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Miscellany] THOMAS AQUINAS, Summa theologiae compendiata; COLUMBANUS, Instructio V; HEINRICH VON LANGENSTEIN, Speculum anime; AUGUSTINE, De natura boni

In Latin, manuscript on paper
Germany, Trier, c.1470

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i + 73 folios on paper, paper stocks constituted into three distinct fascicules: (I) quires i-iii, using paper of the group Piccard, Fabeltiere (Einhorn), III 1745-51 (1465-76), a close match for the type III 1748 (1471) and potentially the fragmentarily-preserved type III 1745 (1470), (II) quires iv-v, using paper of the group Piccard, Buchstabe P, X 251-78 (1468-72), an example of the known pair formed by the types X 260 + X 277 (1470-71), (III) quires vi-vii, in which quire vi uses paper of the group Piccard, Ochsenkopf, VII 452-54 (1461-73), and quire vii uses a distinct pair within the group Piccard, Ochsenkopf, VII 464-66 (1464-74), in both cases the quarto format precludes the crucial measurements that would enable a more exact dating, in quarto, early modern foliation in ink, top, outer corner, starting at 12, indicating the loss of initial quire of 12, in which first leaf, presumably left blank, would have been unfoliated and undertaken before cancellation of nine leaves as follows: 12-40, 46-67, 70-91 [first text begins imperfectly, remaining texts are complete] (collation i12 [beginning f. 12]ii12 iii10 [five foliated leaves cancelled after f. 40] iv12 v12 [two foliated leaves cancelled after f. 67] vi12 vii12 [-11 and 12, two leaves after f. 91, cancelled]), (I) ff. 12-40v, unruled (justification 105 x 160 mm.), written in a northern hybrida libraria/currens, normally on 32-34 long lines, with two-line initials in red throughout and occasional rubrics, (II) ff. 46, 47-48v and 49-67, unruled (justification c.80 x 150 mm.), written in a rounded hybrida currens, normally on 28-30 long lines, with rubrics and rubrication throughout, (III) ff. 70-91v, unruled (justification c.150 x 95 mm.), written in a regular cursiva libraria, normally on 24-26 long lines, with two- and three-line initials in red on f. 70 alone, lines and subsequent annotation throughout, book block in good condition, aside from cancelled leaves. CONTEMPORARY late 15th- or early 16th-century of blind-tooled brown leather over wooden boards (twelve binding stamps can be identified: EBDB s014376 [St Katharina], s014377 [agnus Dei], s014378 [Löwe], s014402 [Blumentopf], s014403 [Christus – Weltenrichter], s014405 [Lilie], s014409 [Rosette], s014410 [Rosette, on rear cover only], s014411 [Adler], s014412 [Laubstab], s014413 [Rosette] and s014417 [Blattwerk], the work of the Benedictine abbey of St Eucharius and St Matthias in Trier, EBDB w002187), sewn on four cords with endbands concealed by spine, ink traces of a twelfth-century script on the inside covers indicate parchment pastedowns have been removed, front flyleaf of modern paper, now detached, with table of contents in a nineteenth-century hand, fixing-points for a single metal clasp at front and rear. Dimensions 207 x 140 mm.

A product of the great Trier abbey of St. Eucharius and St. Matthias (and still in a contemporary binding from the abbey), this composite manuscript showcases the broad interests of these Benedictine monks.  A distillation of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae stands alongside the mystically inflected Speculum anime of Heinrich von Langenstein and the patristic inheritance of Augustine’s great treatise on the problem of evil, De natura boni.  Amongst these is a hidden gem: a sermon by the famed sixth-century Irish missionary Columbanus, a writer whose works simply do not come onto the market.


