Liberal Arts and Education
BPL 195 (France, 1100-1200): Rhetorica ad Herennium (Rhetorics for Herennius), parchment, 88 fols., 169 x 117 mm, 1 col., 35 lines.

The Ad herennium and the De inventione were the two most influential study texts about rhetoric in the Middle Ages. For a long time both texts were ascribed to Cicero, but today only De inventione is attributed to him. Both texts provide practical applications and examples of rhetoric which focus on style, memorization and the composition of arguments. De inventione is the first text in which the term “Liberal Arts” was used. As with many study books on rhetoric, this manuscript contains both texts, though originally they were bound together in a different order.

This manuscript is decorated with colored initials. Both texts contain glosses1 in the margin and between the lines. Most of the commentary in the margin is lost because the leaves were trimmed when the manuscript was rebound. The annotations in the second part, containing the De inventione, were written by several people. One reader has marked important passages on fol. 44v and fol. 48v by drawing little hands (maniculae, see also BPL 197). The last leaf of the manuscript, fol. 88, contains various scribbles and was probably used to test the pen of the scribe (see also BPL 139 B).

(Gumbert, 2009, p. 94)


  1. Users often modified the manuscript post-production, bringing it even more in tune with their needs. How did the readers of this manuscript interact with the texts? Clue: take a look at the margins and the flyleaves.
  2. Manuscripts were used by a variety of readers, including scholars, students, members of religious houses (monks, nuns), courtiers, and individuals with a professional background (notaries, physicians, merchants, etc.). Observe the material features of this manuscript and speculate what background the reader of this book will have had. Focus on either the first reader (for whom it was first produced) or a later one, for example based on later annotations to the text. What material features support your speculative claim?


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