De precepto prudentie

Accession number: 
MS M.1164
De precepto prudentie
Northern France or Belgium, ca. 1300.
Early 19th-century English calf, covers gilt and rolled in blind, spine gilt and tooled in blind.--Cf. Christie's.
Gift of Daniel and Cynthia Buttafuoco, 2007.
113 leaves (1 column, 19 lines), bound : vellum, ill. ; 199 x 134 mm
Possibly the author's presentation copy to William of Mechelen, Bishop of Utrecht (d. 1301); a 16th-century annotation 'Johannes Pochon' to the final leaf, together with a drawing of a tankard; Joseph Barrois (a note in pencil inside the upper cover reads 'Barrois 178'); purchased with 701 additional manuscripts from Barrois in 1849 by the fourth Earl of Ashburnham (1797-1878), number clxxviii in the Ashburnham collection, the Ashburnham-Barrois sale (Sotheby's 10 June 1901, lot 423); to Charles Fairfax Murray; Anton W.M. Mensing of Amsterdam (1866-1936), his sale (Sotheby's 15-17 December 1936, lot 411); to Maggs; Alan Lubbock, his armorial bookplate inside upper cover; sale (London, Christie's 4 June 2003, lot 15); Daniel and Cynthia Buttafuoco.

Ms. defense of poetry; written and illuminated in Northern France or Belgium, ca. 1300.
Decoration: 3 historiated initials, 1 illuminated initial, 1-line initials of red or blue throughout, 2-line initials with text-height terminals in gold flourished red and blue throughout, marginal illustrations and drolleries throughout.--Cf. Christie's.
The subjects of the historiated initials are as follows: 1. fol. 1r: Initial U with the author seated at a lectern reading -- 2. fol. 2v: Initial V with Nichasius kneeling and presenting his work to Bishop William of Utrecht within a finialed gothic arcade -- 3. fol. 58v: Intial with Nichasius reading beneath a gothic arch.--Cf. Christie's.
Texts: De precepto prudentie includes the teaching of the allegorical figure of Prudentia, and a treatise on the correct understanding of the classical poets. The first book, in 15 chapters, introduces the work and its purpose, eulogises the dedicatee, and relates how the figure of Prudentia (Learning) appeared to the author as he worked late on his studies at the University of Paris (Chs 1-4); her appearance is described, and the significance of her diadem and sceptre, which bear symbols representing the learned virtues, with a special commendation of Socrates as the epitome of these (Chs 5-11); Prudentia and the author converse, and she urges him to write in commendation of the study of poetry. In Book 2, Nichasius extolls the uses of poetry and criticises its neglect by his contemporaries, explains the materials and techniques used by the classical poets, praises Ovid as the most skilful manipulator of these, and confronts some adverse views (Chs 1-7); he explains the moral purpose of poetry in punishing the bad and elevating the good, and reproves the polytheism of the classical poets ('gentiles'), while offering some interpretation of it (Chs 8-11); finally, he elevates Ovid as the supreme poet, lauding his moral purpose, reproving his erotic poems, and offering a symbolic reading of the role of the gods in his works.--Cf. Christie's.
Collation: 113 leaves: 1-812, 99, 108, apparently complete gatherings 1-7 with catchwords at the lower inner corner of final versos and each gathering numbered by later binder at the lower edge of first recto.--Cf. Christie's.
The text is dedicated to William, Bishop of Utrecht, to whom the author presents his work on fol. 2v. The only medieval bishop of Utrecht of this name was William of Mechelen, bishop from 4 February 1296 until his death 4 July 1301. The style of the manuscript suggests exactly this dating for its execution and this combined with the elegance and scrupulousness of its production, together with the fact that the text has not been traced in any other copy, suggest that this is the original author's presentation copy. Minor emendations throughout the text in a contemporary hand show notable attention to detail and knowledge of the text, and may be Nichasius's own proof-reading of his work. The brief marginal glosses do not greatly post-date the original text.--Cf. Christie's.

Variant Title: 

In praise of poetry

gothic bookhand