Lyon BDL 43 is a volume of pious material in French, including extracts from the Gospels and a copy of the Dyalogue du pere et du filz. A note at the base of the opening folio tells us it entered the library of the prestigious Collège de Tournon in 1728. At the time, the Jesuits who ran the Collège were acquiring books from far and wide as most of their collection had been destroyed by a fire in 1714.

Entrance to the Lycée Gabriel Faure (formerly the Collège de Tournon)

But where was the manuscript before arriving in Tournon? There is little doubt it was produced in Italy, probably in the 14th century. The script is an Italian rotunda, with the limb of ‘h’ resting on the baseline, ‘u’ instead of ‘v’ at the beginning of words, and uncrossed tironian et signs. And it’s not difficult to spot Italianisms such as che (for que), per (for pour), maniera, spaventer, or çustice. The text of the Dyalogue in this manuscript is also closely related to Paris BnF fr. 726, which is thought to have been produced in Genoa at the end of the 13th century.

The opening folio of Lyon BDL 43 also provides another clue, in the form of a name that appears to read ‘Joannis abba cano.’. Was this John perhaps abbot of a congregation of canons regular? His name also appears in a note in the margin of f. 89v, which reads ‘Joannes | abbalatra’. The text of the Dyalogue at this point compares priests to dogs who guard the Church (Q.37), so perhaps John is affirming his barking credentials (‘latra’ is Italian for ‘bark’).

Noise wasn’t always appreciated by medieval annotators, however. On f. 98v of Avignon BM 344, for example, someone has written ‘frere Guilliaume’ beside mention of the importance of holding one’s tongue (‘garder la langue’).