[Manuscript] Sermon book. Latin. France, late 13th-early 14th century. Small in-4, manuscript on parchment,  leaves (195 × 152 mm on average, short margins), full Havana basane binding from the 18th c., carefully restored, spine with five ribs decorated with small irons, red morocco titleplate inscribed " Postillae majores ".
Unpublished and unclassified manuscript, in bookish gothic script and illuminated. It offers a precious testimony of the transmission and use of texts intended for preaching in France at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries.
Its decoration is similar to that in use in Paris from the 12th century, characterised by the alternating blue and red colours of the initials and their associated watermarks, which spread throughout Europe during the 13th century. The decoration of the main initial (fol. 11 r) is typical of the second half of the 13th century, including tendrils and 'frogspawn' motifs. The copy was most probably made at the very end of the 13th century, or the beginning of the 14th, retaining this decorative style.
The collection consists of three sections: the first is presented as a table of preaching material: it indicates the sermons contained in the third section, in the order in which they appear; each is designated by its thema (biblical quotation), followed for the most part by partial quotations, and the mention of the use for which it may be used. The outline of some sermons is mentioned. This part covers ff. 1r-9v, copied on a column of 25 lines measuring 140 × 112 mm, margins and lines set in graphite; black ink, headings, headings in red ink, capitals in red and blue ink. Biblical quotations are underlined with the same red ink.
The second section is an index of the sermons, in the order of their thema. It occupies ff. 10r-10v, is copied on a single column of 145 × 130 mm, on 23 lines. Indications of the liturgical feasts are written in red ink, the titles or incipit of the sermons in black ink with red underlining, and some initials in blue and red.
The third and main section contains 51 sermons. These are not copied in their entirety, as was common practice, but are presented in a synthetic manner, linked to a preaching theme, and accompanied by indications to assist in the construction of the sermon. This is what gives this manuscript an interesting place in the corpus of known collections of the time, but this particular form of the sermons limits the possibilities of identifying the works of preachers cited. However, three authors stand out, all linked to the Parisian academic milieu of the late 13th century:
- Guillaume de Lexi: Dominican whose presence in Paris is attested from 1267 to 1278, master regent at the convent of Saint-Jacques in Paris around 1273-74, contemporary and undoubtedly close to Saint Thomas. About forty sermons by him are known, two of which appear in this manuscript: "laÉtatus sum in his". (Ps. 121:1) (f. 95) and : "Hoc sentite in vobis" (Phil. 2:5) (f. 130).
- Gerard of Rheims (known as Bruine), preacher, cantor and canon of the cathedral, present in Paris from 1272 to 1302. We have about sixty sermons by him, the theme of the one appearing here is: "Quicumque manducaverit panem" (1. Cor 11:27) (f. 109).
- John of Anelto, probably canon of St. Victor, of whom 115 sermons are known. The sermon in this manuscript is: "altitudinem caeli et latitudinem terrae" (Eccli. 1:2) (f. 176).
This section covers ff. 11r-188v; it is copied in two columns of 29 to 33 lines, on an average area of 160 × 65 mm set in graphite; the colour of the ink used is sometimes brown, sometimes black. The text is followed despite the changes in ink and slight variations in handwriting. The initial letters of the main chapters have been copied in blue or red ink and embellished with ornaments (of the opposite colour) that extend into the margins. The capitals of the inner sections are alternately in red and blue ink, and the initials of the verses are highlighted in red ink. A beautiful watermarked initial in red and blue ink inaugurates the section on f. 11r and extends along the inner margin. Other smaller but similar watermarked initials are to be noted at the beginning of each sermon.
This manuscript appears at a pivotal time in the history of preaching, whose spirit was radically renewed in the 13th century. The sermon itself, first of all, changes form. It is then called sermo modernus. It consists of a biblical quotation called thema. This quotation is analyzed and interpreted according to the different meanings of Sacred Scripture. The sermon is constructed at that time as a genre in its own right, taking its independence from exegetical commentary and theological treatise.
This qualitative change was accompanied by a quantitative change. Public preaching takes off, embodied in particular by the activity of mendicant orders, and the need for collections of sermons develops. New literature is emerging, consisting of preaching materials: collections of exempla (short stories with moral content), collections of distinctions (repertory of the words present in the Bible and spiritual interpretation of each of their occurrences), and collections of sermon models to help priests prepare their own preaching. This manuscript bears witness to this movement and is distinguished by its unusual design.
A few marginalia of varying periods, between the 14th and 16th centuries.
Provenance: a handwritten note on the guard sheet indicates the probable donation of the book to the sanctuary of Notre-Dame de Laghet by Count Michaud de Beauchamp on October 2, 1889.
We would like to thank Marguerite Vernet for her identification and detailed analysis of this manuscript, which was provided free of charge.
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