Vellum manuscript leaf from the Summa collationum, sive Communiloquium.
Written by the thirteenth-century Welsh Franciscan John of Wales, the work from which this leaf comes was meant to provide priests with basic information on how to lead a good life. Thus in sermons and conversation, they could instruct individuals about ethical conduct, reinforced by the work’s quoted texts (these texts comprise some 1,500 extracts from more than one hundred authors, many of them classical). As a practical handbook, most of the extant exemplars are carelessly written and intended for modest precincts. But we know that the book was owned more widely, perhaps most notably by fourteenth-century Spanish kings. Though there is no way of knowing if royal provenance was involved here, the decoration is so conspicuously grand that such a possibility is reasonable. The leaf comes from a very defective copy sold in 2003 at an auction where I was extraordinarily fortunate to outbid Barney Rosenthal.
Philip J. Pirages