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17.10.25, Sicard, Iter victorinum

17.10.25, Sicard, Iter victorinum

Scholarly understanding of any particular medieval manuscript tradition is ever in a state of flux: with the passage of time new manuscripts are discovered, their provenance realized or clarified, individual works attested to are freshly identified or re-identified, and various addenda and corrigenda become part and parcel of our received body of knowledge. And so, as Sicard himself notes, a necessary "law" of this sort of work seems to be that it is always incomplete, forever lacunose (7). Though this is certainly true, Iter Victorinum takes its readers significantly further toward understanding the premodern transmission of Hugonian and Richardian texts than has been possible previously.

This imposing tome, the twenty-fourth volume in Brepols's Bibliotheca Victorina series, is intended as a supplement to two foundational works of Rudolf Goy, namely Die Überlieferung der Werke Hugos von St. Viktor. Ein Beitrag zur Kommunikationsgeschichte des Mittelalters (Stuttgart 1976; hereafter: Goy I), and Die Handschriftliche Überlieferung der Werke Richard von St. Viktor im Mittelalter (Turnhout 2005; hereafter: Goy II). In these two volumes, Goy catalogued a total of 2,150 manuscripts containing more than twice as many individual works, letters, and other pieces authored by or attributed (with more or less certainty) to Hugh and Richard, respectively. The key contribution that Sicard's recent supplemental volume makes is considerable: it adds the Hugonian and Richardian pieces, including pseudepigrapha, attested to in 1,813 new manuscripts, increasing the known manuscript witness to the works of these prominent Victorine canons regular by nearly 85%.

As illustrative examples, let us consider how Iter Victorinum greatly augments current scholarly understanding of the manuscript tradition of two significant works of Hugh, namely Didascalicon de studio legendi and In Canticum Beatae Mariae. For nearly four decades, thanks to Goy I, Victorine scholars have been aware of 125 manuscript witnesses to the text of Didascalicon, one of Hugh's most important and influential works (Goy I, 14-35). This number represents a nearly 30% increase from the 88 manuscripts known to Charles Henry Buttimer when he published his Latin edition in 1939. Now Sicard has added an impressive 50 new manuscript witnesses, some of which date from the twelfth century, bringing the total to 175 (208-215). Of all of his entries--a total of 82 MSS, both newly discovered and previously known--nine are based on his direct examination of the manuscripts. Furthermore, apart from his first-hand observation of a handful of new manuscripts, Sicard's own inspection of several textual witnesses that were known to Goy enables him to provide new details and revise previous understandings. For instance, whereas Goy dated Barcelona, Bibliotheca de Catalunya 102 generally to the thirteenth century, and provided no details concerning its production (Goy I, 15 no. 5), Sicard pushes its date back to the fourth quarter of the twelfth century and notes that it was written in Spain by an Iberian scribe who frequented Paris and assimilated Anglo-Saxon decorative elements attested at St. Victor (209). Similarly, direct examination of Leipzig, Universitätsbibliothek 395 leads Sicard to shift its dating from the thirteenth century to the third quarter of the twelfth century (211; cf. Goy I, 23 no. 56).

When the reader of Iter Victorinum comes to In Canticum Beatae Mariae (228-32), he or she finds--among the 39 manuscripts catalogued--22 new textual witnesses. These fresh finds increase the known manuscripts attesting to In Canticum by nearly 28% (cf. Goy I, 383-91, who lists 57 MSS). As with Didascalicon, several of these new manuscripts date from the twelfth century, and Sicard's descriptions are based on direct examination (e.g., Dendermonde, Abdijbiblioteek 13; Paris, BnF, lat. 2839; Tarragona, Biblioteca Pública [Provincial] 156). Additionally, Sicard suggests some new and intriguing possibilities concerning manuscripts that were known to Goy. For example, whereas Goy dated Paris BnF lat. 14506, a witness original to St. Victor, to the thirteenth century (Goy I, 389 no. 42), Sicard shifts the date back to c. 1140-1150, thereby suggesting that it may have been produced during Hugh's own lifetime. Similarly, whereas Goy dated Vercelli Biblioteca Capitolare 116 generally to the fourteenth century, Sicard situates it at the beginning of the thirteenth, noting that it was original to France and may have been brought to Vercelli by Thomas Gallus (231; cf. Goy I, 391 no. 56). Finally, it is worthy of note that exactly half (11 of 22) of Sicard's newly discovered witnesses date from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and belonged to Benedictine and Cistercian houses across Europe, testifying to the considerable influence of Hugh's profound Marian commentary on religious life in the later Middle Ages.

