RICHARD ROLLE (d.1349), De Emendatione Vitae; WALTER HILTON (d.1396), translated by THOMAS FISHLAKE, Scala Perfectionis; and other texts, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
280 x 205mm., iii + 151 + iii leaves, 14, 2-208, 214, COMPLETE, the first and last gathering are medieval flyleaves of which the first and last leaf are pastedowns, ff.29-31v, 34v, and 37-39v are ruled, otherwise blank, leaf signatures throughout in three series: [a]-'d' in gatherings 2-5, '+' in gathering 6 (ff.32-39), and 'a'-'o' in gatherings 7-20, the original leaf-size apparently preserved with prickings surviving in all three outer margins, 34 lines written in brown ink in a fine anglicana script between two verticals and 35 horizontals ruled in pale brown, justification: 170-5 x 120 mm, TWO FULL-PAGE BORDERS OF STYLIZED AND SEMI-NATURALISTIC LEAVES, FRUIT, AND LEAFY SPRAYS accompanied by three-line foliate initials on a gold ground (ff.1, 40), THREE SIMILAR THREE-SIDED BORDERS (ff.32, 35, 92v), four- and five-line initials in gold on a ground of blue and red with white ornament and leafy sprays extending into the margin (ff.20v, 90v, 92v), one three-line foliate initial on a gold ground with extensions forming a two-sided border (f.81), two-line and three-line initials alternately in gold with blue penwork, or blue with red penwork, usually forming reserved leafy designs within the body of the initial and extending up and down the left margin, one- to six-line paraphs in the text and margins alternately gold with blue penwork or blue with red penwork, marginalia by a few neat 15th-century hands. CONTEMPORARY BINDING: sewn on six double alum-tawed bands and bound in white 'doeskin' over oak boards with cushioned edges, the remains of two clasps at the fore-edge of the upper board each held in place by two nails, corresponding pin-holes in the middle of the lower board, inscribed on the lower edge of the leaves 'hylton' in a medieval hand (indicating storage flat on a shelf with the front cover face down and the lower edge facing outwards), the centre of the upper cover inscribed in a 19th(?)-century hand with a large capital 'E' above the letters 'WB' (i.e. Walker-Button archive) (the covering material partly defective and with considerable wear and staining, the spine and lower joint reinforced with brown morocco). Cloth-covered box with leather title-piece.
FINELY WRITTEN AND ELEGANTLY ILLUMINATED, A UNIQUE COMPILATION OF TEXTS AND TRANSLATIONS MAINLY BY TWO OF THE MOST IMPORTANT FOURTEENH-CENTURY ENGLISH MYSTICAL AUTHORS, IN EXCELLENT CONDITION, IN ITS ORIGINAL MEDIEVAL BINDING, WITH A DISTINGUISHED UNBROKEN PROVENANCE FROM BEFORE 1540, NEVER BEFORE OFFERED FOR SALE
Written and decorated probably by a professional London scribe and illuminator, to judge by the high quality of script and decoration --'unlike most copies of Rolle's work it is a handsome volume', observes Allen. The scribe (or the scribe of his exemplar) must have 'had as many as four works of Rolle at his disposal. His erratic jumps from one text and from one portion to another are, to say the least, peculiar. They suggest the method of the author of a longer compilation which exists in several copies of interesting provenance' (Allen, p.45). Allen is here referring to a compilation known as De excellentia contemplationis, which she speculates may have been compiled by Rolle himself, or if not, was perhaps put together at Syon Abbey, perhaps by Rolle's 'intimate disciple', William Stopes, to whom the Emendatio vitae may have been dedicated (Allen, pp.320-33, 230).
THE MANUSCRIPT HAS AN UNBROKEN PROVENANCE WITHIN A SINGLE ANCIENT ENGLISH FAMILY FROM BEFORE 1540, WITH MORE THAN SIXTY FAMILY RECORDS INSCRIBED ON THE FLYLEAVES:
George Heneage (d.1549), Archdeacon of Lincoln, acquired when he was Dean of Lincoln (1528-39): inscribed 'Georgius Hennage lincoln decanus' (f.151v).
