Commentarii in rhetoricam Ciceronis, in Latin, DECORATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[northern Italy], 1342
287 x 200 mm. i + 52 + i leaves, 112, 210, 312, 48, (lacking one gathering), 510, some catchwords in centre of lower margins of final versos, some signatures, gathering numbers, two columns of between 38 and 71 lines in brown ink written in a small gothic script by several hands between four verticals and two upper and two lower horizontals ruled in grey, justification: 225 x 167mm, text capitals touched red, frequent red underlinings, one- and two-line initials and paragraph marks in red, ONE LARGE PENWORK INITIAL in red flourished with black, many annotations, marginal headings and pointing hands (some folios worn, holed, repaired, worm-eaten or dampstained, a palimpsest with earlier text mostly erased). 19th-century limp vellum.
1. Dominican Convent of SS Giovanni e Paolo, Venice: by the late 15th century their library was of sufficient importance to be the intended recipient of Cardinal Bessarion's collection of Greek and Latin texts. This manuscript is not recognisable in the catalogue published between 1770-1784 but this did not include a category obviously applying to the text (D.M. Berardelli, Nuova Raccolta d'Opuscoli scientifici e filologici, t.32-3, 35, 37-40, 1770, 1778-80, 1782-4). At least seventeen of their manuscripts have been identified (T. Kaeppeli, 'Antiche biblioteche domenicane in Italia', Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum, XXXVI, 1966, pp.5-80, pp.70-72). The Convent was suppressed by the Napoleonic regime in the first decade of the 19th century.
2. Baron Charles Alexander de Cosson (b.1846): his armorial bookplate inside upper cover, note on first paper leaf recording the provenance from SS Giovanni e Paolo and purchase in 1876, together with four other manuscripts with the same binding from the same source - see lots 27 and 28. Of an émigré family from Guyenne, baron de Cosson was an explorer in Egypt and Abyssinia, archaeologist and antiquary. He had a collection of arms and armour in his house in Chertsey and in 1880 organised an exhibition of arms and armour with William Burges.
3. Baron Claude Augustin de Cosson, his eldest son (b.1877): who pursued a career in the Egyptian service before retiring to Florence. Sotheby's, 27 March 1950, lot 30, Property of the late Baron C.A. de Cosson by whom they were purchased in Italy, excerpt from catalogue pasted on first paper leaf; William Foyle also purchased a book of hours from the Cosson Collection, see lot 50.
Commentary on Pseudo-Cicero Rhetorica ad Herennium, lacking the commentary on the fourth section, De memoria artificiosa, and on the beginning of the fifth, De conversione, before f.43. The scribe broke his text on f.41v with an explicit to the comment on the chapter on De pronuntiatione and an incipit to De memoria artificiosa and left f.42 blank to begin the fifth section on a new gathering, subsequently removed.
On f.34v in the lower margin, one scribe signed and dated his work: Manus Scriptoris Laudetur Omnibus oris finito libro deferamus gra[tias] Ch[risto]. Scribere qui Nescit Nullum putat esse laborem. Tres digitj Scribunt Cetera Membra dolent. Scriptus per me Monterillum Perutii Magistri Montis de monteulj Sub Anno Domini 1342 Quadragesimo Octavo Indictione prima Tempore domini clementis papae sexti.
The Rhetorica ad Herennium is a treatise on rhetoric in four books dealing with the five branches of rhetoric, dating from 86-82 BC.. It is now sometimes attributed to Cornificius but has some connection with Cicero's De inventione and was traditionally credited to him. It was regarded as a standard work on Latin style, given added authority by Cicero's assumed authorship, and the commentary explains and expands the text. This volume was obviously intended as a working copy, with red as the only embellishment, and is written on reused parchment of varying sizes and qualities; on f.34v the date of 1300 can still be read in the original text. It must have been considered an important tool, since someone, or some institution, was so determined to have a copy at minimal expense. This might have been a Dominican convent, since the statutes of the Order enjoined that their books should be serviceable and useful, without incurring unnecessary expenditure (K. Humphreys, 'Dominicans and the copying of books', Scribi e Colofoni, X Colloquio del Comité international de paléographie latine 1991, E. Condello and G. de Gregorio eds., 1995, pp.125-143).