Armenian Treasures

We owe much to Armenian monks for the preservation of the early Christian past. Many ancient works that are now lost in their original Greek, such as key books by the great Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, survive only in Armenian translation.

That's why we should be so pleased that a new crop of digitizations and uploadings at Digita Vaticana includes Vat.arm.3, a finely illuminated 13th-century codex that is believed to have been the first Armenian manuscript to enter the Vatican book collections in the 15th century. This was exhibited in the Rome Reborn exhibition 20 years ago in Washington and St Louis and the catalog stated that it was thought to have been donated to the papacy by the Armenian delegates at the Council of Florence.

Its texts are mainly liturgical but there are also texts on chronology, geography, astronomy, mensuration, philosophy and history. I'm not aware if any of these are unique, but it's great to just browse this thick codex and admire the care with which it was made. From the illuminations, here is a fine red-beaked bird from folio 213r:
There's also a fine bird lady on folio 317r as part of what seems to be a matrix of consanguines or arbor consanguinatis
The digitizations are evidently advancing despite the summer heat in Rome. The latest 51 bring the tally of items on the index page to 2,633. Here is my list:
  1. Borg.copt.109.cass.I.fasc.1,
  2. Borgh.262, Decretales of Pope Gregory IX, glossed by Bernardus Parmensis (also known as Bernard of Parma, Bernard Botone, Bernard Bottoni), seems similar to Ms. 1 at Syracuse University
  3. Borgh.366, Augustine of Hippo, City of God, 15th-century manuscript
  4. Cappon.132, handwritten copy from about 1730 of an earlier treatise on perspective drawing by the mannerist painter Giulio Romano (see below). Consult the catalog at Archive.org for more information about this and other Capponi items below.
  5. Cappon.179,
  6. Cappon.182,
  7. Cappon.198,
  8. Cappon.203,
  9. Cappon.223,
  10. Cappon.226,
  11. Cappon.227,
  12. Cappon.230,
  13. Cappon.236,
  14. Cappon.256,
  15. Cappon.257,
  16. Cappon.262,
  17. Cappon.263,
  18. Cappon.265,
  19. Cappon.266,
  20. Cappon.267,
  21. Cappon.268,
  22. Cappon.274,
  23. Cappon.280.pt.1,
  24. Cappon.280.pt.2,
  25. Cappon.291.pt.1,
  26. Cappon.294,
  27. Cappon.299,
  28. Cappon.304,
  29. Cappon.305,
  30. Cappon.310,
  31. Cappon.311,
  32. Cappon.314,
  33. Cappon.315,
  34. Cappon.316,
  35. Cappon.317,
  36. Reg.lat.1360, a manuscript of the 12th-century Chanson d'Aspremont, a French narrative poem of heroic deeds (Wikipedia)
  37. Sbath.723, one of the Arabic manuscripts collected by Paul Sbath of Aleppo, Syria
  38. Urb.lat.4, concordance of the Bible, 15th century
  39. Urb.lat.8, Joachim of Fiore, Thomas Aquinas, Lawrence of Pratis, 15th-century ms
  40. Vat.arm.3, Eusebius' Epistle to Carpianus, and other texts, featured in Rome Reborn (see above)
  41. Vat.ebr.116, Talmud Bavli, Tract Bava Kamma
  42. Vat.ebr.140, part of the Babylonian Talmud (thanks to @TuomasLevanen for these 2 notes)
  43. Vat.lat.65, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Judges, glossed
  44. Vat.lat.110, commentary on Ecclesiasticus, palimpsest layer apparently includes some 7th-century (?) material from Pliny the Elder
  45. Vat.lat.143, Lanfranc of Canterbury, commentary on Pauline Epistles
  46. Vat.lat.146, Peter Lombard on Pauline Epistles, 14th century
  47. Vat.lat.172, Dionysius Areopagita
  48. Vat.lat.1895, Diogenes Laertius
  49. Vat.lat.2878, 15th-century, humanist copy of Cicero's Epistulae ad Atticum (discussed by Peter Lebrecht Schmidt). The front of this codex was abused for a bit of papal bookkeeping, being used to record a mule-leasing agreement: Astolfo, superintendent of mules of the palace, must deliver on 1 January 1570 to Bernardino Cirillo, preceptor of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit and the pope's majordomo, and take back into custody on the 31st of the same month, all those mules on the attached inventory in the stable of the palace (the actual inventory of the mules is not there, which would have been too much of an insult to Cicero and Atticus).
  50. Vat.lat.6549, Henry of Bourbon (apparently Henry IV of France who issued the Edict of Nantes), paper manuscript
  51. Vat.lat.14153, Italian literary autographs
As ever, tell me via the comments box below if you know more about any of these codices. [This is Piggin's Unofficial List 22.]

Here is a drawing of devils flying around evil idolatrous Rome from Borgh.366, folio 1r
Angles of view in treatise on perspective drawing, Cappon 132, folio 14v:
By the way, a knowledge of medieval Armenian is something that certain scholars brag about, much as a scratch golfer would brag of his zero handicap. A few weeks back, a reviewer for the Bryn Mawr Classical Review was publicly berating any of his inferiors having the temerity to write about Philo without learning Armenian first: The language barrier is not unsurmountable and does not justify studying this part of Philo from the translations of the (Armenian) translation only. That sounds a bit like those ads that claim that anyone can learn to play golf like Tiger Woods if they buy this or that set of clubs. Sigh. If only life were that easy.


