Notule auree Boncompagni
Table of contents -- Edition
Siglorum conspectus -- Main menu



While I diligently exhibited a work in rethoric on a little hill near the Ravona, when asked by students and dear friends, for two days I withdrew myself from a work already begun, and I began to make some 'Notes' in dictamen, which on account of their effect I wish to call 'Golden.' Although I said many things in the Tractatus virtutum, yet I could not say everything noteworthy which pertained to the knowledge of dictamen. I will repair and complete any defect in these, as much as I will be able, and I will insert nothing useless or superfluous, because gold is not pure if it has received the contagion of another metal.


There are ten steps in the ascent to philosophy. First is the removal of useless worry. Second, one should know what pleases. Third, one should seek a good teacher. Fourth, reverence for the teacher. Fifth, assiduousness in reading.2 Sixth, abstinence. Seventh, contempt for riches. Eighth, those things which one has freely learned should be delivered to others. Ninth, a learner should not be ashamed to learn from anyone. Tenth, one should not deny to others the opportunity to gain knowledge.


There are six things which each orator should consider, namely: 1) the order of constructing, 2) the apposition of words, 3) the meaning of the locution, 4) the usages of men, 5) the local customs and 6) how to satisfy the will of the sender.


It must be known that each dictator ought not reveal to anyone else a secret committed to him, nor should he compose false letters, because it would seem indecent and criminal if any infidelity or vice should blacken such an honest and noble office.


Note that you ought always draw out an exordium from a fact which is at issue, because a treatise would seem indecent if its exordium did not seem to cohere uniformly to its narration, which Cicero quite explicity declared in both of his Rhetorics.3 If you wish to see this manner of composing exordia, read in the Commentary which I made on the Rhetorica,4 and you will find there a complete and extensive doctrine of composing exordia.


Note that the narratio should be short, lucid and evident, true and probable, as Cicero said in his Rhetorics.5 It is easy to know how to obey these precepts. But because it is not my intention to treat such things here, we shall see briefly some notes, in some confusion, according to what comes to memory.


Note that at all times a equal should be placed before an equal, and a superior before an inferior.


Note that in salutations proper names ought to be written out completely,6 unless they may be determined from the family name, or the surname, or from some office or place-name.


Note that when one person speaks to another, the approved local customs must be observed concerning the singular or the plural, nevertheless it should be especially noted that a peer should speak plurally of his peer, an inferior of his superior and a subject of prelate, but they should refer to themselves in the singular. Yet this procedes from custom alone and not from reason, as was evidently proven in the Tractatus virtutum.7


Note that when an preamble precedes, there are these signs of narrations: 'hic est' 'inde est' 'proinde'. Because these are so frequently used, they cannot be the beginnings of a petition.


Note concerning signs of petition that are these signs of petition: 'quapropter', 'eapropter', 'cuius rei causa' or 'gratia', 'quam ob rem', 'qua de re', 'quare', 'quo circa', 'verum quia'. Nevertheless, the dictators of the lord pope use these signs: 'eapropter', 'verum', 'quia', 'quo circa' and 'ideoque'. For they do these and other things as a safegaurd against the malice of forgers. Indeed, these are called signs of petition which an equal sends to his peer, or an inferior sends to his superior, but whenever superiors send to their subjects, these cannot properly be called signs of conclusion, because superiors are not said to present petitions to their inferiors, although at the time they may seem to entreat them. For such requests ought to be conceived of as mandates, unless you wish to take the word 'petition' in wider sense, so that the proprieties of speech are not observed, namely, when such signs are written in the place of a part.


Note that these are divisive signs: 'Preterea' 'insuper' 'ad hoc' 'super eo vero' 'ex eo vero' 'quod autem' and they are called divisive because the divide the signifier from the signified. Nevertheless a division may often stand by means of a participle, in this way: 'We devotedly commend to apostolicity the church which we serve, abiding in the Lord, humbly beseeching your piety that you deign to renew our privilege.' Behold, first the church is commended, and then a request is made that the privilege be renewed. Or otherwise: 'May you kindly receive the bearer of this letter, to be providing8 honors attentively, lest for the sake of the advice and favors of others you diminish episcopal rights.' Similar divisions are often made and can be made. But a participle is not called a divisive sign, although division may be made by means of a participle, since sometimes a verb with a copulative conjunction can make a similar division, but not such an ornate division. A division is also made by means of a suspension punctuation mark which performs the function of a copulative conjunction, in this manner: 'My mind detests a lying man, an avaricious prelate, a licentious old man and a traitorous student.' Nevertheless punctuation is not called a divisive sign, but a divisive terminus. Indeed, division means something else in Rhetoric,9 because it is used there as a principal of rhetorical oration.