The light that Iter Victorinum sheds on contemporary understanding of the manuscript tradition of the works of Richard is somewhat less effulgent, but this is the case primarily because only a decade separates the publication of Goy's catalogue of the Richardian corpus from the appearance of this volume. For example, Sicard identifies only five new manuscripts of De trinitate, one of which is now lost, to supplement Goy's 74 (Goy II, 174-87). As with the works of Hugh, however, he does add some interesting and useful details concerning previously identified manuscripts. Sicard notes, for instance, that the thirteenth-century MS Paris BnF lat 15730 was bequeathed to the College of Sorbonne in 1285 by Simon Widelin, cantor of the church of Arras (691).

Another pragmatic and engaging contribution that Sicard makes here comes in the form of his cataloguing various "Notes, mentions et miniatures" related to Hugh and Richard or to their works (63-79, 661-63). For instance, although Goy I duly noted the importance of Douai, Bibliothèque municipale 363 as an early witness to several Hugonian works, Sicard takes those of us who follow him along the Victorine road an important step further toward understanding Hugh and his immediate reception by reproducing a biographical note found in this manuscript. The scribe, presumably a Benedictine of Anchin writing c. 1160-1180, set these words to the parchment on fol. 2rb: "Anno ab incarnatione domini MCXLI obiit domnus hugo canonicus sancti victoris III. Idus februari qui ex ipprensi territorio ortus a puero exulavit et hec et plura alia sui operis emolumenta reliquit" (65). Relatedly, Sicard reproduces the biographical notes on both Hugh and Richard found in the fourteenth-century Memoriale Historiarum of John of St. Victor as witnessed to in MS Paris, BnF, lat. 15011. In addition to its description of "Master Hugh of Saxony, most illustrious in sanctity and knowledge," as unsurpassed among his contemporaries in liberal arts learning and innate intellectual capacity, this MS, which originated at St. Victor sometime after 1335, contains the Memoriale's account of the transfer of Hugh's body into the choir of the abbey church in that same year (69). The Memoriale also relates the great flourishing, around the middle of the twelfth century, of "Master Richard the Scot, who was a subtle and devout teacher" who penned such preeminent theological works as De trinitate (662). Although these biographical descriptions can be found in other published sources and may even be well-known to some modern students of the Victorines, Sicard has reproduced all of the notes and mentions of Hugh and Richard that have come to light thus far under one convenient cover. Indeed, his catalogue gives users the fullest, most up-to-date access to these early written accounts that a modern printed book permits. Only consulting the manuscript witnesses to each of these notes and mentions would provide a clearer view.

Thus, as the words of Valery Larbaud that constitute the epigraph to the volume's index suggest (723), Iter Victorinum virtually transports its readers to the many libraries all over the world that house Hugonian and Richardian manuscripts, from Aachen to Aosta, from Gdansk to Glasgow, from Los Angeles to Lyon, from Zwettl to Zwolle. The volume's massive Cumulative Index, produced in conjunction with Luc Jocqué and running to nearly 150 pages, is perhaps its most impressive and practicable feature (723-869). Scholars interested in one or more specific manuscripts are able to see at a glance, in three parallel columns, where to find that witness not only in the present volume but also in Goy I and/or Goy II. And in comparing the most recent manuscript descriptions to those of Goy, they can readily recognize just how far Iter Victorinum has brought them.

In sum, scholars and students of Hugh and Richard of St. Victor owe Sicard a tremendous debt of gratitude for his painstaking work and surefooted guidance. And they owe it to themselves to have this valuable volume always at the ready.