Vimara and Juan

A most remarkable codex at León Cathedral known as the Vimara Bible is in fact only half a bible: the first of its two original volumes has been lost. The title is also only half its preferred name. Its scribe was the presbyter Vimara, although Juan, the illuminator, was the most singular talent in its creation in the year 920, so it is more fittingly termed the Bible of Vimara and Juan. In May 2010 there was a move to have the codex declared a national treasure and I quote from the regional government bulletin:
La Biblia mozárabe de la catedral de León fue compilada por el presbítero Vimara e iluminada por el diácono Juan en el año 920. Estaba compuesta de dos volúmenes, de los que sólo se conserva uno. El principal contenido de este códice es la segunda parte de una Biblia que comienza con el libro del profeta Isaías y continúa con los de Jeremías, Ezequiel y siguientes, además de los Evangelios incluyendo sus tablas de concordancia, las genealogías de los personajes bíblicos y algunos otros escritos, uno de ellos sobre la vida de San Froilán, patrón de la diócesis. En sus páginas se añadieron múltiples comentarios al trabajo de Juan y Vimara, algunos generados por los propios autores, muchos de ellos en árabe. Es la Biblia más antigua que se conserva y está considerada como una de las obras más importantes de la iconografía altomedieval hispánica. Esta creación se incluye dentro de una larga tradición de libros miniados que se inicia con los grandes scriptoria visigodos del siglo VII y que continuó con los códices realizados en la primera mitad del siglo X.
The only images that I have seen of this bible are on the Oronez portal. I am not sure what "las genealogías de los personajes bíblicos" means: they cannot be in diagram form, or they would have attracted attention as such. [Later addition: The "genealogical" text turns out to be the Inventiones Nominum, which sometimes appears in company with the Liber Genealogus. Its presence in León is signalled by Rouse (below).]

Seventy years ago, Teófilo Ayuso Marazuela first proposed that 10th-century Spanish bibles were regular in the way that they absorbed extra-biblical material. Unfortunately there are not that many 10th-century Spanish bibles to compare. With data that Professor Jose Carlos Martín of Salamanca has very kindly shared with me, I have compiled a little table of five bibles that contain either the Great Stemma or the Ordo Annorum Mundi.

GS loc init

Vimara (920) 146r
after OT

Cardeña (9-10 C) 312v
after OT
5v front verso León (960) 395r
after OT
1v front verso Calahorra (1183) missing

1r front recto San Juan de la Peña (11c) missing

recto BNE Vitrina 14-2 ff 1-5 (10C)

Loc indicates where in the codex the stemma appears. Init indicates whether it begins on a recto (right-hand) or verso (left-hand) page. The sixth item is a mysterious five-page fragment, BNE Vitrina 14-2 ff 1-5, in the National Library in Madrid which may come from a bible. The fragment dates from the second half of the 10th century and its script suggests it comes from a scriptorium in the kingdom of León. The art historian John Williams thought it had been yanked out of a Beatus Commentary on the Apocalypse. He therefore included this manuscript of the "tables" in his book, The Illuminated Beatus (which was laudable and beneficial for scholarship), but he justified this with a whimsical argument (there are more such tables in Beatus manuscripts than in bibles) which he probably did not mean to be taken very seriously.

Bonifatius Fischer suggested the opposite: that it might come from a bible:
Finalmente planteemos con esta oportunidad una cuestión: los 5 folios con genealogías que hoy van encuaderndos al comienzo del manuscrito de Beato Madrid, Bibl. Nac. B-31, que antes pertenecía a S. Isidoro en León, y de los cuales Neuss demuestra que ni provienen de un Beato sino de una biblia, ¿son restos de la segunda biblia visigótica que en otro tiempo, según diversas fuentes, existía en S. Isidoro?

Teófilo Ayuso Marazuela believed there was a pattern whereby scribes placed the OAM between the Old and New Testaments, as happens in the San Isidoro de León bible. There are four other bibles, all damaged, which might have employed the same arrangement, and I have set them out in the table. Not all are from the 10th century, but one is entitled to cast the net wider to show how this hypothesis works. My own suspicion is that the Madrid fragment could have come from such a bible, especially if it did employ the Great Stemma as a frontispiece, starting with Adam on a recto page.

If BNE Vitrina 14-2 ff 1-5 is copied from any bible, the model cannot have been the León bible, nor whatever were the models for the 12th-century Calahorra and the mid-11th-century San Juan de la Peña bibles, because these three all have peculiar, eccentric versions of the tables. The fragment is also unlikely to be copied from the 9th- or 10th-century San Pedro de Cardeña Bible at Burgos, which has a much larger page size. But it could plausibly have been copied from the Bible of Vimara: their page size is almost identical, and the dating of BNE Vitrina 14-2 ff 1-5 is estimated at only a quarter-century or half-a-century away from the Vimara Bible's date, 920. The Vimara Bible is very finely executed, whereas the fragment is clumsily drawn with fewer colours but it would be interesting to compare images and see if the Vimara bible could have inspired the fragment's decoration. Unfortunately there does not seem to be any facsimile of the Vimara Bible.