1. Copied and bound at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Eucharius and St. Matthias in Trier c. 1470. The manuscript is formed of three discrete fascicules, each copied by a separate scribe. All three, however, are exactly contemporaneous. The evidence of the paper stocks presented above allows a precise dating of the first two fascicules to c.1470, and (because the format of the book prohibits the crucial measurements necessary to make a more exact determination of the watermark type) a less precise dating of the third fascicule to the period c.1460-75. It is, consequently, quite possible that all three fascicules were copied in the same location, and the evidence strongly points towards the Benedictine abbey of St Eucharius and St Matthias in Trier. In the upper margin of f. 70, at the start of the third production unit, is an entirely erased ownership inscription, now legible only under ultraviolet light, which reads Item Codex Monasterii sancti Mathie apostoli sanctique Eucharii primi archiepiscopi treuerensis, followed by the number (a provisional shelfmark?) J 9. This abbey was also where the book was bound, as is proven by the identification of the tools used for the blind-stamp work.

The manuscript was consequently produced at the zenith of the religious and intellectual resurgence of St. Eucharius and St. Matthias in the second half of the fifteenth century. The reform of this ancient Benedictine abbey had been instigated by the installation of the austere Carthusian(!) prior Johannes Rode as abbot in 1421, who worked well beyond Trier in the years until his death in 1439 to further the cause of Benedictine reform. By 1452 the abbey had entered the Bursfelde reform congregation. It was above all in the mid- to late fifteenth century that a tremendous library was constructed, of which a virtual reconstruction has been attempted (see Online Resources below; for the institutional history see Becker, 1996, and on the library in this period especially pp. 86-96).

2. The library of St. Eucharius and St. Matthias was secularized in 1802 and, although a substantial quantity of the books remains in Trier libraries today, very many were sold and dispersed, not least in the troubled period between the closure of the convent in 1794 and its formal secularization eight years later.

3. The modern paper labels on the inside front cover, which bear the numbers 45. Ia. 45. and 105 respectively, along with the name Glick (?), attest to the repeated transfer of modern ownership. The manuscript was given its (eighteenth-century?) foliation prior to the loss of the entire first quire and the excision of ff. 41-45, 68-69 and 92-93, but the Latin table of contents pasted in at the front (now detached), which may well date to the period of the secularization, already indicates that the first quire was missing.

4. The manuscript resurfaces with certainty just once: it was offered for sale around 1900 by the antiquarian book dealer Jacques Rosenthal in Munich (Cat. XVII, p. 141, no. 2398).


I. ff. 12-40v, incipit, “//secundum hunc modum sola rationalis creatura deo coniuncta dicitur nos haberi ut utatur eius effectu uel ut sit particeps verbi dei ad cognoscendum uel amoris ad amandum libere deum et quia hoc propria virtute non possumus oportet … et Augustinus super genesim dicit omnes homines in adam fuisse secundum rationem seminalem et corpulentam substantiam praeter christum qui corpus a matre suscepit formatum non ex virili semine sed sancti spiritus operatione qui cum patre et eodem spiritu vnus deus est benedictus in secula amen,” explicit compendiata veritas questionum prime partis summe doctoris sancti thome de aquino;

Compendium of Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, pars prima, beginning incomplete through loss of first quire and commencing in the summary of Ia q. 38 a. 1, ending with Ia q. 119 a. 2. The enormous success of Aquinas’s Summa theologiae as a schoolbook from the mid-thirteenth century onwards generated the production of many cribs and distillations of the text, for the use of those who sought to grasp the essential principles of the work without following through or engaging with the underlying reasoning. In consequence, this compendium of the pars prima draws principally on the texts of Aquinas’s responsiones, in which he set out his conclusions, rather than the underlying argumentation, and presents those conclusions in a substantially compressed abridgement.

