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.]

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