Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Bodley 381 (2202) John the Deacon, "Life of Gregory the Great"

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Rolf H. Bremmer
Kees Dekker


360. Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Bodley 381 (2202)

John the Deacon, "Life of Gregory the Great"

[Ker 311, Gneuss 570, 570.1)

HISTORY: A 10c manuscript containing John the Deacon's "Life of St. Gregory the Great" (BHL 3641). John the Deacon (ca. 825-880/882) compiled a life of Gregory the Great in 873-876 at the instigation of Pope John VIII, whom he commemorates in his preface. The life is interspersed with letters from the papal register and provides a representation of Pope Gregory as the spiritual leader of the Christian world and a model of sanctity (Leonardi 1991: 5.569). At the same time, John the Deacon's description of Gregory as the "pontifex et Anglorum gentis apostolus" (Hayward 2004: 29) underlines the importance for the cult of Gregory in England. This manuscript is one of three copies ofJohn the Deacon's "Life of Gregory" in England (Whatley 2001: 243). Another indication of the presence in England of what is presumably a copy of this work derives from a booklist that has been linked to Peterborough (Lapidge 1994: 156). The origin of this book is not entirely clear: Dumville (1994: 183) classified the book as "non-English;' while Gneuss (no. 570.1) believes it may have been written in England or by an English scribe on the Continent. There are OE glosses: 'theod ware' on f. 18v; 'ic ) Ă¾ingige | satago' on f. 185r. A set of prayers to St. Augustine on f. 192v shows that the manuscript was at Canterbury in the 12c.

Further information regarding the provenance of this manuscript can be gleaned from a now separate binding sheet (Bishop 1953: 438), consisting of one sheet of a Bible manuscript written in 'an artificial type of AngloSaxon majuscules; probably at St. Augustine's Canterbury, at the end of the 8c (Lowe 1935: 2.244). The leaves, which derive from a large quarto manuscript, contain parts of the Acts of the Apostles. The binding sheet was removed in January 1897, and is now Oxford, Bodleian Library, Lat. bib. b. 2 (P), belonging with British Library Royal l.E.vi, an incomplete part Bible (Gneuss, no. 448). A reference to the binding sheet is found on the inside of the front cover of Bodley 381, where it reads: 'Formerly belonging to St. Augustine's. Canterbury. see MS. Lat. bib!. b. 2 (P), I which was taken out of this volume by me in Jan. 1897. E.W. B. Nicholson: This removed binding sheet has 14c(?) shelf marks of St. Augustine's (for details see BarkerBenfield 2008: 3 .17 4 7) and an inscription showing that the manuscript was given to Sir Thomas Bodley in 1601 by the mathematician and manuscript collector Thomas Allen (l 540?-1632) of Gloucester Hall (Ker, Cat., p. 376). Other sheets from the same Bible, Royal MS 1 E vi, and Canterbury Cathedral Library and Archives, Additional MS 16+, show that the abbey regularly used discarded leaves for binding purposes (Budny 1997: 1.695; see also Barker-Benfield 2008: 1.442-43 [no. 190]). Ff. i and ii of Bodley 381 (Gneuss, no. 570.1) are from a Liber comitis, or comes book, being a capitulary containing the prophecies, epistles, and gospels read at mass, a predecessor of the later lectionary (referred to as a lectionary by Lenker 1999: 151). According to Bischoff (2004: 361) and Lapidge (2006: 171), these folios were written in north-eastern France, in the third quarter of the 9c; Bishop (1949-1953: 438) dated them to ca. 840- 880, and allocated them to Corbie (cf. Gneuss, no. 570.1).

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