Note that no one can assign the signs of conclusion, because the words which can be put in conclusions are infinite. For it does not possible to come to a conclusion through one single word, unless you write many, in this way: 'It was said above how he killed a student on a journey, and it was proved how they buried him in secrecy, etc.' For all conclusions are by assemblages of words, whence I cannot assign the signs of conclusions in words. Some say that the signs of conclusion are 'that if you have done' 10 or 'if you have not done,' but their opinion seems to be childish.11


Note that when proper names are placed in narrations, these should be determined through the word 'named' or by the positive words 'namely' or 'viz', which can be construed to any appellation, as when it is said 'We send you our messenger named Blessed.' For if you say 'We send you our blessed messenger,' this name 'blessed' would be equivocal, which could be taken as an adjective modifying 'messenger', it could also be understood as a proper name, and so it would render the whole locution defective. But if some proper name is written which cannot be construed to another appellation, as 'We sent you our messenger Martin,' that name does not require to be otherwise determined. Indeed that name '.M.' can never be construed to another appellation, and so should it be understood of other <initials>. And this advice can never fail, except that the specifying sign is placed along with some appelative before the proper noun, in this way: 'A certain man named M.'; it would be incongruously said 'A certain man M.,' on account of a clash of the substantives. In a similar way, a relative pronoun should not precede when a verb of address is used, as in 'He who is called M. runs.'


Note that if one needs to repeat once the name of one or many things in any case or treatise, it is sufficient if you say 'said .M.' or 'said money.' If however the dictator needs to use this name a number of times, he should at first say 'said,' second 'aforesaid,' or 'already said' or 'previously said.' And although 'aforesaid, already said, previously said, previously given, abovesaid and previously named' are equivalents, and wherever one can be used so can another, yet it seems that if the matter was lengthy, these should be arranged successively, as is written in this note. But 'often mentioned' should always be placed at the end, and should only be used once. One should know that 'above said' should not ever be placed in the same sentence with the word for whose sake a repetition has been made. But relative pronouns can often be used to supplement repetition.


Note that a participle should be arranged with a verb in such a manner, that speech is not rendered defective on account of a discoherancy of time, because if you have buried the sense of locution, it does not matter if you have made good grammar. Indeed it is grammatically correct to say 'On account of impending business I sent my messenger, the space of one day having now elapsed, beseeching your providence attentively, that you should not put off coming to me quickly.' Behold, the sense of the locution is corrupted on account of a temporal discrepancy; for he would not at all be seen to beseech at that time in which he sent the messenger. I have seen very many err in such temporal discrepancies, because many err in the use of participles. Therefore I attentively consider that each and every dictator should be advised that they should use participles lucidly, considering which verb rules the participle which is placed in any treatise.


Note that often a verb can require a participle before itself, but also after itself in this manner: 'Much confiding in the sincerity of your friendship, I direct the bearer of this letter to you, attentively beseeching your liberality that, from the constancy of my devotion you deign to offer him favor and counsel.' And although a following participle may be demanded from a preceding verb, yet it is understood to be written in place of a suppositum, or else it is governed by the verb through the suffrage of a suspended point, which after a verb performs the function of a copulative conjunction. But if anyone thinks "Thus by simply replacing the punctuation mark with a copulative conjunction, this would be fittingly said," that does not follow, because a suspended punctuation mark always has a greater role that does a copulative conjunction, because it divides while joining and joins while dividing. The copulative conjunction has force between similar things, but the punctuation mark joins diverse things while dividing them.


Note that a participle should always be placed in the same sentence in which the verb is placed, from which it is required. Whence, when some write in privileges the participle 'Statuentes' with a capital letter, they commit a large error, since that participle acquires force from the preceding verb, which participle would seem to be placed in another sentence, when it is written thereafter with a capital letter.


Note that these two genitives, namely 'of the present' and 'of this' have this function from custom alone, and not from nature, that they always include this noun 'letter'. It is not necessary for the dictor to say 'letter', nor should it be said, because when 'the bearer' or 'carrier of the present' is said, in all of its cases, this word 'letter' is always understood. Thus it should be withheld for the sake of the ornament of locution.


Nota quod cum scribuntur epistole post sigillationem, non debet scribi 'Detur' uel 'Dentur,' nisi forte|Note that when letters are subscribed after sealing, 'It is given' or 'They are given' should be written, unless perhaps a greater person writes to a lesser, because this verb 'It is given' seems to note some kind of lordship; thus an equal should not write 'It is given' or 'They are given' to his peer, nor should a lesser person write that verb to a greater person. Nevertheless, if he desires, he can write 'They are presented' because this verb does not have to signify any lordship. Yet my advice is that no verb should be placed there, unless perhaps when a greater person writes to a lesser one. For it would suffice to say 'to the lord pope' or 'to the lord archbishop of Ravenna,' without any verb, and likewise in other cases.


