Boulogne-sur-Mer, Bibliotheque Municipale 32 (olim 37) Ambrose, "De apologia prophetae David;' "De Joseph patriarcha;' "De patriarchis;' "De paenitentia;' "De excessu fratris;' Epistolae 64-68

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Peter J. Lucas
Angela M. Lucas


16. Boulogne-sur-Mer, Bibliotheque Municipale 32 (olim 37)

Ambrose, "De apologia prophetae David;' "De Joseph

patriarcha;' "De patriarchis;' "De paenitentia;'

"De excessu fratris;' Epistolae 64-68

[Ker 6* (p.lxiii); Gneuss 799; Lowe CLA 6: no. 735]

HISTORY: Written in Italy by several hands employing a broad and stately uncial script, probably in the first half of the 6c (Lowe 1953: 11, also previously described by E. Martel in Catalogue General 1872: 4.592-93, where it is assigned to the 7c). Corrections or alterations by a scribe are found occasionally, as on f. 7lr. Booklet B was added to Booklet A at the time of writing, Booklet B being distinguished by showing initially a different position for the vertical column of prickmarks and generally thicker membrane, as well as a new set of quire signatures. The manuscript was formerly thought to have been in England in the Sc. But as argued by von Buren (1993: 152- 55) the manuscript was at Lorsch by the end of the Sc, where it was annotated on ff. 61r-62r (cf. item 4) by an A-S monk passing through, probably on his way to (or from) Rome, then it was at Corbie in the mid-9c, where it was catalogued (Vatican, Pal. Lat. 1877, f. 49r) and the text was copied (Paris, BN, lat. 12137), before finally moving on to Cluny, where it was catalogued again as no. 103 in the 11 c. Unfortunately the loss of leaves at the beginning of the manuscript may have resulted in the loss of information about its provenance.

The manuscript's later history is difficult to reconstruct with certainty (cf. Wilmart 1925: 292-93, n.4). The older suggestion was that it was at Arras at the time of the French Revolution, and therefore previously at StVaast. Another suggestion is that it may well have been at St-Bertin. Martene and Durand (1717-1724: 1.2: 184) record seeing there three ancient manuscripts, one of St. Basil, one of St. Ambrose, and one of St. Gregory, "qui ont plus de mil ans;' and the present manuscript has been considered a prime candidate for the Ambrose. At the time of the Revolution the books from St-Bertin went to the depot at St-Omer. The manuscripts and books for the library of the newly-founded departmental Ecole Centrale at Boulogne-sur-Mer were chosen by one man, Jean-Baptiste Isnardi, who was able to select from four revolutionary depots, those at Arras, St-Omer, Montreuil-sur-Mer, and Bethune (see Describers' Preface). When the Ecoles Centrales were suppressed in 1802 the books were at the disposition of the town and became the fonds anciens of the new Bibliotheque Municipale (Tuleu 1995: 53). Undoubtedly the present manuscript was one of the hundred manuscripts chosen by Isnardi, but this information does not make its history watertight, particularly as Boulogne acquired more manuscripts from St-Vaast (some thirty-two) than from St-Omer (some eight) after the French Revolution (H. Michelant in Catalogue 1849-1918: 4 [1872]: 565-69). Moreover, there is another candidate for the Ambrose seen by Martene and Durand at St-Bertin, viz. Boulogne-sur-Mer 35 (Catalogue 1849-1918: 4 [1872]: 594-95) dating from the 9c.

During the 18c or early 19c the manuscript was exposed to damp, particularly at the spine, and probably also at the beginning and end, so that an estimated 6 leaves were lost from the first quire and one was lost at the end, and the penultimate pages, ff. 189v-190r, are much faded. At some point, probably in the late 19c, the manuscript was "reorganized" so that Booklet B was more fully integrated with Booklet A by the allocation of new quire signatures that provided the appearance of greater continuity between Booklet B and Booklet A. New titles were added in the top margin, as on ff. 25v, 55v, and also on ff. 185r, 187r, and 189r. Folio numbers were entered at the top right-hand corner of recto leaves. At this time the manuscript was re-sewn and bound, and a binding strip containing 12/13c writing was inserted at the centre of quire XXIV. F. 119 was sewn in in the wrong position (it should be before f. 115). No doubt this reorganization coincided with the late 19c binding of light tan calf on thick card with red morocco for the spine, presently covered in grey paper. A note in red ink on the last paper endleaf, f. l 92r, recording '190 feuillets I Boulogne sur mer le 17 mai 1884 I Le Conservateur' followed by his signature, is no doubt contemporary with the binding. Probably in the course of this rebinding some leaves were evidently glued to each other at the hinge, occasionally in defiance of the collational structure (e.g., ff. 26/27, 50/51, 58/59, 66/67). The rubber stamp of the Bibliotheque Municipale at Boulogne-sur-Mer appears in the bottom margin of every recto page. At the time of inspection ( October 2006) the manuscript was still in poor condition at the hinges of the bifolia, with several leaves loose (ff. l, 11, 74, 91, 179) and is due for conservation; it is also the most ancient manuscript in the library. It is described exactly as found in October 2006, using analysis of the textual content to indicate any loss or disordering of leaves that has occurred.

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