Holcot’s Commentary on Ecclesiastes

Holcot’s commentary on Ecclesiastes has received little (if any) scholarly attention. Beryl Smalley notes that there is a fragmentary commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes that is perhaps by Robert Holcot. The commentary in question is incomplete and terminates with Ecclesiastes 3:20. While attribution to Holcot is far from certain, Smalley observes that the work is preserved in a fourteenth-century English manuscript that contains sections of Holcot’s commentaries on Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus. Further, she notes that the work contains “local allusions” (i.e., English allusions) and “is in Holcot’s classicising style” (English Friars and Antiquity, 142). Unfortunately, there has been almost no work on this incomplete commentary since Beryl Smalley identified it half a century ago. This is perhaps due to Smalley’s judgment that “the script is so rough as to be barely legible in places” (ibid.).

Thankfully, there may be a bit of help (in terms of other manuscripts that may be easier to read).  Leonhard Huntpichler (a 15th-century scholar who died in 1478) copied, in two manuscripts, sections of Holcot’s commentary on Ecclesiastes (in the hopes of writing his own commentary on the book, which he never did). See Isnard W. Frank, “Leonhard Huntpichler O. P. (+ 1478), Theologieprofessor und Ordensreformer in Wien,” in: Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum 36 (1966) 313-388, here 364. He lists:

Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek 4149, fol 97-109 (Nr. 6)
Vienna, Dominikanerbibliothek 14/14, fols. 132-136

It should be noted that if Hutpichler made copies of the commentary in Vienna, there was obviously at least one copy circulating on the continent in the early to mid 15th century. (Thank you to Ueli Zahnd for the information regarding L. Huntpichler’s copies of the commentary on Ecclesiastes).


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