Liberal Arts and Education
BPL 191 A (France/Southern Netherlands, 1100-1400): John of God, Poenitentiarius (Confessor), parchment, 279 fols., 212 x 155 mm, 1-2 cols., 31-52 lines.

Have you ever wondered what a classical author looked like? Someone, either the scribe or a future reader, tried to illustrate this by drawing a portrait of Statius on fol. 213v. Unfortunately, his or her artistic skills leave much to be desired - Statius’ only recognizable trait is his laurel wreath. The same “artist” tried to draw another portrait on fol. 238v, but it was never finished.

This composite manuscript consists of eight parts. As the leaves of the parts were being trimmed to the same size, the commentary of the first part (fols. 1r - 36v) was partly cut off. As a result, only the first lines of the commentary are still visible. In the early fifteenth century the complete manuscript belonged to the Convent of St. James in Liege. They already owned the seventh part, containing a commentary on Boethius’ De consolatione philosophiae (The Consolation of Philosophy), in the early fourteenth century, the rest was added later. De consolatione philosophiae was one of the most influential philosophical text of the Middle Ages. The fact that the convent in Liege already owned this part makes it plausible that this convent was also responsible for the compilation of this composite manuscript.

(Gumbert, 2009, pp. 84-86)


  1. This manuscript consists of several parts that where bound together on a later date. How do the parts differ from each other? Look for example at the material that was used, the type of script, the decorations and the addition of reading aids.
  2. Producing manuscripts was expensive. Some readers preferred to own expensive books, for example for conspicuous consumption, while others preferred to economize and cut costs wherever possible. Observing such features as materials (parchment, paper, binding), preparation of the page (the care with which the page was designed), and the execution of the letter forms, speculate what the intentions of the first reader will have been: to economize or not?


  1. Gumbert, J. P. (2009). Illustrated Inventory of Medieval Manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Verloren.