Pliny Manuscript

Roger Pearse's post also points us to the principal manuscript of Book 35 of Pliny's Natural History where the practice of placing a "stemma" in the entrance area of a patrician Roman home is mentioned at 35.2. The best manuscript of Book 35 is preserved in a very cleanly penned and well preserved codex in Bamberg, Germany.

A digitization can be consulted online. The text on stemmata can be consulted at Perseus, where there is also an English translation. The matching page of the Bamberg codex is 78v, first column.

New Eusebius Tables Coming Out This Year

Roger Pearse mentioned yesterday how "F. Mone" discovered in Austria in 1853 a key palimpsest containing books 11-15 of Pliny the Elder's Natural History. Roger links to a digitization where you can experience for yourself the frustration of trying to read a lower level of writing on an overwritten page.

I think this must be Fridegar Mone (1829-1900), since that is the name on the edition of 1855.  I wondered for a while if it was not the father, Franz Mone (1796-1871). Both men had fascinating, conflict-dogged lives. The elder was a religious controversialist who received manuscript-research commissions. The younger was essentially a manuscript hunter and dealer who was sacked at age 50 and had his "private" manuscript collection (which did not of course include the Pliny palimpsest) seized by the government from his Karlsruhe home in 1886.

Similar discoveries during the 21st century of miraculously surviving manuscripts of lost or semi-lost Latin or Greek works of Antiquity are likely to be the rarest events. The archives of Europe and the Middle East have been scoured so many times by so many generations of scholars that the pickings are now slim.

More likely is the reconnection of unlabelled manuscripts to their Antique authors, such as the discovery a year ago that an anonymous Greek-script manuscript in Munich contains Origen's Homilies on the Psalms, or my own proof that the "medieval" graphic genealogies in Spanish bibles are in fact a 5th-century Latin work.

I mentioned in a previous post that Martin Wallraff's paper revealing his attribution of a section of an Oxford manuscript to Eusebius would soon appear in print. The article will lay bare an Antique work, the Canon Tables of the Psalms, which no one had known about for the past 1,000 years. Professor Wallraff made his remarkable discovery public at the Oxford Patristics Conference in 2011.

Harvard University Press has now announced a publication date for this editio princeps. It will appear as an article in the next issue of the Dumbarton Oaks Papers. This ground-breaking paper will be available from December 16 this year and will be entitled "The Canon Tables of the Psalms: An Unknown Work of Eusebius of Caesarea", the announcement says. Presumably it will be on open access from 2024 under the periodical's web release policy.


Mistaken Improvements

The power of visual spatial displays often comes from their ability to simplify and abstract from reality, says Mary Hegarty in a 2011 paper.

Since figurative drawings are not so well adapted to the task of reasoning or explaining, the Late Antique inventors of node-link diagrams were careful to omit figurative elements from them.

Their successors since that time have repeatedly attempted to add figures, to regulate the distances between the nodes, to impose a standard orientation (for example, growing upwards like a tree) and to strictly align such diagrams. Those mistaken "improvements" indicate that later generations have not fully understood the genius of the original invention.

Hegarty quotes research suggesting why. We have a misplaced faith in fussily drawn diagrams,
with a strong preference for displays that emphasize high-fidelity spatio-temporal realism, even when these displays result in poor performance...  This may come from a folk fallacy that perception is simple, accurate and complete, whereas perception really is hard, flawed and sparse.

Markus Knauff's book (see my recent post) suggests an additional cause for the fallacy: if reasoning is largely spatial, and is taking place in a part of the mind that is not accessible by introspection, most of us are likely to be quite ignorant about what constitutes an effective explanatory method.

A similar point about why figurative art should be excluded from effective diagrams has been made by Manfredo Massironi in his theoretical account of Hypothetigraphy, the subject of a post on this blog in 2011. Massironi took the view that any diagram explaining abstract matters needs to be limited to what he called "precise marks" only: "Precise, clear lines contribute in conveying the impression that the depicted forms are mental constructs, not representations of natural objects."

Hegarty, Mary. ‘The Cognitive Science of Visuo-spatial Displays: Implications for Design’. Topics in Cognitive Science 3, no. 3 (2011): 446–474. doi:10.1111/j.1756-8765.2010.01113.x.
Massironi, Manfredo. The Psychology of Graphic Images: Seeing, Drawing, Communicating. Routledge, 2002.