Manuscript tradition of the theological works
Today, 73 surviving manuscripts are known that contain one or more of Vincent's theological works:
Liber de sancta Trinitate
Expositio in orationem Dominicam
Tractatus in salutatione beate Virginis Marie ab angelo facta
Liber de laudibus beate Marie Virginis
Liber de laudibus sancti Johannis Evangeliste
Liber de penitentia
A further five manuscripts are known to have been lost.
The manuscripts are presented in the pages devoted to each of these works separately. For each manuscript, we provide a brief description. If available, the description begins with information about the text as it can be found in the manuscript in question. If present, the description also signals correlations with other works by Vincent of Beauvais. This is followed, where available, by information on the manuscript’s date and geographical region of production and on its medieval and later owners. If digital reproductions are made available online, hyperlinks are added to the descriptions.
The manuscript tradition of Vincent's theological works is a terra incognita. Viewing the number of surviving manuscripts, the Liber de laudibus beate Marie Virginis must have been by far the most popular of these works: it survived in 56 manuscripts from Western-, Southern- and Central Europe and is known to have existed in at least two more manuscripts that are lost today. More significantly: after the Speculum Historiale, the Liber de laudibus beate Marie Virginis was the second most popular work by Vincent of Beauvais. Its surviving manuscripts outnumber, if not double, those of the Speculum Naturale and the Speculum Doctrinale and of Vincent’s letter of consolation to King Louis of France (Liber consolatorius ad Ludovicum regem de morte filii).
30 surviving manuscripts of the Liber de laudibus sancti Johannis Evangeliste, mostly from France and Central Europe, and one lost manuscript, are known today. This number suggests that Vincent's work on Saint John the Evangelist was less popular than his Mariological work. This (total) figure "31", however, still roughly equals or even surpasses the number of surviving manuscripts of the Speculum Naturale, the Speculum Doctrinale and the Liber consolatorius ad Ludovicum regem de morte filii.
Opposed to this, the numbers of surviving copies of the Liber de sancta Trinitate (1), the Liber Gratie (4) and the Liber de penitentia (4) are very small, while those of the Expositio in orationem Dominicam (9) and the Tractatus in salutatione beate Virginis Marie ab angelo facta (8) are just modest.
For several manuscripts of Vincent's theological works, the era and area of production need to be specified and, especially, medieval ownership needs to be established. Yet, keeping options open, a few patterns become visible when one puts together the information available today. Most manuscripts of the Liber Gratie, the Liber de penitentia, the Expositio in orationem Dominicam and the Tractatus in salutatione beate Virginis Marie ab angelo facta date from the 13th and 14th centuries. Opposed to this, the manuscripts of the Liber de laudibus beate Marie Virginis and the Liber de laudibus sancti Johannis Evangeliste suggest a much stronger interest for these texts during the late 14th to early 16th century (24 out of 56 surviving manuscripts, resp. 12 out of 30).
The provenance of about only half of these manuscripts being known, the role of the Augustinians (Canons Regular, Congregation of Windesheim, Fratres Vitae Communis) and Dominicans in the circulation of Vincent's theological works seems preponderant. Eye-catching is the fact that, in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century, manuscripts containing Vincent's Expositio in orationem Dominicam, Tractatus in salutatione beate Virginis Marie ab angelo facta, Liber de laudibus beate Marie Virginis and Liber de laudibus sancti Johannis Evangeliste had entered into the library of the Augustinian abbey of St. Victor at Paris. Similarly, the library of the Dominican convent at Basel possessed copies of Vincent's Liber de sancta Trinitate, Liber de laudibus beate Marie Virginis, Liber de laudibus sancti Johannis Evangeliste, and Liber de penitentia. Did these two houses play a key role in the circulation of Vincent's theological works, as the Dominican houses in Southern England did in the diffusion of Vincent's De morali principis institutione? (see: Inventory of manuscripts of Vincent's political works) Further study is required to find an answer to this question.
In 30 of the surviving manuscripts of Vincent's theological works, as well as in one manuscript lost today, the Liber de laudibus beate Marie Virginis and Liber de laudibus sancti Johannis Evangeliste are (were) companions. A similar co-occurrence can be observed in 7 manuscripts that contain the texts of both the Expositio in orationem Dominicam and the Tractatus in salutatione beate Virginis Marie ab angelo facta. These coexistences are made visible in the table used in the Alphabetical list of manuscripts.
Source: Voorbij, H., The Praises of the Virgin Mary and John the Evangelist by Vincent of Beauvais. New evidence on manuscripts and incunable editions of De laudibus beate Virginis Marie and De laudibus sancti Johannis Evangeliste, in Vincent of Beauvais Newsletter 44, pp. 4-20.
Image: Freiburg im Breisgau, Universitätsbibliothek, 58, f°2ro.
For the alphabetical list of manuscripts of the theological works.