Fragments of manuscripts make up a large part of the Library’s holdings of medieval material, having come into the Library through various means: as gifts, as teaching examples, and in the bindings of other manuscripts and early printed books: the majority of the fragments originate from the practice of re-using the parchment of dismembered manuscripts as raw material for bindings. The manuscript fragments continue to be chiefly used for teaching of palaeography and codicology, but fragments can also be an important vehicle for the survival of texts, and contribute to the reconstruction of lost or imperfect manuscripts. An example from the collections here is a vellum binding fragment from the Auchinleck manuscript (MS593) which has been digitally reunited with other fragments to provide a fuller facsimile of the manuscript held at the National Library of Scotland. Many of the fragments in the collection are described in Rowan Watson’s Descriptive list of fragments of medieval manuscripts in the University of London Library.
However one of the earliest significant fragments held here, dating from the 9th century, is not covered by this list and is found in the papers of the Closs/ Priebsch Family, one of the collections of the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies Library. The fragment (ref. Flood 1/ Closs/ box 67/2) is a section of the Recognitiones Clementis, an important work of the early church in the form of a philosophical and theological romance, using the disciples as characters in a continuing narrative. The text is associated with Pope Clement I, but is of undetermined authorship. The Clementine narratives have been dated possibly to the third century CE and have survived in two forms: the Homilies of which the original Greek manuscripts survive, and the Recognitions, for which the original Greek has been lost, but the text has been transmitted through a c.4th-century translation by Rufinus of Aquileia. The Closs fragment includes book II, verses 8-12 of Rufinus’ version. It appears to have been first recorded in 1991 by John L. Flood in his description of medieval manuscripts in the Priebsch-Closs Collection: Die mittelalterlichen Handschriften der Bibliothek des Institute of Germanic Studies, London. It is in two columns written in a fine, early Caroline minuscule, the standardised European book-hand created and spread under the patronage of Charlemagne in the 8th century, on West German parchment, and has been dated to the first half of the 9th century (Flood, p. 326). The fragment was most likely used as the endpapers in a quarto-sized binding, but of its provenance beyond belonging to Closs, nothing is known (not unusual for a loose binding fragment). Intriguingly, Flood suggests there may be a relationship with BL Add. MS 18400, a manuscript of German origin which includes a version of the same text dated to the 10th century.
The Closs/ Priebsch papers are comprised of a range of material, including a small number of significant medieval German manuscripts and manuscript fragments collected by August Closs, a former professor of German at Bristol University. As well as this fragment, there are also 14th-century binding fragments and a late 15th-century manuscript of Heinrich Seuse’s Buch von der ewigen Weisheit and a collection of fragments of German poetry of the 13th/14th centuries (Flood, nos.3-5 ; Closs/ box 67/ 4, i and ii). The Priebsch-Closs collection of books forms the core of the IGRS special collections and includes material from the 15th to the 20th century.