Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022

November 17, 1999

New Library Publication Describes Medieval Manuscript Books

The Library of Congress has published Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript Books, Volume 2, Theology and Canon Law, by Svato Schutzner. The volume describes 52 manuscript books dating from the mid-12th century to about 1600 that concern theology or canon law and are held in the rare book collections of the Library of Congress. Volume 2 complements an earlier volume published in 1989, which describes the Library's manuscript Bibles, liturgy, and books of hours from before 1600.

"Theology and Canon Law reflects a fascination with the times and cultures in which the manuscripts originated as well as with their content," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "Like Volume 1, it will serve as a reference guide not only for people studying manuscripts but also for scholars and students in the field of religious studies or those interested in the development of societal and philosophical attitudes at the end of the Middle Ages."

The 650-page volume includes 11 color reproductions from nine manuscript books and 123 black-and-white illustrations of various scripts, page layouts, beta-radiograph reproductions of watermarks, and doodles made by the scribes. Approximately one-third of the volume consists of descriptions of the physical make-up of the codices, their script, decoration, material, watermarks, binding, and origin.

A number of the works described in the text are unique, previously unknown -- even in the large collections found in Europe -- or extremely rare. Among them is the anonymous Middle English version of the Apostles' Creed found in the "Benedictine Rule for Nuns." An anonymous version of the Lord's Prayer in Latin verse and a Middle High German rendering of the Ten Commandments are not known to exist elsewhere. Also among the unique texts is the unconventional "Tractatus de membris Beatae Mariae Virginus." Within such works lies a wealth of material for women's studies and various aspects of cultural history.

Mr. Schutzner, the book's author, is a specialist in rare book cataloging at the Library of Congress. A Czech by birth, he grew up among the volumes of the Comenius University Library in Bratislava, which his father headed, living within the medieval walls of the former Poor Clares' convent where the library was located. A student of theology and philosophy, he was educated in Prague and Strasbourg, where he learned Greek and Latin as well as various forms of Germanic, Romance, and Slavic languages.

Both volumes of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript Books are available from the Library of Congress Sales Shop (Credit card orders: 202 707-0204), Volume 2, Theology and Canon Law (hardcover, 650 pages, 134 illustrations), for $96; and Volume 1, Liturgy, Bibles, Books of Hours (hardcover, 421 pages, 83 illustrations), for $62.

To order Volume 2 from the Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954 (fax 202 512-2250), use GPO stock no. 030-001-00175-0.

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PR 99-172
ISSN 0731-3527

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