Balliol College Archives & Manuscripts

Back to: Home > Archives & Manuscripts > Ancient MSS

Ancient manuscripts - Introduction to the catalogue 2

Sir Roger Mynors: Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Balliol College Oxford, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963.

c. Oxford University Press 1963. Reproduced with permission.


2. William Gray and his Books cont.

Of this stay in Cologne we know nothing except that it lasted about two years and that the acquisition of books continued. We have seen reason to suppose that MSS 78A and 279 were written in Oxford and completed in COlogne. A volume of Seneca, MS 129, which had earlier belonged to Balliol but had been acquired by gray, we know not how, was similarly taken to Cologne, and there not only supplemented by provided with a companion volume newly written, MS 130. The binder of this latte rbook made use of leaves rejected by the scribe of another new commission, MS 115, Johannes Buridanus on the Ethics; and the binder of MS 115 used rejected leaves from a third, MS 55, Gerardus de Senis on the Sentences. MS 274, a Johannes Wallensis written by a German scribe in 1409, must have been bought ready-made, and so too MS 31, Augustina de Ancona dated 1432, though we cannot be certain they were acquired at this time. Other volumes newly written at Cologne are MS 19, a Commentary on the Canticles ascribed to Robert of Bridlington; MS 58, a volume of Tabulae; MSS 66 and 67A, the Sermons of Franciscus de Mayronis or Mayronibus, of which the second volume is dated 1444; and MS 69, his Comment on the Sentences, dated 8 February 1444; MS 180, the Sermons of Bertrandus de Turre; MS 181, Johannes de Hesdinio on Mark and Titus, dated 17 September 1444; and MS 224B, Bertholdus de Mosburg on Provlus, dated 25 September of the same year. Several other pieces written at this time are bound up in a miscellant of odd quires, now MS 80; part iii, iv and vi, Albertus Magnus, Bertrandus de Turre, and franciscus de Mayronibus. Two acquisitions are perhaps of greater interest than the rest. One is a group of three closely related volumes, which are remarkable for their marginal commentaries: MS 79, Tertullian's Apologeticum and Lactantius; MS 125, Eutropius and other Roman historians; and Cambridge Univ. Lib. MS Dd.13.2, Cicero, philosophical works and speeches, dated 1444. behind these volumes lies, and MR James has set out [1], the shcolarly work of no less a person than William of Malmesbury, although the commentaries as they stand are later work, and part of the Cicero-corpus is supplied from other sources. Further study, to elucidate the history of these collections and the channel by which they passed from Malmesbury to Cologne, might prove rewarding. The other outstanding acquisition is a set in five volumes (there should be six) of a great humanist encyclopedia, the Fons Memorabilium Universi of Domenico Bandini of Arezzo, of which a copy must have been available in Cologne for use as an exemplar. This with its wealth of ornament is a handsome thing of its kind, and the fifth volume is remarkable for its marginal illustrations - the only book in gray 's library which might interest the art-historian. It is the work of two scribes, Laurentius Dyamas, who does not appear elsewhere, and Theodorus Nicolai Werken of Appenbroeck in the Dutch province of South holland, who had already written MSS 66 and 67A and the Cambridge Cicero.

Two of the volumes written for Gray in Cologne are dated September 1444. It was, I suppose, either in that autumn or in the following spring that he set out for Italy, taking Bole and Saxton with him. Vespasiano tells us that he wished to puruse the humanistic studies which flourished only in Italy, and adds a picturesque story of his slipping out of the city in order to avoid the attentions of the local highwaymen, he and one companion disguised as Irish pilgrims, while the doctor called assiduously at his old lodgings to give the impression that he was keeping his bed, and followed him a week later. Perhaps he also took with him Werken the scribe, for MS 295, a volume of commentaries on Cicero dated 1445, has the appearance of being written in Italy, and so has another book of his writing dated the same year, Manchester John Tylands Library MS lat. 211, a small collection of humanist opuscula, which is not known to have been written for Gray. If so, however, Werken returned home temporarily before the end of the year, as the second volume of the Bandini encyclopedia provlaims itself begun in Cologne 20 December 1445, and finished 10 February 1448 in Rome; where Gray then was, as we shall see.

For Gray's movements on his arrival in Italy, we have the authority of Vespasiano. He went first to Florence, 'where he sent for me' says the bookseller 'and ordered many volumes to be written for him. In order to pursue his studies he then went on to Padua, a university which attracted in the course of the century several Englishmen who were subsequently to hold high position at home, and there on 14 September 1445 he became a doctor of divinity. [1] From Padua he was advised to migrate to ferrara in order to attend the lectures of the veteran Guarino; and in Ferrara probably in the autumn of that same year, Vespasiano tells us that he took a house, and engaged as a member of his household a youth of more parts than fortune, Niccolò Perotti, who was afterwards to be archbishop of Siponto and author of the Cornucopia. Perotti's hand has not been traced in any of Gray's books, but there exists a volume written while he was with Gray, which has the colophon: Finit feliciter per me Nicolaum Perottum cum Ferrarie apud magnificum et gereossisimum uirum d. Gulielmum GR. esset duodeuicesimumque aetatis suae annum ageret. [2] This has been held to indicate that Gray was still at Ferrara in the late summer of 1446; but his sojourn there cannot have lated very long, for already on 18 November 1445 a commission had issued in London appointing him the English king's representative at the Roman Curia.

