WILLIAM BRITO or GUILLAUME LE BRETON (mid-13th century), Expositiones Vocabulorum Biblie, in Latin, DECORATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[England, first half 14th century]
200 x 142mm. iii + 195 + ii folios: i-iii lifted binding fragments and pastedown including 13th-century accounts of the cellaress, 18, 2-38,44, 512, 614, 78, 816, 912, 109(of 16, lacking x-xvi), 11(a single fragment of a lower margin), 1212, 136(of 8, vii & viii cancelled blanks), 1412, 159(of 10, lacking iii), 16-1812, 1910, 2011(xi a singleton), catchwords, ii lifted pastedown and binding fragment of a 13th-century Lacock compotus roll, two columns of up to 41 lines in brown ink in a variety of small bookhands, red initials, sidenotes with decorative paraphs in red and brown in gatherings 5 & 6 and 8, 9 & 10 (apparently lacking 8 leaves and a further gathering of undetermined length, 6 leaves of index cut loose at gutter, losses and staining from defunct mould and to margins at front and end). CONTEMPORARY BINDING of tawed leather over wooden boards (thongs cut at upper hinge, lacking clasp and leather from lower cover, later strap, hole and stain from hasps of chain on both upper and lower covers, worn).
The fragmentary leaves, once beneath the pastedowns, at the front and back of the volume are from 13th-century compotus rolls of Lacock, 'In domo Lacok', recording both expenses and receipts -- including for the sale of wool, a major source of income for the Abbey, from their flocks on their lands at Chitterne, Wiltshire, and Shorwell, on the Isle of Wight.
Index ff.1-8v; William Brito, Expositiones Vocabulorum Biblie or Summa Britonis, lacking entries after 'Menstruum' and before 'Opido', ff.9-195.
The Brito is written in several different 14th-century hands, sometimes catchwords in one hand are continued in text by another, suggesting monastic production.
Although, following Leland, he is often described as English, there seems no reason to doubt that the author of this work was the Franciscan friar, commended for his learning, met by Salimbene de Adam in Vienne and Lyon in 1249, and that his name denotes his origin in Brittany (DNB). The Vocabularium was his most important and influential work and provided explanations, derivations -- sometimes from the Greek or Hebrew -- and etymologies for the most difficult words in the Vulgate Bible. All were arranged in alphabetical order and, demonstrating his wide knowledge, were drawn from a range of classical, patristic and medieval writers. This dictionary had a wide circulation and was regarded as an essential scholarly tool: already in 1284 it was one of the three texts that Archbishop John Pecham instructed Merton College, Oxford to buy to be kept to be chained to a table in the library and thereby available for the instruction of poor and orphaned members of the founder's family. Although at least 130 manuscript copies survive we can find no record of one being offered for auction. The first printed edition was issued in Ulm around 1476 under the name Henricus de Hassia (Goff H-37).