Sunday, 15 November 2015

A Greek Manuscript Used as a Hiding-Place?

Having twice found evidence of pairs of medieval(?) spectacles left between the leaves of medieval manuscripts (described in the blog posts here and here) I now have a comparable, but somewhat different, situation to share.

In the previous posts I suggested that if a person only needed glasses for reading, it made perfect sense for him/her to leave the glasses in the book, both to act as a book-mark, and to make sure that they could be found when next needed.

Oxford, Corpus Christi College, MS 76, fol.1r
(By permission of the President and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Oxford)

But the key whose rust-stain can be seen in the images above was apparently not used as a bookmark, as it occurs on the very first page of the book.

It seems instead that the book was simply used as a hiding-place. Perhaps the person who put the key there was confident that no one was likely to consult the book, precisely because it is in Greek.

Some readers may question whether this sort of thing really counts as "provenance" at all, but my definition has always been much broader than just an enumeration of named owners: I believe that anonymous marginal "nota" marks, nondescript re-bindings, and erased or otherwise illegible inscriptions, for example, each represent specific moments in the history of a manuscript that, when analysed and placed in chronological order, tell us something more about that manuscript and its users.

But for those who prefer their provenance more traditional, this leaf has two very significant inscriptions.

In the top right corner of the same page is a simple ownership inscription:
"Liber Ulielmi [sic] Grocini"
William Grocyn (d.1519) was a student at Oxford and later taught Greek there.

Below the key-mark is an inscription in an elegant 16th-century hand:
"Orate Pro A(n)i(m)a Joannis Claymondi Collegij Corporis Christi p(ri)mi presidis /
Qui hu(n)c libru(m) eid(e)m condonavit"
Corpus Christi was founded just two years before Grocyn died, and it is therefore perhaps not surprising that John Claymond (d.1537), the College's first President, took the opportunity to buy Grocyn's Greek manuscripts for the new College's Library.

For descriptions and reproductions of Corpus's Greek manuscripts, see N.G. Wilson, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Greek manuscripts of Corpus Christi College, Oxford (Cambridge, 2011)

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