Saturday, 17 May 2014

A Dispersed Copy of John of Wales's Communiloquium

Leaves of a fine copy of the Communiloquium or Summa Collationum of John of Wales (alias John Waleys / Joahnnes G[u]allensis) are to be found in a wide variety of collections, and they occasionally appear on the market.

One framed leaf, at Occidental College, provides information about their provenance, otherwise unavailable.

On the back of the frame is an old typescript label:

"Bought by / Arthur M. Ellis / from a monastery / in Spain in 1930 / ***/ A treatise on religion by / engrossed on parchment by / JOHN GALLENSIS / 1450 A.D. / Bought from / Europe to /  J.Gregg Layne by / Mr. Ellis"
Arthur M. Ellis (1875-1932) was an attorney, founding member, first Chairman, and later President of the bibliophile Zamorano Club, named after California's first printer.
Joseph Gregg Layne (1885-1952) was also a member of the Zamorano Club, and a leading authority and bibliographer of Californiana.
It is easy to imagine that Ellis bought the volume on a trip to Spain in 1930 (John of Wales's text was translated into Catalan in the 15th century: evidence of its popularity in the Iberian Peninsula) and then distributed a number of leaves to his friends and colleagues, including Layne. 

The volume was doubtless imperfect when he bought it: where two sets of foliation both survive, the original red ink foliation differs from the 20th-century pencil foliation by 8, suggesting that a first quire of eight leaves was missing when the pencil foliation was supplied.
Foliations ".xxviij." and "20"
The text is in seven Parts, each divided into Distinctions, and each distinction divided into Chapters. The parts and distinctions are indicated by running-headings, and the chapter numbers are in their rubrics, so it is easy to work out which part of the text each leaf contains.

At the top of the Occidental leaf is a running-heading "III D" (3rd Distinction) and a red ink foliation "xxi". In its present framed state only one side of the leaf is clearly visible, but one can just about discern that the reverse has a running-heading "I P" (1st Part) between the "III" and the "D":

The rubric above the illuminated initial begins "S[ecundu]m ca[pitulum], so here we have Part 1, Distinction 3, chapter 2. The rubric:
"S[ecundu]m ca[pitulum]. Q[uod] princeps debet esse humilis deo et eccl[es]ie colens deu[m] v[er]e et eccl[es]ia[m] honora[n]s"
 closely matches an online printed edition:

Two leaves are now in the collection of a UK private collector who has put them online at flickr.comThe first of these is from Part 1, Distinction 3, with running-headers "I P" and "III D", original red ink foliation "xxviii", and modern pencil folio "20"; with illuminated initials marking the beginnings of the 8th and 9th chapters:
The second is from Part 4, Distinction 3, with running-headers "IIII P" and "III D", with original red ink foliation cropped off, and apparently modern pencil folio "92", with illuminated initials marking the beginnings of the 5th and 6th chapters:
A leaf from Part 2, including chapters 4 and 5 of an unidentified Distinction is in a private collection in Japan:

A leaf with the illuminated initial to Part 1, Distinction 3, chapter 11 (folio ".xxx.") was sold by Old World Auctions in 2004:

Also in 2004, another two leaves were offered in Maggs Bros, Catalogue 1366, European Bulletin No.23, [December 2004], nos.28-29, one with a six-line and five three-line initials, clearly from Part 4, including chapters 4-8 of an unidentified Distinction:

and another (no.29) with two three-line initials on the recto (not illustrated in the catalogue).

A leaf from Part 3, Distinction 6, with the illuminated initial for chapter 3, folio "lxxxvii[i ?]" was offered by Phillip J. Pirages, Catalogue 57, no. 75:

Pirages clearly had a very significant portion of the parent manuscript, as he offered a variety of leaves in three price ranges in 2004-2005: in Catalogue Fifty-One (2005), as item 128
"$100 - $125 (for leaves without gold initials); $950 - $2,950 (for leaves with gold initials)

and in Catalogue Forty-Nine (2004), under item 114:
"$325 - $475 (for typical leaves); $85 - $95 (for leaves without gold initials); $750 - $5,500 (for specially decorated leaves)"
of which two full-page reproductions are given in black and white, and a detail of another is reproduced in colour: 

Initial to Part 4, Distinction 1, chapter 1
As we can see from the images, ordinary chapters usually have a three-line initial, but the beginning of Part 4 (above) has a ten-line one.

I would be glad if readers would bring further leaves to my attention.

[EDIT, 19 May 2014:]
Eric Johnson, Curator of Early Books and MSS at The Ohio State University, has kindly directed me to his very recent post on Facebook, concerning the acquisition by Ohio State of a leaf from the volume, in which he points out that the manuscript was still substantially intact, having 106 leaves and a 17th(?)-century binding, when sold at PBA Auctions, 12 June 2003, lot 155, "from the library of Arthur M. Ellis":


  1. Two other leaves :

  2. Hi Peter,
    I just stumbled across another fol from this MS in the collections at the University of Reading:


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