BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX (1090-1153). Apologia ad Guilelmum Sancti
Theodorici abbatem, De praecepto et dispensatione, De diligendo deo. HUGH OF ST VICTOR (c.1096-1141). Liber sententiarum,
DECORATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[England, mid-12th century]
In original binding of white tawed skin over oak boards.
278 x 197mm. 168 leaves: 1-218, later ink foliation 1-167 (final leaf unnumbered and pasted to rear cover), signed with roman numerals at centre lower edge on final versos (most signatures cropped), 27 or 28 lines in dark brown ink written in an upright romanesque bookhand between two verticals and on 27 or 28 horizontals ruled in plummet, prickings visible in the outer margins of most leaves, justification: 205 x 120mm, one four-line divided initial in red and blue with leafy infill sketched in plummet and partially executed in green and blue (f.1), one five-line divided initial in ochre and blue (f.139), two four-line initials (ff.97, 113) and numerous two-line initials in red, blue, green or ochre, a few with simple marginal extensions, chapter headings in red (spaces for rubrics not filled in on f.1 and on f.137 and following), directions for the rubricator visible in some margins (cropped), contemporary notes in the margins in brown, some erased but taken into the text as corrections written in erasures, erased marginal drawing of duck and a man holding a club with erased inscription of which the word 'Leicest...' is still legible (f.133v), ff.160-163 cancelled by marginal notations 'vacat' in a slightly later hand, occasional marginalia in 15th-century cursive, later marginalia, pencilled annotations on ff.97v-98 (blank lower portion of f.167 trimmed away, natural flaws to around 10 leaves, repair before writing to f.78). CONTEMPORARY WHITE TAWED SKIN OVER OAK BOARDS, the board edges flush with the edges of the bookblock, the covering pieced together from two pieces of skin neatly sewn together across both boards, double square-cut tabs in thick and thin tawed leather at head and foot of spine (thin outer tab lacking at head of spine), double head- and tailbands in linen thread, the headband in blue and white, preliminary quire of two vellum bifolia of which the first two leaves pasted down and the last two excised, original closure consisting of a long brown leather strap attached to front cover and catching on a pin on the back cover, brass strap-end and chased square bronze catchplate with central hole to receive the pin, the strap stitched in linen thread with ornamental patterns of circles and chevrons (minor wear, spine reinforced with a piece of brown leather adhered to the surface without disturbance to the medieval binding structure). Modern morocco-backed box.
A REMARKABLE ROMANESQUE BINDING IN ORIGINAL CONDITION
1. St Osyth (Chich), Essex, Augustinian abbey of St Peter, St Paul, and St Osyth: inscription on f.1 (see following item); shelfmark 'N.6' (15th- to 16th-century?) on f.1
2. Nicholas Busshe, canon of St Osyth at the Dissolution: partially erased inscription on f.1 (Iste liber pertinet ad Nicholas Busshe presbiterum ac olim canonicorum monasterii S. Virginis et martiris in Essexia. 1557); cf. N. Ker, Medieval Libraries of Great Britain (2nd ed., London 1964), pp.170, 303
3. Unidentified owner, early 17th century, possibly a member or agent of the Tollemache family (cf. following item): erasure to inscription on f.1, 'Barnardi opera' entered there, manuscript titles on front cover, table of contents on front pastedown, scattered marginalia. The same person annotated several 12th- to 13th-century manuscripts from St Osyth and Helmingham Hall: St Ambrose, De officiis, now Pierpont Morgan Library, G.65 (Sotheby's 6 June 1961, lot 1); St Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos 101-150, now Huntington Library, HM 26052 (Sotheby's 6 June 1961, lot 3); works of St Augustine, now British Library, Add. 56252 (Sotheby's 14 June 1965, lot 4); and St Ambrose, Hexameron (Sotheby's 14 June 1965, lot 2; from Helmingham Hall, but identified by Ker, Supplement, London 1987, pp.60 and 64, as coming from Stoke-by-Clare, Suffolk, rather than St Osyth).