II. f. 46, text, “Contenta. Tractatus beati Augustini de instabilitate vite presentis. Item Speculum anime M. Henrici de Hassia”; [f. 45v, blank, with traces of text in an early modern (18th-century?) hand now complete erased];

ff. 47-48, Tractatus beati Augustini episcopi de instabilitate vite presentis, incipit, “O tu vita mortalis humana et fragilis quantos decepisti. quantos seduxisti. quantos excecasti. Que dum fugis nichil es. dum videris umbra es. dum exaltaris fumus es …  Donante domino nostro ihesu cristo. cui est honor et gloria. virtus ac potentas cum patre et spiritu sancto. in secula seculorum Amen,” Explicit tractatus breuis et pervtilis de instabilitate presentis vite etc. deo gracias; [f. 48v, blank];

Columbanus, Instructio V. The Irish monk Columbanus (c.540-615) is arguably most famous as the prototypical missionary of the Celtic church to Merovingian Francia, where he founded the abbeys of Luxeuil and of Bobbio (in northern Italy); Gallus, eponymous founder of St Gallen, was his disciple, and his biography, the Vita Columbani, was written at Bobbio after his death by the monk Jonas. Columbanus was also a significant Hiberno-Latin author in his own right. The full set of thirteen Instructiones, a sermon cycle, survives only in two early medieval manuscripts from Bobbio, but the fifth Instructio enjoyed a wider tradition as an independent text. It is a peroration on human life as an arduous journey towards the true life that is to come, a fitting subject for a missionary as widely travelled as Columbanus. Some twenty manuscripts are known; in this case, the text is attributed – unusually – to Augustine. The Instructiones are edited in PL, vol. 80, cols 229-60, and critically in Walker, Sancti Columbani Opera, pp. 60-121; their authenticity is firmly established by Stancliffe, 1997 (for a conspectus of the manuscript transmission and an English translation, see Online Resources below).

ff. 49-67, Incipit Speculum anime editum a Magistro Henrico de Hassya theologo Anno domini Mo ccco lxxxiiii vnde sit Anima Capitulum primum, incipit, “ANima mea Noui quod curiosa sis. Rimando que foris sunt et assidue de fenestris habitaculi tui cuncta que circa sunt conspicis. Faciem autem tuam raro et difficile contemplaris …  Intelligas rerum originem ordinem et te media earum mirifica in finem vltimum reduccionem Sit laus et gloria cristo Amen,” Explicit hic anime speculum quo te videt in se qui facit ut per te sistat requiescat et in te Amen”; [f. 67v are now blank, with traces of text in an early modern (18th-century?) hand, now wholly erased];

Heinrich von Langenstein, Speculum anime. In late 1382 the vice-chancellor of the University of Paris, Heinrich von Langenstein, was expelled from his institution; he had refused to declare for the Avignon Pope Clement VII in the Great Schism and insisted instead on a stance of neutrality prior to the summoning of an ecclesiastical council to resolve the matter. He spent the next two years in exile at the Cistercian abbey of Eberbach in the Rheingau, near Wiesbaden, and in the city of Worms, before he accepted a professorial chair at the recently founded University of Vienna in autumn 1384. It was in this period of exile and monastic seclusion that Heinrich became acquainted with mystical theology, and his Speculum anime, written in 1384, is the product of that unusual period of contemplative reading and reflection in the life of a late medieval academic careerist; he would go on to serve as Rector in Vienna in 1393-94 and died there in 1397. The Speculum anime was first published in 1507 by Johann Knobloch in Strasbourg, but has never received a modern edition and has barely been read, let alone studied (Hohmann, 1976, no. 12 [p. 402], with references; bio-bibliographical presentation in Hohmann and Kreuzer, 1981).

III. f. 70, Sentencia ex libro retractacionum augustini, incipit, “LIber de natura boni aduersum manicheos est vbi ostenditur naturam incommutabilem deum esse. ac summum bonum. atque ab illo esse ceteras naturas…”;

Augustine, Retractationes, c. 35 (lib. 2, c. 9); ed. Knöll, pp. 142-43. Augustine (on whom more below) wrote the Retractationes towards the end of his life, probably c. 426-28, and in which he reflected on (literally ‘re-treated’) the content of each of his literary works in sequence. Here the short section pertinent to the De natura boni has been excerpted as a companion piece to that work.

ff. 70-91v, Incipit liber beati augustini de natura boni contra manicheos, incipit, “SUmmum bonum quo superius non est. deus est. ac per hoc incommutabile binum est. Ideo vere eternum. et vere immortale. Cetera omnia bona. non nisi ab illo sunt. sed non de illo. De illo enim quod est… si ad tuam ineffabilem bonitatem saltem increpatiuis correpcionibus carnalis uite illecebris celestem uitam eternamque. preponant Amen”; Explicit liber beati augustini de natura boni.

