SERMONS collected by HENRY OF KNARESBOROUGH, in Latin, DECORATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[?Yorkshire, late 12th century]
180 x 130mm. 317 leaves: 12(i as pastedown), 213(of 14, lacking iv), 3-612, 78, 812, 99(of 8 + i), 103(of 6, iv-vi cancelled blanks), 113(of 2 + iii, with outer sewing guard), 1211(of 12, xii cancelled blank), 13-148, 154, 167(of 8, viii cancelled blank), 177(of 8, lacking i), 18-198, 202, 216, 228, 2310, 2412, 2511(of 12, lacking i), 2612, 2714(of 16, lacking i & iv), 2814, 2916(of 18, lacking x & xi), 3011(of 14, lacking xii-xiv), 31-328, 3314, 348, 354(iv as pastedown), catchwords in lower margins of f.84v and 90v; gathering numbers inserted by an early hand in the centre of several final versos show that ff.209-220 (marked iiii) should follow f.39 and that ff.292-305 (marked xi) should follow f.95; written in black or brown ink by various hands in one or two columns of 30 to 40 lines, varied ruling in black or grey, pricking visible in all margins, typical justification: 140 x 100mm, coloured and flourished initials in red, blue and green, of different patterns throughout the manuscript, some large initials never supplied (final leaves affected by corrosion of metal stud to cover). CONTEMPORARY LEATHER OVER THICK WOODEN BOARDS, spine sewn on three thongs, lower cover with vellum surface with metal stud and pin, inscribed title 'liber henrici de knaresb...' in brown ink, upper cover with restored metal clasp and inscribed with later title 'Collectanea Heni de Knasburge Sermons No 29' in brown ink, spine covered with ?later vellum, 'No 29' on lower compartment (tabs trimmed from head and foot of spine, small split above middle thong, replacement strap).
AN EARLY MEDIEVAL MANUSCRIPT FROM FOUNTAINS ABBEY
1. Gift of Henry of Knaresborough to Fountains Abbey: inscribed 'Liber Sancte Marie de fontibus ex dono Henrici di Knarresburc', f.2v. Henry of Knaresborough, also variously described as clerk and parson of Knaresborough in Yorkshire, is recorded from 1171-2 into the first decade of the 13th century. He witnessed several documents copied into the Fountains cartulary, among them a grant by Abbot John of Fountains, who began the building of the Abbey church in 1204, which was also witnessed by the prior, sub-prior and cellarer. In 1200 he had become the parson of Kirkby Stephen. (W. Lancaster, Chartulary of the Cistercian Abbey of Fountains, 1915: W. Farrer, Early Yorkshire Charters, I, 1914, nos 516 and 1511). He is said to have died in 1208. He may be the parish priest who was rebuked for lack of charity by the hermit St Robert of Knaresborough (d.1218). There is no certainty that Henry was the author of any of the works in this manuscript; no person of this name is identified in Richard Sharpe, A Handlist of Latin Writers of Great Britain and Ireland before 1540, 1997. Yet the opening group of 21, which are listed in a 15th-century hand on the front pastedown, are there described as his.
Fountains Abbey was one of the first Cistercian foundations in Yorkshire in 1132 and swiftly established itself as one of the largest and richest houses in England. Over forty manuscripts from Fountains survive, including this one (see N.R. Ker, Medieval Libraries of Great Britain, 2nd ed., 1964, and A. Watson, Supplement, 1987, where the present manuuscript is mistakenly described as 'stolen in 1964', p.37). The manuscript presumably remained in the Abbey's possession until its dissolution in November 1539. With the discovery of the Picturesque, the ruins of Fountains Abbey came to represent the whole ethos of the Middle Ages and their potential as a source of inspiration for the present. Despite the evolution of a more objective, and less optimistic, view of the national past, Fountains maintains its unique place in the popular awareness of English history.
