Category Archives: Basel Manuscripts

Robert Holcot’s commentary on Ecclesiasticus: Basel, Universitätsbibliothek B.V.11

Robert Holcot’s commentary on the book of Ecclesiasticus is one of his least studied works. The purpose of the present post is to briefly summarize what we know about the commentary and to offer a brief comparison of the early printed edition (Venice 1509) with Basel, Universitätsbibliothek B.V.11. This is the heart of the present post and the gist of it is presented in table form (Here): comparing the content of Venice 1509 with Basel B.V.11. This provides an initial point of comparison between the edition and the manuscript tradition, however more work has to done on the manuscript tradition.

We begin, as usual, with a brief summary of Smalley’s introduction to the commentary. Holcot’s commentary on Ecclesiasticus is preserved in 19 manuscripts and one early modern printing (see here). Smalley correctly notes that the work is divided into lectiones (lectures) similarly to the commentary on Wisdom (in Venice 1509 there are 88 lectures) (Smalley 1956, 16). While she observes that there are no “anecdotes or allusions” that provide a date for the commentary, Holcot’s use of Nicholas of Lyra places it after the commentaries on Wisdom and the Twelve Prophets (Smalley 1956, 23). Further, the printed edition and several of the manuscripts (e.g., Braunschweig 26 and Royal 3.A.xiv) state in the colophon that Holcot died before he could complete the work. As Smalley notes, if accurate this would place the commentary at the end of Holcot’s life during the last six years in which he lived at Northampton and lectured at the friary school (Smalley 1956, 23). Unfortunately, Smalley did not examine the content of the commentary on Ecclesiasticus in detail. Her attention remained focused on Holcot’s picture method—as developed in the Twelve Prophets, Wisdom and the Moralitates—and his use of sources. Further, I am not aware of a substantive examination of Holcot’s commentary on Ecclesiasticus. This is unfortunate, for as Smalley notes such a study would provide some information about the nature of Dominican education within the Northampton friary in the fourteenth century (and by comparison with the Wisdom commentary, could provide a useful tool to examine the differences between biblical lectures at the friaries and the Universities). The list of 19 manuscripts provides a somewhat distorted picture, as some of these manuscripts contain only small sections of the work. For example, the Basel Universitätsbibliothek preserves three manuscripts that contain sections of the commentary:

1. Basel, Universitätsbibliothek A.II.26, ff. 104r–105v, 107r–119v.
2. Basel, Universitätsbibliothek A.X.40, ff. 78r–80v.
3. Basel, Universitätsbibliothek B.V.11, ff. 1r–102v.

Of these three, only B.V.11 preserves a complete version of the work. I have had a chance to examine the manuscript and to compare B.V.11 to the Venice edition printed in 1509. The Basel manuscript contains 12 quires: [quire 1 (-8v), quire 2 (-16v), quire 3 (-24v), quire 4 (-32v), quire 5 (-40v), quire 6 (-50v), quire 7 (-58v), quire 8 (-66v), quire 9 (-74v), quire 10 (-82v), quire 11 (-90v), and quire 12 (-98v)]. The incipit and explicit are as follows:

Incipit Postilla super librum Ecclesiasticum edita a fratre Roberto Holcoth sacre pagine doctore, ordo praedicatorum (1ra). Omnis sapientia a domino Deo est [Eccl. 1:1]. Magister et dominus Gundisalinus libro suo De ortu scientiarum sic ait.

Explicit lectura, etc (98rb).

Explicit expliceat ludere scriptor eat | vinum scriptori debetur de meliori (98rb).

For those more interested in beautiful pictures, here is the capital on 1r.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 10.38.08 AM


Holcot’s Moralitates (notes on the Basel manuscripts)

The Basel University Library houses four manuscripts that contain Holcot’s Moralitates. What follows are a few notes on the texts.