Fischer, Bonifatius. “Algunas observaciones sobre et «Codex Gothicus» de la Real Colegiata de San Isidoro en Leôn.” Archivos leoneses : revista de estudios y documentación de los reinos hispano-occidentales XV (1961): 5–47.
Rouse, Richard, and Charles McNelis. "North African literary activity: A Cyprian fragment, the stichometric lists and a Donatist compendium." Revue d'histoire des textes 30 (2000): 189-238.


Number Lines Not Innate

A publication in the past week in PLoS (Núñez, Rafael, Kensy Cooperrider, and Jürg Wassmann. “Number Concepts Without Number Lines in an Indigenous Group of Papua New Guinea.” PLoS ONE 7, no. 4 (April 25, 2012): e35662. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0035662) offers some interesting new data that relates to the origin of timelines. In essence, Núñez and his fellow researchers have found a people in New Guinea who do not arrange numerical quantities in a strictly calibrated way along a line because they do not actually work with a mental number line. There is a news release by Inga Kiderra too.

A more readable account of the ideas behind the research can be found in an article published last year: Núñez, Rafael. “No Innate Number Line in the Human Brain.” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 7 (2011): 651. http://www.cogsci.ucsd.edu/~nunez/web/Nunez_JCCP11.pdf.

This is highly suggestive of the environment in which the Great Stemma was written, and circles were arranged in approximate fashion in left-right space without being calibrated to a scale. Núñez argues that conceptual mappings onto space are culturally and historically determined and rejects the nativist hypothesis that they are hard-wired into the human brain.

My hypothesis is that the 5th-century Latin author of the Great Stemma mapped time onto the space of a long papyrus roll, but felt no compulsion to finely calibrate it as a number line. We have an author with a high classical education who is comparable to the Yupno people with grade-school education that Núñez and his fellow researchers encountered in New Guinea. Both the author and the Yupno are carrying out mapping operations, but have not yet entered a cultural environment where they are obliged to do this in a strict way on pain of being labelled uneducated if they do not.


Another Spanish Bible Online

The San Juan de la Peña Bible at the National Library of Spain in Madrid is now available online. Unlike some of the other digitized manuscripts there, it is not displayed with a fancy plug-in viewer. The online user simply fetches this bible in three large PDF files. The Great Stemma is in the first of these, a file of 50 MB. The hi-res images can be copied from it, inserted into MS Paint and saved separately, making individual JPEG files of about 1 MB for easier reading.

Readers of my website will recall that the San Juan stemma belongs to the Gamma recension. It is distinguished by the following quote from Jerome about whether the prophet Samuel was a priest or not:
Noscendum est quod Samuel levita, non sacerdos, nec pontifex fuerit. Unde est faciebat ei mater sua efat super humerale videlicet lineum, qui abietus proprie levitarum et minoris est ordinis, unde et in psalmis non numerantur inter sacerdotes, sed inter eos qui invocant nomen domini, "Moises et Aaron in sacerdotibus eius et Samuel inter eos qui invocant nomen Domini."
This stemma has lost its final pages after the sons of David.On its last surviving page, the main filum from Judah to David, runs down the left margin instead of across the top edge as is usual in the other stemmata. This reorientation is similar to what I guess must have happened at a much earlier point in the transmission. All the stemmata as we see them today distort the timeline of the judges period: the timeline has at some point been turned from horizontal to vertical to fit the available space. Conversely, the sons of Rachel in this stemma run left to right, instead of downwards as in other stemmata.

Here is a table showing how the bible's extant pages match the layout of the only other surviving stemma which Yolanta Zaluska categorizes as Gamma, that found in the Beatus of Urgell. Their joint model was almost certainly a 10-page version. The first folio (two pages) of the Urgell copy has vanished. The last folio (equivalent to three pages?) of the San Juan stemma is missing:

Urgell San Juan
1 Adam
2 Noah Ir 1v
3 Abraham Iv 2r
4 Isaac IIr 2v
5 Jacob IIv 3r
6 Rachel IIIr
7 Levi / David IIIv 3v
8 Luke filum IVr
9 Matthew filum IVv
10 Incarnation V

In the San Juan stemma, Rachel's children are shoe-horned into the bottom of the Jacob page. Otherwise, the layout of the two stemmata is very similar, and even the form of clipei (roundels or rectangles) matches closely.

