Penn Library Exhibitions

Bibliotheca Schoenbergensis: An Exhibition from the Collection of Lawrence J. Schoenberg

Leaves of Books
St. Ambrose De mysteriis, chapters 8-9
Italy, late-eleventh century

This manuscript, the oldest piece in the collection, preserves a fine example of Italian Caroline script with its rounded character and typical Italian abbreviations. Because parchment was expensive to produce (usually requiring the use of a sheep's skin and the necessary loss of any future income from that sheep's wool), medieval monasteries were often forced to recycle old manuscripts, using their pages as flyleaves and pastedowns in bookbindings. Such was the case here; one side of the fragment was pasted to the inside cover of a book, to hold in place the turned-in leather of the cover. The side which faced out remained legible, preserving portions of two chapters of St. Ambrose's treatise on Christian mysteries.

Parchment, 1 folio, 195 x 160 (185 x 114) mm, 1 column, 31 lines, in Latin, written in Caroline script.


Canon law fragment with gloss
Rhine valley, mid-thirteenth century

Like the Ambrose leaf, these pages show the scars of having been cut out and pasted into the binding of another book. The text is from the Corpus Iuris Canonici, the "body of canon law" assembled in the mid-twelfth century by Gratian. Others added to and commented on the text of Gratian's work throughout the later Middle Ages, and the resulting text was eventually accepted as the authoritative collection of ecclesiastical law.

Parchment, 2 folios, 306 x 219 (171 x 110) mm, 2 columns, 41 lines, in Latin, written in Romanesque script.


Unidentified text concerning Antiochus II (261-246B.C.E.)
Italy, twelfth century

Originally part of a large and beautifully written manuscript, this leaf was recycled for use in a binding and has since been damaged by time and water. The text is as yet unidentifed. The paragraph beginning with the red initial "A" in the left-hand column concerns the conquest of Ptolemais by Alexander, son of Antiochus II. This event is described, in similar language, in the Book of Maccabees. The text may be a Biblical commentary, or another version of the same narrative--the question awaits further study.

Parchment, 1 folio, 397 x 260 (342 x 188) mm, 2 columns, 50 lines, in Latin, written in Romanesque script.


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