Ricardus Franciscus Writes for William Worcester

By Nall, Catherine | The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History, Annual 2008 | Go to article overview

Ricardus Franciscus Writes for William Worcester


Nall, Catherine, The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History


Cambridge University Library, MS Additional 7870 (hereafter CUL Add. 7870) is a parchment manuscript, comprising three booklets each written by a different scribe, which dates from the mid-fifteenth century. (1) The manuscript contains three texts on the four cardinal virtues in French: an anonymous French translation of John of Wales's Breviloquium de virtutibus antiquorum principum et philosophorum (fols. 1-22v), also known as the Livre des quatre vertus; Jean Courtecuisse's French translation with commentary of Des quatre vertus cardinaulx ascribed to Seneca (fols. 24r-67v); and an unidentified French text comparing the cultivation of the virtues to the cultivation of a garden (fols. 68r-71r). (2) The three hands identified in the manuscript are all influenced by French batarde secretary scripts; however, the decoration of this manuscript is entirely English in appearance, which suggests that the manuscript was produced in England either by French scribes or by English scribes imitating fashionable French script. (3)

CUL Add. 7870 was owned by William Worcester, antiquary and secretary to the famous veteran of the French wars Sir John Fastolf. Worcester's ownership of the volume is attested by his extensive marginal annotations and the colophon he added on folio 22v to the end of the first text, the Breviloquium de virtutibus, stating that he ("Guillem Worcestre dit Botener") was busy correcting the text in July 1450. (4) Worcester's employer, Sir John Fastolf, also owned a copy of the Breviloquium de virtutibus. Fastolf's copy is in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud Misc. 570 (hereafter Laud Misc. 570), on fols. 1-23. (5) Worcester's ownership of the Breviloquium de virtutibus implies, then, that he was having less expensive copies of texts owned by his master produced for himself. Moreover, comparison of CUL Add. 7870 and Laud Misc. 570 suggests that Worcester and Fastolf also employed the same scribe to write for them. The second text in Worcester's manuscript, CUL Add. 7870, Des quatre vertus cardinaulx (fols. 24r-67v), was copied by the same scribe who wrote Laud Misc. 570 for Fastolf: the prolific French or French-trained scribe Ricardus Franciscus. (6)

The presence of the following graphs in CUL Add. 7870 suggests that Des quatre vertus cardinaulx was written by Ricardus Franciscus:

* The lead stroke of the "v" curving downward toward the line from a great height like an overarm throw; see San Marino, Huntington Library, MS HM 932, fol. 13v, l. 5, "vigilias," and compare CUL Add. 7870, fol. 66v, l. 11, "vertu."

* The "d" with a long, curving ascender with hairline return above it forming a teardrop shape above the ascender, as found in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 764, fol. 67r, l. 7, "dy"; New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M. 126, fol. 15v, col. 1, l. 19, "spede"; and CUL Add. 7870, fol. 56v, l. 4, "maledictions," and l. 6, "de."

* The hairline lead stroke at the top of some long "s" which almost meets the thicker "furled umbrella" portion of the letter and so almost forms a triangle at the top of the letter, a practice also characteristic of his "l" and "f"; see Ashmole 764, fol. 7r, l. 7, the "f" of "frenshe," and CUL Add. 7870, fol. 56v, l. 5, "si," and l. 12, "saillant."

* Uppercase "I" with hairline all down the left side; see Ashmole 764, ll. 6, 7, 8, "ie," and compare CUL Add. 7870, fol. 57v, l. 18, "Il."

* Very large puncti raised above the line.

* Uppercase "C" and "Q" formed with two strokes that often do not meet; see San Marino, Huntington Library, MS HM 932, fol. 13v, l. 6, the "C" of "Circumcisionis," and l. 17, the "C" of "Concepcionis," and compare with CUL Add. 7870, fol. 56r, l. 11, "Cellui," or fol. 56r, l. 8, "Quant," or fol. 56v, l. 13, "Que."

* Horns on letters, for example "e," so pronounced that they curve over in a crescent shape; see Ashmole 764, fol. 67r, l. 3, both of the "e"s of "maniere," and compare with CUL Add. …

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