PSEUDO ANSELM, Passio domini nostri Ihesu Christi and WALTER HILTON (c.1343-1396), Contemplationis libri duo, in Latin, DECORATED MANUSCRIPT ON PAPER
[Italy], 6 April 1510
207 x 155mm. i + 150 + i leaves: 17(6 + vii), 2-316, 4-514, 612, 716, 820, 9-1012, 1111(of 16, the last 5 cancelled blanks), COMPLETE, most quires with catchwords, some vertical, 27 lines written in brown ink in a semi-cursive humanistic bookhand, between two verticals ruled in plummet and 28 horizontals ruled in ink, apparently ruled with a 13-nibbed ruling instrument (see e.g. ff.64, 149v), justification: 140 x 105mm, rubrics in pink, capitals touched pink, paraph marks in pink, one large initial in pink and one in red (f.1), spaces for the others (some staining, worming, and natural corrosion, but generally in good condition throughout). Italian 19th-century half cream vellum and marbled paper over pasteboards, the spine with brown and green title-pieces lettered in gilt 'PASSIO D.N.J.C. A VIRG. MAR. REVELATA ALIA INEDI' and 'MSS. CARTACEO'.
The manuscript is dated by the scribe at the end of the text: 'Et finem dedi huius scriptionis anno 1510 mense aprilis die 6a per graciam domini nostri yhesu christi' (f.150v). Although the writer was more than competent as a scribe, it may have been written for his own use, as the varying sizes of quires suggests that it was not a 'professional' production. It was annotated by readers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and inscribed, presumably in 1609: 'Hoc vere est de bonis christianis: haec F.C.P.O.M.d.S.O. MDCIX' (f.72v, lower margin, upside-down). Former shelfmark 'C.13' crossed-through (f.8). A 17th(?)-century ownership inscription is effaced but partially legible, and perhaps reads 'Co(n)v(en)tus SSae Nunciatae Caesenae C.6.' (f.8): the final word before the shelf-mark appears to begin with a 'C', followed by an e-caudata for 'ae', and then 'se' before a two or three more uncertain letters; Graesse and Cottineau provide no more likely candidate than Cesena, whose old Latin name was Caesena. HSA, MS B1326 (Faulhaber, pp.27-8, and pl.25).
Written in two sections: the first quire of seven leaves contains Pseudo-Anselm, Dialogus beatae Mariae et Anselmi de Passioni domini, here headed 'incipit passio D[omi]ni n[ost]ri yh[es]u [Christ]i qua[m] dulcissima Virgo maria Beato Anselmo ca[n]tuariensi archiep[iscop]o revelavit', which is in the form of a dialogue between St Anselm (d.1109) and the Virgin Mary (printed by Migne, PL, 159, cols. 271A-288B (ff.1-7v). The patterns of worming, and the ownership inscription placed on f.8, show that this and the following text have been reversed in the volume.
The great majority of the volume (ff. 8-150v), contains a text headed 'Incipit duo libri Contemplationis Magistri Vualteri Hylton canonici regularis, Viri valde contemplativi, Quos scripsit sorori sue incluse, Cu[m] additionibus mult[is] ex libris seraphici Bonaventure ad maiorem roborationem': a Latin translation of Walter Hilton's Ladder of Perfection. Hilton (c.1343-1396) probably studied law at Cambridge, before becoming a hermit, and c.1386 an Augustinian canon at Thurgarton Priory, Nottinghamshire. He originally wrote the Ladder in English for women leading the life of an achoress, but it achieved a popularity and audience far beyond that ever envisioned by Hilton: it became one of the most popular spiritual works of late medieval England, was translated into Latin, and was first printed by Wynken de Worde in 1494.It is not clear whether this is a copy of the normal Latin translation, made before 1400 by the Carmelite Thomas Fishlake, of which 14 manuscripts are known (see S.S. Hussey, 'Latin and English in the Scale of Perfection', Mediaeval Studies 35 (1973), pp.456-76) or another, unique translation, presumably made directly from a Middle English manuscript and therefore potentially a witness to a lost English text. The texts, rubrics, and chapter divisions differ from those recorded by Ker for the manuscript in York Minster (Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, 4 (1992), pp.725-6): most obviously the opening sentence has been changed to address a son ('Dilecte fili mi') instead of a sister ('Dilecta soror'), the mention of Bonaventura in the opening rubric is new, and the division of Book I into 50 (ff.8-43) + 32 (ff.43-70) chapters contrasts with the York manuscript's undivided chapters.
According to the Schoenberg database, no manuscript of Hilton, in any language, has appeared for sale since 1972.