Wonders in China

Some time between 1620 and 1640, a Chinese book publisher issued an extraordinary illustrated compendium about the exotic creatures and travel opportunities of the far western world. The project was overseen by Giulio Aleni, the Italian leader of the Jesuit community in China. The wood-block printing was entitled K`un-yü t`u-shuo (An Illustrated Explanation of Geography).

Its especial charm resides in the unknown artist's conceptions of sea monsters and the Wonders of the Ancient World. To the fanciful western pictures of the wonders which he would have used as his model, he added his own perspective. Neither he nor we know what most of these monuments really looked like, so it is interesting to see how an Asian sensibility envisaged these fabled places.

Digita Vaticana has just digitized the book, which it stocks as Borg. cin. 350, fasc. 30. I have no idea how rare this printing was. The wood-block engraving is not of a very high quality, suggesting the book was priced for the mass market in China. Here are the seven wonders, to which an eighth was of course added in the time-honoured fashion at the discretion of the compiler.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are depicted as great blocks of inclined stone leaning alarmingly off a pine-clad mountainside over an architectural garden with a bridge as a walkway. Full page.

The Colossus of Rhodes, with a contemporary European merchant ship sailing between its knees, guards the entrance to its Mediterranean harbour and is shown with boylike, notably Asian facial features. Full page.

The Great Pyramid of Giza, which was the only one of the wonders to still exist in 1620, is greatly heightened and shown amid mountains. Full page.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus is visualized as a ziggurat. Full page.

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus is depicted as a long hall in a style that is more Renaissance than classical. Full page.

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia is a round-shouldered senior clutching some rather limp looking thunderbolts. The artist may have puzzled over what on earth these were meant to be. With his left hand, Zeus pats his eagle. Full page.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria has a very smoky fire going on top. Full page.

The eighth wonder is the Roman Colosseum, for which the artist clearly had a fairly accurate model to draw from. Full page.

There are more details about this book in the catalog to the Rome Reborn exhibition held 20 years ago in the United States.

This is one of 19 items brought online on September 21, bringing the published Digita Vaticana tally to 2,744. Here is the full list:
  1. Barb.gr.350, 12th/13th century. Aristotle? Pinakes
  2. Barb.lat.610, missal of the Baptistery in Florence, an ornately decorated Renaissance prayerbook, illuminated by Monte in 1507. Here's a detail showing a Florentine garden:
  3. Barb.lat.671, in 8th-century uncial, a wide variety of patristic writings, comprehensively listed by Hill
  4. Barb.lat.3695, Anonymous, L'alta divina maiestate eterna
  5. Barb.lat.3974, Dante
  6. Barb.lat.4096, with a commentary on Dante's Divine Comedy
  7. Barb.lat.4112, illuminated Divine Comedy, detail below from 141r
  8. Borg.cin.350, multiple Chinese printed books, some by Aleni, bound into a single codex
  9. Borg.copt.109.cass.XIII.fasc.42, Gospel of Matthew, ch. 16-20
  10. Borg.copt.109.cass.XIII.fasc.43, Gospels of Matthew 18-19, 25-26 and Mark 2-9
  11. Cappon.269
  12. Cappon.281.pt.1,
  13. Cappon.283.pt.2,
  14. Urb.lat.26, Thomas Aquinas, catena aurea, Gospels of Mark and John, 15th century, ornate initials
  15. Urb.lat.35, John Chrysostom, Catalog
  16. Urb.lat.47, Athanasius and John Climacus, Catalog
  17. Urb.lat.50, Jerome on Jeremias, Catalog
  18. Urb.lat.53, Jerome on Isaiah, Catalog
  19. Urb.lat.65, Leo the Great, sermons and letters, Catalog
There is also a remarkable Chinese line drawing of Matteo Ricci here in another book (fasc. 3) bound into Borg.cin.350, Ta-hsi Hsi-t'ai Li hsien-sheng hsing-chi. This is a 1616 biography of Ricci (1552 – 1610), the greatest of all the Jesuit scholars studying Chinese culture, by Aleni, a successor. The Rome Reborn exhibition catalog describes the drawing as follows:
This rare and beautifully executed portrait of Matteo Ricci reveals how European and Chinese pictorial methods contrast. Chinese portraits developed out of centuries of brushed calligraphy and the subdued treatment of human figures, on one hand, and Buddhist and Taoist depictions of humans and divinities on the other.
I wonder do wonder if the line drawing it is not drawn directly from the 1610 painting of Ricci by Yu Wen-hui (later Emmanuel Pereira) that has been in Rome since 1616.

Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for more news. Write comments in the box below if you can add details, or correct my notes. Thanks to @TuomasLevanen for filling in Coptic collection details! [This is Piggin's Unofficial List 25.]


Luke in Arabic

Among the old treasures just digitized is a 96-folio Gospel of Luke in Arabic translation. This little codex in a more-or-less square format can be precisely dated to the year 993. Here is a detail of Luke 20 from folio 79r:

At the Rome Reborn exhibition 20 years ago, the display note said, "This 10th-century Egyptian codex was donated to Pope Eugene IV by the Egyptian delegates at the Council of Florence. Translated from a Coptic original, it is one of the earliest Arabic versions of any part of the New Testament, none of which can be dated before the late eighth or ninth centuries."

Here is the full list of 54 items brought online on September 17, 2015. The stated total on the index page is now 2,725.
  1. Urb.lat.5, Giannozzo Manetti, Latin of Psalms
  2. Urb.lat.6, Giannozzo Manetti, Latin translation of NT
  3. Urb.lat.20, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Revelations, with commentary
  4. Urb.lat.22,
  5. Urb.lat.33, John Chrystostom, homilies
  6. Urb.lat.42, Ambrose of Milan, homilies
  7. Urb.lat.43, Eusebius of Caesarea, Praeparatio Evangelica
  8. Urb.lat.44, Rufinus
  9. Urb.lat.46, Athanasius and Isidorus Mercator
  10. Urb.lat.48, Athanasius, plus anti-pope Anastasius
  11. Urb.lat.51, Damasus, Augustine of Hippo, Ambrose, letters
  12. Urb.lat.61, Basil the Great and Ennodius, various writings
  13. Urb.lat.67, Augustine of Hippo, De Doctrina Christiana, 12th-century manuscript
  14. Vat.ar.18, Gospel of Luke, featured in exhibition Rome Reborn
  15. Vat.ar.1784,
  16. Vat.ar.1785,
  17. Vat.ebr.127, Babylonian Talmud, Ashkenazic script
  18. Vat.ebr.141,Sefer Mordecai, including riddle by Judah ha-Levi, 14th century Italian
  19. Vat.ebr.142.pt.1, Halakhot Gedolot attributed to Simeon Kayyara
  20. Vat.ebr.156, Babylonian Talmud
  21. Vat.ebr.487, Fragments from 12 Hebrew manuscripts
  22. Vat.estr.or.31, Hô-laò-pê: portrait of Giovanni Mezzafalle, head of Catholic mission in China, seated with red hat
  23. Vat.et.28,
  24. Vat.gr.308.pt.1,
  25. Vat.gr.308.pt.2,
  26. Vat.lat.115, Minor prophets, with commentary
  27. Vat.lat.134, Gospel of John, with commentary
  28. Vat.lat.136, ditto
  29. Vat.lat.137, Acts of the Apostles, with commentary
  30. Vat.lat.148, Pauline epistles, annotated
  31. Vat.lat.149, Pauline epistles, annotated
  32. Vat.lat.151, Peter Lombard on the Pauline epistles, with this interesting illumination of an ambidextrous Peter, seemingly working with two pens on the opening page:
  33. Vat.lat.160, Nicholas of Lyra on the Old Testament
  34. Vat.lat.164, ditto
  35. Vat.lat.165, Nicholas of Lyra on the Prophets
  36. Vat.lat.173, Dionysius Areopagita
  37. Vat.lat.182, Lilius Tifernas on Philo
  38. Vat.lat.183, ditto
  39. Vat.lat.185, ditto
  40. Vat.lat.186, Basil the Great, homilies, plus Polycarp and John Chyrsostom
  41. Vat.lat.201, Cyprian of Carthage, 15th-century manuscript
  42. Vat.lat.202, Cyprian of Carthage
  43. Vat.lat.203, Cyprian of Carthage and Augustine of Hippo, minor works, 12th century
  44. Vat.lat.204, Origen, in Rufinus Latin translation, 11th and 15th century
  45. Vat.lat.206, Origen, in Rufinus Latin translation
  46. Vat.lat.212, Origen, in Rufinus and Jerome Latin translations
  47. Vat.lat.215, Lactantius
  48. Vat.lat.216, Lactantius
  49. Vat.lat.221, Lactantius
  50. Vat.lat.222, Lactantius
  51. Vat.lat.223, Lactantius
  52. Vat.lat.228, Eusebius of Caesarea, Praeparatio evangelica
  53. Vat.lat.245, Jerome's Latin version of the Chronological Canons of Eusebius of Caesarea: this is not one of the principal sources, for which one can consult Roger Pearse's list
  54. Vat.lat.286, Ambrose of Milan, letters; this copy made in the 9th century at Vercelli, according to Zelzer, page 10
Here's a fine hunt detail from Vat.lat.151, to be found just over the portrait above of Peter Lombard:

