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MORAL AND THEOLOGICAL TREATISES written by the one-eyed scribe PETER MEGHEN for CHRISTOPHER URSWICK, Almoner to Henry VII, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
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MORAL AND THEOLOGICAL TREATISES written by the one-eyed scribe PETER MEGHEN for CHRISTOPHER URSWICK, Almoner to Henry VII, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM

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MORAL AND THEOLOGICAL TREATISES written by the one-eyed scribe PETER MEGHEN for CHRISTOPHER URSWICK, Almoner to Henry VII, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[probably London] 1502
215 x 135mm. 142ff: 1-98, 106, 11-188, COMPLETE, quire signatures in two sequences, gatherings 1-11 a-l, and 12-18 aa-gg, catchwords in inner margin of final versos, original foliation in red i-clii but skipping from 89 to 100, followed here, 20 lines in
humanistica on 20 horizontals and between two verticals ruled in brown, text justification: 140 x 80mm, rubrics and foliation in red, HISTORIATED INITIAL AND FULL-PAGE BORDER on opening folio,
SEVEN LARGE AND 22 SMALL ILLUMINATED INITIALS, some with sprays into the margin (rubbing to opening initial, arms in lower border
oxidised). 19th-century panelled calf stamped in blind (spine faded, extremities rubbed).

NEWLY DISCOVERED MANUSCRIPT WITNESS OF TUDOR HUMANISM

PROVENANCE:
Written for Christopher Urswick (1448?-1522), courtier, diplomat and ecclesiastic: his coat of arms in the lower border of f.1, ownership inscription and abbreviated motto MÎA (Misericordia) on f.39v, his autograph side-notes on ff.8-25. Urswick's career first flourished under the patronage of Lady Margaret Beaufort, and he went on to serve her son both before and after he became King Henry VII. Urswick travelled widely on diplomatic missions and held a succession of clerical positions before November 1502 when he took the living of St Augustine's, Hackney, Middlesex, where he remained in semi-retirement until his death. Urswick knew both Polydore Vergil and Erasmus and was part of the circle of Tudor humanists that included John Colet and Sir Thomas More; it was probably through them that he first met Erasmus, who included Urswick among his English dedicatees.

The colophon (f.142v) records that the book was written in 1502 at Urswick's expense when he was a dean of Windsor by 'Petrus Meghen monoculus' of 's-Hertogenbosch in Brabant. This famous one-eyed scribe and suspected spy, called 'Cyclops' by Erasmus whom he served as a courier between 1511 and 1519, first appears in England copying books for Urswick who was, along with Colet his most consistent early employer. The present manuscript pushes back by a year the known date of his English career. His courier trips for Erasmus and Sir Thomas More seem to have stopped in 1519. In the 1520s his patrons included Cardinal Wolsey and he went on to become Writer of the King's Books and served Henry VIII in this capacity until his death in 1537. Around thirty manuscripts, all in Latin and mostly written in the upright humanistic hand of the present manuscript have previously been identified as his: J.B. Trapp, 'Notes on Manuscripts Written by Peter Meghen', Book Collector, 24 (1975), pp.80-96.

By the middle of the 19th century the manuscript was at Newton Hall, Northumberland.

CONTENT:
Baldwin of Exeter (or Ford), Archbishop of Canterbury (d.1190), Tractatus de Sacramento Corpus Christi ff.1-26; attributed here to Petrarch (now believed to be by Nicholas of Cusa), De vera sapientia, dialogue i ff.27-39v, dialogue ii ff.40-50v; Niccolò Perotti (1429-80), De Invidia, his translation of Basil the Great's homily on envy with a preface addressed to Pope Nicholas V ff.51-63; idem, De invidia et odio, his translation of Plutarch on envy and hate with a preface addressed to Nicholas V ff.63v-68v; idem, De fortuna virtute ve nominum: ad Nicolaum quintum pontificem maximum ff.69-73v; St Ambrose epistle lxvii to Simplician PL, XVI, 1222-1228, ff.74-79v; Leonardo di Utino O.P. (d.1470), Ex sermonibus quadragesimalibus: Sermone de correctione fraterna ff.80-86v; attributed here to Simon Islip (c.1300-66), Archbishop of Canterbury (now recognised as the work of the canon lawyer and theologian, William Pagula, d.1332), Speculum regis Edwardi tercii ff.87-148; St Augustine, de tenenda obedientia et evitanda superbia, PL, 40, 1221-1224, ff.148-152.

This interesting selection of texts provides further, and unexpected, insight into the concerns of Urswick and his circle. This compilation reflects perfectly Trapp's characterisation of Urswick's reading as showing his preoccupation with the maintenance of private and public morality and the protection of the church from secular interference: J.B. Trapp, 'Christopher Urswick and his Books; The Reading of Henry VII's almoner', Renaissance Studies, I, 1 (1987), pp.48-70.

The longest, and most thought-provoking inclusion is the Speculum regis originally addressed to Edward III and remonstrating with him for the demands he made on his subjects, defending their rights and calling on him to restrict his expenditure, pay his debts and care for the churches and poor of his realm. This treatise, though long attributed to Simon Islip, as here, is now recognised as the work of the canon lawyer and theologian, William Pagula (d.1332). It had been thought that the only classical text copied by Meghen for Urswick was the Cicero De officis of 1503 (Rouen, Bibl. mun, Ms 929) and the only Italian humanist texts the volume with Bruni's De bello punico and Enea Silvio Piccolomini's Historia Bohemica (Princeton Univ. Lib., Ms 89).
The inclusion in the present volume of the translations by Perotti, humanist and secretary to Bessarion, and the works attributed to Petrarch changes this view. The de vita sapientia is now usually removed from Petrarch's oeuvre and associated with Nicholas of Cusa but it appeared as the poet's in two independent incunables (Zwolle, 1487-88 and Cologne 1499) and in further collected editions of his Latin works, as Basel 1499. R. Coogan, 'Petrarch's Latin Prose and the English Renaissance', Studies in Philology, 1971, pp.271-290.

ILLUMINATION:
The initials and borders are painted in a northern Netherlandish style that is given the group name of Masters of the Dark Eyes: J. Marrow, H. Defoer, A. Korteweg and W. Wüstefeld, The Golden Age of Dutch Manuscript Painting, 1990, pp.285-88 and more recently Klara Broekhuijsen, The Masters of the Dark Eyes 2009. While most of these artists were active in the County of Holland, the illuminator of the present manuscript is known for his work in England in the first two decades of the 16th century (see the copy of The Orchard of Syon printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1519, sold in these rooms 13 June 2002, lot 17) most relevantly in other manuscripts written by Meghen for Urswick such as BL, Burney 290 and the Psalter presented to Hayles Abbey (Wells, Cathedral Lib.). The present manuscript adds to the understanding not only of Urswick's intellectual interests and his employment of Meghen but also of the early activity in England of the Netherlandish scribe and of a Netherlandish illuminator.
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