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A: Paris, Île-de-France, France

Rules for the Operation of the Library of the Sorbonne

Distribution of books in the Parisian college of Hubant. Source: Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, Archives nationales, AE II 408, f. 10v.
Distribution of books in the Parisian college of Hubant. Source: Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, Archives nationales, AE II 408, f. 10v.

". . . the master promulagated a body of regulations in 1321 'for the benefit of the house [Sorbonne] and the better care of the books,' which defined and rectified the book provisions of the college. . . . In these provisions the masters are bascially concerned with three matters of importance at the time and of significance to the subsequent development of the library: supervision of the loaning and of the general care of the circulating books; enlargement of the collection of chained books; and the making of a new catalog of the whole collection . . . .

"At the head of the list was the stipulation that no book was to be loaned out of the house unless a pledge of greater value, whether book or precious metal, be left in its place in the pledge chest. The responsibility for the circulating books, the libri vagantes of the parva libraria, were placed in the hands of cu stodians of the books who were to elected by the fellows. They were to account for books lost during their tenure, and to exercise strict control over the keys to the parva libraria. The loan register was to be renewed; in it, under the name of each individual borrower, the books which he had were to be precisely described, not only with author and short title, but also with the value of the book and the incipit of its second folio. . . . Certain unbound manuscripts of little worth, such as collections of notes and sermons, were to be disposed of, and the proceeds used to buy books which the library lacked.

"Having insured that adequate control would be maintained over the use and circulation of the unchained books, the statutes secondly insured that the major books would be available at all times. The legislation stipulated that henceforth the best manuscript of each work in the college was to be selected and chained in the libraria communis; all books belonging to the college were subject ot being impounded for chaining, including those which might currently be on loan to individual fellows, because the good of the community outweighs individual privilege . . . .

"The third matter of general significance in the statutes of 1321 was the provision that a new catalog should be made of the whole collection, because many of the books previously owned by the house could not longer be found" (Rouse & Rouse, "The Early Library of the Sorbonne," Authentic Witnesses: Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts [1991] 378-79).

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