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Walters Ms. W.29, Three Treatises by Honorius Augustodunensis

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Three Treatises by Honorius Augustodunensis

Text title
Three Treatises by Honorius Augustodunensis

Vernacular: Expositio in Cantica Canticorum; Sigillum Sanctae Mariae; Neocosmus


Authority name: Honorius Augustodunensis, ca. 1080-ca. 1156

Known as: Honorius of Autun


This manuscript was created in southern Germany or northern Austria in the second half of the twelfth century. It is remarkable for having retained its original binding, made of stamped deerskin on wood. The text contains three exegetical works by Honorius Augustodunensis, a monastic scholar active in the first half of the twelfth century. The main text, an exposition of the Song of Songs, is accompanied by a striking series of images that depict the four “brides” who form the basic organizing principle of the interpretation. It is possible that Honorius himself devised these images to accompany his text (see Curschmann, “Imagined Exegesis,” 153f and Cohen, “Synagoga Conversa,” 321). Five other extant late twelfth-century manuscripts, all from the same geographical region, contain these texts, and the illustrations in each are remarkably uniform in their representation of the brides (see, e.g., Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 4550). This manuscript, written in the same region and around the same time as Honorius’s composition, offers a rare glimpse into what must have been a vibrant and complex culture of reading, writing, and illustration. Due to the fragile nature of the binding, the book could not be opened for imaging.


Second half of the 12th century CE


Southern Germany or northern Austria






The primary language in this manuscript is Latin.

Support material


Unable to open book


Foliation: 150


Formula: Undetermined due to fragility of the book



18.0 cm wide by 26.6 cm high

Written surface

13.0 cm wide by 19.0 cm high

  1. Columns: 1
  2. Ruled lines: 29

fols. 1r - 150v:
  1. Title: Three Treatises by Honorius Augustodunensis
  2. Hand note: Written in a strong, even miniscule, very carefully executed; employs a number of abbreviations
  3. Decoration note: Three half-page miniatures; three historiated initials (5-8 lines); five decorated initials (6-8 lines); enlarged initials (2-3 lines) in secondary headings; rubrics in red; text in black ink
fols. 1r - 10r:
  1. Title: Honorius's Preface to the Song of Songs
  2. Rubric: Incipit prefatio Honorii in cantica canticorum. Ad Symonem abbatem.
  3. Incipit: Symoni donum sapientie
  4. Decoration note: Decorated initial "S," 7 lines, on fol. 1r
fols. 10v - 122v:
  1. Title: Interpretation of the Song of Songs
  2. Rubric: Liber I de sponsa orientis.
  3. Incipit: Osculetur me osculo oris sui
  4. Contents: Divided into four books, each of which focuses on a different bride: fols. 10v-43r: book 1, on the Bride of the East (the Daughter of Pharaoh); fols. 43r-89v: book 2, on the Bride of the South (the Daughter of the King of Babylon); fols. 89v-103v: book 3, on the Bride of the West (the Shunamite); fols. 103v-122v: book 4, on the Bride of the North (the Queen Mandrake)
  5. Decoration note: Historiated initial "O," 7 lines on fol. 10v, showing an angel appearing to the Daughter of Pharaoh; three half-page illustrations, executed in pen against colored backgrounds, showing the other three brides: fol. 43 depicts the Daughter of the King of Babylon riding on a pair of camels, surrounded by philosophers, martyrs, and apostles; fol. 89v shows the Shunamite riding on a four-wheeled cart, with symbols of Evangelists and heads of apostles; fol. 103v shows Christ putting a head like his own onto the headless body of the Queen Mandrake; decorated initials on fols. 43v ("P," 6 lines), 90r ("E," 7 lines), and 103v ("P," 6 lines)
fols. 123v - 140r:
  1. Title: Seal of St. Mary
  2. Incipit: Optimo Magistro Librorum Registro
  3. Decoration note: Historiated inital "O," 7 lines, on fol. 123v showing the author presenting his book to a clergyman
fols. 140v - 149r:
  1. Title: Hexaemeron
  2. Rubric: Incipit de neocosmo
  3. Incipit: Quia multi multa de primis sex diebus
  4. Contents: Text consisting of a short commentary on the story of creation from Genesis
  5. Decoration note: Historiated initial "Q," 5 lines, on fol. 140v, showing the author facing forward, holding an open book


The binding is original.

