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les Enluminures

Statuta antiqua et nova ordinis Cartusiensis [Statutes, old and new, of the Carthusian order]

In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment
Germany(?), after 1368, c. 1370-1390

TM 786

134 folios on parchment, contemporary foliation in black ink, highlighted with a red punctus on either side, in Arabic numerals, top outer recto, 2-58, 60-101, 103-136, beginning and ending lacking but no other loss of text in spite of gaps in foliation, f. 94 has been foliated “49”, modern foliation in pencil of smaller parchment leaf between ff. 87 and 88, lower outer corner, as 87bis, missing one leaf at the beginning and nine leaves at the end (collation i16 [-1 through 3; f. 1 is missing with loss of text and a stub remains between ff. 2 and 3 where a leaf was cancelled with no loss of text] ii-vi14 vii14 [+2; f. 87bis, a smaller leaf, has been sewn in between ff. 87 and 88, with a small stub showing between ff. 99 and 100] viii-ix16 x12 [-4 through 12; leaves excised with loss of text, with stubs where they have been torn away]), horizontal catchwords boxed and highlighted in red, inner lower verso, leaf signatures in Arabic numerals partially visible in quires ii and iv, bottom outer recto, ruled in brown ink with full-length horizontal and vertical bounding lines, prickings in top, bottom, and outer margins (justification 115-124 x 71-74 mm.), written in brown ink in a rapid transitional Gothic script that includes an increasing number cursive letterforms, in twenty-nine to thirty-three long lines, guide letters for initials, notes for rubrics faintly visible in the lower margin, majuscules stroked in red, sporadic red underlining in the text (generally marking feast days and prayers), red rubrics, red paraphs, one- to four-line plain red initials, some adorned with simple and sparing pen decoration, pen decoration in faded black ink has been added to one two-line red initial (f. 18v) and decoration in red has been added to a two-line dark brown initial (f. 126), lettered subdivisions A-F, highlighted and underlined in red and preceded by red paraphs, placed at regular intervals in the outer margins of ff. 2v-3 (used to establish a system for marginal cross-references throughout the manuscript), many corrections by the scribe, particularly to the Statuta nova (ff. 123-136v), corrections and marginal additions in black ink in at least one careful fourteenth- or fifteenth-century hand, marginal annotations throughout, written in faded black ink a diminutive cursive glossing script, underlined or enclosed in red and often keyed to the text with Arabic numerals or tie-marks in red, marginal notes, pointing hands, and brackets added in the margins in several hands and inks, some staining obscuring text on ff. 87v and the recto of f. 87bis, some rubbing on f. 2 with no loss of text and significant rubbing on f. 136v with some losses of text. Sewn on four double bands, lacking binding but with stitching and headbands intact, in modern two-part case of gilt-tooled leather over pasteboard. Dimensions 150-152 x 106-109 mm.

This copy of two consecutive versions of the statutes of the Carthusian Order is enriched by fascinating accretions of corrections and annotations and an unusual system of marginal cross-references that would reward further study. While copies of the statutes are plentiful, they are rare on the market (the Schoenberg Database lists two copies sold in the last century). With its original stitching still intact and exposed, this book offers a fine example of medieval binding techniques, ideally suited to studying the History of the Book.


1. The transitional nature of its script supports a dating in the late fourteenth century. Though there is no definitive indication in this manuscript of its origins or the repository in which it was first held, evidence of decoration and orthography – notably the use of “w” for “v”, as in “ewangeliste” for “evangeliste” (f. 13) and of “w” for “vu”, as in “wlt” instead of “vult” (f. 93v), “wlgariter” instead of “vulgariter” (f. 131), and “wlpinos” instead of “vulpinos” (f. 131) – suggest that it was produced in Germany or in a Germanophone region.

This manuscript must have been completed after 1368, given its inclusion of the Statuta nova promulgated in that year. The nature and quantity of corrections within this copy of the Statuta nova suggest that this was an early copy, possibly even a draft, of these new statutes. Not only are there far more (and more extensive) corrections in this part of the manuscript, but they largely take the form of substantial insertions (as on ff. 129 and 134v), cross-outs (as on ff. 128v, 129v, 132v, and 134), and erasures over which new text copied, often with less text stretched to fill the space (as on ff. 130, 133v, and 134v). Given how closely the corrected version of the text follows the text of the Statuta nova printed in the 1510 Basel edition (see below), the evidence of its reworking within this manuscript sheds an intriguing light on the process by which these statutes were fashioned.

