Dead Monk Tweets

One of the more charming features of Twitter is its voices of the past, and a favorite of mine is Constantinus Africanus, who introduces himself thus: "Native Tunisian. Merchant-turned-monk. Medical translator (from Arabic) and editor. Cultural influencer. Died 22 Dec., before 1098/99."

To expand on that a little, Constantine was a Christian from Tunisia who spent the final part of his life as a Benedictine at Monte Cassino Abbey in Italy. As a translator of the medical greats, he helped change the course of primitive western medicine. So he does have an affinity with today's social media hepcats.

I can't understand how Constantine is still writing 920 years after his death, but it's possible he is getting social-media coaching from a digital humanities hero, Professor Monica H. Green of Arizona State University. So far Constantine has just 188 Twitter followers and he really needs a boost, considering all the hard work he put into making people well. So hop over to Twitter and follow him.

Incidentally, Constantine's work shows up in at least two of the seven codices digitized by the Vatican Library this week:
  1. Vat.lat.649, a 12th-century Haymo of Halberstadt: In Epistolas Pauli omnes on the epistles. Here's an initial for De Virginibus praeceptum:
  2. Vat.lat.2132 (Upgraded to HQ), Paul of Venice on logic
  3. Vat.lat.2416 (Upgraded to HQ), a densely written 14th-century compendium of mainly Arab medicine, including fols. 51v-55v: Constantinus Africanus, De stomachi affectionibus liber, cap. 1-25. eTK lists incipits: Abaseph id est puncti III; Alasef id est puncti rubei
  4. Vat.lat.2424, the Brevarium, a medical work, by Yahya ibn Sarafyun (9th century) a Syriac physician, known in Europe as Johannes Serapion
  5. Vat.lat.2441, medicines
  6. Vat.lat.2454, 14th-century compilation of translations by Constantine Africanus
  7. Vat.lat.2940, a 15th-century student's compendium with everything from Cicero and Pliny to Boccaccio
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 150. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.


William of Moerbeke

William of Moerbeke (Wikipedia), a Flemish Dominican, translated many Greek classics into Latin in the 13th century. His work, essential to Europe's appreciation of Aristotle, is well represented in the Vatican Library. Reader @LatinAristotle has pointed out many of these in recent months.

This week they have been joined by Vat lat 2083, an illuminated full-price manuscript dated 1284 and thus scribed during William's lifetime. It contains various Aristotle texts, including On Coming to Be and Passing Away, with this thoroughly appropriate couple in bed as the opening initial.

This week's digitization effort seems to have been rather feeble, with just 17 new items:
  1. Ott.lat.3364,
  2. Ott.lat.3365,
  3. Patetta.1749,
  4. Vat.lat.2083, a William of Moerbeke translation of Aristotle (above), dated 1284
  5. Vat.lat.2160,
  6. Vat.lat.2343 (Upgraded to HQ), law commentaries
  7. Vat.lat.2458,
  8. Vat.lat.2461, Galen and Hippocrates in Latin (14th century). One text inc. Intentiones habemus in presenti conscriptione; see eTK
  9. Vat.lat.2508,
  10. Vat.lat.2573,
  11. Vat.lat.2642,
  12. Vat.lat.2664,
  13. Vat.lat.2711,
  14. Vat.lat.2712 (Upgraded to HQ), Servius Grammaticus on Vergil. Odd: a page from a printed Greek book has been used to stiffen the front board of the binding.
  15. Vat.lat.2726 (Upgraded to HQ), Leonardo Bruni
  16. Vat.lat.2884,
  17. Vat.lat.2909, a 13th-century Cicero
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 149. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.


The Animated Tabula

The latest update to the Tabula Peutingeriana Digital Plot on my website almost doubles the number of animations, and for the first time shows, using movement, how text entries were misplaced during a copying process lasting from about 350 to 1200 CE.

This digital version has been renamed the Tabula Peutingeriana Animated Edition to reflect these enhancements. In most of the left half of the chart you can now see color-coded routes and the emendations to them which have been proposed over the past century. The emendations are made visible by hovering on or touching the pale yellow squares which serve as triggers.

These interpretative additions make the chart a good deal less confusing. Column rules have also been added so that it will be easier to compare this digital edition with Talbert's.

Also new online is a brief article describing the Tabula in the context of diagram studies. This differs from those encyclopaedia entries which put the Tabula's clues to Roman history in the foreground or those which treat it primarily as a source of information about ancient settlements and place names.


