LJS 347: Consolation of Philosophy

On May 11, Dot Porter brought out LJS 347, an incomplete and heavily glossed 14th century English copy of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, one of the most enduring and influential texts which remained popular throughout the middle ages.

We also took a look at Ms. Codex 1081, a 15th century copy of the text from Spain.

I wanted to show these two books together both to illustrate the popularity of this text in the middle ages, and to compare them to see how they are similar and how they are different.

Boethius wrote the Consolation of Philosophy while he was in prison, waiting to be put on trial (with the anticipation that he would be executed, which he was) for treason against the Ostrogothic King Theodoric. The text is in the form of a dialogue between Boethius himself and Lady Philosophy, which deals with ideas of fate, fortune, and the relationship between free will and divine omniscience. The text alternates between verse and prose; the verse can be distinguished in both manuscripts because the verse sections are narrower while the prose sections are written from margin to margin.

LJS 347 is written on a rather crunchy parchment, while Ms. Codex 1081 is written on paper which is quite soft, ragged around the edges, and is quite damaged in places.

The binding of Ms. Codex 1081 is contemporary red vellum and very worn as well (the binding for LJS 347 is 19th century half morocco so not quite as interesting).

Both copies of the text are glossed in places and have marginal notes – not unusual at all given the popularity of this text over hundreds of years. But only Ms. Codex 1081 includes some fun, decorated catchwords.

There’s much more about these books in the Coffee With A Codex recording, which you can find here.

You can also read the records in Franklin, which links out to digitized copies:

LJS 347 on Franklin

Ms. Codex 1081 on Franklin

We host Coffee With A Codex every Wednesday at 12pm ET / 5pm GMT on Zoom. For a schedule three weeks ahead, visit our main page here.

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