Online Medieval Sources Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography of Printed and Online Primary Sources for the Middle Ages

Source Details

Marcelle Thiebaux, ed. and trans., Liber Manualis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Text name(s): Liber manualis

Number of pages of primary source text: 182

Author(s): 

Dates: 841 - 843

Archival Reference: 

Original Language(s): 

  • Latin

Translation: 

  • Original language included.

Translation Comments: Latin text with English translation on the facing pages.

Geopolitical Region(s): 

  • France

County/Region: 

Record Types: 

  • Memoir - Family
  • Memoir
  • Letter
  • Theology - Practical/Instructional

Subject Headings: 

  • War - Chivalry
  • Piety - Lay
  • Nobility / Gentry
  • Literature - Didactic
  • Literature - Devotional
  • Family / Children
  • Education / Universities
  • Carolingians
  • Women / Gender

Apparatus: 

  • Appendix
  • Bibliography
  • Introduction

Comments: 

Dhuoda was an early ninth century noble woman, well-educated and wealthy. She was married to Bernard, Duke of Septimania, with whom she had three children. She wrote the Liber Manualis to her oldest son, William, as a book of advice since she had been apart from her son for years and she wished to pass down words of advice to him and his soldiers. Dhuoda’s erudition is evident through the text, and she often quotes scripture, uses numerology, and composes her own poems towards the end of the book. The Liber Manualis provides insight into the ideals of noble men and women, the importance of respecting one’s father, and piety among the laity.

Introduction Summary: 

The book is compared to a “mirror” to which Dhuoda’s son, William can look into in order to examine the state of his soul, in order to be pleasing to God rather than to this world. Some numerology is integrated into discussions on the path to perfection, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the eight beatitudes. The introduction lays out the contents of the book: on God’s love, the Holy Trinity, virtues, prayer, filial and feudal reverence, vices and virtues, tribulations and how to handle them, gifts of the Holy Spirit and the beatitudes, Augustinian double birth (carnal and spiritual) and double death (temporal and eternal), prayer and for whom William should pray for, numerological discussion on the name of Adam and the fifteen benedictions, lyric poems, and an afterword about the psalms.

The introduction also summarizes Dhuoda’s life and her writing style, as well as the family lineage of her husband, Bernard of Septimania, and his appointment as chamberlain of Emperor Louis the Pious and his scandalous relationship with the Empress Judith. Due to territorial disputes in Louis’ family and Bernard’s close relationship, Louis’ brother Lothar had a few of Bernard’s family members, including William’s two brother and a sister killed. After disagreements with Louis’ brothers, Pippin and Lothar, Bernard’s son, William, was forced to pay allegiance to Charles the Bald, son of Louis the Pious.

The authorship and literary climate in ninth-century Europe is briefly discussed. Both Dhuoda’s erudition and concern for her son is evident in her writing, and she characterizes her book (which took just over a year to write) as a “mirror of conduct.” She hopes that her son will read and re-read the book many times and share it with his acquaintances and members of Charles the Bald’s army. The introduction ends with a short summary of the B (Barcelona), P (Paris), and N (Nimes) manuscripts of the Liber manualis.

Cataloger: AKP

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