Wellness Database

Health tips for laypeople have been one of my minor journalistic lines of business, so I was delighted to see a manuscript of the Tacuinum Sanitatis arrive online in full color this week on the Vatican Library portal. Vat.lat.2427 could be described as a wellness database, with a 380-row lookup table to check compatibility between foods and ailments.

It did not serve to educate doctors, but rather to inform wealthy patients who desired to second-guess their doctors. It is based on the Taqwīm as‑siḥḥah تقويم الصحة ("Maintenance of Health"), an 11th-century Arab medical treatise by a Christian doctor of Baghdad, Ibn Butlan. See Wikipedia.

This and its companion codex Vat.lat.2426 (both date from the 14th century) arrange all this tabular material in pretty red-and-blue lattices:

This presentation seems to pre-date the absolute de-luxe versions that started coming out in Italy in about 1380 with lushly painted miniatures of country life, gardens and stately homes, the lifestyle edition so to speak.

In all there are 41 new manuscripts at the Library portal:
  1. Barb.lat.2653,
  2. Barb.lat.2814, diary 1582-89
  3. Reg.lat.77,
  4. Reg.lat.78,
  5. Reg.lat.104, Petrus Lombardus, Glossae continuae. eTK makes a mistake in indicating this codex contains Gynaecia, incipit Cum in Alexandria sum certatus cum auctoritatibus, at ff. 94v-99v. Reader @monicaMedHist says this is probably an error in eTK for Reg. lat. 1004, which does indeed have a text on women's medicine (Genecia) attributed to "Actius Justius."
  6. Reg.lat.1561,
  7. Reg.lat.1636,
  8. Urb.lat.122,
  9. Urb.lat.190,
  10. Vat.lat.1136,
  11. Vat.lat.1313,
  12. Vat.lat.2079,
  13. Vat.lat.2216,
  14. Vat.lat.2318,
  15. Vat.lat.2319,
  16. Vat.lat.2384 (Upgraded to HQ), medieval Latin Galen. Note the much earlier ms used for an endpaper
  17. Vat.lat.2390,
  18. Vat.lat.2417, Creavit deus ex concavitatibus cordis sinistram; by Avicenna. See eTK
  19. Vat.lat.2427 (Upgraded to HQ), Tacuinum Sanitatis, popular medieval health guide (above).
  20. Vat.lat.2433,
  21. Vat.lat.2438,
  22. Vat.lat.2447,
  23. Vat.lat.2449, Cum quidem iam pervenimus ad expositionem egritudinum (14c); De egritudinibus. See eTK
  24. Vat.lat.2495,
  25. Vat.lat.2548 (Upgraded to HQ), Bernardus Compostelanus, m. 1267 Apparatus in Decretales, 14th-century copy
  26. Vat.lat.2572,
  27. Vat.lat.2576,
  28. Vat.lat.2581,
  29. Vat.lat.2584,
  30. Vat.lat.2585,
  31. Vat.lat.2586,
  32. Vat.lat.2588,
  33. Vat.lat.2590,
  34. Vat.lat.2615,
  35. Vat.lat.2625 (Upgraded to HQ), Bartolus de Saxoferrato
  36. Vat.lat.2673,
  37. Vat.lat.2676,
  38. Vat.lat.2692, 13th-century law textbook which contains an analysis of the Iuris Canonici. For diagram history this is interesting, as fol. 50r includes a passage explaining the use of an arbor juris in working out degrees of kinship. Mentioned by Schadt in his Darstellungen der Arbores Consanguinatis.
  39. Vat.lat.2733,
  40. Vat.lat.5256 (Upgraded to HQ), Odorico da Pordonone, in Italian
  41. Vat.lat.13358,
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 148. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.


Backbone of Europe

The oldest chart of the western world, the Tabula Peutingeriana, would be better known to map enthusiasts if it were an approachable document. But on a first look, the scroll, which was designed in the Roman Empire, seems pretty incomprehensible. Of course it's in Latin, but that's not even the biggest problem. The chart is not to scale, but uses a strange squashed "projection", and it's infernally hard to guess where any of its roads go.

Help is at hand at last with my new chart of northern France, Germany, northern Italy, Austria and Slovenia which picks out what you need to know about the part of the Tabula covering Europe's most prosperous areas today.
What is striking is that the ductus of the Tabula -- and an awareness of the geography on the ground -- points to our designer having chosen a main road leading all the way from Boulogne, France to Rimini, Italy as his centerpiece.

