Anulus Nuptialis

We do quite a bit of patron-driven digitization in the Digital Library Center. A lot of it is for researchers who are unable to visit Tallahassee and we like to share these materials in DigiNole as often as possible because, as our manuscript archivist notes, if one researcher needed one, there is probably another one out there too! These sorts of requests have gotten large parts of the Admiral Leigh papers online and are the reason we’re currently working on the Sir Leon Radzinowicz papers as well. However, this one might be one of my recent favorites.

Page from Anulus Nuptialis
Page from Anulus Nuptialis

Anulus nuptialis: De amore sponsi celestis dyalogus incipit, cuiu s titulus est iste is a 1450 bound manuscript. Written in a humanistic hand by a single scribe on parchment with initials in red with gold, blue with gold and green with gold ornament, it is an unrecorded text in the form of a dialogue between Mother Scolastica and Symona and Felix, all brides of Christ, written by nuns in a convent. Ph.D. student, Rachel Duke,  here at FSU is working with this volume for her dissertation and needed high-quality reference images of the object for her work. We’re happy to be able to share out this incredibly unique work with everyone else now. I asked Rachel to share some information about the work to help people understand what it’s about. It somehow got even cooler:

It’s a dialogue, which you can see pretty clearly from the images, between Felix, Symona, and their mother Scolastica. Their lines are marked “Fe,” “Sy,” and “Ma” (for Mater). Symona and Felix are twin sisters and the biological offspring of the mother of the convent. This is during a time where a father would die and the widow and her daughters would all enter the convent.

I’m writing my dissertation about how the text demonstrates the rise of some humanist leanings in northern Italy in the 15th century, even in convent communities. Most convent literature doesn’t just have a dialogue between women, and the dialogue found here is so kind and understanding. Felix and Symona express their doubts about their ability to live up to the hefty role of brides of Christ, and Mater Scolastica repeatedly reminds them that they can find the strength within themselves to succeed in this life. It really is quite encouraging and loving. While I have a pretty good guess as to which convent this is related to (and have presented on those inklings at conferences), we don’t have a definitive answer to who these people were. Scriptoria were fairly common within convents, so there is the possibility that it was composed and even copied within a convent.

The text is in Italianate Latin, and in an extremely legible humanist hand. We can see many different colors of ink in the margins and in the decorations: (Brown, pink, purple, green, etc.). There are some locations where a space for a larger initial should have been left but the scribe likely forgot, and the letter has been squeezed in right next to it.

The book has gold brushed edges, something you can’t see in the images but is beautiful to behold in person. It is perfectly sized to fit in your hands comfortably, a little larger than the length of my hands in person.

We don’t have an exact date or location because someone has excised any information that could help us track down provenance. If you look on the first decorated folio, you can even see where someone attempted to wash out what was probably a library stamp. The colophon has an excision (actual rectangle CUT OUT from the text identifying the target audience). It is very frustrating.

We purchased this book from Laurence Claiborne Witten II, who was a pretty famous bookseller of the middle of the 20th century. He was famously involved in the sale of a likely forgery! Anulus Nuptialis might be a good starting point for a study into somewhat dubious antiquarian book sales.

Be sure to check this volume out! Even if the language isn’t familiar, the object itself is lovely to page through online.

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