In a year of library anniversaries, it is well to consider two dates at Peterhouse, 1415/16 and 1418. Both are connected with the library, both with William Dyngley. Dyngley entered Peterhouse as a student in the 1380’s and remained there the rest of his life. Ordained to fellowship by 1393, he served as bursar six times. His account roll for 1415/16 provides the first documentary evidence that the fellows were considering library expansion: a note about the sale of old manuscripts, the sum set aside for buying future books ‘pro empcione librorum futororum’. (See Rodney Thomson, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval Manuscripts in the Library of Peterhouse, Cambridge, forthcoming.)
1418 is the second pivotal date for the projected expansion. On the day before Christmas the fellow librarian recorded the 193 books in their library, a register subsequently updated as new volumes were donated. Dyngley was one such donor. At the time of his death, he had created a personal library of at least twenty-nine manuscripts, twenty-one of which survive. Dyngley was more than a bibliophile, however. He was a man of some vision and purpose. The library inventory enabled him to see what was lacking, what new books to acquire: the works of the Latin Fathers. Having completed his term as bursar for 1417/18, Dyngley concentrated on producing the ‘future books’. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, for example, was missing in the 1418 register, so Dyngley commissioned three handsome anthologies, each focusing on a major work by Ambrose (MSS 110, 114, 111). MS 114 opened with a full border for the Commentary on Psalm 118 (107 folios). Shorter works like De Mysteriis were introduced by flourished initials.
MS 110 boasted twenty-five borders, more than all the other Dyngley books combined, and MS 111 opened with an illuminated initial, the sole illumination in Dyngley’s surviving manuscripts.
MS 111 was the last of the Ambrose trilogy, compiled in the 1430’s. MS 111 was conceived on a grand scale, the longest of Dyngley’s manuscripts, with at least five scribes employed. Illumination would have added to cost. We know Dyngley needed money in 1436, for he pawned an expensive volume of Augustine’s psalm commentaries. Dyngley’s handwriting also helps to date the manuscript. His hand had deteriorated by the time he wrote the 1430 bursar roll, and the same deterioration is found in MS 111, where Dyngley finished a short work left incomplete by the scribe.
Dyngley’s donated books, as one would expect of Peterhouse, were primarily theological. In addition to Ambrose, Dyngley devoted one volume each to Jerome and Origen, and ten to Augustine of Hippo. The Augustinian corpus is particularly important because Dyngley himself was actively engaged in the production. As a scholar he appreciated the need for bibliographic apparatus, the finding tools necessary for effective use of texts. Fortunately, Peterhouse had a magisterial source for such academic paraphernalia compiled by the Dominican Robert Kilwardby, Tabulae super originalia partum (MS 147), a manuscript bequeathed to the college in the fourteenth century. The tabulae were indexes of key words in patristic texts, cited with chapter references. Dyngley set out to make Kilwardby’s material more user-friendly by painstakingly alphabetizing the words. He began by writing the initial letters in the margins of the Kilwardby manuscript as below, ‘n’ beside nichil, ‘b’ opposite bonum, ‘c’ by corpus, ‘f’ by forma, ‘m’ by modus, and another ‘c’ by corruptio in the following column. Correspondingly, Dyngley rearranged the key words in strict alphabetical order.
Sometimes the entries for a given letter spread over many columns and folios. In the tabula for Augustine’s De Trinitate, the entries for words beginning with ‘c’ ranged over thirteen folios (MS 147, ff. 51v-64v). Having redacted the tabulae, Dyngley copied them for nine volumes. Short tabulae could be added at the ends of quires (units of eight folios), but sometimes Dyngley needed whole quires. In one instance when he ran out of space on folio 8, he created an ad hoc system with a tie mark looking like a patriarchal cross, directing the user to look at the end for the sign, ‘require in fine’. And end it was, folio 230.
In addition to constructing and copying the tabulae, Dyngley also functioned as editor, correcting scribal errors, adding missing words or passages like the one below, omitted by the Fish Scribe. (See the Cambridge Fish Scribe blog, 30/11/15.) Dyngley’s usual insertion mark ./ can be found below in the second line just before an forte. Dyngley commonly wrote a formal book hand for textual corrections. Here the capital letters are highlighted with yellow to match the format of the main text.
Dyngley was an indefatigable proofreader, working closely with the exemplar once the scribe had finished copying the text. In addition to correcting errors, Dyngley also cited lacunae or misplaced text. Origen’s second homily on the Song of Songs, he noted, should have come at the end of the homily on Kings, and homilies ‘24’ and ‘xxv’ were missing. For such notes Dyngley wrote in cursive, using both Arabic and Roman numerals.
Having worked as bursar, Dyngley had an eye on costs. His goal was to produce affordable manuscripts for the College. Because Dyngley cited the total cost for nine of his manuscripts, seven of them itemized, we know that ‘affordable’ meant between two and three pounds. The least expensive was the Jerome manuscript at 2 pounds, 2 shillings, 7 pence. One way to cut costs was to settle for second grade parchment at three pence per quire. The ‘seconds’ were cut from the edges of a hide, which meant that the writing surface was not perfectly rectangular. Corners were missing and holes commonplace, though scribes in a university town were skilled at writing around flaws.Three-penny parchment was used for all the Fish Scribe manuscripts, including the two early Ambrose volumes. Unfortunately, there are no costs recorded for MS 111, but its parchment is better quality, and in layout it resembles MS 88, the most expensive of Dyngley’s productions at over 4 pounds. Perhaps as Dyngley neared the end of his productive life, his concern for cost relaxed. Still, the watchful eye of a bursar had enabled him to finance his ambitious plan to provide suitable copies of the patristic authors, to augment substantially the holdings of the 1418 library. Scholar, redactor, copy editor, scribe, Dyngley was indeed more than a bibliophile.
Ann Eljenholm Nichols