Although I spoke about hiatus sufficiently in the Tractatus virtutum, yet I still am advising anyone that they should avoid frequent hiatus of vowels. For Cicero said in the Rethorica that we should avoid freqent clashing of vowels, which renders a speech desolate and pompous, and he posed an example: 'Bacca enee amentissime impendebant.'13 By that which Cicero said, 'frequent', you should understand that if sometime hiatus occurs in a clause and two blemishes in a sentence, it must not on that account be avoided, since Cicero himself did not avoid hiatus at all times. However if a punctuation mark comes between the two vowels or syllables, this is not hyatus; nor do I call it hyatus if one word ends in a vowel and the following word begins with a different vowel.


Note that trampling together of syllables should be especially avoided, and for the reason that thereby graceful pronunciation cannot be accomplished, as in: 'angelica karitatis,' 'ferrum rubet' or 'igitur turba' or 'igitur re' or 'sinalimpham facit' or 'uva vastatur' or 'magistra strenui' or 'famosus suspendatur' or 'fama mala' or 'ara rabili' or 'in rombo bono' or 'michi chiba' or 'angelus lustrat' r 'licet cementum' or 'in tota taberna'; and so may you understand concerning the others in all cases.


Top of page -- Table of contents -- Edition
Siglorum conspectus -- Main menu

1 See Epistola de regimine et modo studendi of Martino da Fano, ed. LUIGI FRATI in SMUB2 6 (1921) 25-29; PAOLO GARBINI "Sulla Vita scolastica di Bonvesin de la Riva" SM3a 31 (1990) 705-737. Cf. Boncompagnus 1.3.1.

2 For some of the works which a orator should read, see Rhetorica novissima 8.1.18.

3 Rhetorica ad Herennium 1.7.11: Item vitiosum est [exordium] quod nimium apparatis verbis compositum est, aut nimium longum est; et quod non ex ipsa causa natum videatur ut proprie cohaereat cum narratione; et quod neque benivolum neque docilem neque adtentum facit auditorem. De inventione 1.14.19: ...ideo quod illa quae prima dicuntur, si vehementer velis congruere et cohaerere cum causa, ex eis ducas oportet quae post ducenda sunt.

4 It is not clear whether he glossed Cicero's De inventione or the Rhetorica ad Herrenium. For medieval Italian commentaries on Cicero's rhetorics, see GIAN CARLO ALESSIO "La tradizione retorica" in IDEM Dall'Eremo al Cenobio (Milan 1987) 321-327.

5 De inventione 1.20.28: Oportet igitur eam [sc. narrationem] tres habere res: ut brevis, ut aperte, ut probabilis sit. Rhetorica ad Herennium 1.9.14: Tres res convenit habere narrationem: ut brevis, ut dilucida, ut verisimilis sit. At 1.9.16 versimilis is replaced with vera. See <De vitiis evitandis et cursibus servandis in dictamine> 2.11.

6 Although such advice is eminently consistent with a Boncompagno's striving for clarity in epistolary communication, so far as the manuscript transmission can reveal, Boncompagno does not follow this precept in the Quinque tabule salutationum and for the most part also does not in later writings. Perhaps he purposes here to directly contradict French doctrine (e.g. Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 1.24) for the sake of scholastic opposition, although he agreed with that doctrine in Isagoge 2.8-9. Teaching and learning by advancing contrarieties played the same role in medieval schools as does the experimental method in modern scientific research; it need not be seen as evidence of a personality trait.

7 Tractatus virtutum §42-§49.

8 Note use of future participle provisurus; see below Notule auree 16.

9 Rhetorica Ad Herennium 1.3.4 (MARX ed. minor 3.16); in De inv. I.14 (STROEBEL ed. 18.13) this is called partitio.

10 See Boncompagnus 3.15.19.

11 Palma 32; HEINRICH LAUSBERG Handbuch der literarischen Rhetorik 1.66

12 See JOHN F. MCGOVERN "The Documentary Language of Medieval Business, A.D. 1150-1250" Classical Journal 67 (1971-2) 227-37 at 333.

13 Rhetorica ad Herennium 4.12.18: ...fugiemus crebras vocalium concursiones, quae vastam atque hiantem orationem reddunt, ut haec est:

                      Bacae aeneae amoenissime inpendebant.

© Steven M. Wight, Los Angeles 1998

Scrineum © Universitą di Pavia 1999