Various writings

Retractationes of Saint Augustine

Medieval (Gothic)
mid-13th century
Author of text Saint Augustine (Roman, North Africa, A.D. 354–430)

Place of Manufacture: possibly Royaumont Abbey, Northern France


Overall (page dimensions): 26.9 x 19 cm (10 9/16 x 7 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Tempera, ink and pencil (modern) on parchment; bindings of deerskin over boards, parchment pastedowns and flyleaves

Not On View


Europe, The Ancient World



Various writings by St. Augustine, in 216 folios (ff.) and 1 leaf:

f. i verso: 14th-century table of contents
ff. 1 - 39: Liber retractionum. “Incipiunt capitula liber retractionum…/Iam diu est quod facere cogito…/…alios a me dictos retractare coepissem.”
ff. 39 - 65v: De Achademicis [Contra Academicos tres libri]. “Outinam romaniane hominem sibi…/…modestus tamen et citius quam speraveram fecimus.”
ff. 65v - 74v: De beata vita . “Si ad phylosophiae portum…/…His dictis facto disputationis fine discessimus.”
ff. 74v - 97: De ordine. “Ordinem rerum zenobi consequi…/…cum iam nocturnum lumen fuisset illatum.”
ff. 97 - 115: Soliloquiorum. “Solventi [sic.] michi multa ac varia…/…sine ullo mendatio pullicetur. A. Fiat ut speramus.”
ff. 115v - 121v: De animae immortalitate [De immortalitate animae]. “Si alicubi est idsciplina nec esse…/…non autem ita esse in anima per sensus de quo dictum est probatur.”
ff. 121v - 137: De moribus ecclesiae catholicae. “In aliis libris satis opinor…/…moresque in einorabiles aliquando veniamus.”
ff. 137 - 154: De moribus ecclesiae catholicae, Liber II. “Nulli esse arbiror dubium…/…et in tanta catholicae multitudine non velitis.”
ff. 154 - 194v: De libero arbitrio. “Dic michi quaeso te utrum deus…/…requiescere aliquando compellit.”
f. 194v: Unidentified epilogue to the Libero Arbitrario “Qui falso de deo credit…/…scismaticos autem non fides a bonis catholicis diversificat.”
ff. 195 - 216: Adversus Manicheos [De Genesi contra Manichaeos]. “Si eligerent manichei quos deciperent…/…quae michi videbantur exposui.”

2 columns of 35 text lines in Latin. Bounding lines in black plummet, full-length to all edges, writing lines in black plummet, crossing incolumnar space, doubled and full-length at top, center, and bottom, prickings preserved in outer margin for writing lines, in lower margin for bounding lines.

Catchwords in lower right margin of the last verso of each quire, in the same hand as the text or in a current script. Modern Arabic pencil foliation every ten leaves, beginning with [1] on the flyleaf, so reaches 217 instead of 216.

Written in a Gothic bookhand in black ink with red rubrics. Two-line book and retraction initials throughout alternating blue with red filigree and red with blue filigree. Text initials 5- to 8-line blue and red with red and blue spiral infill with contrasting berries and blue and red filigree into margin.


ex libris on f. 216, "Liber sanctae mariae regalis montes."


Mid-thirteenth century, probably written at the royal Cistercian abbey of Royaumont [see note 1]; 1791, documented at the Abbey of Royaumont [see note 2]; 1806, acquired by Charles Chardin (bookseller; b. 1742 - d. 1826), Paris [see note 3]; February 9 - March 22, 1824, Chardin sale, Debure Frères, Hôtel de Bullion, Paris, lot 202, sold to J.-P. Aillaud, probably for Sir Thomas Phillipps (b. 1792 - d. 1872), Cheltenham, England [see note 4]; June 10-17, 1896, posthumous Phillipps sale, Sotheby's, London, lot 46, to Quaritch, Ltd., London [see note 5]; probably sold by Quaritsch through Edward Waldo Forbes to Denman Waldo Ross (b. 1853 - d. 1935), Cambridge, MA; 1909, gift of Denman Waldo Ross to the MFA. (Accession Date: August 26, 1909)

[1] The thirteenth-century inscription on f. 216 reads: "Liber s[an]c[ta]e Mariae Regalis Montis," which can be found in other manuscripts originating at Royaumont. The Maurists--a congregration of Benedictine monks in France--used this manuscript in their seminal, 1679 edition of Augustine's works. The Maurist editors' characteristic markings and notations are found throughout the manuscript.

[2] The abbey at Royaumont was dissolved in 1791. An inventory drawn up at that time lists the present manuscript under no. 75. See M. Huglo, "La dispersion des manuscrits de Royaumont," Revue Benedictine 113 (2003): pp. 384-385.

[3] Huglo 2003 (as above, n. 2), pp. 370 and 390. In Chardin's catalogue of 1811, this was cat. no. 52. There is also a pencil notation inside front cover.

[4] Huglo, p. 390. Phillipps lion rampant stamp on front flyleaf and notation "Phillipps Ms 763" on flyleaf verso.

[5] Ross acquired other manuscript leaves from Quaritsch through Forbes.

Credit Line

Denman Waldo Ross Collection