Select Medieval Manuscript Books
King Alfred’s Notebook Select features carefully curated medieval manuscript books.
If you’re interested in a particular manuscript, please contact us for a detailed description and link to images.
Complete Early 15th-Century Italian Translation of De re rustica on Agricultural Science by the Roman Author Palladius in a Contemporary Binding of Limp Vellum, with an “Expositioni de vochaboli di Palladio,” and a Sonnet
SOLE COPY IN NORTH AMERICA
Palladius (Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus Palladius), De re rustica. 46 fols. on paper, complete. Central Italy, probably Tuscany, early 15th century: 295 mm x 225 mm.
Immensely popular because of Palladius’ stature as a Roman authority on agriculture, De re rustica was translated into Italian on three occasions. Our manuscript preserves the oldest of these translations, a probable descendant of Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana MS Ricc. 2238. It is one of eleven copies, none of which resides in North America, and includes a rare sonnet in praise of Palladius which only appears in the Riccardianus copy and in two other witnesses. Doubtless intended as a field manual of practical agronomy, this vernacular version documents an ongoing interest in the agricultural science of the classical period.Enquire
Superb Humanist Compilation of Four Greek Texts on Teaching the Classics in Latin Translations by Leonardo Bruni and Guarino of Verona, Copied in Genoa by Giovanni di Logia and Dated 1439
Anthology of Works on Teaching the Classics. St. Basil, De liberalibus studiis (trans. Leonardo Bruni); Plutarch, Vita Marci Antonii (trans. Leonardo Bruni); Pseudo-Plutarch, De liberis educandis (trans. Guarino of Verona); Xenophon, Hiero (trans. Leonardo Bruni). 64 folios on paper, complete. Italy, Genoa (by colophon), dated 1439: 268 mm x 195 mm.
A humanist manuscript compiled and copied during the lifetimes of the most famous Italian humanist translators of Greek texts: Leonardo Bruni (sometimes called Leonardo Aretino, d. 1444) and Guarino Veronese (of Verona, d. 1460). Both Bruni and Guarino learned Greek from Manuel Chrysoloras, Bruni in Florence, ca. 1397-1400, Guarino in Constantinople, ca. 1403 to 1408/9. It was an exhilarating novelty at the time.
This remarkable compilation made four famous Greek texts on education accessible to Westerners. Bruni began translating Greek authors soon after concluding his studies with Chrysoloras. He began with the epistle of St. Basil on teaching the classics to the young and continued with the Hiero of Xenophon.
The choice of texts in our manuscript may be traceable to a debate between Bruni and Coluccio Salutati (d. 1406) on tyrants and the Republic. In Xenophon’s work, the tyrant Hiero states that he is no happier than a commoner, and Bruni used the work to defend Republican principles. Since Coluccio served (like Bruni) as chancellor of the Florentine Republic and invited Chrysoloras to teach Greek, this translation has meaningful historical intersections. Not only did the work preserve moral lessons for the youth of Renaissance Italy, but it also publicized the teaching of Latin and Greek to children and promoted the pagan classics for moral instruction. The other three texts in this anthology correspondingly reflect the profit a Christian could draw from the pagan Greece. These writings became standard in the humanist curriculum of Renaissance Italy. De liberalibus studiis, De liberis educandis, and the Hiero already circulated together in the 1474/1475 Padua edition of Xenophon and in a later anthology, undated but probably Florence, 1496.Enquire
Apparently Unique and Unpublished Text on the Passion
SOLE COPY IN NORTH AMERICA
Anonymous, Materia passionis domini. 30 fols. on paper, complete. Germany, probably Hildesheim, apparently dated 1495: 310 mm × 215 mm.
Theological study and the articulation of dogma in a scholastic mode remained important components of Benedictine spirituality. A monk clearly labored over this text, which seems unique, as a personal contribution to the theological debates of his day. The work probably had a practical application in preaching during Lent or Easter.Enquire
Cardinal Francesco Zabarella, Commentarius in V libros Decretalium: Massive Manuscript in Original Condition on Book IV of the Decretals, “De matrimonio,” with Diagrams of Consanguinity and Affinity
SOLE COPY IN NORTH AMERICA
Francesco Zabarella, Book IV “De matrimonio” of the Commentarius in quinque libros Decretalium. 246 folios on thick paper and vellum, complete. This manuscript has the heft of a phone book. Northeastern France or Flanders, early 15th century, probably ca. 1405-1415.
Francesco Zabarella (d. 1417) was the most famous canonist of his day, and this volume represents his major work, a commentary on the Decretals penned over a period of eight years, from 1396-1404. Our volume on marriage is the fourth book of the Commentarius, and covers the subject of marriage in minute detail. It highlights the legal and religious attitudes of the medieval Church on intimate behaviors, such as fornication, infidelity, impotence, incest, bigamy, and illegitimacy.Enquire
Interpreting the Abbreviations of Civil and Canon Law Manuals by Werner Von Schussenried
Werner von Schussenried, De modo legendi abbreviaturas in utroque iure. 44 folios on paper, complete. Germany, possibly Saxony, ca. 1450-1475: 285 mm x 195 mm.
This fifteenth-century manuscript contains a treatise on reading the abbreviations of civil and canon law. Werner was identified as the author in 1911, when it was observed that the section De decreto versificato (fols. 18r-22r in our manuscript) incorporates an acrostic yielding his name, birthplace, and profession.Enquire
Gerhardus de Monte, Commentary on De Ente Et Essentia by Thomas Aquinas; Philosophical Works Attributed to Thomas Aquinas; Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea in the Latin Translation of Robert Grosseteste
Gerhardus de Monte, Commentary on De ente et essentia by Thomas Aquinas; Fourteen anonymous philosophical works often attributed to Aquinas; Aristotles Latinus, Nicomachean Ethics, in the Latin translation of Robert Grosseteste. 102 fols. on paper, incomplete. Germany, ca. 1450-1475: 295 mm x 200 mm.
This exceptionally rare fifteenth-century theological text stands as an example of the continued cultural importance of Thomas Aquinas in German lands at the very end of the Middle Ages and into the modern period. There are no copies in North America.Enquire
Legal Miscellany, ca. 1400, in Original Condition with Three Rare Texts on Canon and Civil Law
Anthology of Three Legal Texts: 1. Castellanus filius Nicolai de Bonarellis [de Bononia], Arbor syllogistica; 2. Anon., Liber propositionum; 3. Anon., Commentary on Justinian’s Digestum novum. 160 fols. on paper, complete as copied. Italy, doubtless Bologna, ca. 1400: 313 mm x 215 mm.
This anthology of three rare legal texts was almost certainly compiled in Bologna at the turn of the fifteenth-century. Since the university in Bologna was a major European center of legal study, this compilation could arguably have belonged to a doctor of canon and civil law lecturing there. The obscurity of these encyclopedic works perhaps explains their theoretical interest to a professor, but a practitioner might also benefit from their utilitarian approach to the law.