ST BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX (1090-1153), De precepto et dispensatione and other works, in Latin, DECORATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[southern Netherlands, second half 15th century]
254 x 168mm. i + 135 + i leaves: 1-88, 97(of 8, vi cancelled, text continuous), 10-178, catchwords in lower margins of final versos, signatures, guide for rubricator untrimmed f.22, two columns of 30 lines written in a black ink in a gothic bookhand between four verticals and 31 horizontals ruled in grey, justification: 171 x 50-16-50mm, prickings survive for verticals and horizontals, rubrics in red, text capitals touched red, two- and three-line initials alternately in red or blue, EIGHT LARGE FLOURISHED INITIALS in varying combinations of red, blue, grey and yellow, neat red patterns around original holes or repairs in parchment (very slight wear, opening of a further text erased on f.135). 19th-century tan calf, panel stamped in blind over wooden boards, metal cornerpieces and centre bosses, spine in six compartments, earlier leather fore-edge tabs (scuffed, lacking four tabs).
1. The script -- with the revival of the punctus flexus -- shows that the book was made in a house of the Windesheim Congregation. The influence of the IJssel region, the location of Windesheim, is also evident in the flourishing of the initials, although the penwork extensions in the lower margin are only found in Southern Netherlandish manuscripts. Erased ownership inscription on verso of f.i; shelfmark on recto.
2. Le Tellier, avocat: 19th-century bookplate inside upper cover.
Contemporary list of contents, ending with the Apologia f.i; St Bernard of Clairvaux: De praecepto et dispensatione ff.1-21v (before 1143, J. Leclercq et al eds, Opera sancti Bernardi, III pp.253-294); De gratia et libero arbitrio ff.21v-40v (c.1127, Leclercq, III, pp.165-203); Homiliae super missus est in laudibus virginis matris ff.41-64v (Leclercq, IV, pp.13-58); De diligendo Deo ff.65-83v (c.1126, Leclercq, III, 109-154); De gradibus humilitatis et superbiae ff.84-106v, with opening lists of the twelve steps of each ff.83v-84, and the Retractio ff.106v-107 (c.1121, Leclercq, III, pp.13-59); De laude novae militiae ad milites templi ff.107-121 (c.1132-36, Leclercq, III, 213-239); Apologia ad Gullielmum ff.121-135(c.1127, Leclercq, III, 61-108); erased opening of a further text, not included in the list of contents.
St Bernard gave memorable expression to the ideals of the new Cistercian Order in the Apologia, addressed to William, Abbot of St Thierry, where he criticised what he saw as the excesses of the Benedictines, particularly their love of ornament. The decoration of the present manuscript is appropriately limited to handsomely flourished initials: the Windesheim Congregation was significantly influenced by Cistercian ideals and practice.
St Bernard was widely read, both for his practical insights into monasticism, as in the De praecepto and for his mystical theology, expressed here in the works 'On grace', the 'Steps of humility and pride', the sermons on the Annunciation in praise of the Virgin and 'On loving God'. He was also very involved in contemporary events, especially the launching of the Second Crusade, and it was his advocacy that secured the approval of the Knights Templar at the Synod of Troyes in 1128. To further the Templars' appeal for alms and men, St Bernard praised the Order in the De laude novae militiae, which he dedicated to their founder, Hugh de Payens.
This selection of Bernard's works represents the range of one of the most influential writers of the twelfth century and his continuing importance in the fifteenth century.