Benedictines And Books: HMML Special Collections

Benedictines and Books

The Benedictine order has long associations with book production, textual preservation, reading, and study. Central to the Benedictine religious practices are the Rule of Benedict, a framework for monastic communal life written by the order’s founder, Benedict of Nursia (480-547 CE), the Life of Saint Benedict, and liturgical texts. HMML’s collection includes copies of the Rule of Saint Benedict, the Life of Saint Benedict and related texts, Benedictine liturgical texts, and general Benedictina - texts relating to Benedict and the order.


Rule of Saint Benedict


Parts of the Rule are often found in manuscripts containing other material. Kacmarcik Ms. 3 contains an excerpt of chapters 4-8, along with selections from other important monastic writers.


Earliest extant manuscript of the Regula Benedicti (Rule of Benedict), Bodleian Library, Oxford, England (Ms. Hatton 48)

Printed copies

  • Early editions with commentaries and other important monastic rules, printed in 1491, 1500, and 1514
  • Extremely tiny volumes for personal use, printed in 1501 and 1544
  • Early editions in Latin (1520, 1575, 1581, 1602, 1604, 1731, and 1772)
  • Italian (1501, 1723 and 1784)
  • German (1620)
  • French (1629)
  • Spanish (1780, 1791)
  • Portuguese (1823)
  • Tiny 1505 edition containing the Rule, the biography of Benedict (from Gregory’s 2nd Dialogue), a commentary on the Rule, and a brief service for making a monastic profession

Life of Benedict and related texts

  • Interesting full-color facsimile of the Codex Benedictus, Biblioteca apostolica vaticana (MS Vat. Lat. 1202), containing the primary source for the life of Benedict - the second Dialogue by Pope Gregory the Great
  • Early printed editions of Gregory’s Dialogues, including the first editions in Latin (1472), Italian (1475), and French (1509) with two sets of engravings that present Benedict’s life (1587 and 1596), based on Gregory’s accounts

Benedictine liturgical texts

  • Extensive collection of manuscript facsimiles for studying medieval liturgy, including sacramentaries, antiphonaries, psalters, lectionaries, etc.
  • Breviarium monasticum (printed Venice, 1573)
  • Missale Benedictino-monasticum (Augsburg, 1742)
  • Commentaries, histories and texts for the Mass, the Divine Office and other rituals
  • Very large collection of printed Breviaries and Missals that document worship practices from the 15th to the 20th centuries


General resources on the history and tradition of the Benedictine order, including works by Benedictine authors in both manuscript facsimile and print

  • Bonifaz Gallner’s Regula emblematica Sancti Benedicti (Vienna, 1780), which explains the Rule of Benedict through allegorical emblems
  • Liber de triplici regione claustralium of the famous abbot Johannes Trithemius (Mainz, 1498)
  • Complete sets of the expansive multivolume accounts of the Acta sanctorum Ordinis s. Benedicti (Paris, 1668) and the Annales Ordinis s. Benedicti (Paris, 1703-1739), documenting the history of the order
  • Numerous hagiographical works that depict the lives of Benedictine saints: Alfonso Chacón, De Martyrio ducentorum monachorum S. Petri a Cardegna (1594); Karl Stengel, Imagines sanctorum Ord. s. Benedicti (1625), Saint Walpurga (Eichstätt, 1792), or Saint Placid (Messina, 1654)
  • Rare resources on individual monastic communities including three editions of the chronicle of Monte Cassino by Leo Marsicanus (1513, 1616, and 1683), as well as histories of other Benedictine monasteries across Europe
  • History of Benedictine life in North America, including numerous 19th-century manuscripts of the Tyrocinium Benedictinum, copied as a guide to monastic life by prospective monks
  • Pamphlet by Martin Luther on monastic vows (Wittenberg, 1521)

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