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Exhibit of the Month - March 2023

March 15 - April 11, 2023 Ante-room to the General reading Room (gate A), open Monday to Saturday 9 am - 7 pm (see opening hours of the NL)
Admission 20 CZK (free for the NL readers)

Matthaeus Beran: Confudarium maius
ante 1431
NL Prague I F 35, fol. 444v-445r

This paper codex belongs among three preserved manuscripts of Matouš (Matthaeus) Beran († 1461), one of the few mediaeval scribes about whom we have more detailed biographical data and documented traces of his work. It is the longest of his manuscripts (more than 480 folios) and the most diverse in terms of content. It lists mainly medical writings in a wider sense, i. e. for example a lapidary, a herbarium, a diagnostic writing on urine, anatomical drawings for venipuncture, or a text on chiromancy, i. e. palm-reading. The displayed folios include drawings of a right male hand and a left female hand with the basic palm-reading areas marked and interpretations, such as: „Quot habet lineas, tot ducet vir uxores.“ – „How many lines [this finger] has, so many times a man marries.“

Matthaeus apparently worked on the manuscript for a very long time, as the colophons (scribal notes at the end of the text) inform us; he finished the manuscript in Erfurt in 1431. He went to Erfurt during the turbulent period of the Hussite Wars from Roudnice nad Labem, where he previously lived and worked as an Augustian canon. However, it can be deduced from the dated notes that he continued to work on the manuscript almost fifteen years after its completion, so the texts were obviously read and the codex was actively used. Later, another important scribe of the Late Middle Ages Crux of Telč (1434–1504) had the manuscript at his disposal. He copied from it some texts and added a note that the manuscript belonged to the Augustinians in Roudnice, not to the monastery in Třeboň, where Crux worked at the time. Nevertheless, the manuscript remained in the library of the Třeboň canonry, as evidenced by the pasted ex-libris of Petr Vok z Rožmberka (Peter Vok of Rosenberg), to whose collection the Třeboň manuscripts later belonged, and the owner´s note of the Třeboň canonry from the 17th century, where the library collection ended up again.  The canonry as well as its library were abolished during the reforms of Joseph II. At present, the manuscript is kept in the National Library of the Czech Republic.

Photo: M. Tichá, NK ČR

Mar 15, 2023
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