Commentaries by Antonio da Butrio on the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX


Commentaries by Antonio da Butrio on the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX

Italian, 15th century
Written in Spain or Southern France        

4 volumes

height 37 cm | width 27 cm    Manuscripts

Provenance: Bequest of John Wilson

Prior Publications: Seymour De Ricci, with the assistance of W. J. Wilson
Antonius de Butrio, In Decretales Gregorii IX. Pap. (1441), 4 vols., 288, 280, 203, 219 ff. (37 x 27 cm.). Written in Spain or southern France. Illum. initials. Coat of arms. Old calf. Bought before Aug. 1835 by John Lee; his sale (London, 8 Nov. 1888, n. 137) to Bennett. - Obtained (28 Oct. 1891) from B. F. Stevens.

Quoted from Seymour De Ricci, with the assistance of W. J. Wilson, Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada, II, New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1937, p. 124.

Multnomah County Library Catalog: W091 B987 31168045415138


Wilma Fitzgerald, PhD, SP - Quoted with permission from an unpublished study
Antonius de Butrio. Lectura super primum librum decretalium pars II a titulo 17 usque ad finem; Lectura super secundum librum pars II a titulo 19 usque ad finem; Super tertium; Super quartum. Final volume dated 1441. No pagination. Paper with watermarks. 370 x 262 (250 x 172) mm., 2 cols., 50 lines; (300 x 189) mm., 2 cols., 68 lines; (270 x 180) mm., 2 cols., 58 lines; (260 x 168) mm., 2 cols., 60 lines. Initials large colored at beginning of Vol. 1, gradually diminishing in number and size until missing in final volume. Book plate of John Wilson inside front cover and sales catalog slip for Tregaskis cat. 276 June 1891.Book plate in volume 2: Shield with bear and torso of horse. Motto: Verum atque ducens verum atque decen

Vol. 1) Incipit: De filiis presbiterium. Quidquid de ordinandis qui ex variis causis inpediuntur ... Ut filii illegitimiis non ordinatus nisi religiosi fiat .i. non habiliatur ad prelationem .../... De arbitribus ... Compromissum ... Et sic est finis sit laus et gloria... multos autem modos quibus sunt compromissum uide in pp. e. ti.  finitum etc.

Vol. 2) Incipit: Quid de confessionibus per .../... vide eam per te ... quoniam potenti deo.

Vol. 3) Titulus: Antonius de butrio super 3rd decretalium. Incipit: De vita et honestate clericorum. Ista rubrica continuatur ad praecedencia in hoc .../... et secundam approbat q u etc. Explicit lectura dm. Antonij de Butrio cr. tertium librorum decretalium. Deo gratias. Et sic est finis.

Vol. 4) Explicit: In omnibus hiis juribus leges recipiunt correctionem per canones et hic sit finis huius quarti libri compilati per bone memorie domini Anthonii de butrio utriusque iuris ... mcccc quadragesimo primo quarta die januarii ... in nomine domini amen.


Doniella George, Medieval Portland Capstone Student, Summer 2005
The Wilson Room's Commentaries by Antonio da Butrio are a four-volume set written in 1441 in Spain or southern France. These Commentaries of Antonio da Butrio analyze Pope Gregory IX's decretals. Antonio de Butrio lived from 1338-1408 and The Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages describes:

"This celebrated Decretalist was venerated in his lifetime both for his qualities as a professor and for the example of his religious and moral virtues. His university career was essentially at Bologna, where he attracted numerous pupils, among them future great representatives of the 15th cent. Canonical science, like John of Imola, Francesco Zabarella or Dominico di San Giminiano. Antonio da Butrio left Commentaries on the Decretals and on the Sext, Consilia, and various treatises. His reputation as a canonist is today that of a prolix author, but his writings circulated and were not without influence, notably on Panormitanus."

Pope Gregory IX served as the Holy See from 1227-1241. He was a skilled lawyer, and he was responsible for the New Compilation of Decretals, which supplemented the earlier compilations of Decretals of the 12th century by the famous Gratian. They provided the foundation for papal legal theory. Another claim to fame for Pope Gregory IX was the canonization of his personal friend, Francis of Assisi.

