MARTIN OF TROPPAU (Martin of Opava, Martinus Polonus, d.1278), Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum, in Latin, MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
MARTIN OF TROPPAU (Martin of Opava, Martinus Polonus, d.1278), Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum, in Latin, MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM

MARTIN OF TROPPAU (Martin of Opava, Martinus Polonus, d.1278), Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum, in Latin, MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[England, late 14th century]280 x 188mm. iii + 44 leaves: 1-312, 48 including final leaf ruled but otherwise blank, COMPLETE, though from index on lifted medieval pastedown clearly once bound with a collection of medical and scientific treatises, two columns of up to 46 lines of cursive
anglicana script, written and ruled in brown, prickings survive, decorated initials not supplied (some minor spotting and staining, tear in lower margin of f.19 extending into two lines of text). English 17th-century speckled calf gilt with tan morocco lettering pieces
(rubbing to extremities, split at head of spine).

Henry Gunwardby, who belonged to the convent of the Friars Hermits of the Order of St Augustine in Oxford, where he presumably acquired the book before moving to their London house in 1390. Contemporary marginalia draw attention to passages concerning the sending of St Dominic and the bishop of Oxford to preach against the Cathar heretics (f.39), and St Clare 'ordinis sancti Damiani et Francisci' (f.39v). Other marginalia suggest an interest in the Schools of Paris, mentioning Hugh of St-Victor, Gratian's Decretals, and Richard of St-Victor (ff.36, 37). The contemporary table of contents on the lifted medieval pastedown (f.i verso) lists 10 items, but a 17th-century inscription below noted that by then the manuscript only contained the first item, the Chronicle. In fact most of the others -- medical and scientific treatises -- are now bound separately in a companion volume recently acquired by the Bodleian Library, MS. Lawn 22. This part has the ownership inscription of Gunwardby; on Gunwardby see Emden, Biographical Register Oxford, ii, p. 838, and F. Roth, The English Austin Friars, 1966, p.245; both parts of the manuscript are recorded in Ker, Medieval Libraries of Great Britain, 1964, p.125. The first two vellum leaves have holes, copper-staining, and indentations apparently of a chain-staple, suggesting that the volume was bequeathed to the order's house and chained in their library.

Both parts, perhaps still bound together, were acquired by Sir Lionel Tollemache (d.1612) of Helmingham Hall, Suffolk, or a member of his family (as were many other monastic manuscripts, see Edwards and Griffiths, 'The Tollemache Collection of Medieval manuscripts', The Book Collector, 49, 2000, pp. 349-64), and both have the ink-stamped arms of the Earl of Dysart, probably Sir Lionel Tollemache (1708-1770), the 4th Earl and 5th baronet.

ff.1-43v Heading: '[I]ncipit cronica fratris Martini ordinis fratrum predicatorum domini pape capellani et penitenciari'; prologue: 'Quoniam scire tempora summorum pontificum ac imperatorum ...'; main text concerning biblical history: 'Primo dicendum est de quatuor regnis maioribus '; followed by the chronicles of popes and emperors beginning respectively on ff.7v and 8; the chronicle of the emperors ending at f. 42: '... ad propria cum gaudio remeavit. Explicit de imperatoribus'; the chronicle of popes continuing to f.43v and ending '... et in ecclesia sancti Petri iuxta sepulchrum Nicholaii tercii sepelitur. Explicit cronice deo gracias'.
Martin of Troppau (also known as Martinus Polonus or Martinus Oppaviensis) was a Dominican friar and chaplain to Pope Nicholas III, who was probably born in Troppau, Silesia, in the early 13th century. He died in 1278 in Bologna on his way to assume his see as archbishop of Gnesen. His chronicle was hugely popular and influential in the Middle Ages: it is estimated that more than 425 Latin manuscripts survive, as well as translations into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Czech, and English. It was used by other late-medieval chroniclers including Nicholas Trevet and Ranulf Higden, and was one of the earliest printed books. Martin's value as a historian is questionable, but 'the force of his popularity meant that he largely determined what late medieval readers knew, or thought they knew, about their papal and imperial history' (D.Embree, The Chronicles of Rome, 1999, p.2).

Martin's work is also of enduring importance for its revolutionary method of structuring knowledge, and as a landmark in the history of book-design. He conceived the text so that it would be written on leaves ruled for fifty lines of text per page, each page covering a fifty-year period of history, with each pope allocated one line per year of their reign, written on the versos, and each facing recto with accounts of contemporary temporal rulers. The approach was so new and sophisticated that many scribes failed to appreciate its method, making their copies on pages with a different number of lines per page, or allowing the accounts of emperors and popes to fall out of step with one another.

The present manuscript contains the final recension of Martin's chronicle made during his lifetime (and includes the passage about the legendary female Pope Joan on f.28v), which he continued to the year 1272 for the Emperors and 1277 for the Popes, his own text therefore ending at ff. 42 and 40v respectively. To this has been added by the original scribe a further continuation of the Popes to the burial of Honorius IV in 1287.

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