19.09.09 Berndt (ed.), Der Papst und das Buch im Spätmittelalter (1350-1500)

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Jesse D. Mann

The Medieval Review 19.09.09

Berndt, Ranier, ed. Der Papst und das Buch im Spätmittelalter (1350-1500): Bildungsvoraussetzung, Handschriftenherstellung, Bibliotheksgebrauch. Erudiri Sapientia. Münster, Germany: Aschendorff Verlag, 2018. pp. 661. ISBN: 978-3-402-10445-3 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
Jesse D. Mann
Drew University

This thick and wide-ranging book consists of two main parts roughly equal in length. The first is a collection of essays (in English, French, Spanish, and German) that originated at a conference at Mainz in September, 2014. The second is a detailed catalog of one hundred sixty-two MSS belonging to (anti-) Pope Benedict XIII. The unifying theme connecting these two parts is well-represented by the book's title (also the title of the Mainz conference): The pope and the book in the Late Middle Ages.

In an introductory essay, Britta Müller-Schauenburg usefully identifies some of the connections between the pope or papacy (the distinction is important throughout this work) and the book. Popes (and papacy) function as book-owners and collectors, book users, book producers, book censors and even as the subject of books, especially in the age of the Great Schism and its conciliarist aftermath. These various connections between pope and book are manifest in the three subsections of the Mainz conference and in the corresponding sections of the essays collected here: Bildungsvoraussetzung,Handschriftenherstellung, and Bibliotheksgebrauch.

In the first section, Patrick Zutshi presents the library and writings of the fourteenth-century English cardinal, Adam Easton. As Zutshi argues, Easton's involvement with the papal curia helps explain his familiarity and engagement--unusual for an Englishman at this time--with Hebrew language and scholarship. Davide Scotto's careful study of MS Vat. Lat. 2923 follows. This manuscript, a "thematically coherent collection of writings on Islam" (65), belonged to the Spanish theologian Juan de Segovia. Segovia dedicated it to his former colleague from the Council of Basel, Aeneas Silvius Piccolomi, shortly before Piccolomini ascended to the papal chair as Pope Pius II. Using this specific example, Scotto's fine essay traces the relationship between Pius II and Segovia's significant personal library and illuminates how Segovia used this manuscript as an attempt to influence ecclesial policy in the "conflict" with Islam. Jessika Nowak continues the focus on Piccolomini in her examination of the papal election of 1458. Reviewing the personal traits and experience of the various candidates, she concludes that, while education, erudition, and culture (Bildung) were prerequisites for inclusion in the conclave, election to the papal throne also involved other factors such as family connections and proven political acumen.

The second section, addressing manuscript production, discusses both specific elements of production and specific textual genres by focusing on specific manuscript examples. Drawing on her own previous work, Josefina Planas Badenas provides descriptions of several MSS connected with Benedict XIII and with his scriptorium at Peñíscola. Her detailed essay underscores the international "network" of skills and artisans present in this scriptorium, and also suggests some specific connections between Benedict's Peñíscola workshop and the ateliers of Avignon. Anette Löffler focuses on the genre or text-type ofLibri de scismate, collections related, as the name indicates, with the Great Schism. While most scholarship has concentrated on the Spanish libri, Löffler instead examines French examples, notably three MSS housed in the Bibliothèque Nationale. Her careful study suggests that these French and Spanish Libri de scismate show complicated and interesting inter-relationships and that these works deserve closer scrutiny as distinct collections and as a more general phenomenon. Angela Franco Mata's contribution, the longest in this volume, likewise treats a specific genre (pontificals) in a specific geographic context (Spain). This informative essay includes detailed descriptions of many pertinent manuscripts, but it seems occasionally disjointed and sometimes even unclear. The accompanying illustrations are numerous and elegant but, at least to this reviewer, not always as germane or illuminating as one might wish (e.g., the caption to Tab. 28 seems to confuse Alfonso Carillo de Acuña with Luis de Acuña). Likewise, the several references (e.g., 184) to Eugenius IV as "pape d'Avignon" are similarly unclear. This section concludes with Marta Pavón Ramírez's study of the library of another Pedro de Luna, not Benedict XIII but his homonymous and nearly contemporary nephew. Her essay examines an unedited document, written mainly in Spanish, in the Archivio Segreto Vaticano (ASV Reg. Vat. 332, fols. 41r-42v) that lists the contents of this de Luna's library and his wishes for its disposition. According to Pavón Ramírez, this document was revised by Benedict XIII who know his nephew's library well. As she argues, this text reflects some common features of late medieval ecclesiastical testaments, and it also demonstrates how some popes increased their own libraries by appropriating the collections of other prelates. Pavón Ramírez concludes her essay with a reproduction from the Vatican document and a corresponding transcription. I'd suggest the following corrections to her transcription: for vii volumenes read un volumen (205: two instances); for de nico con Cathilina read de Cicero contra Cathilinam (206); and for theologiae visitationis read theologice veritatis (206).

