Decretals of Gregory IX, circa 1260 (MS Latin Kentucky XVII)


  • 1260


  • Raymond de Penyafort


  • Latin



  • Identifier: MS LAT KY XVII
  • Summary: In 1230, Pope Gregory IX instructed Raymond Penyafort (d. 1275), a Catalonian Dominican educated at the University of Barcelona, to codify the former collections of Canon law into a single, authoritative text. This effort became the Decretals of Gregory IX, otherwise known as the Liber extra. The manuscript discussed below is an early (circa 1260) version of the Decretals, which is of particular interest because of its unusually small size, indicating that it was designed for portability and ease of use, possibly by a student of law at the University of Paris. If owned by a student, the student had the ability to commission his copy with illuminated, probably historiated, initials which have since been excised. Though the margins are clean for the most part, there does exist some early marginal annotation in a contemporary or near contemporary hand.
  • Origin: circa 1260, France, probably Paris
  • Decoration: Frequent guide letters in black ink visible under rubrication, rubrics in red, paragraph marks in alternating red and blue, small capitals in alternating red and blue, many three- and four-line high initials alternating in red or blue with decorative filigree in opposing color interlacing along the left-hand of one if not both columns of each folio, the seven- or eight-line letters beginning each book were illuminated initials which have been neatly excised (fols. 71v, 133v, 200r, 223v) though some of the gilded bar remains (ex: opening letter of Book Three incorporated a sixteen-line vertical bar which was not excised), blue and red pen flourishes throughout extending almost to the bottom of the page.
  • Provenance: ‘Matt: Lee’, nineteenth-century inscription on fol.1r. William O’Brien, bequest book label dated 1899. Milltown Park, S. J. Library book label with space for press, section, and shelf (blank) and an embossed Milltown Park seal stamped over O’Brien’s book label. The embossed seal suggests that the flyleaf was added during the time the manuscript was owned by the Milltown Park S.J. Library. A piece of lined paper (modern, possibly 1950s?) inserted between pastedown and fly leaf written in a modern cursive in pencil: “Decretals. 5 books. Initials at beginning of each book cut out. Ms. seems to be French. 13th cent. Cf. Gumuchian Catalogue XI no.3, and Plate II.”
  • Notes: Complete set of five books in one volume, only missing first leaf (containing: De summa trinitate et fide catholica). Some marginal annotation clustered primarily in Book Two (fols. 9r, 81r, 87v, 88r&v, 91r&v) in a contemporary or near contemporary Gothic hand.
  • Script: Neat gothic textura, with crossed tironian et throughout
  • Support: Parchment
  • Binding: 13th century alum tawed pig skin over wooden boards, smooth spine with minor weakening due to repair, boards flush with the text block as expected with the time-period, evidence of a strap at the fore-edge indicating the clasp closed from the front to the back cover, green and red silk thread as secondary endband sewing.
  • Layout: Two columns, with 35 lines per page of main text. 42-45 lines in indices. Ruled in ink, knife prickings along bottom and outer margins.

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