2. Ingilby family of Ripley Castle: the name of William Ingilby with the date '30 of Jan 1645 the yeare beginning Ladaye day' on f.161v. The Ingilby family of Ripley Castle were noted collectors of manuscripts, particularly concerning Fountains: in 1627 William Ingilby was among those ordered to surrender illegally held records of Fountains and other dissolved houses. Puzzlingly, however, the number 29 on the upper cover would seem to associate this volume with Fountains manuscripts from the collection of the Messenger family, owners of the Abbey until John Messenger (1739-1806) sold it in 1768 to William Aislabie of Studley Royal, to whom he gave some of the manuscripts, while others apparently remained in his possession to be acquired by Sir John Ingilby at the sale of Messenger's personal property (J. Walbran, Memorials of the Abbey of St Mary of Fountains, Surtees Society, LXVII, pp. 93, 97, 103). It was certainly in the collection of Sir Henry Ingilby (1826-1911): Historical Manuscripts Commission, 6th Report, 1877. Sold by Lt. Col. Sir William Ingilby (1874-1950), Sotheby's, 20-21 October 1920, lot 75, bought by Maggs.
3. Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968); pencilled note of his numbering W. ms 37 on first pastedown (E.G. Millar, The Library of A. Chester Beatty, vol.1, Oxford, 1927, pp.120-121). Chester Beatty Sale, Sotheby's, 7 June 1932, lot 10.
4. Vyner family of Studley Royal.
The manuscript contains approximately 216 sermons and discourses, comprising: an initial sequence of 21 sermons (ff.1-23) listed on a 15th-century contents leaf on the front pastedown as 'Sermones Henrici de Knaresburg', allocated to the major feasts from Advent to Pentecost; 42 sermons without reference to particular feasts (ff.23v-60v); four extended discourses -- 'Saul querens asinas' (ff.60v-71v), 'Locutus est Dominus ad Moysen de tabernaculo testimonii' (ff.72-83v), 'In principio creavit deus celum et terram', a series of brief typological comparisons (ff.84-95), and 'Benedices corone anni benignitatis' (ff.99-109); interrupted by two sermons without particular feast (ff.96-98); four groups of sermons on narrative themes from the books of Samuel and Kings -- 'Anna cur fles' (20 sermons, ff.110-129), 'Eo autem tempore quo viderat Saul Davidem' (five sermons, ff.130-136), a further group on Solomon and Abiathar, lacking first leaf (six sermons, ff.137-143), 'Intelligens Joab' (six sermons, ff.144-151); 15 unallocated sermons (ff.152-167); a group of brief headings relating to sacrificial atonement, 'Loquere filiis Aaron' (ff.168-174); and a final series of 94 sermons (ff.176-315), of which a sequence of eight are allocated to the major feasts (ff.176-197), and two groups are clearly appropriate to Christmas (ff.209-214r) and Ascension (ff.252-257). Near contemporary annotations 'Vicesimus' (f.19v), 'Sexagesimus' (f.40v), 'Ocagesimus' (f.72r), 'Tricesimus' (presumably for 130th, f.152), and 'Quadragesimus' (for 140th, f.162), correspond approximately to the numberings of the sermons, and support the evidence that the collection had its present structure from an early stage.
No indication of authorship is given (other than perhaps for the first sequence of 21 sermons), and while a few of the sermons are identifiable as the work of writers such as Mauritius de Sulliaco, Peter of Poitiers, Peter Comestor and Hildebertus Cenomanensis, and we have identified alternative sources for a small number, the majority are not identifiable and appear to be unknown outside this collection. With its attractive diversity of hands and styles of decoration within a consistent format (only ff.198-208 differ), the compendium has the appearance of a commissioned work, probably from a monastic scriptorium, and is A FINE AND SUBSTANTIAL REPOSITORY OF THEOLOGICAL DISCOURSE FROM THE HIGH-POINT OF MONASTIC CULTURE IN THE LATE 12TH-CENTURY NORTH OF ENGLAND.