The final section of this first part of the book treats the papal libraries of Avignon and Rome and how these libraries were used. Paul Payan presents an interesting discussion of the spatial organization of the papal palace in Avignon. He deftly demonstrates how the arrangement of books can itself be an expression of power and policy. Payan addresses previous attempts (e.g., that of Gabriel Colombe) to reconstruct this papal library. More importantly, perhaps, he argues that the spatial distinction between Benedict XIII's major libraria and his studium reflects a distinction between the papal (or institutional) library and the pope's own personal, working library. Christine Grafinger provides a clear and concise overview of the transition of the papal library from Avignon to Rome and of the subsequent growth of the Vatican collections. This story may be well known, but it is ably presented here, and the distinctive contributions of several fifteenth-century popes, notably Nicholas V and Sixtus IV, are admirably summarized. Of special note is Grafinger's attention to the importance of library catalogs and cataloging systems as valuable historical documents. Antonio Manfredi focuses more specifically on Nicholas V and how his humanist interests influenced the development of the Vatican Library. According to Manfredi, Nicholas V's humanism pushed him to create 'a new pontifical library… a library of texts conceived for researchers, a library aimed at going back to the sources" (254). Here the image of the Vatican Library as research hub and home to scholars comes clearly into view. The usefulness of the papal library to scholars is a key point in Nicolas Weill-Parot's concluding essay on Pedro Garsia's critique of Pico della Mirandola. Garsia apparently used a copy of William of Auvergne's De universo borrowed from the papal library while composing his work against Pico. In this example, we see how papal scholarly resources could be marshalled in support of papal policy.

As Anette Löffler informs us in her introduction to the second main section of this book, the catalog of manuscripts presented here stems from a broader research project devoted to the thought of Benedict XIII as reflected in his library (277). The catalog is the work of Löffler and Britta Müller-Schauenburg. Of the 538 known manuscripts belonging to Benedict XIII, Löffler and Müller-Schauenburg have cataloged 162 that focus on canon law and ecclesiology, soteriology, Bible commentary, and heresy-catalogs (278). These MSS are found mainly in Paris, Rome, and the Vatican; one is found in Wolfenbüttel. In preparing the catalog descriptions, the authors have mainly followed the guidelines of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Especially valuable in these descriptions, beyond the meticulous codicological and paleographical information, are the provenance summaries and extensive bibliographic references. Interestingly, Löffler and Müller-Schauenburg worked "from microfilms rather than from the originals" (280). This is certainly understandable. However, they make no mention of the digitized version of the Codices Borghesiani available through the Vatican Library website [1], although they do note the brief descriptions and bibliographies related to those manuscripts accessible through that site (279 n. 13). Of course, things change quickly and often in the digital world, and this may be more a matter of timing than oversight. And perhaps there would be little or no difference between microfilms and scans anyway. Still, the reader should be alerted to these readily available digitized MSS. In any case, the descriptions presented in the work under review are significantly more detailed and thorough than those found on the Vatican website. Accuracy is obviously an important trait in a catalog such as this. My several stichprobe(mainly comparisons with several MSS from the Borghesian collection) suggest a high level of accuracy here. Of course one can find typos and other minor errors (e.g., several references to Schulte on p. 470 and elsewhere are incorrect), but these seem rather insignificant relative to the scope and value of the catalog which, as the authors hope, should prove a catalyst to further research. The volume concludes with an excellent bibliography and several useful indices, including an index of manuscripts.

In a wide-ranging historical and theological reflection at the outset of this book, the editor Rainer Berndt (director of the Hugo von Sankt Viktor-Institut in Frankfurt) observes that "from its origin the papal library was a place of culture and communication as well as a place of religion" (39). The essays and the catalog of Benedict XIII's manuscripts presented here vividly illustrate Berndt's observation. They are expressions of the rich intersection between culture, communication, and religion and as such should appeal to scholars in various fields, especially book and library history, manuscript studies, and the history of Christianity.

-------- Notes:

1. http://www.mss.vatlib.it/guii/scan/link1.jsp?fond=Borgh

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