SAINT CHER, Hugh of.


SAINT CHER, Hugh of. Commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences, with the Abridgement of the Sentences.

Eastern France, Illuminated manuscript on vellum., first half of the fifteenth century


8vo (166 by 110mm). 148 leaves (including fly), complete, collation: i- xv10, xvi7 (first leaf a singleton added to complete text, but text continuous – compare the online photographs of Yale, Beinecke MS. 1079, fols. 196r-197v; this gathering includes three endleaves and the rear pastedown), contemporary catchwords and modern pencil pagination on lower corners of rectos, Latin text in double columns of 18 lines (main text generously spaced) with commentary in smaller script set within blocks filling entire sections of columns or smaller rectangular part (see below), rubrics in dark red-burgundy, paragraph marks in red, running titles in same at head of each page, small initials in red or blue (some with purple or red contrasting penwork). Four illuminated initials in blue, green or dark pink acanthus leaf fronds, enclosing other foliage on burnished gold grounds, single hairline foliage and acanthus leaf sprays in margin, terminating in gold bezants and ivy-leaves and long pointed fruit, encased in penstrokes giving them a distinctive ‘hairy’ appearance (similar to borderwork on early fifteenth-century Books of Hours and liturgical books, compare L.M.C. Randall, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery, II: France, 1420-1540, 1992, figs. 197, 199, 201 and 203, all Parisian or northern French first half of fifteenth century). Many marginal and interlinear additions by main hand, a little flaking to opening initial, one or two leaves with small splashes, a few small marginal wormholes, good margins, generally excellent condition. In sixteenth-century blindstamped pigskin boards bevelled in their mid-sections in German style, and tooling of panels of Tudor rose style flower heads and small flowers, binding skilfully restored, traces of metal clasps at fore-edge. Overall, a high quality and elegantly produced ms in excellent and crisp condition.

A very fine copy of a fundamentally important medieval text, yet to be edited or extensively studied; and most probably the sole copy to appear on the open market since records began
1. Written and illuminated, most probably for a monastery or cathedral school in eastern France, in the fifteenth century. Bound or rebound with bevelled boards in the German fashion, in the sixteenth century.
2. In French-speaking ownership in the nineteenth century, with notes on the date of the codex and its contents on front pastedown and front flyleaf.
3. Alexis Noisilier of Paris: his 1929 printed bookplate to front pastedown.
Peter Lombard’s Sentences was a fundamental compilation that provided the medieval Church with a comprehensive framework for theological and philosophical discussion. It ranks among the most important works of the Middle Ages, and among the handful of commentaries that the thirteenth century produced, that of Hugh of Saint Cher (d. 1263), a French Dominican friar, holds a commanding position. It steered and guided study of Lombard’s work for several generations, making itself felt in the works of John of Treviso, the anonymous abbreviation Filia Magistri, the commentary of Richard Fishacre, among others, and most probably contributed to the development of a new type of commentary (see M. Bieniak, ‘The Sentences Commentary of Hugh of St.-Cher’, in Mediaeval Commentaries on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, 2009, ed. P.W. Rosemann). It is particularly surprising that there is no edition of the text, and only two partial studies of its manuscript tradition – focussing only on the thirteenth-century witnesses (T. Kaeppeli, Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum Medii Aevi, 1975, II, p. 272, no. 1983, and IV, p. 125; updated by B. Faes de Mottoni, ‘Les manuscrits du commentaire des Sentences d’Hugues de St. Cher’, in Hugues de Saint-Cher († 1263) bibliste et theologien, ed. L.-J. Bataillon et al., 2004, pp. 273-98, listing 41 manuscript commentaries – all in European institutions; save a thirteenth-century Spanish at Yale, Beinecke MS. 1079).
A contemporary hand has added at the end the erroneous note that it was “Abbreviatus ut credunt per M[agister] Alexander de halis”, linking its authorship to the English Franciscan writer, Alexander de Hales (d. 1245), which might provide for future scholarship. Faes de Mottoni notes the glosses of this English Franciscan are found alongside those of Hugh of Saint Cher in the crucial early witness of the text in Stockholm, Kungliga Bibliotheket, MS. A 150, a thirteenth-century Parisian witness, which gives all four books of the Sentences in their full form, with the commentary in the margins, and has been identified as an authorial related copy of the work by F. Stegmüller (‘Die älteste Redaktion des Senten zenkommentars Hugos von St. Cher in einer Handschrift der königlichen Bibliothek zu Stockholm’, Nordisk Tidskrift för Bok- och Biblioteksväsen, 35 (1948), p. 69-79; and the same author’s ‘Die endgültige Redaktion des Sentenzenkommentars Hugos von St. Cher’, Classica et mediaevalia, 9 (1948), pp. 246-265) see also W. H. Principe, ‘Hugh of Saint-Cher’s Stockholm ‘Gloss on the Sentences’: An Abridgment rather than a First Redaction’, Mediaeval Studies, 25 (1963), pp. 372-376, and J. Gründel, ‘Hugo von St. Cher O.P. und die älteste Fassung seines Sentenzenkommentars’, Scholastik, 39 (1964), pp. 392-401, for opposing views. If comparison of the commentaries in the Stockholm manuscript and the present links them textually, our copy would be particularly important for knowledge of the history and use of the text in later medieval France.
This is thought to be Hugh of Saint Cher’s first work, and he is known to have lectured on the Sentences at the University of Paris in 1226-1227, 1229-1230 and perhaps also 1230-1231. It is in fact two texts: a complete abridgement of the entire Sentences (hence the work is sometimes, inaccurately, called an epitome), as well as the commentary itself. Moreover, it is notable that the commentary here is set in smaller script in smaller blocks occupying the whole or sections of the text columns in a way clearly derived from the arrangement of glossed books of the Bible by Parisian book-producers in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries (see C. de Hamel, Glossed Books of the Bible and the Origins of the Paris Booktrade, 1984). While such a format is absent from some early witnesses (such as the Stockholm manuscript), it is found in others, such as the Yale copy, which presents the similar text and commentary in a near identical format. Clearly this ‘Glossed Bible’ format has its origins in the earliest history of the text, and thorough study of the surviving witnesses would probably reveal families and patterns. The present ms stands as an important record of the continuing use of this format into the fifteenth century.
The work itself is of breath-taking rarity on the market, with the vast Schoenberg database listing only one possible copy: offered for sale by B. Rosenthal, cat. 1 (1954), no. 5 (although its small size there suggests that it was in fact a copy of the Filia Magistri – as was the text of the same title offered online by Les Enlumineres, their TM 905, in 2019). The Beinecke bought theirs from an undeclared and possibly private source in 1920. Thus, the present copy would appear to be the sole copy of this important text to appear on the market since records began.