coming soon… a medieval manuscript on exhibition, at UBC Rare Books

5 September 2013 Comments Off on coming soon… a medieval manuscript on exhibition, at UBC Rare Books

Hugh Ripelin, Compendium theologicae veritatis (14th c.)

Handing over for the rest of this news item to Richard Pollard (History, UBC):

A Piece of Medieval History comes to UBC

What better way is there to learn about medieval history than from a medieval manuscript?  Made of carefully smoothed parchment (usually sheep or cow skin), written with quills, carefully ruled and laid out with illuminated initials, containing texts ranging from prayers to scientific treatises – whether you are interested in the history of art, religion, culture, or even agriculture, a medieval book is a wonderful resource.

Up to now, however, UBC has not possessed a medieval manuscript.  After seeing how much students enjoyed and appreciated UBC’s collection of ‘Renaissance’ or early-modern books, I began to wonder whether UBC could expand its collection to include a medieval book.  Contacting booksellers in the UK, in particular Maggs Bros, I identified a medieval manuscript for sale.  Next came writing a proposal to convince our Rare Books and Special Collections library to acquire the book, which was well-received by Katherine Kalsbeek, acting head of RBSC.  Finally, on the 7th of June 2013, it arrived at UBC from London.

Our book once belonged to James Stevens Cox (d. 1997), but long before that it was produced in France in the 1300s.  The main work within is Hugh Ripelin’s (d. 1268) Compendium Theologicae Veritatis (‘Compendium of Theological Truth’).  This  was one of the most popular theological handbooks of the later Middle Ages, in frequent use by medieval university students as an introduction to the formal study of Christian theology.  The text is divided into seven sections, which treat God, the Creation, the Fall, the Incarnation, Grace, the Sacraments, and the Last Four Things (death, judgement, Heaven and Hell). The manuscript also contains a section of Thomas Aquinas’ Quodlibeta.  The script is a Gothic bookhand, with plentiful abbreviations and coloured initials, arranged in two carefully ruled columns.

It seems appropriate that the students of our university can benefit once more from what was probably a university book from 700 years ago.  I would encourage any student or scholar interested in medieval history to go see this new acquisition, which should be on exhibition in September at UBC’s Rare Books library.

Richard Matthew Pollard (post-doctoral fellow in medieval history, UBC dept. of History)

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