fol. 61v-62r, Ecclesiastes 9-10
[Sapiential Books, with glosses. Latin]. [France, thirteenth-century manuscript].
Manuscript on vellum. Folio. 180 leaves, 13¼ x 9½ inches. Generally about 50 lines. Black and brown ink, red and blue initials. Bound in modern leather. § CD-ROM: 11.1, fol. 1r; 11.1, fol. 102v103r.
This manuscript contains the "Sapiential" Books of the Bible, pertaining to the wisdom of God: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus. Produced in France early in the thirteenth century, it consists of 180 vellum leaves illuminated with red and blue initials, paragraph markings and chapter numbers. The gothic scripts of the biblical text, glossa ordinaria, interlinear gloss, and marginal commentary are written in various sizes by at least four different hands.
In the exhibited opening, we see the close of the commentary on Ecclesiastes 9 and the beginning of chapter ten (61v62r). On the left, the biblical text appears in large script, with smaller interlinear notations by at least two different hands, with fixed and ruled spaces left for the smaller text of the glossa ordinaria. A great bulk of additional commentary fills the margins on all four sides. On the right, the beginning of Ecclesiastes 10 is marked in the margin with the roman numeral "X" in blue (and repeated in red and black), and the text is again crowded by the gloss and marginal commentary.
The format found in this manuscript is similar to that in a contemporary manuscript of the glossed Sapiential Books in the Houghton Library at Harvard University (fMS Lat 6). The parchment in both manuscripts is ruled faintly across three columns of approximately fifty lines, and the scribes copied the biblical text in large script on alternating lines and the gloss in smaller script on every line. This "alternate-line" format in glossed Bible manuscripts reflects the great care, skill, and forethought found in medieval book design.
The chapter numbers that appear in this manuscript are among the earliest examples of the division of the Bible into chapters, a widely adopted practice which probably was introduced by Archbishop Stephen Langton of Canterbury in the early thirteenth century. This innovation, one of the rare instances in which Latin scholarship also affected the format of the Greek Bible of the Eastern Church and the Talmud, was attributed to Langton by no less an authority than Ranulf Higden ( 1364) in his Polycronicon, a history of the world printed in English in 1495: "Stephen ye archebysshop . . . quoted ye Byble at Parys. and marked ye chapters" (Higden 1495, 302v).
A note on the final page in fifteenth-century script sheds light upon the manuscripts provenance from the Cistercian Abbey of Royaumont in the diocese of Beauvais, France: "This book was acquired by brother Gille de Roye, Abbey of Royaumont, from Jehan Guymier, library of Paris, by exchange made with him of four books of Kings and of Luke and John, glossed, which were duplicates in the library of Royaumont. Done the month of February in the year 1458." Early in this century, the manuscript belonged to Sydney Cockerell (18671962), famous book collector, printer, and director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England.
Of particular beauty in this manuscript are the large red and blue initials that introduce each of the books. Perhaps the most impressive of these is the elegant capital "P" that begins the words "Parabole salomonis" at the beginning of the Book of Proverbs on the first page of the manuscript. Comprised of interlocked cusps in the body and stem, filled with elaborate spirals and sprouting calligraphic tendrils, it commands the readers attention, marks the beginning of the text, and clarifies the format of the entire page.
Literature: De Hamel 1984, 2327; Higden 1495, 302v; Light 1988, 99101.