Robert Heneage (d.1556), of Lincoln, auditor of the Duchy of Lancaster: writer of a long series of flyleaf inscriptions in Latin ending with the death of George and beginning 'On the 1st of October 1528 I took as my wife Lucie Buketon daughter and heir of Ralph Buketon of Elmswell in the county of York', and continuing with the births of their several children, including female twins in 1535, and the deaths of his parents, parents-in-law, wife, brothers, the marriages of two of his children, and his own remarriage in 1547 to Margaret Strangwes; his last entry is that of 1554.
Sir Thomas Heneage (d.1595), of Copt Hall, Essex, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and vice-Chamberlain of the Household of Queen Elizabeth I: writer of additions to the family records, beginning with the birth of his son Robert in 1555, and including the death of his father, Robert, in 1556. Two versions of Sir Thomas's horoscope are added at the end of the volume (f.152v, 153), based on differing times of his birth: 4.44pm, and 'between 5 and 6 pm'; a third incomplete version is on f.151v. Sir Thomas's heir was his only daughter Elizabeth, but he apparently lent the book to her before his death, about 1582 (see below), and it was after his death in the hands of his brother Michael Heneage (d.1600), politician and antiquary, Keeper of Her Majesty's Records in the Tower of London: he added an inscription recording the death of 'my brother' Sir Thomas in 1595.
Elizabeth Finch née Heneage(d.1634), Viscountess Maidstone and 1st Countess Winchilsea, only child and heir to Sir Thomas: the following family records are in English, beginning with a series from the marriage of Elizabeth to Sir Moyle Finch in 1572 to the birth of Katherine in 1582, followed by further entries down to 1591. Sir Thomas Heneage (as above) then added his second marriage in 1594 to Mary, Countess of Southampton. Elizabeth had no children, so her property passed to her cousin Thomas.
Thomas Heneage (d.1641), of Battersea: with an inscription recording the death of his father Michael, his sister Ann (1609), his brother Robert (1611), and Ann's husband Ralf Gill (1620), Keeper of His Majesty's lions, and the births of his children, including Michael in 1632. Signed 'T Heneage' with the motto 'Si deus voluerit' (f.iv verso). His own death is recorded by his wife, Bridget. Neither Thomas's son Michael (d.1711) nor his immediate heirs appear to have added any inscriptions, but the book doubtless passed with other property from Michael to his son Charles (d.1738), to Charles's daughters Cecil (d.1765) and Elizabeth (d.1779), who both died childless, and from them to the grandson, John Walker of Compton Basset (d.1806), of their great-aunt Cecil, who had married into the Walker family.
John Walker of Compton Basset (d.1806), Chief Usher of the Exchequer, whose bookplate is inside the front cover, obtained a Royal Licence in 1777 to assume the Heneage surname, arms, and crest. He died childless, and on the death of his widow Arabella in 1818 the estates were entailed upon George Heneage Wyld (d. 1875), who also took the Walker-Heneage surname by Royal Licence, and his heirs: Major Clement Walker-Heneage, V.C. (d.1901), Godfrey Clement Walker Heneage (d.1939), whose bookplate is also inside the front cover, Major John David W.G. Walker Heneage (d.1950), Simon Anthony Heylar Walker Heneage (d.1969), from whom the manuscript has passed to the present owners.
Deposited at the Somerset Archive and Record Service in 1958, with their reference number 'DD/WH b 3083' inscribed on the upper pastedown; withdrawn in 1991.
The present manuscript is described by Allen as ONE OF ONLY SIX 'PRINCIPAL MANUSCRIPTS' OF ROLLE'S WORK. The contents are unusual, and unique in their selection and arrangement:
1. Richard Rolle, De emendatione vitae, beginning 'Hic incipiunt duodecim capitula secundum Ricardum de Hampole', listing the twelve chapters from 'Primum de conversione ad deum' to 'Duodecim de contemplatione', followed by the chapters themselves, beginning 'Ne tardes converti ad dominum', with numerous biblical references in the margins, and ending 'Expliciunt xii capitula secundum Ricardum de Hampole', ff.1-14v.
