The Electronic Manipulus florum Project


What is the Manipulus florum?

Thomas of Ireland's Manipulus florum ("Handful of flowers") belongs to the genre of medieval texts known as florilegia, anthologies of authoritative quotations that are the forerunners of modern reference works such as Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. This particular florilegium contains approximately 6000 Latin proverbs and textual excerpts (provided in 5821 entries*) that are attributed to various classical, patristic and medieval authors. Compiled in Paris at the beginning of the 14th century (1306), it survives in over 200 manuscripts and was published in over 50 editions between 1483 and 1887, making it by far the most widely-disseminated and, presumably, the most influential anthology of Latin quotations produced during the Middle Ages.

Thomas organized the "flowers" that he gathered for this collection under 266 alphabetically-ordered topics, from Abstinencia to Christus (Christus coming at the end in the manuscripts and first two printed editions because the Greek letters Χρς are used for the abbreviation). He also assigned unique reference letters to the individual entries under each topic, doubling the letters when the number of entries for a given topic exceeded 23 (i.e. the number of letters in the Latin alphabet). For example, Vsura b is the second (and last) entry under the shortest topic; because Prudencia siue prouidencia has 24 entries, the twenty-third entry is designated 'z' and the last one is 'ba'; and Mors di is the last entry under the largest topic, with 97 entries. As Thomas explains in his Preface, these reference letters were created to support his cross-referencing system; at the end of nearly all of the topics he provided a reference list which includes similar topics (essentially synonyms and antonyms, such as Temperancia and Gula which are cross-referenced at the end of Abstinencia) and, more usefully, individual entries of related interest under unrelated topics. According to Mary and Richard Rouse, this combination of an alphabetized subject listing and a cross-referencing system represents the cutting edge of information technology at the beginning of the 14th century. They also noted the remarkable stability of the manuscript tradition, which is partly due to the early reproduction of the text by the Paris stationers' companies using the pecia system.


* The difference between the actual number of entries and the estimated number of quotations is due to Thomas' practice of combining multiple proverbs attributed to Seneca under a single entry. For example, the entry for Mors di comprises five short proverbs.


Project Rationale

The seminal study of the Manipulus was published in 1979 by Mary Rouse and Richard Rouse: Preachers, Florilegia and Sermons: Studies on the 'Manipulus florum' of Thomas of Ireland, PIMS Texts and Studies 47, Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.

Building upon the Rouses' seminal scholarship, which includes editions of Thomas' Preface and his list of authors and works (Preachers, pp.251-310), The Electronic Manipulus florum Project provides a searchable Open Access critical edition of this florilegium, as well as a number of related research materials and various auxiliary resources (see Project Description). In their important article on concordances, alphabetized indices and other reference tools developed during the 12th and 13th centuries, the Rouses emphasized that their purpose was to enable users "to find immediately" (statim invenire) the desired passage;* the same utilitarian impulse informed the compilation and organization of florilegia. Thus, this project simply extends Thomas of Ireland's original intention into the digital age.

This digital humanities resource should be very useful to editors of sermons and other texts whose authors employed the Manipulus, or an intermediate text derived from it, as a resource. It should also have much broader utility for teaching purposes as a compendium of authoritative sources which reflects the medieval mentality on a wide variety of topics. Nevertheless, this florilegium should not be regarded as a strictly medieval text; the large number of early imprints -- the Rouses (pp.243-4) identified 34 editions published between 1550 and 1650 -- indicates that it was widely used well into the 17th century, evidence both of its enduring importance and the continuity of certain aspects of intellectual culture from the later Middle Ages into the Early Modern era. It is for this reason that the critical edition collates five printed editions from the late 15th and 16th centuries.

In addition to providing a practical resource for editors of late medieval and early modern texts, and for instructors dealing with those eras, the Electronic Manipulus florum should also prove useful to scholars in determining how this influential florilegium served to transmit a large body of wisdom literature to the European populace, primarily through the medium of sermons. The selection and organization of these authoritative excerpts and proverbs is an important aspect of the intellectual and cultural history of late medieval and early modern Europe that has been largely unappreciated in the absence of a critical edition of this text; the provision of this Open Access edition is intended to facilitate scholarly appreciation of this florilegium.

In the process of compiling this critical edition, it became apparent that a large number of the "quotations" in the Manipulus vary significantly from the original source or sources. In many cases, Thomas or the compiler of an intermediate resource employed by him (or both) paraphrased the original source, or interpolated and/or omitted words from the source text, or spliced together two or more separate passages (sometimes from different works by the same author, and occasionally two or more works by different authors). These unique textual traditions enable scholars to determine the reception of the Manipulus with considerable precision in tracing its influence not only on late medieval and early modern Latin texts, but also vernacular texts whose authors sprinkled Latin phrases throughout their writings, as exemplified by Matthew Steggle's articles on two works by Thomas Nashe.

While textual scholars have traditionally privileged the study of original sources, there is growing interest among intellectual historians and philologists in the reception, appropriation and transmission of textual excerpts as a significant cultural phenomenon worthy of serious study. Florilegia such as the Manipulus constitute a rich body of evidence for this area of scholarly inquiry into the history of mentalities. This resource is intended to facilitate and promote this approach to textual scholarship.


