Exeter Cathedral Library MS 3507 Hrabanus Maurus, "De compute", Isidore, "De natura rerum': astrological and computistical poems and prose

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Matthew T. Hussey


131a. Exeter, Cathedral Library 3507

Hrabanus Maurus, "De compute",

Isidore, "De natura rerum':

astrological and computistical poems and prose

[Ker 116*; Gneuss 258]

HISTORY: A scientific collection mainly consisting of the computistical dialogue ofHrabanus Maurus (c. 780-856), "De computo'; authored in 819 or 820 and well known in Carolingian schools (Stevens 1992: 136-37) and the work on natural history and astronomy known as "De natura rerum" by Isidore of Seville ( ca. 560-636), also widely known in A-S and Carolingian centers. Hrabanus' "De computo" shares a corpus of glosses with two other later manuscripts (Avranches, Bibliotheque Municipale 114, ff. 98-132 and Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Riccardiana 885, ff. 312-46), and all may stem from the same, perhaps English, source (Stevens 1979: 197). The recension oflsidore's "De natura rerum'' is not the typical "long recension'' but a unique longer and more elaborate version (Fontaine 1960: 19-83; Stevens 1992: 136). The now lost exemplar of Exeter 3507 (perhaps from Sherborne) also was copied in London, BL Cotton Vitellius A.xii [250], a manuscript from late llc or early 12c Salisbury (Webber 1992: 69, 74; Stevens 1992: 136). Furthermore, some of the verses are also found, among other manuscripts, in the "Leofric Missal" (Oxford, Bodl. Lib. Bodley 579 [364]), a late 9c or early 10c northeast Frankish liturgical book brought to England by the 10c, when these verses were added (and much more), perhaps at Canterbury or Glastonbury, and later donated to Exeter by Leofric (Orchard 2002: 1.1-2; 132-205). Exeter 3507 was written in a stylized A-S square minuscule in the late 1 0c that shares some traits with the script of the "Exeter Book" (Exeter Cathedral Library 3501 (130]) and its sister manuscripts; moreover, the same hand is found for the main text in Oxford, Bodl. Lib. Bodley 718 and in Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale lat. 943 [422) (the "Sherborne Pontifical") and perhaps as a correcting hand in London, Lambeth Palace 149 (311), a manuscript in the same hand as the "Exeter Book" (Ker, Cat., 154; Conner 1993: 19-20; Gameson 1996: 162-63). Ker dates the script to the second half of the 10c, while Conner (1993: 44-47) suggests that the script of this trio of Exeter books is later than that of the "Exeter Book" itself, which would mean after about 970 or 980. Stevens (1992: 136) gives the more specific range, 960-86. Along with its sister manuscripts, Exeter 3507 is usually considered to have been written in Canterbury, perhaps at Christ Church, based on paleographical and art historical evidence (Gameson 1996: 178), though Conner (1993: 20 et passim) has argued extensively for an Exeter origin for this trio of books.

Based on the presence of Paris, BN lat. 943 in Sherborne by the early 11c (Ker, Cat., no. 364), and the seemingly close ties between Sherborne and Exeter in the 10c and 11c (Webber 1992: 69), it is possible that the book came to Exeter from Sherborne. Exeter 3507 may have come to Exeter with Leofric or been there in the late 10c (Conner 1993: 19-20), but the book does not bear a Leofrician donation inscription, nor is it in Leofric's 11c inventory. The manuscript was glossed in several hands, including the main one, and there are two OE glosses on f. 92v. Annotations in a 12c hand (as at f. 4v) show the book was read in the years after the Conquest. The 1327 inventory of Exeter's holdings shows that it certainly had come to Exeter by then (Oliver 1861: 303), and Ker suggests that it had come to Exeter "much earlier" (Ker 1977: 2.814). Exeter 3507 does not appear to be present in the 1506 inventory (contra the error in Ker, Cat., 154; corrected in Ker 1977: 2.814), though an untraced "Ysidorus de natura rerum" is found there (Oliver 1861: 373). There is a rust mark at the tail center off. 1, indicating that in a previous binding the book was chained, most likely in the Exeter library. The book was still in Exeter in the late 17 c, when Bernard noted it (1697: no. 25). It was rebound in the 18c, and this may have been the occasion of the list of contents now on the front pastedown. The manuscript was catalogued by Wanley ( 1705: 281 ), and Hickes ( 1705: 4 and table 2) printed its runic alphabets (f. 66r).

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