Judgmental Augustine: Peter Lombard Gets it Wrong

Medieval marginalia is most known for being bizarre and offensive. It frequently is, but not always, particularly in earlier manuscripts.

In the mid 12th century, Peter Lombard wrote a gloss of the psalms. That is, he created pages that displayed both the text of the Book of Psalms and his theological commentary on the text, which included frequent references to other respected theologians.

Occasionally, however, Lombard got his sources mixed up.

The book was commissioned by Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and overseen by his secretary, Herbert of Bosham. Herbert, like any good editor, noted errors in Lombard’s pages. However, unlike modern editors, Herbert knew his corrections were not going to lead to the pages being recopied.

So he got creative. Here, St. Augustine, one of those most venerated Church writers outside of the Biblical authors, points at a passage where he is quoted with a scroll that says “Non ego,” or “not me.” In short, Lombard writes, “St. Augustine says…” and Augustine is saying, “No I didn’t.”

Also of note: using a scroll with words is the medieval version of a speech bubble. If there were medieval comic books, everyone would speak on floating scrolls.

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