Richard Kay

title.none: Schutzner, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript Books (Richard Kay)

identifier.other: baj9928.0601.012 06.01.12

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Richard Kay, University of Kansas (emeritus),

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Schutzner, Svato. Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript Books in the Library of Congress: A Descriptive Catalog: Volume II: Theology and Canon Law. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1999. Pp. xxv, 650. 0-8444-0516-7. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.01.12

Schutzner, Svato. Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript Books in the Library of Congress: A Descriptive Catalog: Volume II: Theology and Canon Law. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1999. Pp. xxv, 650. 0-8444-0516-7. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Richard Kay
University of Kansas (emeritus)

This remarkable book will be prized by paleographers and students of manuscript production, but it should also be consulted by anyone interested in the late medieval culture of northern Italy and Germany, especially that of the lower clergy, monks, and nuns. Of the 52 manuscripts described here, all but two have already been given summary notices in De Ricci's Census (1935) and the supplement to it by Faye and Bond (1962), but now Svato Schutzner has described them elaborately in 586 pages. Systematically, he lists the contents, including additions, and he identifies each item with impressive success; codicologists will appreciate his detailed physical descriptions, which pay particular attention to watermarks (often illustrated) and bindings; paleographers will delight in his painstaking, letter-by-letter analysis of each hand, from which anyone who reads late medieval scripts can profit. These austerely scientific descriptions are supplemented by extensive, and occasionally whimsical, notes.

This detailed treatment is particularly appropriate for the sort of manuscripts held by the Library of Congress. Even by American standards, the collection is neither large nor choice. Indeed, the overall impression I have is that most of the manuscripts were acquired from donors and dealers who regarded them as bargains--not to say junk. A large proportion of them are miscellaneous collections that seem to be an incomprehensible jumble until the contents and collector are identified, which of course is what Schuzner has done, thus transforming a mediocre assemblage of marginal manuscripts into a valuable resource for the social and intellectual historian. (It may be noted in passing that a surprising number of manuscripts lack the first folio or quire, which suggests that someone was covering up a shady provenance.)

Schuzner organized his catalog into the traditional categories, giving pride of place to the Bible, followed by the liturgy and books of hours (vol. 1, 1989). Within each category, the entries are arranged chronologically and numbered seriatim, although the numbers given by Faye and Bond continue to be the current shelfmarks. In the present volume, he continued with the next two traditional categories, namely theology and canon law. Under both rubrics works marginal to the respective disciplines are included: for example, a German nun's prayer book is counted as theology (MS. 95) and the statute-book of an Italian lay confraternity is classed as canon law (MS. 114). Because of this diversity, Schuzner's catalog contains much that will interest social and church historians who are not particularly concerned with the academic disciplines of either theology or canon law.

Schuzner not only identified his texts but also when possible compared them with printed editions, often finding considerable variations and occasionally discovering that he had the best copy of a text. For example, MS. 97 turns out to be Cardinal Cajetan's autograph copy of his commentary on the four gospels (ca. 1530); likewise, MS. 107 may be the best copy of Peter of Ancarano's Lectura super Sexto Decretalium (1409). Even though textually insignificant, books owned by celebrities are prized by collectors, and MS. 65 is such an association copy, being a Latin anthology of the ascetic works of John Chrysostom that was once owned by Pope Boniface VIII.

Attention to bindings can also prove significant, as with MS. 66, a commentary on Deuteronomy 27 that has been implausibly attributed to Abelard but now can arguably be assigned to one of his followers because its twelfth-century binding originated in northern France or southern England, even though the manuscript subsequently migrated to Germany. The binding of MS. 109 is also informative; it was apparently disbound so an early typesetter could use it as copy and had to be repaired before it was rebound (481, n. 15).

The catalog teems with obiter dicta . My favorite is Schuzner's surmise that the large quantities of thin parchment used in small Parisian Bibles may in fact have been obtained from rats (49, n. 15), an hypothesis which, as he notes, could be verified by a DNA analysis. Another tidbit that invites further research is a marginal note made in the second half of the fourteenth century in MS. 102, a copy of Gratian's Decretum : on fol. 248r "in connection with prohibition of simultaneous performance of liturgical office by both sexes," an Italian annotator declared in the margin, "contrariam fit in alamanya" (421).

Many items in the collection cast light on the religious life of friars, monks, and nuns, but those concerning women are the most immediately interesting. Already well known is a rule for Benedictine nuns in Middle English (MS. 76), and another, which is sure to attract attention now, thanks to Schuzner's analysis, is MS. 96, a nun's illustrated collection of devotional texts in German, made in 1518, at the outbreak of the Reformation. A more curious example of late medieval piety is a Latin treatise on the body parts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which are allegorized one by one, from head to toe (MS. 92). This copy was made in 1493 by a Benedictine nun at Rolandswerth, a convent on an island in the Rhine near Bonn, where the book remained until the nineteenth century. The author's anatomical conceit was too much for a later reader of this manuscript, presumably a sister of the same house, who removed six leaves, two dealing with Mary's thighs and four with her navel.

This volume, like its predecessor, has been handsomely produced. We are given a photograph of almost every manuscript, and the large, quarto format of the catalog permits full-size reproduction in most cases. The quality of the photographs is excellent, but at a cost, because it is achieved by using slick, coated paper stock that makes this an unusually cumbersome and heavy book (over 5 pounds). Still I would be happy to see the format retained in successive volumes of the catalog--but alas! Schuzner considers the prospect for further volumes to be "poor," and in 1993, when his work on this volume was completed, he was assigned to other duties (viii); ten years later he retired. If the project is resumed--as it should be--it will be hard to find a cataloger able to emulate Schuzner'svirtuoso performance, admirably trained as he was atBratislava, Prague, and Strasbourg.