PETER COMESTOR (d.c.1178). Historia Scholastica, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON PAPER
[western Germany, mid-15th century]
283 x 210mm. 274 leaves: 112(i detached), 2-2212, 2310(of 12, lacking xi & xii, xii likely a blank), signature marks, mostly cut, on outer corners of first six rectos of gatherings, 37 lines written in brown ink in a hybrid bookhand between two verticals and on 37 horizontals ruled in brown, justification: 183 x 121mm, rubrics, rubric line-fillers and paraphs in red, text capitals touched red, three-line initials of red or blue, FIVE-LINE-HIGH BLUE FLOURISHED INITIALS open each book, with red penwork the height of the margin and the infill with vegetal shapes against a green ground, TEN-LINE-HIGH PUZZLE INITIAL OF RED AND BLUE to open the prologue with flourishing and infill of the same type, WORLD MAP in margin of f.15 (first leaf detached and fingered, slight worming and staining of margins). Contemporary German or Dutch panelled calf ruled and stamped in blind, a single tool with a nimbed hand holding a crossed k in the border and diapers of central panel (rebacked, wormed, upper cover detached, leather at foot of spine loose).
The penwork initials are in a style associable with manuscripts produced in western Germany close to the Dutch border, perhaps Wezel or Münster. It is likely that this Historia Scholastica was made in a monastic community: the particular form of the winged leaves against a green background shows the influence of the Windesheim Congregation.
The title and shelfmark in brown ink on fore-edge reading 'Scholastica ms 9' in a 17th- or 18th-century hand.
Peter Comestor, Historia Scholastica ff.1-274v lacking final leaf with 16 lines of text (PL1721-1722).
Peter Comestor (literally 'Peter the Eater', from his voracious appetite for knowledge) wrote influential sermons and a gloss on the Gospels, but it was the Historia Scholastica that brought him lasting renown. Providing a continuous history from the Creation until the end of the Acts of the Apostles, it was based upon the narrative books of the Bible, where necessary correlating different accounts of an event and marrying disjointed sequences. Gaps in the narrative were filled by drawing upon both patristic and classical authors.
The Historia Scholastica gained immediate popularity and continued to serve as an essential school text well into the sixteenth century. As the formal model for numerous translations and adaptations in Latin and vernacular languages, it formed a link between Latin scholastic textual practices and vernacular narrative.
The present copy antedates the earliest printed editions of Augsburg, Strassbourg and Utrecht, all of 1473.