Attic Nights

A literary Roman justice, Aulus Gellius, born in 125 or 128 CE, began, during his studies in Athens, to compile a commonplace book in 20 volumes that was to become known as the Attic Nights.

This album of quotes from famous books and from the views of Gellius's erudite friends was famed through late antiquity and the medieval period as a source of philology, literary wisdom, history and scientific knowledge. The blogger Roger Pearse once memorably described it as the world's first blog.

The work suffered a curious transmission, being broken into two parts. There is a section comprising books I to VII, which may once have had with it the lost book eight. The other section, from IX to XX, seems to have become detached from the first in late antiquity and has a separate manuscript history.

On August 3, Digita Vaticana brought online a principal witness to this second section, Reg.lat.597, a manuscript penned by the famous Carolingian scholar and scribe Lupus of Ferrières in about 850. It contains the Attic Nights from 9.14.2 to 20.6.12 and is written in a very clear fashion as you see in this extract from the chapter titles 10.10 and 10.11 on folio 80v:

X above says: "Quae eius rei causa sit, quod et Graeci veteres et Romani anulum [hoc] digito gestaverint qui est in manu sinistra minimo proximus," which reads in translation: The reason why the ancient Greeks and Romans wore a ring on the next to the little finger of the left hand. (Online at Perseus, where this is title 10.10.) Read it, as the explanation is quite intriguing, and then consider how many people still wear rings that way 2,500 years later.

The full list of 42 manuscripts just released, raising the total to 2,582, is as follows:
  1. Barb.lat.5693, letters of Italian poet and scholar Pietro Bembo (1470-1547)
  2. Barb.or.2, a remarkable psalter on paper with the psalms in five languages in parallel columns: Ge'ez, Syriac, Bohairic Coptic, Arabic, Armenian; would that be a "pentapla"?
  3. Borg.copt.109.cass.I.fasc.2,
  4. Borg.copt.109.cass.I.fasc.3,
  5. Borg.copt.109.cass.I.fasc.4,
  6. Borg.copt.109.cass.I.fasc.5,
  7. Borg.copt.109.cass.IV.fasc.8,
  8. Borg.copt.109.cass.IV.fasc.9,
  9. Borg.copt.109.cass.IV.fasc.10,
  10. Borg.lat.900, charter
  11. Borgh.184, Francucci, Scipione‏: La Galleria de Cardinale Borghese, 17th-century poetry in a beautiful curly hand
  12. Borgh.235, Guido Ebroicensis, Sermones de tempore et de sanctis sive Summa Guiotina, 16th century
  13. Cappon.224, 18th-century drawings from (classical?) cameos and other items in the Capponi Museum including the Romulus and Remus below at 83r
  14. Cappon.251, Cosimo Baroncelli on the origins of the House of Medici
  15. Cappon.264, Tuscany history and letters from the 14th century in 18th century hand
  16. Cappon.303, Clement XII
  17. Chig.a.I.19, sketches for the building of St Peter's Basilica, also an elaborate coach (below)
  18. Chig.I.I.17,
  19. Ott.gr.472, a charter
  20. Ott.lat.3131, collection of drawings of objects in the Vatican Museum
  21. Patetta.2909.pt.bis, Venetian poetry
  22. Reg.lat.74, a palimpsest: the underlayer is an 8th-century lectionary which is partly legible in the digitization
  23. Reg.lat.257, the 8th-century Missale Francorum, a major source of liturgy of the early mass. Lowe CLA 1 103. Here is the word canon (link goes to folio):
  24. Reg.lat.597, contains the second part of the Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius, apparently penned and annotated by Lupus Servatus, (c.805-c.862), Abbot of Ferrières (see Lindermann, Lecouffe, Pearse.)
  25. Reg.lat.689.pt.2, contains a (7th-century) fragment of the Historiae of Gregory of Tours and other items in a scrapbook of old manuscript fragments (see Palmer).
  26. Reg.lat.1040, Records of the Sixth Ecumenical Council: this manuscript was apparently in the possession of Archbishop Arn of Salzburg in 798 or 799
  27. Reg.lat.1462, Fulgentius, from Fleury, start of the 9th century. This also contains the earliest poetry in a post-Latin language: the Alba of Fleury
  28. Ross.1192, scrapbook of illuminations cut from a music manuscript, including the two gents peeping through a crack in the door below
  29. Ross.1194, music, Exaudi nos Domine
  30. Urb.lat.1767, Baldassare Castiglione, Book of the Courtier (Il Cortegiano) with a fine frontispiece (2v), detail explaining how to slip a note behind your chaperone
  31. Vat.lat.45, a concordance to the scriptures (13th-14th centuries)
  32. Vat.lat.54, study edition of Genesis and Exodus with beautifully interlocked blocks of notes and text
  33. Vat.lat.56, ditto, glossa ordinaria et interlineari, 13th-14th century
  34. Vat.lat.58, ditto, Exodus
  35. Vat.lat.59, ditto
  36. Vat.lat.62, ditto, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
  37. Vat.lat.64, Numbers, 12th century
  38. Vat.lat.72, Rabanus Maurus, Commentary on Maccabees, preceded by annotated Paralipomenon (Chronicles)
  39. Vat.lat.95, Peter Lombard, Commentary on Psalms
  40. Vat.lat.140, study edition of Pauline Epistles with side notes and interlinear notes
  41. Vat.lat.157, Nicholas of Lyra on the Old Testament, some illuminations
  42. Vat.lat.197, Cyprian of Carthage, works, Renaissance initials
As always, please enter corrections or additions in the comment box below. [This is Piggin's Unofficial List 21.]