Having access to the manuscript will allow me to check the transcription by Fischer which I had been using. Fischer's transcription lists variants from a wide variety of manuscripts and uses the centuries-old format of the apparatus: notes which proceed word by word through the bible text noting in linear fashion how each word has been altered. It is not user-friendly.

I discover that I have overlooked a phrase in Fischer from Gen 4:3, et Cain de fructibus terre (Cain (offered) the fruits of the soil). A 100-page linear apparatus, where a single bible verse is discussed in fine print, with abbreviations and symbols, extending 15 centimetres down a page, is not easy to read. My tabulations, if less complete, are certainly easier, and follow a better, older and more legible tradition, known since Origen's Hexapla comparative bible. Modern text-comparison software allows one to print such texts in other parallel forms.

Zaluska, Yolanta. “Les feuillets liminaires.” In El Beato de Saint-Sever, ms. lat. 8878 de la Bibliothèque nationale de Paris, edited by Xavier Barral i Altet. Madrid [Spain]: Edílan, 1984. The definitive 20th century study of the Great Stemma, providing a detailed page-by-page account.


Lambert's Liber Floridus

In what is now the far corner of north-west France, Lambert, a canon of the city Church of Our Lady in St Omer, completed in 1122 a richly illustrated compendium of mythical biology, history and religious knowledge. The Liber Floridus (book of flowers) belongs to the same genre as the Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, a compilation or florilegium or encyclopaedia of many sorts of information, all intended to bring delight. Isidore’s use of graphics had been primitive, but Lambert was a superb and imaginative graphic designer. One celebrated full-page spread, the Arbor Mala and Arbor Bona, is a compilation of vices and virtues. The Liber Floridus is bursting with clever, colourful graphic ideas. Its images of imaginary plants and strange animals in the bestiary section fascinate.

Lambert could also be conservative in his design choices. In his personal, autograph manuscript of the Liber Floridus, there is a stemma of Lambert’s maternal ancestors which goes back to his great-great-grandfather Odwin. It recalls the family names and birthdates which many British and American families wrote in the front of their family bibles in the 19th century, but Lambert decided to draw it in semi-stemmatic form, not as a simple list. As with the German imperial stemmata compiled in the previous century, Odwin is shown at the top, with the descendants splayed out below. Unlike the Great Stemma, there are no roundels. The individuals are grouped in short vertical lists of siblings. These tabulations of their forenames form family blocks. These tiny tables are connected by smooth or squiggly lines back to their parents and ultimately to Odwin. It is crowded and untidy, but it is striking that the designer of the Arbor Bona and Arbor Mala has presented his family with a simple stemma, not a tree. It has not been inverted and is not even pretending to be a tree.

Lambert of Saint-Omer's personal autograph copy, the original manuscript of the Liber Floridus, is in the University Library at Ghent, Belgium (ms. 92). Saint-Omer is a border town and this unique codex seems to have been taken to Belgium during the French Revolution for safe-keeping. Recently scans of this great treasure were placed on the internet. The digital version is a bit difficult to use, with no option for full-screen viewing that I can discover. One cannot download complete pages because the server sends them in the form of tiny tiles.

The diagram appears on folio 154r (use the navigation to go to the 30th page of results to see a zoomable version). Folio 154r has been moved to the very end of the current binding, but Albert Derolez, who has published the manuscript (Lamberti), suggests it may have originally been at the very beginning as a front flyleaf:
The first page lacks all ruling ... Was it Lambert's intention to leave it blank? In that case the leaf or the quire should originally have been placed at the front of the codex. (Autograph Manuscript, 180)

This would explain why it was not transferred into other copies: it was not seen as part of the body of text. Christiane Klapisch-Zuber briefly discusses the diagram on pages 94-96 of her L'Ombre des Ancêtres, and refers the reader to the editio princeps by Gysseling, whose entire discussion of the stemma in 1947 was limited to a single sentence:
C'est la seule généalogie que nous connaissons pour le moyen âge (exception faite des généalogies de vices, de vertus et de  ...., qui apparaissent plus ..... ). [some words illegible in my photocopy]

Derolez rearranged the diagram into a conventional modern printed descent "tree". Klapisch-Zuber tartly remarks that Derolez's graphic version "wildly displaces the generations and ends up being a lot less intelligible than the design in the original manuscript" (note 27, page 362). This is perhaps unfair to Derolez, but I can now present what I believe is the first ever graphic version which is faithful to the original layout, and which is machine readable to boot.

It can be better studied as a Flash page on my main website. I have followed the Derolez transcription, which as far as I know is actually the work of Gysseling. The italic letters are his readings of the scribal contractions. The dotted lines represent Lambert's squiggly lines, which I could not reproduce with OpenOffice Draw.