Meanwhile, his library had made great strides. Short as this first visit was, it is clear that before Gray left Florence, he had made friends, and had initiated a whole programme of acquisitions. Among his earliest orders from Vespasiano was a set of the works of Cicero in five large volumes, MSS 248A-E, of which the Rhetorica were finished by Antonio Mario in November 1445, though the Philippics and Verrines, written by Gerardo del Ciriagio, who is known to have worked for Vespasiano, were not ready before September 1447. With the Cicero it is convenient to class copies of other classical authors in the same style, though we have no evidence that they were ordered at this time: Lambeth MS 759, Sallust; MS 138, Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria; MS 139, the Declamationes ascribed to him; MS 140, Virgil; MS 249, Pliny's Natural History; and two ancient lexicographers, MS 237, festus abbreviated by Paulus Diaconus and MS 262, Nonius Marcellus. There is nothing to surprise us here; more unusual is Gray's interest in the Fathers, and especially in the new translations from the Greek. Welcome evidence for this has recently come to light in the letter-book of the Florentine humanist Donato Acciauoli, which is among the Magliabechi manuscripts in Florence. This contains drafts of two letters, written when Gray and his party were established in Rome, one apparently of 30 December 1448 from Vespasiano to Gray himself, and the other from Donato to Nicholas Saxton, just a year later. [3] From these it appears that Saxton was in correspondence with Vespasiano, and that books were still being written in Florence to gray's order and sent to him in Rome when ready. In 1448 opera Tertulliani et Athanasii et Gregorii Nazanzeni in papiro scripta have been dispatched already; de uitis Plutarchi et reliquis operibus expecto cognoscere propositum uestrum. hic nil aliud restat quod agendum sit, nisi reliquum quiddam Laertii Diogenis, quod breui absoluetur. In the letter of 30 December 1449 there is talk of sending more volumes, perhaps by a courier of the Medici Bank, but no authors are named. None of these is to be found among Gray's surviving books. But the Diogenes Laertius, which was no doubt the version of Ambrogio Traversari, brings us close to two other versions of his which do survive: MS 154, St John Chrysostom, finished in August 1447, and MS 78B, Iohannes Climacus and Ephraem Syrus, finished in June 1448. [4] Both are in the hand of Antonio Mario, the doyen of Florentine humanist scribes, whose career as we know it from over forty surviving volumes signed by him, covers forty years (1417-56). He had transcribed the principal contents of MS 78B for another patron in 1440 [5]; on this occasion he adds another short piece, St John Chrysostom's De sacerdotio Christi, which Traversari had translated at his own request and dedicated to him. The envois of these two volumes: Lege feliciter mi suavissime Ghuiglelme and Valeas mi suauissime Ghuiglelme feliciter suggest the cordial relations Gray had established, during his stay in Florence, with an older man, who had written for Cosimo de' Medici and Federigo da Montefeltro, and had indeed been one of the earliest regular practitioners of the fully developed roman hand.

At Ferrara too, as we learn from Vespasiano, Gray ordered more books, e d'opere gentili e di filosofia e di sacri, as he had at Padua and at Cologne, but we have no means of knowing which they were. We can surmise that it was at Padua he acquired MS 288, John of Ravenna, which has marginal notes made by someone interested in Paduan topography, and in ferrara the humanist miscellancy of MS 136, of which part is dated 28 January 1446, and probably the speeches and letters of Guarino in MS 135. Apart from these, one must list the surviving humanist volumes in his library, and leave their exact time and place of acquisition open.

[1] References in Weiss, 88, n.3

[2] MS Vatican Urbinas lat. 1180, of which Vaticanus lat. 1485 is said to be a copy; reproduced in G. Mercati, Per la cronologia della vita e degli studi di Niccolò Perotti (Studi e Testi, 44, 1925). The arms in the MS are not Gray's. Mercati's chronology puts this MS after Sept. 1446, which seems rather late.

[3] Discovered by Miss A de la Mare, who most kindly showed me the original, and has since published them in the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes ii (1957) 174-6.

[4] We should add, almost certainly, the copy of Traversari's version of Dionysius the Areopagite seen at Balliol by Leland (below, p.386), and very likely Matteo Palmieri's version of the Letter of Aristeas.

[5] Ashburnham-Barrois sale, June 1901, lot 136; afterwards the property of Mr Emery Walker. On Mario's importance as a scribe see BL Ullman, The Origin and Development of HUmanistic Script (Rome 1960) 98-109.

[previous page] [next page]


You do not need to request permission to download or print one copy of any of the images on these pages for your personal private study or research purposes.
You do need to request permission in writing to use any of these images for any publication in any format, including any use on a website.

The archives and manuscripts of Balliol College are open by appointment to enquirers in person at the Historic Collections Centre in St Cross Church, Holywell.
Enquiries should be sent in writing (email or post).
There is no charge for Archive enquiries, but donations for Archive purposes are always appreciated.
Updated 15.viii.14
Balliol College
All rights reserved © 2018