This manuscript almost certainly was copied at a Carthusian monastery. The Carthusian Order placed a special emphasis on scribal work as an appropriate form of manual labor and as a standard practice for monks and nuns in the solitude of their own cells. Preserving a passage from the earlier Consuetudines of Guigo I, chapter 16 of the second part of the Statuta antiqua enumerates the book-making materials that monks were to keep in their cells (f. 80) and on f. 80v repeats Guigo’s justification for this labor: “ut quia ore non possumus dei verbum manibus predicemus” (so that because we are not able to preach the word of God with our mouths, we may do so with our hands). It is likely that this manuscript was produced by a Carthusian scribe under such circumstances.

Marginal annotations and some smudged and darkened margins attest to the book’s ongoing use by Carthusians. The book’s scrupulous corrections, expansions (as in the case of f. 87bis, a smaller leaf containing prayers relevant to the adjacent statutes), and marginal references to other Carthusian documents and statutes, like Chapter records and the Consuetudines, suggest its makers or early users were invested in its accuracy and utility. Carthusian statutes stressed the importance of establishing correct texts – chiefly the responsibility of the Grande Chartreuse – and of emending texts against these correct exemplars (see Rouse and Rouse, 1991).

2. Private Continental Collection.


[Description follows the contemporary foliation.]

ff. 2-60, [beginning imperfectly] “//ebdomadarij et alijs et de suffragijs, xliiij De cura prioris erga infirmos …”; f. 2, Incipit prima pars consuetudinum ordinis carthusiensis. De diuino officio vno eodemque modo ab omnibus celebrando et de libris corrigendis et consuetudibus non immutandis. Capitulum i, incipit, “Primum capitulum hanc habet continentiam … [f. 60, De diuersis institutis in officio diuino. Capitulum quinquagesimum] … non incipit modus interrogationis nisi post circumflexum. Explicit prima pars consuetudinum ordinis carthusiensis”;

Missing original f. 1, with the beginning of the table of contents for part one of the Statuta antiqua.

ff. 60-105v, Incipiunt capitula secunde partis consuetudinum ordinis carthusiensis, incipit, “Capitulum primum. De triplici diuisione consuetudinum et quando legantur …”; f. 60v, Incipit secunda pars consuetudinum ordinis carthusiensis. De triplici diuisione consuetudinum et quando leguntur. Capitulum primum, incipit, “Anno domini millesimo ducentesimo quinquagesimo nono [1259] visum est capitulo generali … [f. 104v, De diuersis institutis. Capitulum xxxij] … in vsus alios nullatenus expendatur”;

The smaller leaf sewn in between ff. 87 and 88, f. 87bis, contains the following prayers: “Domine qui iustificas impium” and “Exaudi nos domine sancte” on the recto and “Domine ihesu christe qui tegimen nostre mortalitatis”, “Exuat te dominus veterem hominem”, and “Domine ihesu christe qui es via.” The latter three, at least, appear to have been said during the profession of novices. Chapter 24 of the second part of the Statuta antiqua, “De professione nouitiorum”, contains the opening words of “Domine ihesu christe qui tegimen” and “Domine ihesu christe qui es via” (f. 88), but they are written out on this leaf in full with the additional prayer, also in full. These two prayers are also included in full in chapters 24 and 25 of the Statuta ordinis cartusiensis a domno Guigone priore cartusie edita, as is noted in the margins of f. 88.

ff. 105v-123, Incipiunt capitula tertie partis consuetudinum ordinis carthusiensis, incipit, “Capitulum i. De diuino oficcio fratrum laicorum et quando ad ecclesiam superiorem conueniant …”; f. 106, Incipit tertia pars consuetudinum ordinis carthusiensis. De diuino officio fratrum laicorum et quando ad ecclesiam superiorem conueniant. Capitulum primum, incipit, “Que ad monachorum pertinent consuetudines prout potuimus explicatis … [f. 122v, De monialibus nostri ordinis. Capitulum xxxiiij] … ne ex aliqua circa hec negligencia grauiter remaneant obligati in die Iudicij coram sponso earum domino ihesu christe. Expliciunt tres partes consuetudinum seu statutorum ordinis carthusiensis. Deo gratias”;

