Archival visit post № 1: John Hay Library

Brown University’s John Hay Library has a sixteenth-century manuscript catalogued as Ms. Latin Codex 4 (formerly BX2000 .A2 1519), which formed the subject of my first archival visit. The book is currently identified as an ordinal in the catalog, though that identification is debatable; it originates from the Benedictine monastery of Herrenbreitungen in the town of Breitungen (in the present-day German Land of Thuringia) and was completed in 1519. The scribe identifies himself in an explicit as the monk Pancratius.

In material terms, Hay Latin Codex 4 is a codex containing 119 parchment leaves of approximately 20 × 26 cm. It is bound with leather-covered wooden boards, the front cover being broken. Fifteen leaves were originally marked with distinctive knotted-ball parchment bookmark tabs, four of which are missing but have left clear remains. (It is not always immediately clear why certain pages have been bookmarked, though others clearly mark sections or the beginnings of discrete texts in the codex.) We can compare the Hay codex’s tabs with those of Snell’s Dragon Prayer Book, which are simpler in form and fewer in number. The former were formed by tying a knot in a parchment strip before folding it over and pasting it to the foredge of a folio, while the latter are formed from a simple folded strip (inked red, in one case).


A knotted bookmark on folio 89 of Hay Latin Codex 4.


Residue left by lost bookmarks on folios 48 and 50 of the Hay codex.


The red bookmark on folio 259 of the Dragon Prayer Book.

Hay Latin Codex 4 in fact contains four distinct texts, an introductory text (folios 1r–8r), the Pater Noster (folio 8v), a collectar (folios 9r–88r), and a pair of ritualia (folios 88v–114r and 114v–119v). The introductory text is written in a hybrida script of variable size (both 32- and 45-line, sometimes mixed on a page); the collectar is written in a twenty-line gothic textus quadratus; and the ritualia are written in a 32-line gothic hybrida similar to that in the introduction. The Pater Noster between the introduction and the collectar is written in a textus quadratus similar in size to that of the collectar, but in a quite distinct hand, perhaps not that of the primary scribe, Pancratius.


The hybrida script used in the introdoctory text and the ritualia (from folio 7r).


The 20-line textus quadratus used in the collectar (from folio 11v).


The textus quadratus script of the Pater Noster (from folio 8v).

It is noteworthy that Pancratius shifts into a hybrida script at places, e.g., on folios 12v and 15r. On folio 12v, for example, fourteen lines are in rotunda (lines 5–18, plus the last word of line 4), but on 15r it is three words in the middle of a sentence (“post eva(n)gelu(m) ad laudes ad tercium et”), with the shift occurring in the middle of a prepositional phrase. It is impossible to know exactly what Pancratius’s intention was here, or indeed if the shift was intentional. It is tempting to see here evidence of the decay in the formal monastic scribal tradition, such that Pancratius might have been less comfortable employing the very formal textus quadratus script and thus unconciously slipped into the less formal and easier hybrida, but that can only be speculation.


An unexplained brief shift to a hybrida script in the collectar (from folio 15v).

An interesting feature of writing in the second text—the collectar—is that a later hand has gone over the first several pages (folios 9r–11r) and added dots or small circles to the is. Minims, the fundamental elements from which many letters of the gothic scripts are assembled, are basically indistinguishable from one another in many hands, whether they be is or parts of ms or us. (Amusingly, the word minim itself, when written in a gothic script, is nothing but a series of minims: ıııııııııı.) The original scribe here has, as was sometimes done, distinguished his is from other minims with a hairline, but this is not easy to see, particularly when reading by candlelight at matins! A later hand has therefore marked the is on these pages for ease of readability, at the same time darkening end-of-line hyphens to a similar end. The us signs <ꝰ> on these pages have also been darkened, apparently by the same hand, though the purpose of this is not clear, as these glyphs are not especially hard to distinguish in the rest of the text.


Text from the collectar showing a later hand’s dotting of ‘i’s and darkening of hyphens and ‘us’ signs (from folio 9v).

Like the Dragon Prayer Book, the Hay codex employs two- and three-line initials, alternating red and blue, throughout. Unlike the Dragon Prayer Book, however, the Hay codex also employs litteræ duplices in places. These are formed with interlocking red and blue parts, and in the Hay codex occur in both two- and three-line forms. On the other hand, whereas the Dragon Prayer Book routinely uses red and blue capitals throughout the text, the Hay codex never uses them, except with the hybrida script in the ritualia, and then only rarely.


Two-line littera duplex ‘A’ (from folio 38r).

