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  • Liturgy and Law in a Dalmatian City. The Bishop's Book of Kotor (Sankt-Peterburg, BRAN, F. no. 200)by Richard F. Gyug
  • Thomas Forrest Kelly
Liturgy and Law in a Dalmatian City. The Bishop's Book of Kotor (Sankt-Peterburg, BRAN, F. no. 200). By Richard F. Gyug. [ Studies and Texts 204; Monumenta Liturgica Beneventana, Vol. 7.] (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. 2016. Pp. xxxii, 10 unpaginated color plates, 640. $110.00. ISBN 978-0-88844-204-8.)

This book is an edition, with introduction, of a composite Dalmatian manuscript of the twelfth century almost certainly originating in Kotor. But to say that is almost to misrepresent the depth and richness of this comprehensive volume. Richard Gyug has mastered all the disciplines required to provide expertise in paleography, diplomatics, musicology, liturgical scholarship, and political history, and he deftly brings this volume alive as a piece of living history in a way that few scholars can.

The book itself, written in a series of nine Beneventan hands, consists, as Gyug makes clear, of several parts: [End Page 566]

  1. 1. Palimpsest pages of eleventh-century liturgical materials;

  2. 2. Guard-leaves containing brief sermons for use in chapter meetings;

  3. 3. A pontifical containing episcopal ceremonies—the principal part of the book;

  4. 4. A series of sermons, originally separate, in a thirteenth-century hand;

  5. 5. Diplomas and statutes copied in the margins of the combined book.

Material things as objects of study have often brought life to history, making real what is sometimes only observable at a distance. Manuscripts are seldom subjected to such treatment, perhaps because not all scholars are able to muster the required skills, and because not all manuscripts lend themselves equally well to such an approach. This volume contains exemplary editions of all the constituent parts of the manuscript, and students of sermons, pontificals, diplomatics, and Dalmatian history, will be able to rely on Gyug's painstaking edition and apparatus.

For me, though, Gyug's introduction—all 259 pages of it, is equally admirable. I found in it a history of Kotor full of telling detail and historical nuance; a fascinating historiographical background; an introduction to the complexities of medieval pontificals that shows a mastery of the broadest possible scholarship; musical analysis of the formulas for singing genealogies and other materials; and a codicological description that could serve as a model for scholars and students everywhere.

Among the documents I learned that slaves might lose their nose or a hand or a foot for stealing livestock; that there are serious fines for damaging the city walls or for opening any door in the wall facing the sea; that citizens are not required to provide accounts to Ragusans collecting debts; that it is forbidden to make honeyed wine for sale; and many other things. It is a living city.

The editions required broad expertise, but Gyug aims for interdisciplinarity and inclusiveness, as he himself says, and as a result his essays introducing the various parts of the manuscript, and his conclusions as to the place of the manuscript in the history of Kotor, of Dalmatia, and of southern Italy and the Adriatic, over a space of four centuries, allow scholars to introduce themselves to the complexity of fields not their own, and to see how much can be learned by careful comparative work.

This manuscript has occupied Professor Gyug for essentially his entire scholarly career. It was the subject of his 1984 Toronto dissertation, and has occupied him in various ways since then, as his own extensive bibliography demonstrates. He has made himself an expert on pontificals, on Dalmatian history, on manuscripts and their production in that zone, and on much else besides. In a long and distinguished career, he has contributed much to our understanding of the southern Adriatic, and this volume is the fitting capstone of a magnificent arch. [End Page 567]

Thomas Forrest Kelly
Harvard University


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