Curious Vernacular Manual of Canon Law
Epitome of Canon Law in Italian for the Use of a Parish Priest. Two bifolia on vellum. Italy, ca. 1500: irregular dimensions (some margins cut down) but approximately 260 mm x 165-188 mm. Double column, 57 lines. A late Gothic script of excellent refinement and execution. Decoration: three-line initials in red or blue with contrasting penwork in red or purple, often extending up and down the margins; rubricated pilcrows and capitals stroked in red. Text: a manual of Canon Law organized around the subject matter of various Decretals, which are cited by the standard system of numbers and letters: 17.q.4 = Causa 17, quaestio 4. Rubricated chapter numbers in the margins of each major division suggest that these folios preserve an Italian translation of a Latin epitome of the Decretals. Given the way the subjects change abruptly, the selection was probably made for the use of a parish priest who would have needed to know some rudimentary principles of Canon Law for the exercise of parish obligations. The very existence of this translation implies that any clergy consulting it (quite possibly as a crib for Latin comprehension) were not conversant enough in Latin to be aware of the subtleties of Canon Law. The late date makes this conjecture quite feasible, and the user was certainly not a canon lawyer. Condition: one bifolium creased across the middle, both folded at the top, edges soiled, folios irregularly cut, and some slight staining—but the text is entirely legible.