* "Statim invenire: schools, preachers and new attitudes towards the page," first published in Renaissance and Renewal in the Twelfth Century (ed. R. Benson & G. Constable, 1982), and reprinted in the Rouses' Authentic Witnesses: Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts (1991).


Current Status & Project Description

Current Status of the Online Edition and Pending Developments

Over the five years following the completion of the online edition in Summer 2013, improvements and corrections were made on an ad hoc basis, but since September 2018 a systematic revision of the edition has been underway, and the finalized PDF documents for the apparatus files (see below) are being converted to full Open Access. As of 26 July 2019, the first 87 lemmata, from Abstinencia to Fauor (2072 entries), have been revised and their PDF apparatus files are no longer protected from printing and downloading. Until this revision project is completed, scholars are invited to contact the editor for full access to any PDF apparatus documents that have not yet been revised and converted to full Open Access.

History of the Electronic Manipulus florum Project

This project began in October 2000 when the editor began transcribing the 1483/5 Venice edition of the Manipulus florum. Starting in May 2001, individual transcribed topics were published on this website in PDF documents that were fully searchable but protected from printing and downloading. This stage of the project was completed in May 2002.

From June 2002 until July 2013 the transcription files were gradually replaced as work progressed on the critical edition of the Manipulus, which is based on the three Paris manuscripts that Mary Rouse and Richard Rouse identified as the earliest, most authoritative and most influential witnesses to the lost autograph:

B = BnF MS lat. 15986; C = BnF MS lat. 15985; M = Bibliothèque Mazarine MS lat. 1032

Because the Manipulus continued to be very influential after the advent of printing, the edition also collates first three editions and two additional early imprints:

P = Piacenza 1483; V1 = Venice 1493/5; V2 = Venice 1550; L1 = Lyon 1553; L2 = Lyon 1567

Apparatus Documents for the Critical Edition

Each entry on the HTML edition pages is linked to a PDF document that provides the variants in the manuscript and early print traditions ('Varia'). Most of the entries (over 95%) are also linked to PDF documents which provide Thomas' version of the text in parallel columns with the text from the standard modern edition of the original source/s ('Fons primus'/'Fontes primi') and sometimes also the text from the standard modern edition of Thomas' actual source ('Fons proximus'), and occasionally the text of an intermediate source ('Fons medius') between the original and actual sources (e.g. Correctio ca). Some of these source apparatus documents provide the text from Thomas' actual source manuscript (e.g. Reuerencia c), many of which survive and were identified by the Rouses (Preachers, pp.124-60 & 251-301). And in the case of texts that have never been printed, such as Burgundio of Pisa's translation of John Chrysostom's 90 homilies on Matthew, a manuscript exemplar is cited (Auditor i, Cupiditas p, Ebrietas s, Gloria mala u, Ornatus s, Parentes n); likewise for Burgundio's translation of Chrysostom's 88 homilies on John (Gloria mala r, Iniuria l, Paupertas c).

The Janus Intertexuality Search Engine

Since November 2008 this website has been equipped with an innovative digital tool, the Janus intertextuality search engine, that enables comparative textual searches of the edited portion of the Manipulus. In August 2013, after the critical edition was completed, the final edited entries were converted into XML and added to the Janus database, making the entire edition searchable through the intertextuality search engine.

Additional Resources

This website also provides a number of related digital resources, including editions of the additional quotations inserted into the 1483 Piacenza edition and the 1567 Lyon edition. Another supplemental resource is the editor's English translation of Thomas' original Preface to the Manipulus florum, which is found in most of the manuscripts and the first two printed editions, but was supplanted in the 1550 Venice edition. The project has also produced searchable transcriptions of a number of public domain Latin texts which are provided on the Auxiliary Resources page. Finally, this website also provides an Annotated Bibliography of works by scholars who have used and/or cited the Electronic Manipulus florum Project.


Users of this web resource are invited to contribute comments to this page by sending an email message to the editor.

La ringrazio e le faccio i miei complimenti per una edizione che mi è molto utile per individuare fonti della predicazione, dei volgarizzamenti e dei testi devoti.

- Antonio Volpato, Ricercatore, Università degli Studi Roma Tre

The Manipulus project is a gem for researchers, students, and teachers, combining the best of modern technology with the medieval quest for knowledge and wisdom.

- Christopher Bellitto, Associate Professor of History, Kean University

Votre initiative de faire un Manipulus florum electronique est excellente. Ce projet permettra de faire progresser de nombreuses recherches et d'elargir les connaissances de plusieurs chercheurs.

- Jacqueline Hamesse, Professeur Emérité, Université Catholique de Louvain

A fascinating and educative resource, compelling in its authoritativeness. It is one of those web-resources that everyone needs to bookmark. My best thanks to Dr. Nighman and his students for 'grinding their grist sae sma'.

- Angus Graham, University of Sharjah, UAE / Sultan Qaboos University, Oman

As useful to students of the Western Middle Ages today as it was to preachers in the 14th century.

