Floreffe Bible now Online

The only way that we know that a graphic artist – or studio – in the fifth century CE drew a magnificent chart of biblical history and genealogy is from the later copying of that work onto parchment manuscripts during the medieval period. Fortunately, 24 such copies are still in existence.

Since I began studying the Great Stemma in 2009, there have been constant advances by museums, archives and libraries in bringing digital versions of this chart online. The British Library has now added the Bible of Floreffe Abbey to its collection of over 1,000 online manuscript digitizations. This must have happened rather quietly, as I have not seen it mentioned in the BL blog yet.

For the study of the Great Stemma, this is a rather important development. Until now, just seven of the manuscripts had been issued online, but nowhere on the internet could one study a peculiar evolution of the Great Stemma into what I call the "School Stemma," a revision of the graphic to bring it in line with orthodox, 12th-century doctrine about the ancestry of Christ.

The Floreffe Bible contains a beautifully coloured version of the School Stemma, with exquisite script that faithfully reproduces all the defects and nonsenses of whatever text it was modelled on. Check it out and page through its glories.

We do not yet know where the revision took place. I call it the School Stemma because I guess that it was "cleaned up" so it could be safely taught to impressionable young monks. Charts containing this version also come from Parc (now Belgium), Foigny in France and Burgos in Spain. The chart may also have been copied at Arnstein, Germany as well.

As a result, I have revised my table of Great Stemma manuscripts, doing a good deal of re-arranging to make the layout more user friendly. It will be clear after consulting the table that not only are eight of the 24 manuscripts now available online and readable in their entirety, but that these neatly cover six of the seven recensions (alpha, beta, delta, gamma, epsilon and School). Additionally, the sigma recension is online at the BNF, though the resolution there is too low for a visitor to read the script.

As a result, the Great Stemma can now be seen on the internet in its complete range of forms. By the greatest of good luck, the four manuscripts which offer the best evidence about the fifth-century ur-form (Plutei, Roda, San Millàn and one of the School group) are now all accessible. One could hardly wish for more.

My table tabulates all these online witnesses. The amber-gold squares in the table mark all the high-resolution images where you can click through to each archive's website. The paler yellow squares mark low-resolution images and snippets.

Happy clicking.

No comments :

Post a Comment