Falvey’s Special Collections regularly receive e-mails inquiring about specific works in our collections. Recently, such an e-mail came from a medieval scholar at a large German university who asked about a manuscript dating from 1431. The scholar requested specific information about the size, binding, number of pages and other technical information.
We decided that this manuscript should be added to the Villanova University Digital Library, and within two days of receiving his inquiry we were able to reply to the e-mail and announce that the entire digitized manuscript was available for public examination. The German scholar was delighted and surprised to get this information since he was now able to examine the manuscript in great detail and to retrieve information that otherwise only would have been possible through expensive and time-consuming travel.
The manuscript is an Augustinian Regula (Augustinian Rule or guidelines for life), transcribed by hand in 1431. Although written in Latin, it was then translated into German sentence by sentence. The German text was intended for lay persons who had entered the monastery and whose knowledge of Latin was marginal.
At the end of the manuscript is a note signed by “Johannes decanus.” The German scholar informed us that this person also is known as Johannes Rothuet or Johannes of Indersdorf. Johannes of Indersdorf became the prelate of the Indersdorf Monastery in 1442, and he was an important and influential religious reformer in southern Germany. Indersdorf is located in Bavaria, 20 miles from Munich. The Indersdorf Monastery was founded in 1120 and occupied by Augustinian Canons, or religious clerics, from 1126. Until 1403 it was a double monastery, with a convent next to the monastery. The monastery closed in 1783, but the buildings were later occupied by several female religious orders.
Because the German scholar had online access to the Augustinian manuscript and was able to view it in its entirety, he could identify ‘Johannes decanus,’ providing a historical context for us and greatly enhancing our understanding of the Regula.
Contributed by Bente Polites, Special Collections librarian