  1. Basel A II 26

Robert Holcot, Moralitates. Folios 138rb–140va. In marg.: Moralizatio ymaginum dearum etc. Incipit: Theodosius de vita Alexandri. Rex sicilie alexandrum ad convivium invitavit.

This manuscript collects 20 of Holcot’s Moralitates. The individual moralizations are numbered in the margin.

  1. Basel A V 33

Robert Holcot, Moralitates. Folios 275r–292v. Incipit: Theodosius de vita Alexandri: Rex cecilie alexandrum… Expliciunt moralitates fratris Roberti holcoch. Deo gracias.

This is a beautiful collection of the Moralitates. The work contains 41 moralizations; the hand is clear and the text is well organized. The moralizations are consistent with those found in the Basel 1586 edition, however the ordering of the work is distinct. A V 33 begins with a list of Holcot’s famous picturae (verbal pictures) and progress to the historia. This is significant because within the text the individual moralizations are listed as pictures (which is distinct from the printed editions). This basic pattern is followed in Basel B VIII 10 (while one cannot make much of such limited information, there is some indication that the manuscript tradition better preserves the nature of the work as a collection of picturae). See, e.g., the following moralizations:

2nd moralization (cf. Bs 1586, Moral. 19): pictura orationis (AV33 275r) 3rd moralization (cf. Bs 1586, Moral. 31): pictura peccati mortalis ((AV33 275v) 4th moralization (cf. Bs 1586, Moral. 38): pictura luxuriae (AV33 276v) 6th moralization (cf. Bs 1586,  Moral. 8): imago amoris (AV33 277r) 7th moralization (cf. Bs 1586, Moral. 9): pictura amoris pro nativitate et passione Christi (AV33 278r) 9th moralization (cf. Bs 1586, Moral. 22): imago poenitentiae (AV33 279r) 10th moralization (cf. Bs 1586, Moral 33): pictura superbiae (AV33 279r) 11th moralization (cf. Bs 1586, Moral. 44): pictura fortunae (AV33 279v)

3. Basel A X 118

This manuscript is unfortunately quite disorganized and difficult to navigate (as well as having an incredibly tight binding that threatens to self destruct). The Moralitates are not preserved in the work (so far as I can tell) as a discrete collection, however a few of the individual moralizations (and pictures) are randomly interspersed with other texts on folios 332–367. Though one should be cautious: on folio 332r begins a collection of exempla the first of which the manuscript catalogue (p. 167 (178)) (incipit: Narrat Ovidius in magno libro…) attributes to Holcot. However, that particular moralization does not seem to be one of Holcot’s moralizations (though several do begin Narrat Ovidius as preserved in other collections). The collection (and the manuscript) seems somewhat random, difficult to read in sections, and highly disorganized. More work would be needed to determine whether there is a significant collection of the moralizations in this manuscript (though with perhaps little reward).

4. Basel B VIII 10

Robert Holcot, Moralitates. Folios 1r–16v. Incipit: Theodosius de vita Alexandri…

This is a great little collection of texts that is similar to the manuscripts described here. The work includes several texts [Holcot, Moralitates (1r–16v); Aenigmata Aristotelis moralizata (16v–18v); Imagines Fulgentii moralizatae (19r–29v); Declamationes senecae moralizatae (29v–39r); and a tabule subsequentis (39r–42va).] The Moralitates collection includes 45 moralizations with a similar organization to A V 33. The manuscript also contains a sermon collection. It is dated to 1347.  The final folio contains the following note (90v): Iste liber est tratrum ordinis praedicatorum conventus Basiliensis et est de libris magistri Petri et fratris Iohannis de lœffen, oretur pro eis.

Lambeth 221 and Basel A II 26: Some Manuscript Notes (Holcot)

Robert Holcot is alleged to have written a work called the Distinctiones Bibliae. As I note here, Sharpe (1475, p. 555) lists the Distinctiones Bibliae as an authentic work of Robert Holcot. Whether or not this work should be attributed to Holcot is far from certain, although at present there is no reason to dismiss the work as spurious.  Sharpe notes that the incipit of the work is Abominabitur autem Deus tales and that it should be distinguished from Eustasius de Portu’s Distinctiones Holcot with an incipit Abicere debemus.

