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The origins and early history of this manuscript are rather enigmatic. Its illumination has been attributed to French, English, or German artists, and has been compared with the style of manuscripts associated with the presumed Parisian Master Honoré, with the Tickhill Psalter group, and with Johannes von Valkenburg who worked in Cologne. Its script and some of its minor decoration emulate the rounded script (littera bononiensis) and ornamental initials of thirteenth-century Italian legal manuscripts, and point to Southern France and more specifically to Toulouse, a major centre of legal studies. Yet, major codicological features are compatible with Parisian manuscript production of the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The large miniatures also seem to be related to the Parisian style of the period, but some of the secondary features suggest an English emulation of French aristocratic art.

The two large Trees of Consanguinity and Affinity appear on the recto and verso of folio 71 which was left blank by the scribe. Their inclusion was not common in 14th-century Italian copies of Gratian’s Decretum. By 1300 they were normally included in Gregory IX’s Decretales, accompanied by Johannes Andreae’s Treatise on the Arbores, and represented more effectively on facing pages. The degrees of consanguinity (relationship by blood) and affinity (relationship by marriage), essential in the politics of marriage in the Middle Ages, were counted backwards from the intending couple, with their parents being the first degree. Marriage within seven degrees was not allowed until the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) reduced the forbidden degrees to four.

The Tree of Consanguinity shows Adam as a king, his feet resting on seated lions, holding two palm-like branches above the arrow-shaped table. The Affinity Tree depicts a young nobleman and a lady on either side of ivy, fig or vine scrolls rising from the intersecting arcs of the table. Adam and the lady have miniver-lined mantles that relate the rich modeling of their draperies to the diaper-patterned grounds. This type of variegated fur, called ‘vair’ in contemporary sources, signified wealth and luxury, and was a common feature of aristocratic imagery. 

Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 262.f71r

Gratian, Decretum
Bartholomew of Brescia, Glossa ordinaria
France or England, c.1300-1310

Full Image

Manuscript on parchment, incomplete, i + 174 fols, 435 x 285 mm, 4 cols, varying number of lines.

Formerly owned by John Ruskin, whose Brantwood bookplate survives on the inside cover. Purchased from Alexander Denham & Co in 1902.



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