This backbone, colored wine-red in my analytical diagram, passes through Reims, Besançon, Lausanne, the Great St Bernard Pass and Cesena. It's not the same as the medieval Via Francigena which led from Canterbury via Florence to Rome, but both the high roads served the same traffic and had many stretches in common.

Another big takeaway: the Tabula Peutingeriana is not oriented north-south. "Up" is north-west. Use the interactive control "Landmass" to see the coasts which the late antique designer had in mind. Of course the match is not perfect: Boulogne ends up on top of London, Leiden in the North Sea and Milan perched on the bank of the Rhine. But it's remarkable that anything matches in something that initially appears so chaotic.

What we are seeing is a very different take on Europe from that we are familiar with in modern maps. This is Roman Europe, with a fortified border in the north along the valleys of the Rhine and Danube (the dark blue line at top). It's also a Europe where most long-distance travel is obstructed by the Alps. The interactive control "Passes" shows how these seal off northern Italy. You can't go round them (except by ship): you have to over them as the playground song tells us.

To prove I haven't cheated, use the interactive control "Manuscript Sections" to see how the places form columns. The vertical layout precisely matches that in the Tabula, a UNESCO Memory of the World treasure now kept in a vault in Vienna. Tell me if you spot any errors. And if you want to see a similar chart of southern Europe, check out my previous blog post, Two Frances.


Exultet Roll

The Vatican Collection's Exultet Roll, one of the great treasures of medieval southern Italian illumination, has just been digitized and placed online. Vat.lat.3784 was made at the Abbey of Monte Cassino in the period 1058-87 for use in the Easter Vigil liturgy under Abbot Desiderius.

It's not the only one - half a dozen Cassinese rolls have survived - but it is celebrated for the magnificence of its text and its drawings of angels and the rising of Christ.

Digitization programs tend to pass over scrolls because they are difficult to scan, so I am pleased the Vatican librarians chose this one and hope they bring out more rolls for the digitizers in the next few months. You will notice that the text is inverted with respect to the pictures. The digitization shows the images right side up. I have inverted one image with "Gaudeat et tantis tellus irradiata fulgoribus..." where you can see an angel standing on his head:

Examine the roll closely, and you'll find the explanation why. As the deacon reads from the roll, he slides its top end over the edge of the lectern to hang down for the congregation to see:

This blog post would not have been complete without heroic help from a reader, Aaron Macks (@gundormr on Twitter), who responded to my cry for help a week ago. I monitor the Vatican Library website with Distill, a simple scraper that is an extension to the Firefox ESR browser. The huge size of the Vat.lat index now defeats it, so @gundormr offered to write a script/program that would do the job.

This custom script not only works like a charm. It also picks up items that have been upgraded from low quality microfilm to high-quality (HQ) color scans. The report is generated as an HTML list. In good weeks, posts on this blog attract 1,000 readers and we all owe a big debt to @gundormr (an expert on books of hours) for keeping this service going.
  1. Reg.lat.37 (Upgraded to HQ),
  2. Reg.lat.43,
  3. Reg.lat.46,
  4. Reg.lat.47,
  5. Reg.lat.48,
  6. Reg.lat.56,
  7. Reg.lat.63,
  8. Reg.lat.102,
  9. Reg.lat.105,
  10. Reg.lat.108,
  11. Reg.lat.110,
  12. Reg.lat.143,
  13. Reg.lat.161,
  14. Reg.lat.164,
  15. Reg.lat.171,
  16. Reg.lat.176,
  17. Reg.lat.186,
  18. Reg.lat.195 (Upgraded to HQ), 9th century
  19. Reg.lat.666 (Upgraded to HQ),
  20. Reg.lat.1364 (Upgraded to HQ),
  21. Reg.lat.1481 (Upgraded to HQ),
  22. Reg.lat.1496 (Upgraded to HQ),
  23. Reg.lat.1573 (Upgraded to HQ),
  24. Reg.lat.1596,
  25. Reg.lat.1618,
  26. Reg.lat.1622,
  27. Reg.lat.1631,
  28. Reg.lat.1642 (Upgraded to HQ),
  29. Reg.lat.1653,
  30. Reg.lat.1666 (Upgraded to HQ),
  31. Reg.lat.1669 (Upgraded to HQ),
  32. Reg.lat.1685,
  33. Reg.lat.1689,
  34. Reg.lat.1692,
  35. Reg.lat.1695,
  36. Reg.lat.1699,
  37. Urb.lat.87,
  38. Urb.lat.105,
  39. Urb.lat.115,
  40. Urb.lat.146,
  41. Urb.lat.149,
  42. Vat.lat.427.pt.2,
  43. Vat.lat.585,
  44. Vat.lat.1984.pt.A,
  45. Vat.lat.2074 (Upgraded to HQ),
  46. Vat.lat.2104,
  47. Vat.lat.2150,
  48. Vat.lat.2183,
  49. Vat.lat.2370, Intentiones habemus in presenti conscriptione (13c-14c); see eTK
  50. Vat.lat.2412,
  51. Vat.lat.2448,
  52. Vat.lat.2453,
  53. Vat.lat.2456,
  54. Vat.lat.2459, Cura omnium egritudinum que accidunt a sumitate capitis; possibly by Pontius de S. Egidius; see eTK
  55. Vat.lat.2460, Cause difficultatis scientie pulsuum sunt; by Aegidius; see eTK
  56. Vat.lat.2507,
  57. Vat.lat.2520,
  58. Vat.lat.2583,
  59. Vat.lat.2618,
  60. Vat.lat.2663,
  61. Vat.lat.2690,
  62. Vat.lat.3784, Exultet Roll. See above.
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 147. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.


