St John's College MS. 5
Hrabanus Maurus, Etymologiae sive de universo
Usually called De universo (Stegmüller, RB 7020 [5:7–9]), ed. PL 111:9–614. At the head, the epistle to Louis the Pious, with damaged incipit, is followed (fol. 1vb) by the preface addressed to bishop Haymo of Halberstadt and a table of contents for the 22 books, with that for book 1 repeated at the end (fols. 2va–4vb). Most of fol. 182va and the whole second column are blank. Owing to lost leaves, the text lacks PL cols. 177 C3–184 A9, 190 C2–197 A2, 526 C7–529 D2, 555 B3–558 B8.
On fol. 148rb, for example, a red triangle in the margin offers an alternative reading introduced by ‘aliter’, and there are numerous corrections. William Schipper, ‘Annotated Copies of Rabanus Maurus’s De rerum naturis’, English Manuscript Studies 6 (1997), 1–23 at 1–6, identifies several English copies with analogous corrections and argues that all are dependant upon a St Albans book of the 1140s, BL, MS Royal 12 G.xiv. This, as Schipper claims, may well have been the archetype of our MS, but, if so, on loan to Reading and very soon after it was copied (pace Schipper 6).
Such adjustments apparently go back very far in the textual tradition; see Erwin Panofsky, ‘Hercules Agricola: A Further Complication in the Problem of the Illustrated Hrabanus Manuscripts’, in Douglas Fraser et al. (eds.), Essays Presented to Rudolf Wittkower on his Sixty-fifth Birthday, 2 vols. (London: Phaidon, 1967), 2:20–8.
Schipper reproduces several leaves from our MS; see his plates 2a (fol. 126rb) (5), 4a (fol. 104ra) (8), and 6b (fol. 36ra) (12).
In double columns, each 272 × 90 mm. , with 13 mm between columns, in 44 lines to the column. Prickings frequently survive, especially in the gutter; bounded and ruled in black and brown ink.
Written in protogothic bookhand, the tops of minims often spatulate or paddle-like, as in mid-century hands, but mark of abbreviation usually flat, as in the late twelfth century. Punctuation by point and punctus elevatus.
Headings in red.
Large painted capitals at the opening of each book.
On f. 5ra, a 15-line high ‘P’, with descender down whole page, of gold leaf on violet ground with vines, flowers, and dragons; the first three words of the text in uncial 3-line gold capitals on a slate-blue ground.
For the other books, 6-line champes of blue and violet on gold leaf grounds or (for 1 especially) a gold leaf letter on violet ground.
Many initials repeat the dragon, vine, and flower motif, or use other animal shapes.
At chapter headings, alternating 3- or 4-line slaty blue or red lombards on restrained flourishing of the other colour; alternate 1-line lombards of the same to break up the text. Through the first three books, up to fol. 30 (the end of quire 3), the alternation includes red capitals on green and green on red.
Running titles in red provide book numbers.
At least three initials, all grouped around quire 4, approach a historiated form: (a) for book 4 (fol. 30rb), probably Isaac meeting Rachel at the well (in orange, violet, slate blue); (b) for book 5 (fol. 37rb), God enthroned holding the sun and moon; (c) for book 6 (fol. 40va) God coming to Adam at his creation.
On fol. 30, instructions for the rubricator, written vertically along the leading edge, where they should have been fully cut off, still survive.
See AT no. 134 (16), dated c.1200, and plate vii (fols. 40va and 55vb).
Modern replacement; the upper third of the spine now lost and the lower board almost totally detached. Sewn on five thongs. At the front, a marbled paper leaf a modern paper flyleaf, a vellum flyleaf; at the rear, a modern paper flyleaf and another marbled paper one (iv–v). Fol. iii may have been an earlier pastedown and has holes and verdigris from a chain staple in Watson’s position 6.
Provenance and Acquisition
‘hic est liber sancte Marie de Rading Qui eum celauerit uel fraudem de eo fecerit anathema sit’ (on a vellum label pasted to fol. iiiv, s. xiii in.) (Ker, MLGB 157). Identifiable as the Reading copy noted at Registrum R.11.3 (126, 268).
‘Liber Clementis Burdett’ (partially erased, fol. 182v; repeated in an s. xx note, fol. iv). On Clement Burdett, a mid to late sixteenth-century Berkshire vicar, see the extensive biographical accounts and discussion of his role as collector of Reading Abbey books, with discussion of their dispersal, Liddell, 51–3, Coates, 131–41.
‘Iohannes Stonor’ plus a mark, ‘Liber Iohannis Stonor’ (on the label pasted to fol. iiiv, above the Reading ex-libris; and fol. 182v, upper margin respectively).
The old shelfmark ‘Abac: ij: No 78’ (fol. iiiv, erased).
‘Liber Collegij Divi Ioannis Baptistae Oxon’ Ex dono Magistri Ioannis Stonor Generosi de North Stoke in Comitatu Oxon’ 1609’ (fol. 1, upper margin).
For enquiries relating to this manuscript please contact St John's College Library.
Funding of Cataloguing
Conversion of the printed catalogue to TEI funded by the Thompson Family Charitable Trust
Last Substantive Revision
2021-09: First online publication