4. Tollemache family of Helmingham Hall, Suffolk: small paper label inside front cover with shelfmark 'L.J.I.4' in black ink corrected in pencil to 'V', cataloguing sheet in the same hand laid in; sale, Sotheby's 6 June 1961, lot 2, to Lionel & Philip Robinson Ltd. The manuscripts in the Helmingham Hall collection are said to have been acquired c.1600 by Sir Lionel Tollemache, 1st baronet, or by an agent acting on his behalf, but there is also evidence, in the form of wills and inscriptions in books, that the Tollemache family had an interest in books from the middle of the 16th century (cf. Edward Wilson, in The Book Collector, 1967, pp.180-181; N. Barker, Two East Anglian Picture Books, London 1988, pp.54-59; A.S.G. Edwards, forthcoming in The Book Collector).
Hugh of St Victor, Liber sententiarum, inc.: De fide et spe que in nobis est omnium poscenti rationem reddere... (PL, clxxi, 1067-1150, there attributed to Hildebert of Lavardin) ff.1-97; Bernard, Apologia ad Guilelmum Sancti Theodorici abbatem (PL, clxxxii, 898-918) ff.97-112v; Bernard, De praecepto et dispensatione (PL, clxxxii, 859-894) ff.113-139; Bernard, De diligendo deo (PL, clxxxii, 973-1000) ff. 139-167.
St Osyth in Essex, founded in the 7th century as a Benedictine nunnery, was reformed as an Augustinian priory c. 1118. That transformation must have been accompanied by an effort to build up the library. Ker records a dozen manuscripts surviving from the house, of which five are dated to the 12th century and four more to the 13th. The immediate fate of the library at the time of the Dissolution is not known, although this manuscript and at least one other (Pierpont Morgan Library, G.65) remained in the possession of former canons. By the early 17th century several St Osyth manuscripts, together with other books of monastic provenance from the east of England, were in the hands of the anonymous individual who annotated this codex and who may also have been responsible for rebacking this one and several others. It is likely that this was an agent of the Tollemache family, for the books remained together in the library at Helmingham Hall until sold in the 20th century.
The works of St Bernard were widely read even in his lifetime, and continued to be copied after his death. The Apologia which Bernard addressed c.1127 to William, Abbot of St Thierry, offered a defence of monastic reform and the founding of the Cistercian order. De praecepto et dispensatione, written before 1143, was an answer to questions about monastic conduct and discipline. De diligendo deo, probably composed c.1132-1135, is one of the great expressions of the theology of love and the mystical contact of the soul with God. The treatise beginning De fide et spe, which appears anonymously in this codex, was assigned by the Maurists to Hildebert of Lavardin, but is now thought to be the work of Hugh of St Victor, to whom it is most frequently attributed in the manuscript tradition.
The present manuscript was probably bound at St Osyth, for its binding is similar to those of the other codices from St Osyth and Helmingham Hall sold at Sotheby's in 1961 and 1965. The tawed skin covering, the flaps at the head and tail of the spine, and the evidence of a single strap closure catching on a pin on the back cover correspond exactly to the original state of BL, Add. Ms. 56252. The survival of such monastic bindings is not unknown, but it is remarkable to find one in such good condition. The tabs at the ends of the spine have usually been cut off, as is the case with the BL, Add. Ms. 56252, to facilitate shelving in the modern upright position. For the same reason, bosses and pins or catches that interfere with stacking or shelving have usually been removed. Leather catches and straps, moreover, tend to perish in use. The British Library manuscript from St Osyth now lacks both pin and strap, and there is some evidence that its strap had already been replaced in the later Middle Ages. The present codex, in contrast, is intact. The strap in particular, with its elaborate stitched patterns of circles and chevrons (noted by G. Pollard, 'The Construction of English Twelfth-Century Bindings', The Library, 5th series, xvii, 1962, p.17), is highly unusual and an extraordinary survival.