Anglo-Saxon England 10 (1982), pp.1-19.

Thomson, Rodney, Identifiable books from the pre-Conquest library of Malmesbury Abbey,
An excerpt: pages 11-13, 15.

I have left until last the most complicated case of all, yet also the most important and interesting.

In his Collectanea12 Leland refers to an item as simply ‘Tertullianus'. M. R. James was misled, and has misled others, into thinking that this referred to a collection containing Tertullian's Apology and some works of Lactantius put together by William of Malmesbury and known from late manuscripts.62 Had James looked at Leland's De Scriptoribus12, however, he would have seen that this was wrong, for there Leland refers to a ‘Tertulliani librum de Spectaculis, de Ieiunio'. The two references enable the manuscript to be identified as another example of the ‘Corpus Corbiense , of Tertullian's works, originally compiled in the fifth century and containing De Resurrectione Mortuorum, De Trinitate (now attributed to Novatian), De Spectaculis, De Praescriptione Haereticorum, De Pudicitia, De Monogamia and De Ieiunio.63 This collection is known to have existed in two manuscripts : one, probably of the ninth century, described in two eleventh century catalogues from Corbie, the other listed in the early ninth century (833) catalogue of Cologne cathedral library. Two folios from the second of these manuscripts were not long ago discovered doing duty as endleaves in the sixteenth century register of a German baronial family. The script apparently resembles the work of the scribes under Hildebald, bishop of Cologne (785-819).64

The Cologne manuscript, dismembered by c. 1563, was probably used by the second editor of Tertullian, Mesnart (1545), and perhaps by the third, Ghelen (1550).65 However, on his title page Ghelen claimed to have had recourse to 'complures veteres e Gallicanis Germanisque bibliothecis conquisitos. . . codices, in quibus praecipuus fuit unus longe incorruptissimus in ultimam usque petitus Britanniam'. On the verso he added further details of this manuscript : ‘Tandem ex ultima Britannia Ioannes Lelandus, uir antiquarius et feliciori dignus ualetudine, communicauit exemplar in Masburensi coenobio gentis eius uetustissimo repertum.'66

It is astonishing that the modern editors of Tertullian and Novatian have, because of Ghelen's generally untrustworthy editorship, from time to time doubted the very existence of this manuscript, without checking Leland's works.67 But let us proceed further.

In 1579 Jacques de Pamele (Pamelius) published the third edition of the works of Tertullian and Novatian, using, inter alia, 'liber manuscriptus Anglicus quidam, quem thesauri loco penes se adseruabat Ioan. Clemens’.68 In the Notarum Explicatio he refers to 'Anglicus codex antiquissimus Anglus .Ioan. Clementis Angli, e quo VII castigati sunt libri '. The seven works are those in the Corpus Corbiense and Pamele, using this manuscript, was able to correct some faults of Mesnart and Ghelen. The latest editor of Novatian says : ‘On ne saurait rien dire avec certitude sur le rapport mutuel de ces trois manuscrits, ne serait-ce que parce que nous ne savons pas exactement de quelle maniere les editeurs se sont servis des ressources qui etaient a leur disposition.'69

Again, it is astonishing that the continental editors of Tertullian and Novatian have not troubled to identify the Englishman John Clement. He is not hard to track down. A distinguished Oxford graduate, protege of Sir Thomas More and royal physician, he was the owner of a fine library,70 which was catalogued in 1554- 5 as part of proceedings to recover property seized during his exile from England in the reign of Edward VI. Among the authors listed in this catalogue is Tertullian.71 Since these books were sequestrated in England, they must have been in Clement' s possession before his first flight to the continent, which was in July 1549. In the autumn of 1560 or thereabouts he transferred to Antwerp and then to Malines, where he died in 1572. I assume that his ancient copy of the 'Corpus Corbiense' of Tertullian's works was Leland's, passed on to him either by Leland himself or by Ghelen after he had finished with it. For one thing, the only alternative interpretation, that two ancient English manuscripts of this rare collection were owned by two contemporary English scholars who lent them to successive continental editors, seems remote and unlikely. Secondly, Leland and Clement had for a time at least been friends. They were at St Paul's School together under Lily and, when in 1526 Clement married Thomas More's step-daughter, Leland, then in the Duke of Norfolk's household, composed an appropriate epithalamium.72 After 1530, certainly, one assumes that relations between the two men must have become somewhat strained, since Leland supported the religious policies of Henry VIII, while Clement remained faithful to the principles of his benefactor. What happened to their copy of Tertullian after Pamele had used it is not known.

In other words, Ghelen's 'codex Masburense' did in fact exist and did contain the 'Corpus Corbiense’ and we have the word of Ghelen and Pamele that it was very ancient. Can we find out any more about it ? The copy of the ‘Corpus Corbiense' which appears in the Cologne catalogue apparently did not contain any authors' names (' sed auctorem ignoramus' runs the entry) and Novatian, De Trinitate, and Tertullian, De Spectaculis, were lumped together under the title De Fide.73 John Clement's manuscript, which I take to be Leland's from Malmesbury, distinguished the two works as in the tables of contents reproduced by the Corbie catalogues.74 So the Malmesbury manuscript was, in this respect at least, more closely related to the Corbie copy than to the Cologne one.

Were the manuscripts from Malmesbury and Corbie indeed one and the same? The two Corbie catalogues in which the Tertullian appears date from the first half and third quarter of the eleventh century respectively. But Tertullian is absent from a third Corbie catalogue of c. 1200.75 One assumes that it left the house (if it was not destroyed outright) during the intervening period and there is therefore a real possibility that it came to England and thus to Malmesbury. One is tempted to see it as yet another of William of Malmesbury's continental acquisitions, although there is no evidence for his knowing these particular works of Tertullian.

