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    Sale 7548

    Valuable Manuscripts and Printed Books

    12 November 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 26

    POPE BONIFACE VIII (c.1235-1303), Liber sextus decretalium; Constitutiones clementinae; etc., in Latin, DECORATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM

    Price Realised  


    POPE BONIFACE VIII (c.1235-1303), Liber sextus decretalium; Constitutiones clementinae; etc., in Latin, DECORATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
    [France, Paris, ?mid-14th century]
    275 x 185mm. iii paper + 96 vellum + iii paper leaves: 110, 2-712, 88, 96(of 6, iii and vi singletons) quire 9 a medieval addition including three endleaves, two with inscriptions, one palimpsest, catchwords, leaf signatures survive in the first few quires, 18th(?)-century ink foliation (except for the first 23 leaves whose upper right corners are damaged and are therefore re-foliated in modern pencil in the fore-edge margin), two columns of 45 lines written in brown ink in a gothic bookhand, between four verticals and 46 horizontals ruled in plummet, justification: 195 x 133mm, rubrics in red, guides for the rubricator frequently survive in neat small cursive script in the lower margin, capitals touched red, one-line initials and letters of running headings alternately red or blue, two-line initials alternately red with blue penwork flourishing, or vice versa, six-line puzzle initial in red and blue with red and blue flourishing at the start of the text, similar three- and four-line initials at the start of other sections (ff.22v, 35, 35v, 59v, 62, 66v, 73, 85), and an eleven-line 'I' (f.59); the added texts on ff.90-92v written in a neat bâtarde script with 41 long lines between four verticals and 42 horizontals ruled in plummet; the added table on f.93r-v written in two columns of about 46 lines between four verticals ruled in plummet (upper margin of the first 27 leaves with decreasing amounts of damage from extinct mould, not affecting text except for some running headings, the last five vellum leaves similarly damaged, slightly affecting some added text, the first leaf slightly damaged at the lower and fore-edges, two one-line initials lost through corrosion of the pigments on ff.1v and 2). 18th-century Italian half brown sheep and patterned paper over pasteboards, the spine lettered in gilt 'XXXI LIBR DECR MS.' (scuffed).


    1. Although written in the eminently legible round gothic script so typical of law books from Bologna that it was known in the Middle Ages as littera bononiensis, this manuscript was written north of the Alps, doubtless in Paris, as suggested by the northern vellum, the gatherings of twelve leaves (Italian law-books are usually written on gatherings of eight or ten leaves), the decoration, details of the script (such as the form of the tironian 'et' symbol, like a crossed '7', not used in Italy), and especially the mention of Paris on ff.1 and 59. A 14th- or 15th-century inscription includes '...sexti et clementinarum...' (f.1, lower margin). Still in France when texts were added on ff.89-93v.

    2. Perhaps from the Dominican convent of San Domenico, Gaeta (see lot 16): bound uniformly with the manuscript from Gaeta (lot 22) and eleven others and similarly inscribed: 'Decretalium sextus liber bonifacii' and 'C 6' (f.1, lower margin), in pencil 'Foglie # 100 Miniature # 7' and in ink 'Foglie No 100 Iniziali # 7 Segnato NAP' (end pastedown); similar brief 19th-century description in French loosely inserted.

    3. HSA, B2565; Faulhaber, pp.127-8, 136-7, 141-2, 149-50, 190, 657.


    Decretals are papal letters issued in response to requests for clarification on points of Canon Law; this volume is a compilation of the decretal collections that were compiled in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The Liber sextus decretalium (ff.1-53v) was commissioned by Pope Boniface VIII and sent out to the universities in 1298, requiring it to be used in the teaching of Canon Law. It was known as the Liber sextus, or Sext, because it supplements the five books of Gregory IX's Decretals, which had been promulgated in 1234. In its opening sentence this copy is addressed to the doctors and scholars of Paris University ('...doctoribus et scolaribus universis Parisius...', f.1, lines 4-5). Decretals not included in the official compilations, and yet obligatory upon the whole Church, were known as 'Extravagantes'; the Decretales extravagantes of Boniface VIII are here added immediately after his official collection (ff.53v-59).

    The Constitutiones clementinae (ff.59v-81v) (sometimes known as the Liber septimus decretalium, and in the present manuscript with the running heading 'VII'), was compiled under Pope Clement V, but published after his death by Pope John XXII in 1317; it is here preceded by John's introductory letter (f.59r-v), again addressed to the doctors and scholars of Paris in its opening sentence, and followed by the extravagantes of Clement, including those from the Council of Vienne in 1311-12 (ff.81v-83). These are followed by the extravagantes of Popes Martin IV (ff.83-85v), and John XXII (d.1334) (ff.85v-89).

    At the end of the text, and on subsequent pages originally left blank, 15th-century hands added an anonymous piece beginning 'In vita bonorum et optimorum primo Ethicorum...' (f.89r-v), a Declaratio constitutionis 'Execrabilis' of John XXII (ff.90-92v), and an alphabetical subject index to the Liber sextus (f.93r-v).

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