One oddity is that Lambert states there should be five "Heimerici" siblings but in fact shows six. There are two unidentified descendants at left (000 in my diagram) who are foreshadowed by lines but not given any names. At right is a name beginning Nor**** that was illegible. I am not sure if Drogo and Folcardus in the bottom row really are brothers: Lambert's diagram seems to suggest they are cousins. The awkward layout suggests the group at right might have been an afterthought or have been entered after much later family research, but perhaps the main design influence was a lack of space. Derolez, who seems to have found evidence that earlier script was scraped away, writes: "The lower part of the pedigree was afterwards rearranged in order to create more space for a text."

However the details of Lambert's genealogy are not the topic that interests us here, and I have left the genealogy as Gysseling and Derolez preferred it. It is the concept of the diagram that matters. It is practical, straight out of life, a little clumsy and unclear, but ultimately an intelligent presentation of 80 names in the most compact space.

I see no evidence for Klapisch-Zuber's speculation that Lambert may have been the inventor of this graphic design:
Toutes ces particularités laissent penser que Lambert a réinventé, ou interpreté de facon autonome, un type de schéma généalogique peut-être entrevue ice ou là... on est tenté de voir dans un schéma qu'il couche sur un page de son livre une invention autonome et sauve de toute influence immédiate. (L'Ombre, 96)

The more plausible view is that Lambert imitated other diagrams of "normal" families which he had seen, and that such diagrams were in relatively common use in the 12th century. Unfortunately, Lambert's is one of the few, perhaps the only surviving witness of this genre of document to remain in our archives from so early.
  • Derolez, Albert. Lamberti S. Audomari Canonici Liber Floridus. Ghent: Story-Scientia, 1968.
  • Derolez, Albert. The Autograph Manuscript of the Liber Floridus. Corpvs Christianorvm. Autographa Medii Aevi 4. Turnholt: Brepols, 1998.
  • Gysseling, Maurits. “Les plus anciennes Généalogies de Gens du Peuple dans les Pays-Bas Méridionaux.” Bulletin de la Commission Royale de Toponymie de Dialectologie 21 (1947): 212–215.


Mommsen's False Trail?

Some time ago I posted about the F recension of the Liber Genealogus and the possibility that it might either have originated in Oviedo, Spain or that the lost library of the Cathedral of Oviedo might have been a bottleneck through which both existing versions of the F recension (one in Florence, one in the Escorial library in Madrid) could have passed.

Theodor Mommsen offered a hint there might be a third codex in Madrid, a 16th-century paper manuscript seen by Knust, which contains the so-called Corpus Pelagianum. In his MGH volume on chronicles, Mommsen quoted the old call number for the item, T.10. Through the kind assistance of Professor Jose Carlos Martín of Salamanca, I learn that this item is now shelved as MSS/7089.

To see the bibliographic record in the National Library of Spain manuscript catalog, do a call number search entering the search term "MSS/7089". The OPAC result refers the reader to the printed catalog (PDF cat) which shows that the codex contains a 112-folio copy of the Corpus Pelagianum. The cataloger considers it to be a copy of MSS/1513 (PDF cat) in the same library, which contains 28 items, none of them, as far as I can see from their descriptions, being the Liber Genealogus.

It seems to me that Mommsen laid a false trail here, mentioning Knust only because Knust had vaguely noted that there were genealogies in this codex. I have not checked this further, but suspect that T.10 does not contain the Liber Genealogus. It seems likely that of half a dozen codices with the Corpus Pelagianum, only the Escorial codex contains this book.


Age of the World

At dinner tonight, my son brought up millenarian thinking, and we got onto the topic of 801 CE, which was thought (before it arrived) to be the likely date of the parousia, or beginning of the Seventh Age, or Second Coming of Christ. The author of that reckoning was of course Eusebius of Caesarea, who calculated the Incarnation as having occurred 5,199 years after the creation of the world. Eusebius disapproved of millenarians, but millenarians were happy to make use of Eusebius. Mediated through the Jerome of Stridon translation in Latin, that calculation seems to have been reproduced in Spain in the Ordo Annorum Mundi, which in its turn was reproduced in the very millenarian Apocalypse Commentary of Beatus of Liebana.

Something that has been dawning on me only this week is that the Ordo Annorum Mundi may not only have been a kind of cheat-sheet to read the Great Stemma with, but that sections of it have actually been interpolated into the Great Stemma. I had not paid much mind to this before. My Ordo Annorum Mundi page lists all the relevant text fragments. On the face of it, this may be rather dry, but it's rather like tracing Facebook likes. When you see where this reckoning shows up, you have a way of tracking what people like Beatus had been reading.