Italian Paleography


Chicago, Newberry Library, VAULT Case MS 75.5
Antoninus, Archbishop of Florence
Handbook for Confessors
Parma, 1466

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This manuscript contains a collection of religious texts in Latin and Italian that would have been useful for a cleric or friar working in an Italian city in the fifteenth century. Included here are the _Summa confessionum _of St. Antonino of Florence; a compilation of scholastic definitions of sin by prominent theologians (Augustine of Hippo, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, etc.); a confessor’s manual; and a discussion of various theological virtues, mercies, and sacraments. It is a fine manuscript; the text is written on parchment, and features many rubrics and decorated initials in red and blue ink.

This book would most likely have been made for the use of Dominican or Franciscan friars. During the fifteenth century, so-called “observant” friars were eager to return their orders to their spiritual roots by observing poverty, fighting heresy, and ministering to urban populations. The increasing affluence of Italian society at the time made this a formidable challenge, but under the leadership of charismatic leaders such as Bernardino of Siena and Antonino of Florence (and with the financial support of wealthy patrons like the Medici), the observant friars came to play an important role in urban life by administering sacraments, giving sermons, encouraging almsgiving, and hearing confessions from laypeople.

This manuscript seems to have been especially valuable for confessions. The vernacular texts in the manuscript—especially the confessor’s manual—show the signs of the most use. The parchment leaves are noticeably darker than the Latin texts and their ink more faded, evidence that these pages were opened more frequently than, say, the pristine copy of the Summa. Moreover, one can imply from a manicule [f. 99v] and a water stain that this text was actively used in the field, perhaps by a confessor hoping to save his urban flock from the temptations of worldly life.


(52r) Umanistica di modulo piccolissimo, abile, regolare.
Da notare: le aste alte (b, d, h, l) forcellate; il tracciato leggermente spezzato; l’alto numero di abbreviazioni come uno scrivente che conosce il latino; la g con occhiello inferiore oblungo (r. 3 col. B: grado); la r diritta con tratto inferiore di appoggio (r. 1 col A: mortale); il legamento per et (r. 24 col. B: &).
(57r) Umanistica corsiva aggraziata e professionale.
Da notare: la f e la s che scendono sotto il rigo (r. 3: confessar(e)); la g con occhielli tondi collegati da un breve tratto (r. 7: giesa); la u/v iniziale con primo tratto sviluppato (r. 12: usur(e)); il falso legamento a ponte ct (r. 22: facto); il titulus per il troncamento ‘a ponte’, di derivazione colta dalla scrittura epigrafica (r. 23: pecc(at)o).