Ancient Science

Ancient science was kept alive through the Middle Ages by constant copying and anthologizing. One compilation that has come down to us was gathered at Constantinople at the end of the 13th century and contains the soundest text we possess of the Geography of Ptolemy of Alexandria. His work is one of the greatest scientific achievements of the ancient world.

Here is a Ptolemy diagram from the introductory book, How to Draw a Map of the World, with a simple trig lesson showing how to transfer arcs relative to your standpoint (at left). It's at 129r. One can read the text explaining the concept in part 1.2 of the Berggren-Jones translation at Google Books.

This codex contains Ptolemy's coordinates, but not the world maps attributed to him or his late antique editors.

Ptolemy's geography was famously wrong in certain key ways. Some of the most exciting research of the past decade has examined the possibility that Ptolemy was hit by a garbage-in-garbage-out situation whereby he unwittingly relied on false experimental data (the earth's circumference), leading to some spectacular failures in his essentially brilliant compilation.

Klaus Geus and Irina Tupikova argued in 2013 that mystery locations on Ptolemy's map are none other than the Gulf of Finland and Poland's Vistula River if one adjusts the false data. We now stand a better chance of identifying all 6,400 places for which Ptolemy gives coordinates in the Geography.

Various other scientific texts by authors as diverse as Euclid and Abu Ma'shar of Baghdad are all bound into the Vatican's massive 397-folio volume. Here is an unidentified diagram from folio 209v.

This codex, which is a kind of album of the best of ancient science, was brought to Rome by Isidoros, (c. 1385 to 1463), metropolitan of Kiev and later a Roman cardinal, and it thus ended up in the Vatican collection of Greek manuscripts as Vat.gr.191. It is one of the treasures that has finally entered our modern album of science, the internet. Digita Vaticana placed it online on June 22.

Renate Burri's description (in German) of this codex (designated X in the stemma) can be consulted on Google Books. A stemma showing the place of X as a key source has been published recently by Florian Mittenhuber. Burri has argued that the first diagram above is by a Byzantine editor, Manuel Chrysoloras, not by Ptolemy. Her book on the manuscripts of The Geography was recently reviewed on BMCR. [For a later blog post on Ptolemy by me with more manuscripts, jump here.]

Also new in the uploads this week is one of the books that is known as a Barberini Codex, this one being an evangeliary made at one of the two main centres of monasticism on Lake Constance, either Reichenau or St Gallen, just a few years before 1000 CE. Here is its illumination of the Ascension (folio 84v):

Below is my own list of the 64 new items uploaded June 22, which take the posted total to 2,264. As always, I have compiled this in haste, using web searches to grab keywords, so this is subject to correction. The materials below with the shelfmark Borg. copt. are a variety of biblical and other materials, some of them only single leaves or papyri. For more information about the materials from the Capponi collection, Cozzo's 1897 printed catalog can be consulted at Archive.org.
  1. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.C.152, contains a text of Aristophanes' Plutus (Pinakes)
  2. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.D.182, Hilary of Poitiers
  3. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.E.25,
  4. Barb.lat.711, great evangeliary made at Reichenau or St Gallen about 990 CE
  5. Barb.lat.4424, architectural sketchbook of Giuliano da Sangallo (1443-1516) (see article by Nicholas Temple)
  6. Barb.lat.5692, Pietro Bembo, letters
  7. Barb.lat.6481,
  8. Borg.ar.221,
  9. Borg.copt.109.cass.XXVII.fasc.138,
  10. Borg.copt.109.cass.XXVII.fasc.139,
  11. Borg.copt.109.cass.XXVII.fasc.140,
  12. Borg.copt.109.cass.XXVII.fasc.141,
  13. Borg.copt.109.cass.XXVII.fasc.142,
  14. Borg.copt.109.cass.XXVII.fasc.143,
  15. Borg.copt.109.cass.XXVII.fasc.144,
  16. Borg.copt.109.cass.XXVII.fasc.145,
  17. Borg.et.24,
  18. Borg.sir.16,
  19. Borgh.204, Johannes de Fonte, Parvi flores,
  20. Borgh.212, Maurus Salemitanus,
  21. Borgh.214, Opera quaedam de re iuridica, 14th century,
  22. Borgh.231, Abbas Antiquus,
  23. Borgh.320, Thomas Aquinas,
  24. Borgh.335, Cyprian of Carthage (c.200-258), a 15th-century compilation of his writings ,
  25. Borgh.368, a fine 15th-century manuscript of Livy's Roman history Ab urbe condita,
  26. Cappon.75, describes Medici celebrations
  27. Cappon.149.pt.1, letters to popes 1643
  28. Cappon.149.pt.2, speeches
  29. Cappon.152, obituary verse
  30. Cappon.153, Bologna university rules
  31. Cappon.155, epigrammata
  32. Cappon.157, Matthari Palmerii
  33. Cappon.158, from papacy of Paul IV 
  34.  Cappon.159, on council of Trent
  35. Cappon.162, letter by Magalotti
  36. Cappon.164, documents from Prague, Hungarian affairs
  37. Cappon.167, letters and notes from Paris
  38. Cappon.175,
  39. Cappon.177,
  40. Cappon.188, Northumberland's account of Anne Boleyn
  41. Cappon.189, accounts of judicial executions
  42. Cappon.191, Petrarch's I Trionfi (see below for a Renaissance manuscript)
  43. Cappon.192, diplomacy in France
  44. Cappon.202,
  45. Cappon.205,
  46. Cappon.206,
  47. Cappon.208,
  48. Cappon.212,
  49. Cappon.215,
  50. Cappon.222,
  51. Cappon.232, Pecorone
  52. Cappon.237.pt.C,
  53. Cappon.241, life of Cola di Rienzo
  54. Cappon.242, ditto
  55. Cappon.246, correspondence of dukes of Modena
  56. Cappon.250, vita de beato Johanne Bactista
  57. Cappon.254, alchemy and occult
  58. Ott.lat.2998, Francesco Petrarch's I Trionfi (The Triumphs) with illuminations for a noble Renaissance library (See Guerrini on a similar manuscript at the Morgan): here's a Greek god in thrall to infatuation, in hot pursuit of his love object (fol. 51r):
    The narrator is taken to a garden, sat down and shown a vast succession of mythological, biblical and historical figures making fools of themselves for love. This god's winged sandals suggest he may be Hermes, but the text implies the god may be "blond Apollo" chasing Daphne. In the margin of the same page is this odd couple:
  59. Reg.lat.1395, verse, Matteo Bandello
  60. Vat.ar.368, a hugely important and almost unique manuscript from Moorish Spain, The Tale of Bayad and Riyad
  61. Vat.estr.or.110,
  62. Vat.estr.or.147.pt.23,
  63. Vat.estr.or.147.pt.25,
  64. Vat.gr.191, 14th-century compilation of scientific texts with Euclid, Ptolemy's geography and astronomy (Pinakes),
Two more images from the Barberini Codex show the Three Magi (fol. 18v) and the Presentation at the Temple (fol. 24v)

As always, if you can add any information about any item, write in the comments box below, or tweet to me at @JBPiggin. [This is Piggin's Unofficial List 17.]

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