This last, as being the work of a master in the school, deserves attention; and also for its intrinsic interest. As its title implies, it is cast in the form of a letter, addressed to a friend Pancratius; and it is dated from Deventer 10 July 1489—nine years before Butzbach entered the school. It opens with the customary apologies, and after some ordinary topics the writer, Bartholomew, says that he is sending back some books borrowed from Pancratius, including a Sidonius which he has had on loan for three years. At this point there is a transformation. Sidonius is personified and becomes the centre of a series of semi-comic incidents, which afford an opportunity for introducing various words for the common objects of everyday life; and a glossary explains many of these with precision. There is a long and vivid account of the waking of Sidonius from his three years’ slumber. The door has to be broken open, and Sidonius is found lying to all appearances dead. A feather burnt under his nose produces slight signs of life; and when a good beating with the bar of the door is threatened, he at length rouses himself. Servants come in, and their different duties are described. They fall to quarrelling and become uproarious; and in the scuffle Sidonius is hurt. A lotion is prepared for his bruises, and he is offered diet suitable for an invalid: boiled sturgeon, washed down with wine or beer, the latter being from Bremen or Hamburg.
Afterwards the room is cleared up, and thus an opportunity is given to describe it. Then a table is spread for the rest of the party, and the various requisites are specified—tablecloth and napkins, pewter plates, earthenware mugs, a salt-cellar and two brass stands for the dishes. Bread is put round to each place, chairs are brought up with cushions; and jugs of wine and beer placed in the centre of the table. Finally a basin is brought with ewer and towel for the guests to wash their hands, and as one o’clock strikes, dinner appears, and all sit down together, including the servants. After the meal a dice-box and board are produced; but one of the guests demurs, and it is put aside. In the conversation that ensues it is arranged that Sidonius shall go back to his master next morning after breakfast. The servant who is to accompany him asks that they may go in a carriage; but this is overruled, because of a recent accident in which one had been upset, and it is determined that a Spanish palfrey of easy paces shall be provided for Sidonius. At six supper is served; and then the curtain falls, the letter relapsing into normal matters—inquiries for a Euclid, regrets at being unable to send to Pancratius Hyginus and the Astronomica of Manilius.
It is clear that the object of the book, which is of no great length, was to give boys correct Latin words for the material objects of their daily life: something like Bekker’s Gallus and Charicles on a small scale. In carrying out this idea Bartholomew of Cologne has provided us with a sketch of the world that he knew.