Original twelfth-century binding, consisting of light to medium brown deerskin over wooden (beech) boards; leather stamped with eleven different nonfigural designs, several of which (e.g., a Greek meander) recall older, Mediterranean patterns; stamps arranged in panels; front and back panels not identical; like other German and Austrian bindings, far less elaborate in its decoration than contemporary bindings from France and England


Created ca. 1150-1200 in southern Germany or northern Austria, perhaps Lambach or Salzburg (see Holter, "Initialen," 261f and Hoffman, 287)

Formerly Lambach Ms. 94; old labels on spine

Jacques Rosenthal, Munich, sale of 1928, catalog 90, no. 144

Léon Gruel, Paris, probably acquired from Rosenthal sale in 1928; Gruel no. 1369, bookplate on front pastedown

Henry Walters, Baltimore, acquired from Gruel before 1931


Walters Art Museum, 1931, by Henry Walters' bequest


Holter, Kurt. "Initialen aus einer Lambacher Handschrift des 12. Jahrhunderts." Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte 46-47 (1993-1994): pp. 255-265.

Haussher, Reiner, ed. Die Zeit der Staufer: Geschichte, Kunst, Kultur. Katalog der Ausstellung. Vol. 1. Stuttgart: Württembergisches Landesmuseum, 1977. pp. 565-566. no. 740.

Bibliotheca Medii Aevi Manuscripta: Pars Altera. Einhundert Handschriften des Mittelalters vom zehnten bis zum fünfzehnten Jahrhundert. 90. Munich: Jacques Rosenthal, 1928, pp. 48-50, no. 99.

Matter, E. Ann. The Voice of My Beloved: The Song of Songs in Western Medieval Christianity. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990.

Hoffmann, Konrad. The Year 1200: A Centennial Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1970, pp. 286-287, no. 280.

Evans, M. W. Medieval Drawings. London: Paul Hamlyn, 1969, p. 26, no. 37.

Schmidt-Künsemüller, Friedrich Adolf. Die Abendländischen Romanischen Blindstempeleinbände. Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann Verlag, 1985, p. 164, no. 112.

Cohen, Jeremy. "Synagoga Conversa: Honorius Augustodunensis, the Song of Songs, and Christianity's 'Eschatological Jew.'" Speculum 79 (2004): pp. 309-340.

Curschmann, Michael. "Imagined Exegesis: Text and Picture in the Exegetical Works of Rupert of Deutz, Honorius Augustodunensis, and Gerhoch of Reichersberg." Traditio 44 (1988): pp. 145-169.

De Ricci, Seymour. Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada. Vol. 1. New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1935, p. 821. no. 387. Also Vol. 2, p. 2292.

Davis, Lisa Fagin. The Gottschalk Antiphonary: Music and Liturgy in Twelfth-Century Lambach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 25.

Walters Art Gallery. Illuminated Books of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Baltimore: Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery, 1949, pp. 12-13, no. 27.

Walters Art Gallery. The History of Bookbinding, 525-1950 A.D. Baltimore: The Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery, 1957, p. 47, no. 109.


Catalogers: Kauffman, Nicholas; Walters Art Museum curatorial staff and researchers since 1934

Editors: Herbert, Lynley; Noel, William

Copy editor: Dibble, Charles

Conservators: Owen, Linda; Quandt, Abigail

Contributors: Bockrath, Diane; Emery, Doug; Noel, William; Tabritha, Ariel; Toth, Michael B.


The Walters Art Museum


Licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Access Rights, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode. It is requested that copies of any published articles based on the information in this data set be sent to the curator of manuscripts, The Walters Art Museum, 600 North Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21201.