 19;

f. 30v, Human head with leaves spilling out of his mouth, part of an initial P [ost predicta nobis differendum], prefacing Distinction 22, on the variety of names used to describe God;

f. 32, Horned and bearded figure (Satan), in an initial H [ic diligenter inquiri oportet]
, prefacing Distinction 24,

f. 36, Veronica’s Veil in an initial H [ic queri potest utrum proprietates], prefacing Distinction 27;

f. 37v, Pig or Deer with leaves spilling out of his mouth at the bottom of an initial P [raeterea considerare oportet], prefacing Distinction 28;

f. 40v, Fox-like animal with leaves spilling out of his mouth at the bottom of an initial P [raeterea considerari oportet, cum tre personae] ; prefacing Distinction 31

f. 64, Bird (zoomorphic–shaped initial), forming an initial S [ciendum quoque est], prefacing Distinction 48.

The unusual series of historiated and animated initials that preface some of the Distinctions adds to the interest of the present manuscript. Essentially a scholastic schoolbook, the “Sentences” was not often illustrated. Some deluxe thirteenth-century manuscripts include one historiated initial prefacing each of the four books (an initial of Ecclesia and Synagoga typically prefaces the first Distinction of Book I, on the old and new law; cf. Branner, cat. nos. 222-223), and for an exceptionally rich thirteenth-century illuminated manuscript, see Paris, Bibl. Mazarine MS 766). But the idea of including historiated initials before many of the Distinctions within the books appears to be uncommon. Here the initials often pick up on the subject of the text: Peter Lombard dressed as a bishop prefaces the author’s prologue to the reader (f. 1); the Pentecost prefaces a Distinction on the Holy Spirit (f. 21); and the Trinity prefaces a Distinction on the nature of the Trinity (f. 25). In other instances the illustrations are more fanciful and spontaneous. Perhaps the leaves spilling out of the mouth (f. 30v) represent the variety of names used to designate God and the Trinity, the subject of Distinction 22. The three cherubs cavorting may allude to the generation of the three parts of the Trinity, discussed in the Distinction that follows (f. 18).

The style of the illustrations is typical of that found in a small group of works written in the vernacular and localized in Constance c. 1440. Compare, for example, a copy of the
Weltchronik (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, CGM 426) and an anonymous work Des Teufels Netz (The Devil’s Net) (Karlsruhe, Badische Landesbibliothek, MS Donaueschingen 113) both from Lake Constance. The soft palette in blue, green, reds, and purple and the figural types are similar. The type of initials continues those found in fourteenth-century Lake Constance illumination with their plump foliate and floral decoration in the same palette used for the miniatures (see Moser, et al., esp. pp. 270-71).


Baltzer, Otto. Die Sentenzen des Petrus Lombardus, ihre Quellen und ihre dogmengeschichtliche Bedeutung, von Lic. theol. Otto Baltzer, Leipzig, Dieterich, 1902 (Studien zur Geschichte der Theologie und der Kirche, VIII, 3).

Branner, Robert. Manuscript Painting in Paris during the Reign of Saint Louis, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1977.

Gaudemet, Jean. Les sources du droit canonique: VIIIe–XXe siècles, Paris, Cerf, 1993.

Lombardus Petrus, Sententiae in IV libris distinctae. Tome I, Pars I, Prolegomena (Spicilegium Bonaventurianum, 4), Grottaferrata (Romae), Collegii S. Bonaventurae ad Claras Aquas, 1971.

Moser, Eva, ed. Buchmalerei im Bodenseeraum 13. bis 16. Jahrhundert, Friedrichshafen, Verlag Robert Gessler, 1997.

Online resources

COMMBASE: An Electronic Database of Medieval Commentators on Aristotle and Peter Lombard’s Sentences

On Petrus Comestor life and works