While its identification as such is disputed—about which I will say more below—I have been referring to the codex’s second text as a collectar (Latin collectarius or collectarium; both masculine and neuter forms are attested). This is a liturgical book containing the collects (collectæ) or short prayers specific to a day, along with their associated capitula, or scriptural passages. The text itself is a copy of the printed Collectarius congregationis Bursfeldensis O.S.B., an incunabulum dated to circa 1485. (A copy of the Bursfeld collectar is housed in the Dombibliothek Freising [catalog number J 223], and images are available on line through the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek’s Münchener Digitalisierungszentrum.) Folios 9r–88r of Hay Latin Codex 4 correspond to folios 13v–72v of the Freising copy of the Bursfeld collectar.

Hay Latin Codex 4’s introductory text is also adapted from the introduction to the Bursfeld collectar, though there are some significant alterations. Each contains a calendar of saints’ days and dominical letters (folios 1r–6v in the Hay, folios 3r–8v in the Freising) and some tables and forumulæ related to the computus of Easter (folios 7r–8r in the Hay, 9r–10r in the Freising). The latter are not identical, though that in the Hay manuscript is clearly derivative of that in the printed collectar. The Freising copy of the Bursfeld collectar, though, also contains two introductory passages which are not duplicated in the Hay manuscript (folios 1r–2v and 10v–13v). It appears that a folio is missing from the beginning of the first quire or gathering, and it is possible that the missing “folio zero” contained some portion of the Bursfeld collectar’s introductory text which is not present in the Hay codex which begins abruptly with the calendar for January.

The Hay Library formerly catalogued the book as “Collectarius and miscellaneous prayers” but was persuaded to change this by (unpublished) work done by Brown graduate student Caitlin Bass in 2006 which argued that the codex should be considered an ordinal (or ordinary) instead. This seems to be pretty clearly an error, given (a) that the text is a copy of a work itself classified as a collectar; (b) that it contains collectæ and capitula, which is essentially the definition of a collectar; and (c) that it refers to itself as a collectar in its explicit.


The explicit of the collectar (folio 88r).

The explicit is so called because it uses the word explicit (‘it is ended’)—here, “Explicit collectarius” (the collectar is ended). Pancratius further provides the date on which he finished: on 10 April 1519, “co(m)plet(us) e(st) p(ræse)ns collectari(us)” (the present collectar was completed). This leaves little doubt that the scribe viewed the text he was copying as a collectar. (It is worth mentioning that the printed Bursfeld collectar also concludes with the words “Explicit collectarius” [folio 72v], though without Pancratius’s further text.) Pancratius also clearly states that he was working “i(n) cenobio Preiti(n)gensi” (at Breitungen monastery).

As an interesting historical linguistic note, observe that Pancratius spells his name “Pancracius”; in mediæval Latin, t followed by i and another vowel was pronounced ts (or the regional dialectical equivalent), the same as c followed by a front vowel. Hence, mediæval scribes normally wrote in these cases where classical (and hence Renaissance and modern) Latin orthography would require. The ubiquitous mediæval spelling oracio (for oratio ‘prayer’)—seen throughout the Hay codex and the printed Bursfeld collectar, as well as the Dragon Prayer Book—is a result of the same phenomenon.

After the collectar proper, Hay Latin Codex 4 also contains a further text which is not present in the Freising printed collectar. This comprises a pair of ritualia detailing the benedictions, prayers, etc., for ordinary and extraordinary events. The first part (folios 88v–114r) covers thirty-four routine events, mostly tied to the daily lives of the monks. Examples include “Benedictio prandii et cene” (Benediction at luncheon and dinner), “Pro tonsione capillorum” (For the cutting of hair), “Agenda morientis” (Things to be done for the dying), or “Oracio ante fleubotonniam” (Prayer before blood-letting).

The second part (folios 114r–119r) covers ten less usual events, which the text describes as “extra ordinaria.” Some are disasters: “Pro tribulacione patrie” (For tribulations of the homeland) or “Pro pestilencia” (For plague). Some are merely church events that occur only infrequently: “Dum vacauerit prelatura” (When a prelature should be vacant) or “Tempore electionis celebrande” (In the time to hold an election).

The text of the ritualia concludes with scribe’s note that “Completus e(st) Per fratrem Pancracium.” Given that the hybrida hand in which the introduction to the collectar and the ritualia are written appears identical, we might assume that the same scribe is responsible for both the collectar and the ritualia, but here Pancratius confirms this.

In conclusion, Hay Latin Codex 4 is a fascinating manuscript. Like the Dragon Prayer Book, it is not easily classifiable—perhaps a reminder that much of mediæval life did not fit into such neat categories as we might assume. Outside its texts, too, the codex contains intriguing features, both in its materials—the knotted bookmarks, for example—and in its writing, with the mixed textus quadratus and hybrida scripts. It can certainly benefit from further study.

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