2. A UNIQUE COMPILATION drawn mainly from the writings of Richard Rolle, with works by other authors interpolated:
(i) extracts from Rolle's Incendium amoris: 'Omnia [recte quoniam] autem in ecclesia cantores et cantatrices ordinantur ... indigna me permisit tollerare', ff.14v-16;
(ii) Pseudo-Augustine, Speculum peccatoris: 'Quoniam carissime in huius vie vita fugientes sumus ... quomodo novissima tua prudenter provideas. Ideo intelligite, vigilate et orate. Explicit Speculum peccatoris a beato Augustino' ff.16-20v (cf. British Library, Royal MS. 17 B.xvii, f.69v; attributed to Rolle in several manuscripts, see Allen, pp.353-5);
(iii) extracts from Rolle's Canticles: six lines are treated as a prayer to the Holy Name: 'Vere Ihesu desiderabile est nomen tuum ... hoc nomen Ihesu in memoria iugitur memento tenere. Amen.', and at the place in which these lines would normally occur the scribe has written 'Vere Ihesu etc. ut supra ex alia parte ad tale signum' (f.21, lines 17-18; cf. Allen, pp.74-5; with the symbol, 'signum', marked in the adjacent margin), followed by 'Oleum effusum nomen tuum ... Explicit oleum effusum' ff.20v-22v (cf. Allen, p.67);
(iv) a collection of extracts beginning 'Ieronimus in quadam epistola contra clericos' and ending '... qui ex mortuis pellibus credat munire. Benedictus deus amoris' ff.23-24;
(v) extracts from Rolle's Melum concerning priests f.24;
(vi) further extracts of Rolle's Incendium amoris ff.24-25 (see Allen, p.45);
(vii) a further extract from Rolle's Melum f.25r-v;
(viii) further extracts from Rolle's Incendium amoris, some as short as a single sentence, ending '... dominus in tantum se dignatus et humiliare. Secundum Ricardum heremitum de Hampole. Benedictus deus amen. Explicit.' ff.25v-28v (see Allen, p.45).
3. Thomas Fishlake, Scala Perfectionis (his translation into Latin of Walter Hilton's The Ladder of Perfection), beginning 'Incipiunt tituli capitulorum prime partis libri sequentis qui vocatur Scala perfeccionis', followed by a numbered list of the 92 chapters in Book I of the work, ending 'Explicit numeracio capitulorum. Sequitur primum capitulum libri qui dicitur Scala perfeccionis secundum W. Hilton', ff.32-34; a numbered list of the 47 chapters in Book II, beginning 'Hic postea post primam partem istius libri qui dicit Scala perfeccionis, Sequitur secunda pars continens in se xlvii capitula de contemplatione eiusdem Magistri W. Hilton', ff.35-36v. The main text of Book I follows, addressed to a 'Dilecta soror in Christo Ihesu', ending 'Explicit libellus magistri Walteri Hilton canonici qui obiit anno domini Millesimo CCC lxxxvo [sic] in vigilia Annunciationis beate Marie quem transtulit in latinum de anglico magister & frater Thomas Fisshlake ordinis beate Marie de Monte Carmeli', ff.40-80v.
4. William Jordaen's Latin translation of Willem Ruusbroec's treatise van den blinckenden Steen: 'Incipit tractatus de perfeccione filiorum dei. Quicumque vult vivere in perfectissimo statu alme matris ecclesie ...', ending 'Explicit Calculus id est de perfeccione dei', ff.81-92. THE ONLY COPY WRITTEN IN ENGLAND (Sargent, 1985, p.537).
5. A short extract from St Bernard's Homelia super Missus est, a sermon on the opening words of the account of the Annunciation from the Gospel of Luke, with a marginal heading 'Ave Maria B. super missus est': 'Virgo ex ore tuo pendet salacium miserorum redemcio captivorum ... spiritualiter fiat michi secundum verbum etc.', f.92.
6. Scala perfectionis, Book II: 'Quomodo homo dicitur ymago dei secundum animam ... Ad hec gaudia nos perducat salvator noster dominus Ihesus Christus amen. Explicit', ff.92v -151.
7. A list of Five Temptations: 'Quinque temptaciones solent evenire morientibus. Prima de fide que est fundamentum tocius salutis ...', f.151v.
