2013-07-09

Vetus Latina at St Gallen

A highlight of this week's visit to the Stiftsbibliothek in St Gallen in Switzerland was to see in a glass case one of the leaves from the library's early fifth-century manuscript of the Vulgate translation of the Gospels. This manuscript, Cod. Sang. 1395, comprises parchment fragments recovered from St Gallen bindings. The digitized pages can be viewed online.

As the guide noted, the existence of the manuscript, estimated to have been penned in 410 or 420 CE in Verona, Italy when Jerome of Stridon was still alive in Bethlehem, is one of the great sensations of book history. That date is so old that it precedes by about a decade the compilation of the Great Stemma (which of course employs Vetus Latina, not Vulgate terms in its genealogical and chronicle material). Vetus Latina materials were also shown as part of the special exhibition, Im Anfang War das Wort.

I was very interested to leaf through the recently published Die Vetus Latina-Fragmente aus dem Kloster St. Gallen, a book of facsimile pages and commentary edited by Rudolf Gamper.

A striking feature of the permanent exhibition was an image of the so-called Verbr├╝derungsbuch, Cod. Fab. 1, which is digitized and available online. This contains lists of deceased monks of St Gallen and up to 60 other monasteries for whom the community prayed. As the online catalog notes, "starting in 830 the names of monks who joined the monastic community were listed in the empty canonical table frames."

Presumably the decorative arches were originally drawn on the 31 pages following a model devised by Eusebius of Caesarea. The neatness of the entries seems to decline with time. This use appears to be opportunistic, but elsewhere arches were an intentional meta-informational element. I have not yet got an overview of what range of significances such frames could bring to their content.

Gamper, Rudolf, Ph. Lenz, A Nievergelt, P Erhart, and E Schulz-Fluegel. Die Vetus Latina-Fragmente aus dem Kloster St. Gallen. Dietikon-Z├╝rich: Graf, 2012.

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