A "piece" or section of a manuscript used in university bookstores of the 13th and 14th centuries. The newly established universities created a great demand for books. The bookstores carried official copies, or exemplars, whose accuracy was vouched for by university professors; these were rented out in small sections, or peciae, usually of four leaves, to students to have copied. If the next pecia was in use, the student rented the following one, and his scribe left space for the one not available. In the MSS so produced the telltale indications are: (1) the abbreviation p, pe, or pec (for pecia ), in the margins where peciae began or ended; often these were numbered serially; (2) change of hand or ink at the beginnings of peciae; (3) space left between peciae when a scribe, being forced to skip, wrote smaller than necessary; (4) crowding at the end of a pecia when not enough room was left.
The changes wrought by the new system, though considerable, arose naturally out of earlier practices. Previously when a book had to be copied quickly, the quires were divided among several scribes. Now a smaller unit, the 8-page pecia, was substituted for the 16-page quire; thus greater speed was made possible. The number of scribes must have increased considerably. Monks no longer sufficed for the task, and professional scribes largely supplanted them in the transcription of schoolbooks. The sudden demand (four universities were founded in Italy between 1222 and 1231) caused the multiplication of inaccurate copies and brought about university control of official copies, the heart of the new system. The net result was cheaper textbooks (for the prices were fixed), more rapidly produced, with the text guaranteed by the bookseller (called stationer). On a small scale this was an industrial revolution. The new system began about 1225. By 1264 it was so well established that the statutes of the University of Padua could declare that without exemplars a university could not exist.
J. Destrez's epoch-making book and his posthumous article brought the pecia into prominence. He examined more than 15,000 MSS of approximately 300 authors and found 82 exemplars. He confined himself to authors represented in the university curricula, chiefly in the fields of theology, law (civil and Canon), and medicine, to which he added Aristotle. The liberal arts he covered incompletely and scantily; hence it is not possible to say to what extent the system was employed for them. It seems, however, that few arts books were produced under it. When such are found, they deserve particular attention.
Destrez devoted his investigations largely to the Universities of Paris, Bologna, Oxford, and Naples. He noted the distinguishing characteristics of each in script, abbreviation, etc. The paleography of the MSS involved and their textual criticism are greatly affected by practices connected with the pecia. Naturally, exemplars are preferred to copies in the editing of texts.
Bibliography: j. destrez, La Pecia dans les manuscrits universitaires du XIIIe e du XIVe siècle (Paris 1935). j. destrez and m. d. chenu, "Exemplaria universitaires des XIIIe e XIVe siécles," Scriptorium 7 (1953) 68–80. g. fink-errera, "Jean Destrez et son oeuvre," ibid. 11 (1957) 264–280. k. christ, "Petia," Zentralblatt für Bibliothekswesen 55 (1938) 1–44.
[b. l. ullman]