A considerable amount is known about RICHARD ROLLE from autobiographical details in his writings. Born in Yorkshire c.1305-10, he had a religious conversion aged 18 while at Oxford University, abandoned his studies, and returned to Yorkshire intending to live as a hermit. During the next two decades he wrote a variety of works in Latin, the last of which was Emendatio vitae, one of the most successful guides to the spiritual life to be written in England, surviving in over 100 manuscripts and seven different English translations. 'Rolle established himself among the last of the great Latin rhetorical writers of the middle ages ... Rolle's works played an important part in the formation of the religious culture of fifteenth-century England, being more widely read than those of any other vernacular writer' (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). He died at Hampole in 1349, presumably of the Black Death, and miracles were later reported at his tomb.
WALTER HILTON (c.1343-1396) was an Augustinian canon of Thurgarton priory, Nottinghamshire, for the last ten years of his life. It was here that he wrote his greatest work, the Scale of Perfection in two books, Book I shortly after his arrival, and Book II not long before his death. Book I is addressed in its opening line to a 'dear sister' who has taken religious vows. It includes advice on meditation, prayer, overcoming sin, humility, and charity. Book I circulated independently of Book II, which is addressed to a wider readership, and is an elaboration of some of the ideas in Book I, especially the value of contemplation. 'Hilton's Scale of Perfection is always counted among the masterpieces that constitute the great efflorescence of English mystical writing of the fourteenth century and the early years of the fifteenth' (T.H. Bestul, ed., The Scale of Perfection, 2000).
THOMAS FISHLAKE was a Carmelite friar, educated at Cambridge a few years after Hilton, c.1375. His translation of Hilton is believed to have been made by c.1400, perhaps within Hilton's lifetime. Only ten of the fifteen manuscripts are of English origin and of these only seven, including the present manuscript, contain Books I and II complete (see S. Hussey, 'Latin and English in the Scale of Perfection', Mediaeval Studies, 35 (1973), pp.256-76, with a list of the Latin manuscripts at pp.256-7).
The illumination has been attributed by Kathleen Scott to London in the 1450s. It is a standard but handsome variety, given added distinction by the rare and informative survival of MIDDLE ENGLISH MARGINAL INSTRUCTIONS TO THE ILLUMINATOR. Next to two initials of the type known as 'champie' initials in French is the English equivalent, 'cha(m)pe' (ff.20v, 92), and in a margin below an illuminated initial with foliate sprays extending into the margins is 'hol vynet' (i.e. whole vinet), crossed through and corrected to 'sprynget' (f.81). Below the first of the 'cha(m)pe' inscriptions are a few more letters, apparently 'spr', suggesting that the scribe was beginning to write 'sprynget' here, too. On the origins of champie initials see P. Stirnemann and M.-T. Gousset, 'Marques, mots, pratiques: leur signification et leurs liens dans le travail des enlumineurs', in Vocabulaire du livre et de l'écriture au moyen âge (1989), p.37, and on English terminology see K.L. Scott, 'Limning and Book-Producing Terms and Signs in situ in Late Medieval English Manuscripts: A First Listing', in R. Beadle and A.J. Piper (eds.), New Science Out of Old Books: Studies in Manuscripts and Early Printed Books in Honour of A.I. Doyle (1995), pp.142-88, discussing the present manuscript at pp.146, 157, where a sprynget is described as 'one step up from the "champ" on the decorative hierarchy and distinguishable by its larger initial size, coloured letter, and longer, sometimes trailing sprays, always containing coloured as well as gold motifs'.
H.E. Allen , Writings Ascribed to Richard Rolle, Hermit of Hampole, and Materials for His Biography (1927), pp.43-45 (siglum 'F'), 67, 115, 224, 237.
M.G. Sargent, 'The Transmission by the English Carthusians of some Late Medieval Spiritual Writings', Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 27 (1976), pp.225-40 at pp.227-8, 231.
M.G. Sargent, 'A New Manuscript of The Chastising of God's Children with an Ascripti on to Walter Hilton', Medium Aevum, 46 (1977), pp.49-65 at pp.55-56.
M.G. Sargent, 'The Heneage Manuscript of Calculus De Perfectione Filiorum Dei and the Middle English Treatise of Perfection of the Sons of God', Ons Geestelijk Erf, 59 (1985), pp.533-59.
R. Spahl, De emendatione vitae: eine kritische Ausgabe des lateinischen Textes von Richard Rolle (2009), at p.60 and siglum 'He'.