9. School Texts

In the Middle Ages a book was considered by the people an object of great value: not only for its cost, always very expensive though, but also because it was the key to enter the world of education and study which were perceived as an indispensable means of ascent of one’s social rank.

Quite a heterogeneous complex of sources is available when speaking about schools and school texts in the Medieval Friuli, these source being obviously not uniformly distributed along the centuries of the Middle Ages: very scarce for the high medieval period, as we have read in the chapter dedicated to Charlemagne’s age books, they exponentially increase from the thirteenth century on and, above all for the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, they allow to reconstruct quite a faithful historical picture of the school education degree, the curricula, the teachers’ activity, the cultivated cultural interests, the circulating books. It is here dealt with library inventories, contracts and testaments, accounting documentation, copyist subscriptions. But the most significant witnesses to be added to this complex of sources are books themselves. The files herein presented, all about fourteenth- or fifteenth century codices, are only a selection of study texts, for schools or universities, that are either kept, entirely or in fragments, in Friuli or elsewhere, or that however belonged to Friulian students and teachers, or were copied by Friulian who emigrated namely due to study. A speech about school texts cannot underestimate the wide circulation of books occurring in schools, above all from the fourteenth century on, which was a consequence of the commune school teachers’ mobility. That is surely due to the wage conditions offered by the different communes, but it is more generally due to matters of prestige, as well: the teacher’s prestige for the hiring communes, or the prestige of the school itself for teachers who did not hesitate over leaving a minor centre for a major one. Therefore, under such a mobility, Friulian teachers could be found outside their region, typically in Veneto or in Emilia, but also teaching in the university Studia, and ‘foreign’ teachers were to be found in Friuli. With regard to the book production and circulation in the late Middle Ages the other relevant side is the mobility of university students, mostly the ones who attended ars notariae. Even though the access to notary was not necessarily subdued to the completion of juridical studies at a university, since the ars notariae studied at a commune school and a period of apprenticeship by a notary were enough for that, between the thirteenth and fourteenth century, after the failed attempt to establish a Studium generale at Cividale, there still was a large number of Friulian students who preferred to have their education in more prestigious premises. In several cases non-resident students earned their livings carrying out a lucrative activity as copyists. Seven of the ten school texts hereafter described were copied by students.

f. 22v, initial in red, with pen-made filigree, and elegant friezes extending along the borders

Boethius, De consolatione philosophiae

  • 1461; paper; mm 288 × 214; ff. II, 40, II’.
  • San Daniele del Friuli, ‘Biblioteca Civica Guarneriana’, 125

The codex was copied by an anonymous scribe, most likely a student who attended in Gemona the schools of master Nicolò di Iacopo of San Daniele.

f. 1r, initial with gilded foliage phytomorphic motives

Alexander of Villedieu, Doctrinale

  • A. 1423; parchment; mm 306 x 205; ff. III, 54, II’.
  • San Daniele del Friuli, ‘Biblioteca Civica Guarneriana’, 120

One of the most used texts for Latin teaching in the grammar schools all over Europe until the sixteenth century which got into Guarnerio d’Artegna’s book collection.

ff. 1r and 124r

Miscellaneous Commentaries to minores auctores

  • S. XIV and XV (1414, 1415, 1416); paper; mm 297 × 220; ff. I, 210, I’.
  • Treviso City Library, 156

A school text that should owe its manufacturing, according to a widely evidenced praxis, to a Friulian university student, Francesco Squarani of Venzone, who attended the ars notariae studies at Padua.

f. 184r, page of the Miscellanea with Luigi Belgrado’s subscription

Miscellaneous Humanistic and School Texts

  • S. XV; paper; mm 208 × 142; ff. VI, 227, VII’.
  • San Daniele del Friuli, ‘Biblioteca Civica Guarneriana’, 228

A book addressed to the practical use of students and schoolboys more than to the learned lectures of a humanist, this codex is however a precious witness of the cultural ferment and the wide spread of the studia humanitatis in the fifteenth-century Friuli thanks to the school system.

f. 1r, Juvenal’s Satires incipit

Juvenal, Saturarum libri V; Persius, Saturarum liber

  • S. XV med.; parchment; mm 233 x 147; ff. IV, 86, III’.
  • Udine, ‘Biblioteca Arcivescovile’, 14

A manuscript designed and manufactured as a school text to be studied at Udine, perhaps initially for the personal use of Valerio Filittini, the undersigning copyist upon his work’s completion.

f. 3r, Leonardo Bruni’s Prologue to Basil the Great’s homily

Miscellaneous Humanistic Texts

  • S. XV2; parchment; mm 158 × 99; ff. II, 74, II’.
  • Udine, ‘Biblioteca Arcivescovile’, ms. 11

The codex, manufactured under the family Porcia’s patronage, includes only texts legitimating those humanistic culture and studia humanitatis that had a significantly wide spread in Friuli.

f. 1r, incipit of the Notabilia

Giovanni da Soncino, Notabilia in grammaticam

  • S. XIV-XV; parchment; mm 277 × 202; ff. I, 30, I’.
  • San Daniele del Friuli, ‘Biblioteca Civica Guarneriana’, 129

This school, better say secondary school, text is likely to be referred to Guarnerio’s education or somehow to his relations with his school teacher, the humanist Giovanni da Spilimbergo (1380 circa-1455), as evidenced by the frequent marginal and interlinear notes of a contemporary or little later period.

f. 2r, in the bottom Giordano Orsini’s coat of arms

Statius, Thebais

  • 1402; parchment; mm 352 × 234; ff. I, 168, II’.
  • Vatican City, ‘Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana’, Arch. Cap. S. Pietro H. 15

Not only a study text, but also, and above all, a pomp display is to be considered this magnificent witness of Statius’ Thebais, copied in Bologna by the Friulian student Giovanni Berto on a good-quality white parchment, with wide borders and a very rich decoration.

Seneca, Tragoediae

  • 1399, [Cividale]; parchment; 290 × 215; ff. 228.
  • Oxford, Bodleian Library, Canon. Class. lat. 88

This codex, written in the schools of Cividale towards the end of the end of the fourteenth century, is a significant witness of Seneca’s work circulation in Friuli.

f. 1r: initial with phytomorphic motives

Valerius Maximus, Factorum et dictorum memorabilium libri IX

  • 1381, Bologna; parchment; mm 263 × 185; ff. I, 9 + 102, I’.
  • Vatican City, ‘Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana’, Vat. lat. 1918

A manuscript by Valerius Maximus copied by a ‘migrant’ Friulian student, Giovanni of quondam Andrea of Gemona, who was in Bologna to study law or ars notariae.

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