London, British Library, Cotton Vespasian D. xiv Homilies, etc; Isidore, "Synonyma"

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Jonathan Wilcox


245. London, British Library, Cotton Vespasian D. xiv

Homilies, etc; Isidore, "Synonyma"

[Ker 209,210, Gneuss -, 392]

HISTORY: The present binding encloses two quite distinct manuscripts. The first part, from the middle of the 12c, is mostly drawn from Ælfric's "Catholic Homilies"; the second part is a copy oflsidore's "Liber synonymorum," which was perhaps written in Italy but had traveled to England by the early 10c. The two parts were boun.d together probably in the early 17c. Part 1 (ff. 4--169) is written in a script dated by Ker to the middle of the 12c and identified by him as "the 'prickly' kind used at Canterbury and Rochester" (Cat., 276). Both the script and the inclusion (at ff. 151v-157v) of a translation of a sermon by Ralph d'Escures (bishop of Rochester, 1108-1114, archbishop of Canterbury, 1114-1122) make Rochesteror Canterbury the likely places of origin. Handley (197 4: 249) points further to a particular association of Saints Furseus and Neat with Christ Church, Canterbury. She associates the assembling of the core collection with the activity of Anselm as Archbishop of Canterbury, 1093-1109. Richards (1973), on the other hand, asserts a Rochester origin. Part 1 was subsequently in female ownership, since the late 12c addition of a prayer to the Virgin Mary on f. 4r is written to be spoken by a woman, anci/la tua. Subsequent provenance is unknown, until the manuscript came into the hands of Laurence Nowell, Robert Talbot, and Matthew Parker, whose annotations are described below. It belonged to Sir Robert Cotton by 1621.

Part 2 (ff. 170-224) is written in a continental minuscule dated by Ker to the 9c and probably from Italy (Watson 1979: 109). This second part received additions in square Anglo-Saxon minuscule, including dating formulas for the time of writing as the thirteenth year of the reign of King Edward, i.e., A.D. 912 (f. 223v / 8-21, described below). The manuscript was in use in England by 912, then, and it was presumably at about this time that it received its OE glosses, the script of which Ker dates to the first half of the 10c (Cat., 277). Ker also points to the mark '.SY.' at the top off. 170v, which he suggests may have been written in the 12c and which also survives in a copy oflsidore from Christ Church, Canterbury (Cambridge, University Library Kk. 1. 28), implying a similar provenance.

Schmetterer (1981: 9) observes that the two parts were not joined by 1560, at about which time Laurence Nowell made heavy use of the first part without showing any knowledge of the second part, yet were united by 1621, when both parts are described together in a catalogue of Sir Robert Cotton's manuscripts. At about this time Richard James, Cotton's librarian, made the table of contents on f. 2r incorporating both parts (Forster 1920: 46-47). Sir Robert Cotton (1571-1631) is, thus, the most likely candidate for ordering the joining of the two parts.

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