Thursday, 25 June 2015

Katherina Mast, Cistercian Scriptrix

I was recently asked on Twitter about the curious decoration in a few images of a Ferial Psalter at Penn (MS. Codex 655), which had been catalogued when it was acquired in 1965 as 14th-century, and French.

The style of decoration looked unusual, and I didn't know what to say, so I looked at more images, available at SIMS.

The first noticeable thing is that the major divisions of the Psalms, marked by enlarged initials, are not at the usual places: the largest (each typically 7 lines high) mark Pss. 1, 32, 45, 59, 73, 85, and 101, while only 3-line initials mark the more normal divisions at Pss. 38, 52, 68, and 97, plus Ps. 105, and Ps. 119 (the first Gradual Psalm). Thus this is not a normal lay/secular/Benedictine/Augustinian book.

In the Litany of saints following the Psalms, the very short list of martyrs includes Lambert (crossed-through by a later owner):

This suggests a connection with the (very large) medieval diocese of Liège, whose western boundary was, in places, further to the west than Brussels:

Erik Kwakkel confirmed that he thinks the script and decoration of the manuscript look "southern Low Countries (nowadays Belgium)", rather than French.

The rest of the litany shows that it is Cistercian: following Martin and Nicholas, the martyrs are "petre", "ethmu(n)de", "malachia", and "willelme":
i.e. Peter of Tarentaise (with "ora" in red after his name), Edmund Rich, Malachy of Armagh, and William of Bourges. A later reader cared enough about the last three of these saints to indicate their correct order by writing the letters 'a', 'b', and 'c' in the right margin.

They are followed immediately by Benedict, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Robert of Molesme:

The Office of the Dead is also Cistercian. So far, so good. But can we be more precise about which Cistercian house it comes from?

Following the Psalter, Litany, and Office of the Dead is a colophon, apparently not noticed before:

Although not entirely clear, it appears to read (in black, after the rubric):
"Qui me scribebat nome(n) katheri-
na mast habebat. Premia scrip-
tricis. sint vite dona p(er)he(n)nis"

The final phrase is recorded in at least one other colophon.

A scribe called Katherina Mast is recorded in Munich, Clm 10899:
This catalogue description tells us that in 1476 a scribe named Sister Katherina Mast, professed at Val-le-Duc, wrote a copy of the Life of St Juliana, for the Cistercian abbey of Villers, which is about 25 miles south of Brussels, at the edge of the diocese of Liège:

The same text was apparently copied by the same scribe, also for Villers, in the previous year; it is described in the auction catalogue of the Ashburnham-Barrois manuscripts, and its colophon transcribed:
"Valle Ducis" is almost certainly the female Cistercian abbey also known as Hertogendal and Valduc, at Hamme-Mille, less than 20 miles north-east of Villers:

There is quite a lot more that could be said about this manuscript, but I will save that until after September, when I hope to be able to examine it in person. For now, it is satisfying to have brought Katherine Mast into the limelight and to have helped date and localise the manuscript.


  1. Pour une fois une copiste !!
    Le ms ASHBURNHAM doit être celui de la KBR = Brouette (Emile). Un manuscrit de la Vie de sainte Julienne de Cornillon écrit à Valduc. (Leodium, 47, 1960, p. 5-13). — Étude du Bruxelles, B. R., 2759 écrit
    en 1475 par Catherine Mast, cistercienne
    de Valduc, et copié d'après un ms de l'abbaye de Villers, aujourd'hui perdu,
    descendant de l'archétype : Paris, B. Ars. 945.
    Scriptorium / Bulletin Codicologique 1963, n° 342

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts
    and I am waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.



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