Antonio da Butrio taught at the University of Bologna, a medieval hub of legal learning. Kenneth Pennington explains the importance of the Decretalists' work, especially for canon law in the Middle Ages; their scholastic arguments and commentaries could clarify and change laws as they were practiced in the courts.[1] After new laws were drafted, copies would be sent to the legal centers, including Bologna's university, to be studied and clarified, "It is significant that throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the popes, as a rule, addressed their official collections of decretal law, not to the episcopate, but to the schools."[2]

These books are exquisitely preserved and are pleasing to look at. The book covers are made of polished calfskin, and the spines are labeled and decorated with gilding. The texts in the books are written in two columns per page, handwritten in brown ink. There are blue and red paragraph markers, placed throughout, while some parts of the books are without these markings. The first page of volume one is beautifully decorated with stylized letters and designs, two of which contain almost humorous profile faces on the left of the letters. This is the only highly decorated page of the volumes. The paper is so well preserved that the original watermarks on the paper can be seen on many of the pages, though unidentified. The writing, on the other hand, is fairly inconsistent, with some areas that seem rushed and messy. A rushed feel is further supported by the way the words stop suddenly towards the end of volume four. The stylization and messiness of the words are difficult to read for a novice, and there are many abbreviations of the Latin words, thus making a translation vexed.

Volume one is labeled on the spine with, "Commentarium-A. de Butrio, Super Ium Librum Decretalium Pars 2." It also contains a handwritten note on the inside of the third page that reads, "Commentariorum Antony De Butrio; Super Primum Librum decretatium pars 2 a titulo usque ad Sinem." The spine of Volume two is labeled similarly to volume one. Volumes three and four are labeled on the spine with, "Antonius De Butrio: Super 3io (and Super 4tum, respectively) Decretalium." Volume two has some red lettering at the top of the pages and poor writing quality. Volume three has, "Biblioteca Antonius de Butrio Super 3rd: Decretalium" written at the bottom of the first page.

Each volume has one prior owner's name handwritten on the inside of the cover. It attributes the volumes to one John Lee: "I. Lee Doctors Commons." They also have a repair date for Mr. Lee, in August 1835, as well as a series number over a 93. John Lee seems to have been a book collector in England; two other books he owned, and repaired in 1835 also, are described by academic websites whose information is located below.[3] John Lee, born Fiott, lived from 1783-1866; he was of Hartwell house near Aylesbury, England. There were two major sales of his books, one in April of 1876, and the other in November 1888. The Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada, by Seymour de Ricci and Mr. Wilson, tells us that John Lee bought the manuscripts before August 1835, and they were sold to Bennett in London in November 1888. Mr. Wilson bought them from B. F. Stevens in October 1891.

The volumes also have a printed crest located on the inside of the cover that could be from a previous owner or possibly an auctioneer or seller. At the top of the crest are two animals, one a chained and muzzled bear, the other a rearing white horse bust with a fleur-de-lis. The crest is quartered and contains two different designs that are repeated on their lower diagonal. At the bottom of the crest is a stylized scroll with the words, "Verum Atque Decens." Below this tag is another stylized name tag with John Wilson's name.

A tag inside the first volume attributes the book's dates to circa 1441. This means that they were written after Antonio da Butrio's death. What the pages of this, possibly unknown, collection could reveal to the study of Medieval law may be profound or they may reveal the legal ideas of a heretofore, relatively obscure Decretalist. The exquisite nature of the volumes beg for study, as a Medieval manuscript, as the Commentaries on the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX, and for their historical value as medieval legal work.

[1] Pennington, Kenneth. "'Pro Peccatis Patrum Puniri': A Moral and Legal Problem of the Inquisition." Church History. Vol. 47, No. 2 (June 1978) p. 142.
[2] Kuttner, Stephen. "The Scientific Investigation of Medieval Canon Law: The Need and the Opportunity." Speculum. Vol. 24, No. 4 (Oct. 1949) p. 497.
[3] MS 374:; MS 79:

Suggestions for further reading:

  • De Ricci, Seymour, and W. J. Wilson. Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada. The H. W. Wilson Company: New York, 1937.
  • Derolez, Albert. The Paleography of Gothic Manuscript Books: From the Twelfth to the Early Sixteenth Century. Cambridge University Press: New York, 2003.
  • Kuttner, Stephan. Medieval Councils, Decretals, and Collections of Canon Law. Selected Essays. Variorum Reprints: London, 1980.
  • Kuttner, Stephan. "The Scientific Investigation of Medieval Canon Law: the Need and the Opportunity." Speculum. Vol. 24, No. 4 (Oct. 1949) 493-501.
  • Morison, Stanley. Early Italian Writing Books: Renaissance to Baroque. Ed. By Nicolas Barker. David R. Godine Publisher, Inc.: Boston, 1990.
  • Pearson, David. Provenance Research in Book History: A Handbook. The British Library and Oak Knoll Press: New Castle, 1998.
  • Pennington, Kenneth. "'Pro Peccatis Patrum Puniri': A Moral and Legal Problem of the Inquisition." Church History. Vol. 47, No. 2 (June 1978) 137-154.
  • Vauchez, Andr, ed. Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, vol. 1 and 2. James Clarke and Co.: Cambridge, 2001.