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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Compilation of theological texts

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>According to the list of contents at <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(7);return false;'>the beginning of this manuscript</a>, it once belonged to Ramsey Abbey, and had been donated to its treasury (properly 'armariolum', a small chest or cupboard that is found in sacristy of a church and intended for keeping vestments and other valuables safe) by one of the abbey's monks, brother Ralph of Olney (active c. 1267–85). This evidence of provenance is confirmed by multiple additions by late 13th- and early 14th-century hands that relate to events and daily life at Ramsey Abbey. Some of the excerpts on ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(139);return false;'>68r-69r</a> bear a remarkable resemblance to the content appended to <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 468</a> (see: ff. vii recto-x verso), another manuscript that has a Ramsey Abbey provenance. Brother Ralph of Olney himself is known to have served Abbot William of Godmanchester (abbot 1267-1285) as 'custos operum' - warden of the works - a position of some authority.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Various theological texts that had direct application in a monastic setting form the principal contents of the manuscript. We find a text on the institution of novices (ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(13);return false;'>5r-12v</a>), a treatise on penance (ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(29);return false;'>13r-28v</a>) and another one of cloistered life and its challenges (ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(63);return false;'>30r-51r</a>). The compilation reveals also an interest in the past, with a text describing the legend of Charlemagne's alleged conquest of Spain (ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(106);return false;'>51v-64v</a>), which is part of the French <i>Chanson de geste</i> tradition. The manuscript once contained more texts: the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(7);return false;'>list of contents</a> mentions ten others that are no longer to be found in the volume. Among these are a Rule of St Benedict, texts on virtues and vices, on the Ten Commandments, and the Seven Sacraments. A text called 'Donatus' likely refers to a grammar that was a popular text used to teach Latin to young students. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Several of the additions to the manuscript illustrate the multilingual culture of 13th-century England. While the main texts are written in Latin, the additions and accompanying material show the parallel existence of Anglo-Norman French and Middle English. There are prayers and a homily in Anglo-Norman French addressed to a religious community (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(9);return false;'>3r</a>), and a brief note on the age of Virgin Mary (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(145);return false;'>71r</a>), while Middle English is used for writing down the Lord's prayer and Hail Mary (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(144);return false;'>70v</a>). The translation of texts between these languages is illustrated in the lower margin of f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(145);return false;'>71r</a>, where a line of Anglo-Norman is followed by the same line in Latin, and another line in Middle English is followed by a translation into Latin.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Tuija Ainonen<br /> Project Cataloguer<br /> Cambridge University Library</p>

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