ff. 123-130v, Incipit prologus in nouas constituciones ordinis carthusiensis, incipit, “Post olim editam compilacionem statutorum ac consuetudinum tripartitam …”; f. 123v, Incipiunt capitula prime partis nouarum constitucionum ordinis Carthusiensis, incipit, “De diuino officio vno modo ab omnibus celebrando et libris corrigendis. Capitulum i …”; f. 123v, Incipiunt noue constituciones ad primam partem consuetudinum pertinentes. De diuino officio vno modo ab omnibus celebrando et libris corrigendis. Capitulum primum, incipit, “Quod in prima et secunda parte statutorum cauetur antiquorum de diuino officio vno ritu per omnes domos Carthusiensis ordinis celebrando … [f. 128v, De diuersis in diuino officio institutionis et consuetudinibus. Capitulum v] … loco cuius iteratur misse oratio principalis. Explicit prima pars”;

ff. 130v-136v, Incipiunt Capitula secunde partis nouarum constituciones ordinis Carthusiensis, incipit, “De reprehensione, Capitulum i …”; f. 131, Incipiunt noue constituciones ad secundam partem consuetudinum pertinentes. De reprehensione. Capitulum primum, incipit, “Quicumque incisos sotulares quos wlgariter estiuallos vocamus portauerit … [f. 135v, De cella et terminorum limitibus de ordinibus suscipiendis et proprietarijs excommunicandis. Capitulum quintum] … Hanc preterea sententiam latam a capitulo genera//.”

The textual remnants on the remaining stubs indicates that the text on the lost leaves extended to chapter ten of the second part of the new constitutions (on what would have been f. 139v) and the remains of an initial on the following stub (what would have been f. 140) suggest that the third part of the new constitutions followed.

This manuscript contains the Statuta antiqua (issued in 1258 and approved in 1271) and Statuta nova (1368) of the Carthusian Order. There is no modern critical edition of either of these collections of statutes. There is also no comprehensive study of surviving manuscripts of these statutes, though a list of manuscript copies of various Carthusian statutes in French collections identifies twenty manuscripts containing both the Statuta antiqua and the Statuta nova, as well as six manuscripts containing just the Statuta antiqua (Gruys, 1976, p. 12). Both of these collections were first printed together, along with the earlier Consuetudines of Guigo I and the later Tertio compilatio, by Jean Amorbach in Basel in 1510, having been commissioned by the General Chapter in the previous year. Hogg (1989) has published a reproduction of this 1510 edition. Aside from the losses at the beginning of the Statuta antiqua and the end of the Statuta nova, these texts follows the Basel edition quite closely.

The Carthusian Order, founded by St. Bruno of Cologne around 1084 and celebrated for the purity and austerity of its version of the religious life, is characterized by a unique combination of the eremetical and cenobitic life. Each Carthusian monk spends most of his life living as a hermit in his own cell, but at the same time lives under the rule and discipline of a community, and participates in the communal liturgy of the monastery. The success of the Carthusians at creating a balanced life and maintaining this life through their statutes and the guidance of the Prior of the Grande Chartreuse and the Order’s General Chapter allows the Order to make the famous claim, “numquam reformata, quia numquam deformata” (never reformed because never deformed).

This claim is reflected in the incremental modifications of the Carthusian statutes over the course of the Middle Ages. The Statuta antiqua and Statuta nova of the Carthusian Order represent two consecutive revisions of, and additions to, the Order’s initial Consuetudines, or customs. The Consuetudines were written in 1127 by Guigo I, the fifth prior of the Grand Chartreuse, the mother-house of the Order. They were not written as a prescriptive monastic rule, but in order to record the practices at the Grande Chartreuse for the use of new Carthusian houses. They were subsequently approved by Pope Innocent II in 1133. In 1258, Riffier, prior of the Grande Chartreuse and Minister General of the Order, issued the Statuta antiqua (or Consuetudines antiquae), which updated the Consuetudines to incorporate the ordinances passed by the General Chapter of the Order, which had begun convening in 1140 or 1141. These were approved by the General Chapter in 1271. A further revision, known as the Statuta nova, was promulgated under William Rainaldi, prior of the Grande Chartreuse, in 1368, and this was followed by another revision in 1509, the Tertia compilatio.

