Uncovering Manuscript Waste in the Rare Books Collection

Today’s post was written by Emeritus Professor Alexandra Barratt in Medieval and Manuscript Studies at the University of Waikato. Professor Barratt and her research assistant Alexandria Gillespie wrote this post in 2014 when she undertook research on items held in our rare book collection at the John Kinder Theological Library. 

Title page with false date
Title page of Cornelius Jansen’s ‘Paraphrases in omnes Psalmos Davidicos’ [1574] with false publication date.
Among the early printed books in the Kinder Library is a copy of Cornelius Jansen, Paraphrases in omnes Psalmos Davidicos, printed by Peter Zangrius Tiletanus of Louvain in 1574 (call number: R0456). This work of scriptural exegesis is not by the famous Roman Catholic theologian Cornelius Jansen, Bishop of  Ypres (1585-1638), some of whose views were condemned as heretical after his death and who gave his name to Jansenism, a seventeenth- and eighteenth-century religious movement whose adherents included Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher. Rather, it was composed by another Cornelius Jansen of an earlier generation, who was Bishop of Ghent and whose dates were 1510-76. The existence of two theologians of the same name has confused an earlier owner of the book, who altered the publication date on the title page from MDLXXIIII (1574) to MDCLXXIIII (1674).

Original binding. ‘Paraphrases in omnes Psalmos Davidicos’ by Cornelius Jansen.

As this book is late sixteenth rather than seventeenth century, and still in its original binding, it is the less surprising that it contains some ‘manuscript waste’, a strip of vellum bound inside the lower board. This strip, with the date on its back of 1562, is clearly part of an official letter. As it was still usual in the sixteenth century for the purchaser of a printed book, rather than its publisher, to arrange for its binding, it gives us some clues to where the original owner lived.

Back of strip
Strip of vellum bound inside the lower board. ‘Paraphrases in omnes Psalmos Davidicos’ by Cornelius Jansen.

The letter is from the ‘Officialis’ of the diocese of Liege, that is, the head of the bishop’s consistory court or Vicar-General. It is addressed to all the parish priests and other clerics of the walled city of Landen, about 40 kms away, instructing them strictly to observe the excommunication of the Carmelite monastery of the nearby town of Tienen or Tirlemont (its French name). The binder of the printed book might have been based in Liege and could have used a copy of the letter that had been kept in the diocesan records until considered no longer important, or he could have been based in Landen itself. The book presumably belonged to a Roman Catholic cleric, or possibly a religious institution such as a monastery.

Carranza ownership inscription
Title page of Bartholomew Carranza’s ‘Summa Omnium Conciliarum’ [1559] with owner inscription.
The binding is very similar to that of another book in the library of about the same date, Bartholomew Carranza, Summa Omnium Conciliarum, printed by John Steelsius in Antwerp, 1559. This copy belonged to a monastery but the ownership inscription is hard to decipher. It looks like ‘Monasterij Lodensis’, possibly a form of ‘Leodensis’, that is, ‘[belonging to] the monastery of Liege’.  Other suggestions welcome! Like the Jansen Paraphrases, it contains some waste — a strip of vellum visible at the back, which is wrapped around a paper bifolium (opening or double page). It originally functioned as a pastedown but unfortunately it is blank.



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