Cheery Again

After my grumble over the impractical index page for Vat.lat. manuscripts at the Vatican Library portal, two kind and very computer-savvy readers of this blog suggested solutions. That generosity cheered me (as did the removal of a post-surgery splint on my wrist). It now looks as if a nifty script will be scraping this current week's updates from the DigiVatLib website, but more on that in my next post.

Grateful, I decided to seek -- by hand -- the newly issued Vat.lat. items from the still-missing second week of January. It turns out there are 45, plus three codices newly upgraded from murky microfilm to high quality. They are listed below, only lightly commented.
  1. Vat.lat.168,
  2. Vat.lat.315,
  3. Vat.lat.427.pt.1,
  4. Vat.lat.636.pt.1,
  5. Vat.lat.636.pt.2,
  6. Vat.lat.788,
  7. Vat.lat.1316,
  8. Vat.lat.1503,
  9. Vat.lat.2057,
  10. Vat.lat.2086,
  11. Vat.lat.2087,
  12. Vat.lat.2091,
  13. Vat.lat.2187,
  14. Vat.lat.2219,
  15. Vat.lat.2227,
  16. Vat.lat.2309,
  17. Vat.lat.2312,
  18. Vat.lat.2320,
  19. Vat.lat.2323,
  20. Vat.lat.2367, Hippocrates: Ad discipulum suum Actonem longis petitionibus (14th century copy); see eTK
  21. Vat.lat.2368,
  22. Vat.lat.2374, Cornelius Celsus: Ut alimenta sanis corporibus agricultura; see eTK
  23. Vat.lat.2386,
  24. Vat.lat.2397,
  25. Vat.lat.2401,
  26. Vat.lat.2419,
  27. Vat.lat.2420,
  28. Vat.lat.2423, Acatia est sucus alchati; .te Synonyms
  29. Vat.lat.2428, Liberet te deus fili amantissime a via errorum (14c-15c); see eTK
  30. Vat.lat.2432,
  31. Vat.lat.2446, Avicenna: Medicina est conservatio sanitatis et curatio egritudinis; see eTK
  32. Vat.lat.2450,
  33. Vat.lat.2472,
  34. Vat.lat.2496, the Liber Sextus Decretalium with Iohannis Andreae kinship diagrams. Magnificent!
  35. Vat.lat.2518,
  36. Vat.lat.2626,
  37. Vat.lat.2644,
  38. Vat.lat.2645,
  39. Vat.lat.2649,
  40. Vat.lat.2657,
  41. Vat.lat.2668,
  42. Vat.lat.2672,
  43. Vat.lat.2696,
  44. Vat.lat.2697,
  45. Vat.lat.2752,
Newly in high-quality:
  1. Vat.lat.2146, Walter Burley,  Nota quod in homine sunt quinque sensus; see eTK
  2. Vat.lat.2186, Dominicus Gundissalinus, Cum omnes homines eque constent ex anima et corpore; see eTK
  3. Vat.lat.2426 , Urina alba in colore tenuis in substantia (14th century codex); see eTK

This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 146. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.