Pliny's Natural History

Among the new arrivals online at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana on April 29 is a fine Renaissance copy of Pliny's Natural History, Borgh. 369. This fifteenth-century copy is not one of the ancient manuscripts used to establish the critical editions of Pliny (see a list by Roger Pearse), but it is evidence of the humanist enthusiasm to rediscover the great classical Latin authors.

Here is how the artist fancied Pliny in expository mode:
Also new is Vatican Vat. lat. 3375, a late sixth-century Neapolitan codex excerpting the works of Augustine of Hippo. It is acopy in half-uncial of an anthology that had been composed just a generation earlier by Eugippius of Naples and is an important link to Christian culture at the end of late antiquity.

We also have what looks like a couple of chaps with paunches, receding hippie hairlines, and glass steins in the hand. But I am guessing they are actually sirens. They appear in Barb.lat.409, which is a liturgical office for the feast day of King Louis of France (1214-1270), after he had been made a saint.

A further portolan chart, Borg. Carte. naut. V, is in this batch, but sadly the resolution is so low that it is impossible to read the text. Reader Jens Finke points out that a just-about-readable black-and-white image of this appeared in Heinrich Winter, "The Fra Mauro Portolan chart in the Vatican" (Imago Mundi, 16 (1962), pp. 17-28, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1150299.)

Here is the full list:
  1. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.A.32
  2. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.C.98
  3. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.D.157
  4. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.D.169
  5. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.D.193
  6. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.E.33
  7. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.F.27
  8. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.G.3
  9. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.G.54
  10. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.H.52
  11. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.K.1
  12. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.K.2
  13. Barb.lat.409, liturgical office for feast of Louis IX of France, image above
  14. Barb.lat.679, a compilation of canon law, with a folio about the Council of Carthage of 390 CE  (summary)
  15. Borg.Carte.naut.V, illegibly digitized portolan chart, see above
  16. Borgh.22
  17. Borgh.43
  18. Borgh.53
  19. Borgh.91
  20. Borgh.93
  21. Borgh.99
  22. Borgh.104, 14th century codex of Petrus de Ilperinis, Tractatus de praedestinatione
  23. Borgh.113
  24. Borgh.127
  25. Borgh.143.pt.1
  26. Borgh.145
  27. Borgh.155
  28. Borgh.168
  29. Borgh.176
  30. Borgh.180
  31. Borgh.201
  32. Borgh.207
  33. Borgh.215
  34. Borgh.238
  35. Borgh.251
  36. Borgh.257
  37. Borgh.281
  38. Borgh.301
  39. Borgh.305
  40. Borgh.310
  41. Borgh.313
  42. Borgh.334
  43. Borgh.369, Pliny's Natural History
  44. Borgh.384
  45. Borgh.387, anonymous compilation of rules and figures of geometry (ff. 1-27)
  46. Cappon.1
  47. Cappon.2
  48. Cappon.3
  49. Cappon.8
  50. Cappon.10
  51. Cappon.11
  52. Cappon.16
  53. Cappon.19
  54. Cappon.20
  55. Cappon.21
  56. Cappon.22
  57. Cappon.23
  58. Cappon.25
  59. Cappon.36
  60. Cappon.37
  61. Cappon.38
  62. Cappon.40
  63. Cappon.49
  64. Ott.lat.356
  65. Reg.lat.1484
  66. Vat.ebr.119
  67. Vat.ebr.130
  68. Vat.ebr.143
  69. Vat.estr.or.4, Latin-Chinese dictionary
  70. Vat.estr.or.8,
  71. Vat.estr.or.40, panorama painting of qinqming festival
  72. Vat.estr.or.64.pt.2,waterfall drawing
  73. Vat.estr.or.83,
  74. Vat.estr.or.85, Sinhalese
  75. Vat.estr.or.86,
  76. Vat.estr.or.97,
  77. Vat.estr.or.99,
  78. Vat.estr.or.101,
  79. Vat.estr.or.114,
  80. Vat.estr.or.117,"Cahier siamois", only the container!
  81. Vat.estr.or.118, ditto
  82. Vat.estr.or.147.pt.1.2,
  83. Vat.estr.or.147.pt.6,
  84. Vat.estr.or.156, folder of ink sketches, whereby Twitter user @MareNostrum2 points out that Digita Vaticana has (inadvertently) digitized a page from a 1909 Japanese newspaper with it: was this used as wrapping material to send the item to Rome?
  85. Vat.estr.or.159, 19th century (?) Japanese drawings
  86. Vat.gr.180
  87. Vat.lat.3375, excerpts from Augustine (see above)
  88. Vat.turc.50
Here is a detail, sadly darkened, from the qingming festival scroll above. It might reveal more with some photoshopping:

That makes 88 in all. Please add any contributions by way of the comments pane below. [This is Piggin's Unofficial List 9.]


Military technology at the Vatican

The seven manuscripts digitized and released April 1 by Digita Vaticana include an important 11th-century codex explaining and illustrating contemporary Byzantine military technology, Vat. gr. 1164 (link below). Here is an armoured vehicle that let attackers approach a wall, presumably to work to undermine it, defying boiling oil and stones from above.

Twitter follower Mare Nostrum offers an image from it showing the framework used to swing a battering ram to break a heavy stone wall. It would have been slow, thump-thump work, as he comments:

  • Vat.gr.747, one of the six known illustrated Byzantine Octateuchs, full of strange and extraordinary pictures. It also contains the Letter of Aristeas, the earliest text to mention the Library of Alexandria. Here is a scene in which a mortar and pestle are used as a painter is at work, folio 114r
  • Vat.gr.752.pt.2, magificent golden illuminations.
  • Vat.gr.1156, Lectionary 120, designated by siglum ℓ 120 in the Gregory-Aland numbering (Wikipedia).
  • Vat.gr.1164 (above), Byzantine military tactics and technology, see Pinakes.
  • Vat.gr.1513, Gennadius Scholarius, Pinakes, quite short
  • Vat.gr.2195, Leontius of Byzantium.
  • Vat.lat.39, 13th-century New Testament from Verona, apparently with the newly modern chapter divisions devised by the English scholar Stephen Langton
If you know more about these volumes, let us know through the comments box below. [This is Piggin's Unofficial List 8.]