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French translation of Boethius's 'Consolation of Philosophy', in the William Herebert Collection

French translation of Boethius's 'Consolation of Philosophy', in the William Herebert Collection

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1325

Shelfmark: Additional MS 46919

Item number: f.107r

Length: 22.9

Width: 16.7

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

A friar of the Franciscan community of Hereford, William Herebert lectured for the Franciscan schools at Oxford, becoming the 43rd Reader in Divinity to the Friars Minor. Sometime before his death in 1333, he assembled this book of miscellaneous texts in French, English and Latin. The items range from cookery and medicinal recipes (such as a remedy for a lame horse) to prayers for services, sermons and theological works. His book would have been a must-have for a travelling preacher, which was the job description of a friar. This poem says more than appears at first. It is a French translation in verse of a dialogue from Boethius's 'Consolation of Philosophy.' The translator was Simon de Fresne, whose name is given in an acrostic of the opening lines, as noted by Herebert at the foot of the page: "Simund de Freine me fist." Boethius, an early 6th-century Roman statesman who was imprisoned by his royal patron, wrote 'The Consolation of Philosophy' in Latin as a dialogue between himself and Philosophy (personified as an idealised woman), and concerns the unreliable nature of human relationships and the superiority of nonmaterial things like contemplation.

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