Dominic's Fiddle

When the Frauenkirche in Dresden was raised in 2005 from the rubble, the few blackened stones left after the February 1945 fire-bombing were proudly incorporated amidst the new sandstone for all to see (2008 picture below). But when an Irish scribe named Dominic interspersed the "wrong" Latin text in a Vulgate bible, he doubtless hoped nobody would notice.

Working between 600 and 800 CE at a monastery in the godless wastes of North Italy, Dominic had been assigned to write out a bible now known as the Codex Ottobonianus and digitized a few days ago by Digita Vaticana. You can see Ott. lat. 66 here.

The model he was copying from must have been torn or partly illegible. Resourcefully, Dominic copied the missing bits from an Old Latin bible in his library that dated back to before the 400 CE translation by Jerome of Sidon. Naturally, he does not draw any attention to the places where he has woven in the obsolete phrasing, but after this fiddle, his autograph on folio 112v, "Pray for me, Dominic the Priest" (orate pro me Dominico Prbitero), must have been tinged with a heartfelt hope that he would never be caught:

In the end, the truth did come out. The codex is a godsend for those interested in what Latin Christians read before Jerome came along. Like the sooty stones in the Frauenkirche, its scattered old phrases are now prized as links to the far past.

In the science of Vetus Latina scripture, the Codex Ottobonianus is designated Beuron number 102 among the rare surviving witnesses to the Old Latin Genesis (see my list of Beuron numbers) and has been exhaustively analysed by biblical scholars. But it is also a key source for Jerome's text. Now everyone can see this valued book with ease.

Here is what Bonifatius Fischer's Vetus Latina edition of Genesis (Freiburg, 1950) has to say about the codex, which I am adding here since it is lacking in the BAV online bibliography:
296 ff; 32,5 x 27,5 cm; 2 Kolumnen zu 31 Zeilen; Unziale des 7./8. Jh. "Written apparently in North Italy. The scribe Dominicus signs on fol. 112v: ORATE PRO ME DOMINICO PRBITERO SCRIPTORE. The occurrence of the Insular symbol for 'autem', the use of red dots with the capitals, and the type of figures in the illustrations suggest some Insular centre in Italy." (E.A. Lowe).
Die Hs enthielt den Heptateuch oder Oktateuch in Vulgata, heute bricht sie bei Jdc 13,20 ab; außerdem fehlt zwischen fol. 6 und 7 ein Blatt mit Gn 6,9-7,11. In den Vulgata-Text sind immer wieder Stücke aus der Vetus Latina eingesprengt, und zwar:
  • Gn 37,27-35;
  • 38,6-11;
  • 41,1-4. 14-21;
  • 46,15-17. 30;
  • 48,13-14. 20-Schluß von Gn;
  • Ex 10,13-15;
  • 11,7-10;
  • 15,1-2;
  • 16,16-17,10;
  • 19,13. 22-24;
  • 20,17-18;
  • 22,30-27,5;
  • 29,44-45.
Andere Textstücke fehlen in der Hs einfach. Um eine solche Lücke auszufüllen, sind die Blätter 66 67 und 68 mit Vulgata-Text (Ex 4,19-6,27) nachträglich eingefügt worden. Weiterhin zeigen einige Fehler der Hs, daß die Vorlage der Hs alt war und noch Scriptura continua hatte: iaridesi statt iair id est, hi est amecum statt hic sta mecum, uidis eas statt ut discas usw.
Wir gehen also wohl nicht fehl mit der Annahme, daß die alte Vorlage der Hs teilweise unleserlich war, wohl auch ganze Blätter verloren hatte. Der Schreiber half sich, indem er die Lücken mit einem ihm zu Gebote stehenden altlateinischen Text von Gn und Ex ausfüllte; zu Lv scheint er einen solchen altlateinischen Text nicht mehr gehabt zu haben; deshalb sind dort die Lücken geblieben. In Gn 37,33-35 entstand ein merkwürdiges Gemisch aus Vulgata und Vetus Latina, da der Kopist hier die in seiner Vorlage noch lesbaren Wörter aus der Vulgata übernahm und den Rest aus seiner altlateinischen Bibel ergänzte.
Die Hs ist in der neuen römischen Vulgata-Ausgabe als einer der drei Hauptzeugen unter dem Sigel O benützt.
Of the principle Genesis source, cod. 403 at Lyons, France, almost nothing is online. A future project on this blog is to survey Vetus Latina material that has been digitized so far.

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