4. Fragments of a Sacramentary

By Kate Falardeau (@kate_falardeau)

The binding of a mid-ninth-century copy of Bede’s Martyrology (Würzburg, Universitätsbibliothek, M.p.th.f. 50) is material proof of the fragmentation and reuse of medieval manuscripts.[1] Four small strips of parchment (110 x 60 mm) from another manuscript have been used as waste, in this case to reinforce the spine of the codex.

This process of fragmentation and reuse is not uncommon.[2] This copy of Bede’s Martyrology is one of twenty-eight books once held in the Würzburg Dombibliothek that contain pieces of the same ninth-century Gregorian sacramentary.[3] Fragments of this manuscript that were removed from the binding of a Roman lectionary (Würzburg M.p.th.f. 62), a book of readings from the Bible for use in Christian worship, are now catalogued as Würzburg M.p.th.f. 188.[4] Given palaeographical evidence from these six pieces, the sacramentary was likely written at Würzburg in the mid-ninth century.[5] At some point, it was decided that the manuscript was no longer of use within its original context. A liturgical codex for use in the Mass then transformed into the material support for various other texts, from a ninth-century martyrology to a tenth-century copy of Genesis–Exodus.[6] The fragmentary sacramentary, now an unseen component of multiple books, is a striking example of the material afterlife of medieval manuscripts.

Image Credit: UB Würzburg, M.p.th.f.188 (DOI: https://doi.org/10.48651/franconica-4378625542813). Image: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Metadata: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0


[1] The manuscript is digitised at https://doi.org/10.48651/franconica-9198896131982. See Bernhard Bischoff, Katalog Der Festländischen Handschriften Des Neunten Jahrhunderts, ed. Birgit Ebersperger, vol. 3: Padua-Zwickau, 3 vols (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2014), 522; Hans Thurn, Die Pergamenthandschriften Der Ehemaligen Dombibliothek, vol. 3, part 1: Die Handschriften Der Universitätsbibliothek Würzburg (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1984), 39.

[2] On medieval manuscript fragments as objects of study, see William Duba and Christoph Flüeler, ‘Fragments and Fragmentology’ (editorial), Fragmentology 1 (2018): 1–5.

[3] Thurn, Pergamenthandschriften 3.1, 84.

[4] These fragments are digitised at https://doi.org/10.48651/franconica-4378625542813. See also Bernhard Bischoff and Josef Hofmann, Libri Sancti Kyliani: Die Würzburger Schreibschule Und Die Dombibliothek Im VIII. Und IX. Jahrhundert, Quellen Und Forschungen Zur Geschichte Des Bistums Und Hochstifts Würzburg 6 (Würzburg: F. Schöningh, 1952), 45, 137f..

[5] Thurn, Pergamenthandschriften 3.1, 84.

[6] Würzburg M.p.th.f. 50 and Würzburg M.p.th.f. 23, respectively.

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