Augustine, De natura boni. The De natura boni, written c. 399 by the greatest of the Latin church fathers, Augustine of Hippo (354-430), was the last of Augustine’s anti-Manichaean treatises and his most extensive and systematic statement on the problem of evil in opposition to the teachings of Mani, whose arguments he demonstrated to be contrary to Scripture and to reason. It is on account of Augustine’s early personal association with Manichaeanism, and the intensity and thoroughness with which he later came to reject the doctrine, that makes the De natura boni amongst the most significant late antique sources for our understanding of Manichaean principles. Where Mani and his followers understood good and evil as distinct principles, and the world as created evil, Augustine held all creation to be from God and thus in itself innately good: evil was to be explained as a rejection or corruption of good, and thus as sin or the result of sin. The standard edition of the Latin text is that of Zycha, 1892; for introduction and English translation, see Moon, 1955; Mendelson, 2018, offers a fine starting-point to understand Augustine’s contribution as philosopher and theologian.


Becker, Petrus. Die Benediktinerabtei St. Eucharius – St. Matthias vor Trier, Germania sacra N. F. 34. Das Erzbistum Trier 8, Berlin and New York, 1996.

Derolez, Albert. The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books: from the Twelfth to the Early Sixteenth Century, Cambridge Studies in Palaeography and Codicology 9, Cambridge, 2003.

Hohmann, Thomas. “Initienregister der Werke Heinrichs von Langenstein,” Traditio 32 (1976), pp. 399-426.

Hohmann, Thomas, and Georg Kreuzer. “Heinrich von Langenstein,” in 2Verfasserlexikon, vol. 3, 1981, cols 763-773.

Knöll, Pius, ed. Sancti Aureli Augustini opera: Retractationum libri duo, Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 36, Vienna and Leipzig, 1902.

Mendelson, Michael. “Saint Augustine,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 edition), ed. Edward N. Zalta 

Moon, A. Anthony. The De natura boni of Saint Augustine. A Translation with an Introduction and Commentary, Patristic Studies 88, Washington D. C., 1955.

Piccard, Gerhard. Die Wasserzeichenkartei Piccard im Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart, 17 vols, Stuttgart, 1961-97.

Rosenthal, Jacques. Bibliotheca Historico-ecclesiastica pars I: Jacobus Rosenthal, München, Katalog XVII, Munich, n. d. (1898?).

Stancliffe, Clare. “The Thirteen Sermons Attributed to Columbanus and the Question of their Authorship,” in Michael Lapidge, ed., Columbanus: Studies on the Latin Writings, Studies in Celtic History 17, Woodbridge, 1997, pp. 93-202.

Walker, G. S. M., ed., Sancti Columbani Opera, Scriptores latini hiberniae 2, Dublin, 1957.

Zycha, Josephus, ed. “S. Aureli Augustini de natura boni liber,” in idem, ed., S. Aureli Augustini opera: Contra Felicem. De natura boni […], Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 25/2 (Vienna, 1892), pp. 853-89.

Online Resources

Corpus of Electronic Texts: Sermons of Columbanus

Corpus Thomisticum: S. Thomae de Aquino Opera omnia

Einbanddatenbank (EBDB) https://www.beta.hist-einband.de/

Heinrich von Langenstein, Speculum anime (Johann Knobloch: Strasbourg, 1507)

Monastic Manuscript Project: Columbanus, Sermones/Instructiones

Virtuelles Skriptorium St. Matthias http://stmatthias.uni-trier.de/index.php

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