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A: Paris, Île-de-France, France

The Emergence in Paris of Concordances and Subject Indexes

Circa 1190 to 1290
38 Ugo da San Caro
Hugh de Saint-Cher, ex convento di San Niccolò, Sala del Capitolo, Treviso, 1352. This, incidentally, is one of the first pictures of a person wearing glasses. The inventor of spectacles, or exactly how they came to be invented is unknown.

"In the course of the thirteenth century a flood of texts appeared that belonged to a genre virtually unknown before, works such as the alphabetical collections of biblical distinctiones, the great verbal concordances to the scriptures, alphabetical subject indexes to the writings of Aristotle and the Fathers, and location lists of books. These are works designed to be used, rather than read. Moreover, in many cases -- for example, the concordance, or subject index to the works of Augustine -- these new tools helped one to use, rather than to read, the texts to which they were devoted. Tools such as these are unknown in classical antiquity. They are alien to the Hebrew and Byzantine traditions until imported from the Latins. And they emerge with striking suddenness in the West, to the point that one may say that before the 1190s such tools did not exist, and that by 1290 the dissemination and new creation of such tools were commonplace. . . .The development of the concordance should be examined in the context of the methods used to 'distinguish' words found in the text of the Bible. The collections of biblical distinctiones that abound in western Europe from the end of the twelfth century are the earliest of alphabetical tools save the dictionaries. Distinction collections provide one with the various figurative and symbolic means of a noun that is found in Scripture, illustrating each meaning with a scriptural passage" (M. Rouse & R. Rouse, "The Development of Research Tools in the Thirteenth Century," Authentic Witnesses: Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts [1991] , 221-23).

From 1230 to 1239 the first concordance of the Bible was compiled in Paris under the guidance of Dominican Hugo, or Hugues, de Saint-Cher (Hugo de Sancto Charo). In this project Hugo was assisted by as many as 500 Dominican friars. Because Dominicans were required to preach they had need for a reference that correlated a word or subject with specific books and chapters in the Bible.

The first concordance contained no quotations, and was purely an index to passages in the Bible where a word was found. These were indicated by book and chapter. The division of the Bible into chapters had recently been invented by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury. Verses were introduced much later, by scholar printer Robert Estienne in 1545. In lieu of verses, Hugo divided the chapters into seven almost equal parts, indicated by the first seven letters of the alphabet A-G. The first concordance gave only a list of passages, and no idea of what the passages contained. Thus was of little service to preachers. In order to make it more useful three English Dominicans added around 1250-1252 the complete quotations of the passages indicated. The work was somewhat abridged, by retaining only the essential words of a quotation, in the concordance of Conrad of Halberstadt, a Dominican (1310), which obtained great success on account of its more convenient form. 

"The production of this major work over a period time required an impressive organization of man-power. There survive, in the fifteenth-century bindings of manuscripts from Saint Jacques, four quires of what must be the penultimate draft of this concordance, revealing something of their methods: each quire was written by a different copyist responsible only for a fixed portion of the alphabet, as one can see from the blank space each left when he had finished his assigned task. Corrections were then noted, so that it would be ready for the final copy. A drawback of Saint Jacques I is the fact that its words are not cited in context. This version survives in eighteen manuscripts, thirteen of which date from the thirteenth century" (Rouse & Rouse, op. cit., 224-25.)

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