The system of cross-referencing used throughout this manuscript is of particular interest, as it enabled early users of the manuscript to refer to the text of these statutes with much greater specificity than chapter numbers would allow. As illustrated on ff. 2v-3, the letters A to F were used to divide the opening into six equal sections keyed to the folio number of the recto. Thus, for example, an annotator wishing to call attention to a passage at the top of f. 2v would have referred to it as “3a”, while a passage at the top of f. 3 would be referred to as “3d.” This system was used within the text of the Statuta antiqua as when, for example, an annotator wished to draw attention to identical statements in different parts of the statutes. For example, an injunction in part two, chapter 20 of the Statuta antiqua occurs again in part three, chapter 28. At its first occurrence in this manuscript, on f. 83, about a third of the way down the page, a marginal note, “Idem 118e”, with a tie-mark linking it to the specific sentence indicates the location of the sentence’s second occurrence, on f. 118, about a third of the way down the page. A marginal note on f. 118, “Idem 83e”, is also linked to the sentence, this time by means of a number. The same system has been used to connect passages in the Statuta antiqua to updates in the Statuta nova.

Extensive marginal annotations were also added throughout the manuscript in a single cursive glossing hand, often underlined or enclosed in red. References in these marginal notes to records of the Chapters of 1391 (ff. 27, 124v), 1393 (f. 27), 1394 (f. 127), 1397 (f. 68v), 1398 (ff. 13v, 25v), 1402 (f. 124v), 1403 (f. 27), 1404 (ff. 115v, 132), 1407 (ff. 3, 124v), 1412 (ff. 108, 127), 1417 (f. 104v), 1420 (f. 32), and 1422 (ff. 52v, 53v, 101, 106v) indicate that this annotator was working on the book in the fifteenth century, most likely during this date range or shortly hereafter.

A note on the inside of the front cover of an early fifteenth-century copy of the statutes (Graz, Universitätsbibliothek, MS 1243; see http://sosa2.uni-graz.at/sosa/katalog/katalogisate/1243.html) may indicate the circumstances in which these notes were added: “Notandum quod illa glossa et remissiones de loco ad locum in istis statutis scripta [sic] in marginibus sunt conscripta [sic] ex statutis domini Bernhardi de Colonia, qui fuit vir magne litterature et expergencie [sic] qui fuit in septem domibus ordinis prior et sepe visitator et XII vicibus fuit in Chartusia in generalibus capitulis et multum fuit diligens de observancia et ceremoniis ordinis. 1437” (It should be noted that the gloss and remissions from place to place in those statutes written in the margins are recorded from the statutes of master Bernard of Cologne, who was a man of great letters and experience who was prior in seven houses of the order and often visitor and was twelve times in Chartreuse at General Chapters and was very careful with regard to the observance and ceremonies of the order. 1437). It seems very likely that the manuscript described here was either updated in a manner similar to MS 1243, or that it was used to update other copies of the statutes in the manner of the book of Bernard of Cologne. The relatively small size and simple decoration of this manuscript, as well as its careful emendations and well-thumbed pages, could certainly support the latter possibility.

Notably, most of the Chapters in these notes convened during the Great Schism, when the Order was split in two, with the Grande Chartreuse and French and Spanish charterhouses adhering to the Avignon popes and most of the charterhouses in England and the Holy Roman Empire supporting the popes in Rome (see Hogg, 2005). The year of the first Chapter indicated in the margin, 1391, was also the year in which the charterhouse of Žiče (Seitz) became the seat of the General Chapter for those charterhouses of the Roman Obedience. In light of these considerations, no doubt the content of these notes would reward closer study.


Gruys, Albert. Cartusiana, Paris, 1976, vol. 1.

Hogg, James. “The Carthusian Order from its Foundation to the Present Day”, Analecta Cartusiana 225, Salzburg, 2005, pp. 7-25.

Hogg, James. The Evolution of the Carthusian Statutes from the Consuetudines Guigonis to the Tertia Compilatio, Analecta Cartusiana 99, Salzburg, 1989, vols. 1-2.

Lawrence, C. H. Medieval Monasticism: Forms of Religious Life in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, 3rd ed., Harlow, 2001.

Rouse, Mary A. and Richard H. Rouse. “Correction and Emendation of Texts in the Fifteenth Century and the Autograph of the Opus Pacis by ‘Oswaldus Anglicus,’” Authentic Witnesses: Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, 1991, pp. 427-447.

Online resources

Statuta et privilegia ordinis Cartusiensis, Basel, 1510

Webster, Douglas Raymond. “The Carthusian Order”, The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 3, New York, 1908