Ms. Coll. 728, folder 23: Theology

On April 27 Kathryn Phipps, Ph.D. Candidate in Hispanic Studies, brought out Ms. Coll. 728, folder 23, a highly calligraphic document (Escrito curioso) consisting of a short theological treatise in Spanish followed by religiously themed illustrations, acrostics, poems, odes, and elegies, all in Latin.

The text is written by someone using an obvious pen name, so we don’t know the exact identity of the author, but he is writes in praise of the Inquisition and claims to be writing on his death bed – although the delicate quality of the script somewhat belies this claim.

Following the opening treatise, the author presents a number of poems arranged on the page in several different ways. The poems include several acrostics, that is, poems where the letters that begin each line of verse spell out a word – here, BENEDICTUS DEUS and DOMINISTRIBUS.

There are also poems where the calligraphic text is written around and within drawings of important religious themes. One is a lamb and a lion standing on either side of a crucifux.

Another one is a striking drawing of the pelican, which from the classical era was popularly depicted as pecking at its own breast in order to feed its children with its blood – much as Jesus Christ fed his followers of his own body and blood.

The document closes with a poem where lines connect words in different patterns, resulting in multiple possible poems written in the same space.

Ms. Coll 728 is the Henry Charles Lea Collection of Inquisition Manuscripts, 1533-1866, which contains many more fascinating materials related to the Inquisition. You can find out more about the collection here.

There is not a separate Franklin record for folder 23, but you can see the digitized copy of it here on Penn in Hand.

If you think this looks interesting, take 30 minutes to watch the recording of Kathryn Phipps’s Coffee With A Codex event here.

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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