Exeter Cathedral Library FMS/3 "Vita Sancti Basili" (fragmentary leaf)

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Matthew T. Hussey


131c. Exeter Cathedral Library FMS/3

"Vita Sancti Basili" (fragmentary leaf)

[Ker:--; Gneuss 260]

HISTORY: Eight binding fragments from a single leaf containing parts of sections II, III, and IV of the Latin translation of the Greek Pseudo-Amphilochius' "Vita Sancti Basili" (BHL 1023), the translation often attributed to Euphemius interpres (Corona 2006: 14-25, Whatley 2001: 105). The "Vita" circulated in the late 9c in Carolingian centers, and later became the source for Ælfric's OE "Life of Saint Basil" (Whatley 1996: 19; Corona 2006: 74-94). The eight fragments, all cut from a single leaf, are of various shapes and dimensions, darkly stained, and only sporadically legible. The text is in an early A-S square minuscule script dated by Ker (1977: 2. 845) to the beginning of the 10c; Dumville dates the script to the 920s and possibly the 910s (Dumville 1987: 171). Conner (1993: 128) and Corona (2002 and 2006, who discovered OE glossing in the fragments), suggest that the text - and its subsequent copying- may have originated in donations of books and relics by King Æthelstan (893/4-939). Indeed, two relics of St. Basil are listed in the record of Æthelstan's donation to Exeter found in Oxford, Bodleian Library Auct. D.2.16 [340), a gospel book later given to Exeter by Leofric (donation ed. Conner 1993: 171-209). Conner (1993: 20) and Gameson (1996: 152-53) note that the book from which these fragments survive may have been in Exeter in the 10c, or may have come with Leofric to Exeter. The illegibility of the OE gloss ( on f. 4v) does not allow dating. Perhaps some later medieval writing is on ff. 2v, 3v, 5v. The item, " legenda sanctorum" from the 1327 inventory allows that the book may have been in Exeter in the 14c (Oliver 1861: 305). Pen-trials, scribbles, etc. on several of the fragments suggest that these leaves were accessible in the later medieval period; however, the only definitive fact is that the fragments were in Exeter in the late 16c, when they were used in the binding of Exeter, Cathedral Library 3779, a cathedral capitular account book spanning the years 1499-1561 (Ker 1977: 2.845, Conner 1993: 28). Notes on the envelopes holding the fragments state that they were "cleaned and pressed" on 4 June 1958 and that an eighth fragment was discovered in 1973. Now kept wrapped in tissue and in a set of envelopes in the cathedral library.

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