I have recently been working through Lambeth 221. Between folios 55vb and 154rb the manuscript contains three distinct (I think) texts. The first (ff.58vb–145vb) is a distinctiones collection that, following Sharpe et al., should be attributed to Eustasius de Portu (incipit Abicere debemus). Following that text is another work (ff. 146ra–148vb) that seems to be an incomplete text that provides a term/name from the Bible and gives some indication where to find that term (like a biblical index). Finally, the third text (ff. 146ra–148vb) is the work, again following Sharpe and others, that should be attributed to Holcot (incipit Abominabitur autem Deus tales). However, this work seems to be a table keyed to another text, and not an independent collection of distinctiones.  To help clarify the problem, I have now consulted Basel A II 26.  Here are a few notes (related to Holcot) about the content. There are four texts in this fourteenth-century ms. (which originated from the Dominican House in Basel) that are relevant to Holcot’s corpus:

(1) Robert Holcot, Super librum Ecclesiastici (prologue). Folios 104ra–105va.

Header: Principium Holkot in Ecclesiasticum.
Incipit: Omnis sapientia a domino deo est (eccl. 1:1), magister et dominus Gundisalinus libro suo de ortu scientiarum…
Explicit: Principium Holkot in librum Ecclesiasticum.

This work was also printed in Venice (1509) where the corresponding text (the prologue) is designated as lectio 1 (ff. A 2ra–A 3rb).

(2) Robert Holcot, Super librum Ecclesiastici (Eccl. 1:1-38).

IncipitOmnis sapientia… (Eccl. 1:1), Beatus Augustinus 4 De doctrina Christiana, c. 12
ExplicitAttende [in] illis…circa primum est notandum.

As noted above, this work was printed in Venice (1509) and is found there as lectiones II-XIV (ff. A 3rb–B 4vb). The version found in the Basel ms. is incomplete and breaks off midway through what is lectio XIV in Venice 1509.

(3) Robert Holcot, Moralitates. Folios 138rb–140va.

In marg.: Moralizatio ymaginum dearum etc.
Incipit: Theodosius de vita Alexandri. Rex sicilie alexandrum ad convivium invitavit.

This work collects 20 of Holcot’s Moralitates. The individual moralizations are noted in the margin. I have confirmed that the moralizations are consistent with those found in the Basel edition of Holcot’s Moralitates (though I have not checked every instance).

(4) Eustasius de Porto (?), Collationes moralitatum postillae Roberti Holcot per ordinem alphabeti dispositae. Folios 230ra–255vb.

Header: Collationes seu distinctiones moralitatum postille magistri Roberti Holkott abreviate et per ordinem alphabeti abstracte per fratrem Eustasium de portu usque ad litteram.
Incipit: Abicere. Abicere debemus divicias temporales quia repellunt veritatem.

This text, as noted above, is claimed to be by Eustasius de Porto (by Sharpe and others). The collection of distinctiones here is consistent with the collection found in Lambeth 221 discussed above.  The list of terms begins with Abicere and concludes (in Basel A II 26) with the term Gratiarum on folio 255vb. Thus, this work corresponds with the text found in Lambeth 221, folios 58va–90rb. Unlike the Lambeth manuscript, the Basel version of Eustasius’s work is incomplete and does not contain the work (alleged to be by Holcot) with the incipit Abominabitur autem Deus tales. This takes us no further towards understanding the relationship between (or authorship of)  Abicere debemus and Abominabitur autem Deus, but at least we have a few more data points.

A fellow colleague and friend, Marjorie Burghart, shared the list of terms from Lambeth 221.  Here I add to her list the foliation for Basel A II 26 (of course, the majority of the work is hers).  Lambeth 221-Basel A.II.26 (Table of Terms).