The most likely alternative hypothesis would be that the Malmesbury manuscript was a gemellus, early copy, or even the ancestor of the Corbie book and that it was at Malmesbury well before the Conquest.


I mentioned earlier William's copy of Tertullian's Apology and three works of Lactantius.84  The Apology had some circulation in England after c. 1100,85 but the only other trace of these particular Lactantius items in pre-Conquest England is Aldhelm's quotation from one of them, the De Opificio.86  The extreme rarity of Lactantius manuscripts makes it likely that William's exemplar was, or was derived from, the manuscript used by Aldhelm.  This is not contradicted by the meagre textual history of William's copy, which shared a common ancestor with Paris, BN lat. 1664, of the twelfth century, and Monte Cassino, Archivio della Badia, 595, c. 1100.87

References from article (unchecked)

Ehwald = Ehwald, R., Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auct. Antiq. 15 (Berlin, 1919)
James, Two Ancient English Scholars = James, M.R., Two Ancient English Scholars, (Glasgow, 1931), pp. 9-15.
Ogilvy, Books known to the English = Ogilvy, J.D.A, Books known to the English, 597-1066, Med. Acad. of America Publ. 76 (Cambridge, Mass., 1967)
Thomson, 'Reading' = Thomson, Rodney, The Reading of William of Malmesbury, RB 85 (1975), 362-94.

12. John Leland, De Rebus Britannicis Collectanea, ed. T.Hearne, 2nd Edtn, 6 vols (London 1770-4), IV, p.157 and J.Leland, Commentarii de Scriptoribus Britannicis, ed. A. Hall (Oxford, 1709), I, pp.100-1.

62. James. Two Ancient English Scholars. p. 20; cf Thomson, 'Reading', pp. 365-6. The 'Codex Luganensis', to which William's text of Tertullian's Apology is related, is now Oxford. Bodleian Library, Lat. theol. d. 34.

63. Tertulliani Opera I, ed. E. Dekkers et al, CCL 1 (Turnhout, 1954), vii and n. 3.

64. G. Lieftinck, Un Fragment de De Spectaculis de Tertullien provenant d'un manuscrit du 9e siecle', Vigiliae Christianae 5 (1951), 193-203, esp. 196. and E. Dekkers, 'Note sur Les fragments recemment decouverts de Tertullien'. Sacris Erudiri 4 (1952), 372-83.

65. Lieftinck. 'Fragment'. pp 198-9, and Dekkers, 'Fragments', pp. 379-82.

66. Noviatiani Opera, ed. G. F. Diercks CCL 4 (Turnhout, 1972), 3.

67. Dekkers 'Fragments', p. 381 and Novatiani Opera, ed. Diercks p. 3.

68. Dekkers, ‘Fragments', pp. 374 -5, and Novatiani Opera, ed. Diercks, pp. 4-7.

69. Noviatiani Opera, ed. Diercks, p. 7.

70. A. B. Emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford, A.D. 150l-l540 (Oxford, 1974), pp. 121- 2; Dictionary of National Biography IV 489 ; E. Wenkelbach, John Clement : ein englischer Humanist und Arzt des sechzehnten Jahrhunderts, Studien zur Geschichte der Medizin 14 (Leipzig, 1925);G. Mercati, 'Sopra Giovanni Clement e i suoi Manoscritti', La Bibliofilia 28 (1926), 81-99, repr. Mercati's , Opere Minori IV, Studi e Testi 79 (Rome , 937) 292 3 1 -5 ; and A. W Reed, ’John Clement and his Books', The Library, 4th ser. 6 (1926), 329-39.

71. Reed, ‘John Clement' p. 339. But Reed says that, in all instances the books appear to be printed editions unless they are described as written (p. 337).

72. Wenkelbach, John Clement, pp. 17-18 and 55-8 and n. 55.

73. Dekkers, ‘Fragments’, pp 374-5.

74. Ibid.

75. L. Delisle, Le Cabinet des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Imperiale, 3 vols. (Paris, 1858-81) II, 428 (first catalogue), 428-32 (second) and 432-40 (third). On their dates see C. de Merindol, La Production des livres peints a l’Abbaye de Corbie, 3 vols. (Lille, 1976) 1, 70-1. Dr D. Ganz informs me that the titles of works in the second catalogue were taken from tables of contents apparently written in the ninth century.

84.  Above, p. 11; Thomson, 'Reading', p.366 and nn.

85.  Three English Tertullian manuscripts are known apart from the copies of William's collection (Oxford, Balliol College 79 and the German Gotha, Forschungsbibliothek, membr. I. 55):  Oxford, Bodleian Library, lat. theol. d. 34 (see above, n. 62); BL Royal 5 F. xviii (c. 1100); and Oxford, Bodleian Library, Add. C. 284 (s. xii).  Ogilvy, Books known to the English, p. 250, produces virtually no evidence for knowledge of Tertullian's works before the Conquest, although to argue from Ogilvy's silence is dangerous.

86.  James, Two Ancient English Scholars, p. 20; Ehwald, p.197 (De Metris).  Lactantius was listed by Alcuin among the authors in the library at York (Ogilvy, Books known to the English, p. 191).

87.  Lactantii Opera I.i, ed. S. Brandt, CSEL 19 (Berlin, 1890), xlvii-liii.  The Paris manuscript gives accents and breathings to the Greek passages, a remarkable feature in a twelfth-century western manuscript.  They must surely have been present in the archetype and are a fair guarantee of its antiquity.

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