- Rega Wood, Research Professor in Philosophy, Stanford University

An excellent resource for people interested in medieval intellectual history. Its digital format is true to the work's original goal: to provide quick and easy access to great ideas. Many thanks!

- Julia Simms Holderness, Assistant Professor of French, Michigan State University

What a wonderful web resource! A real treasure trove, and incredibly useful.

- Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Professor of the History of Art & Architecture, Harvard University

L'éditeur a entrepris un patient et minutieux travail autour du Manipulus florum: un travail d'édition généreusement mis à la disposition de tous avec la création du site web, et un travail d'analyse avec plusieurs articles consacrés à ce florilège. Il permet de mettre en lumière la pratique de la prédication au début du XIVè siècle et de s'interroger sur la culture des prédicateur et le rôle des florilèges. Je l'en remercie très vivement: grâce à ces travaux, j'ai pu découvrir la présence du Manipulus dans les sermons que j'étudie.

- Christine Chevalier-Boyer, Université Lumière-Lyon 2

This website is a major contribution to the electronic presentation of university study in Paris in the late fourteenth century and preaching in the late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. It is unique in offering an easily accessible text of one of the most important preaching aids produced in the fourteenth century, and it provides a view of the wealth of information.

- Richard Newhauser, Professor of English and Medieval Studies, Arizona State University

This is both an elegant and an important project. It is important because the Manipulus florum was influential, for several centuries, in a range of different intellectual spheres across Europe. It is elegant because the Manipulus florum was always centrally concerned with information retrieval, and an electronic edition brings a new intellectual perspective to a text which has already flourished both in manuscript and in print.

- Matthew Steggle, Lecturer in English, Sheffield Hallam University

I really like the way you present the text, the variants and the original reconstructed sources. It is extremely useful. Now, how many ways can you say "it is extremely useful"? It is really a model for an electronic edition.

- E.J. Richards, Professor of Romance Literatures, Bergische Universität Wuppertal.


Nearly all of the financial support provided by SSHRC and WLU (acknowledged at the bottom of each page) has been expended on the salaries of the following undergraduate and graduate student research assistants whose contributions to this project are greatly appreciated:

Assistant Editors* for the Manipulus florum edition:

- Sarah Brand (2003-4); Elena Crupi (2006-7); and Nicholas Must (2004-7).

Editorial Assistants* for the Manipulus florum edition and/or Auxiliary Resources:

- Jason Sager (2003, 2005); Jan Uhde (2005); Elena Crupi (2007); Nicholas Must (2007, 2009); Carlisle Mackie (2011); Jordan Burrows (2011); Samantha James (2012-13); Jennifer Parkinson (2013); and Alexandra Krawecki (2013).

(* Editorial Assistants were tasked with source searching, data entry and proofreading; Assistant Editors were involved in the same work as Editorial Assistants but were also tasked with collating portions of the text in three manuscript copies and four of the early printed editions of the Manipulus florum).

Mary Rouse and Richard Rouse (University of California, Los Angeles) have graciously encouraged this Project, which is greatly indebted to their seminal monograph on the Manipulus florum.

István Bejczy, director of the "Genealogy of Morals" Program at Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen (2001-6), provided advice regarding the De fructibus carnis et spiritus.

Mark Zier (San Francisco Theological Seminary) provided advice regarding the Glossa ordinaria.

Emilio Bonfiglio (Université de Genève) provided advice regarding Anianus of Celeda's Latin translations of Chrysostom's homilies on Matthew.

Thomas Ricklin (Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München) provided advice regarding John of Wales' Compendiloquium.

Maria José Muñoz Jiménez (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) provided advice regarding the Liber de elementis of Isaac Israeli ben Solomon and John of Wales's Compendiloquium.

Clemens Weidmann (Universität Wien) in his 2020 article (see Annotated Bibliography) demonstrated that a number of quotations attributed to Augustine in the Manipulus florum could not have been derived from the pseudo-Augustine sermons published by A.B. Caillau and B. Saint-Yves in 1836-9, which he convincingly argues were written in the mid-14th century by a preacher who used the Manipulus as his source. This discovery led to a revision of the fons primus apparatus files for the affected quotations in the online edition.

Andrew Kane and Frank Tompa (University of Waterloo) developed Janus, the intertextuality search engine created for this web resource, and its textual database.

Googlebooks' online provision the editio princeps of John Chrysostom's Opera omnia (Venice, 1503), John of Wales's Compendiloquium and Breuiloquium (Rome, 1655), and John of Wales's Communiloquium (Augsburg, 1475) enabled the compilation of several digital transcriptions that were used to enhance the critical edition of the Manipulus florum.

The project has also benefited greatly from the assistance of librarians at the following Ontario universities: Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Waterloo, the University of Guelph, and the University of Toronto (especially the Library of the Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies in St. Michael's College). Enfin, l'editeur voudrait remercier les fonctionnaires des départements des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Nationale de France et de la Bibliothèque Universitaire de Paris, pour leur aide précieuse.

Finally, the editor also acknowledges and thanks colleagues in the Department of History, Medieval & Medievalism Studies Program, the Special Collections of the University Library, and the Office of Research Services at Wilfrid Laurier University for their assistance and support.