Manuscripts

Biblical Paraphrase by Peter the Eater

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Petrus Comestor, Historia Scholastica. Single folio on vellum. Southeastern France or Switzerland, ca. 1300: 435 mm x 338 mm (justification, 285 mm x 212 mm). Double column, 30 lines. Prickings visible at outer edges indicate that the leaf has not been cut down. The size could only mean that the parent manuscript was intended for public reading, probably in a monastic refectory. Text: Petrus Comestor (d. 1178) studied at the cathedral school of Troyes and later under Peter Abelard in Paris. He became dean of the cathedral of Troyes in 1147 but returned to Paris to serve as chancellor of the cathedral of Notre Dame by 1160. In this role he was responsible for the cathedral school. His best-known work was the Historia Scholastica, a biblical paraphrase in prose completed by 1173. Peter’s innovation was to integrate large swathes of the Glossa Ordinaria in his text. Highly popular in the thirteenth century, biblical paraphrases in verse and prose were genres that made Scripture and theology accessible, but the Historia scholastica took things to the next level. The work was so popular it was translated into Armenian and became the source of bible translations in Old French. Contents: Our edition is: from I Maccabees on Alexander the Great (cap. 5, p. 522), Ptolemy I Sotor (cap. 6, p. 523), Ptolemy Philadelphus (cap. 7, p. 523-24). Decoration: three alternating red and blue initials with ornate contrasting penwork decoration extending into the margins; running heads in alternating red and blue capitals; capitals touched in red; rubricated. Provenance:1. Inscriptions on the verso record that the folio was used in 1567 as the binding of a “Registrum frumentorum,” an account of wheat production for an estate or community. The Registrum was prepared by one Antonius Freissen, who is identified as a “canonico.” The word “commiss<…>” has been added in a different ink, and while it may indicate “comesianorum” (Gams in the west) or “gomesianorum” (Goms in the southeast), neither seems certain. However, the German name Friessen and the southern French script style suggest that Switzerland is definitely a likely region of origin. 2. Acquired from a European private collector in 2018 by Roger Martin of Grimsby, UK (d. 2020). This fragment has a UK export license allowing permanent export. Condition: quite worn from being used as a cover, with some folds causing discoloration on the verso and very thin, delicate vellum occasionally holed through; some stains and soiling; cockled overall.

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