Here's the foundation of Rome noted for Olympiad 6, as set out in the canons in Vat.lat. 245 (60r):

Follow me on Twitter for more news (@JBPiggin). If you can add details about any of these, please use the comments box below. [This is Piggin's Unofficial List 24.]


Glory of Asia

Digitizations have clearly slowed in the Roman summer, but Digita Vaticana is still making occasional releases.  The Vatican Euripides showed up September 1, and 37 more manuscripts came online September 15.

The Euripides, Vat.gr.909,  is from just after 1250 and not the the oldest by any means, but is one of the sources of nine plays by the great Greek dramatist with scholia. There is a page-by-page listing of the contents at Pinakes. For a sound text of the plays along with English translations, consult Perseus. The scholia (that is to say the glosses and stage directions and other notes) are recorded by Donald Mastronarde on his remarkable electronic scholia site.

Here is the first line of Andromache, "Glory of Asia, city of Thebe!"

As for the rest, there are several maps. The portolan charts are scanned at too low a resolution to be of any use for scholarship, since the place-names remain illegible. The map of the lagoons at Comacchio, Barb.lat.4242.pt.A, is of some interest, and I always like those figurative maps of the Mediterranean which show the River Jordan in green and the Red Sea in red. I picked out one from Cappon.56 a few weeks ago where it illustrates a poem by the humanist Lorenzo Bonincontri (1486-1488). This new example is from Chig.M.VII.146
Here is the full list. The digitizations bring the total posted so far to 2,671.
  1. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.D.189,
  2. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.D.190, letters of Pope Alexander to Bernard of Clairvaux
  3. Barb.gr.596, single sheet
  4. Barb.lat.1766, charter
  5. Barb.lat.4242.pt.A, fine map of the wetlands at Comacchio on the Adriatic coast, drawn by Domenico Castelli (the 17th century architect?)
  6. Barb.or.144, multiple printed books in one binding, the first of which is 治曆緣起, Chinese Missionary Books brought by Philippe Couplet from China
  7. Borg.Carte.naut.IV, portolan chart, scanned illegibly!
  8. Borg.Carte.naut.VI, ditto
  9. Borg.Carte.naut.VII, ditto, Campbell number 154, dated to 1497, Alexandria
  10. Borgh.221, Aldobrandinus de Toscanella, Scala fidei sive tractatus de symbolo apostolico
  11. Borgh.289, Opera aliqua de re iuridica et sermones
  12. Borgh.290, Bottoni, Bernardo, Summa super titulis decretalium
  13. Cappon.120,
  14. Cappon.247,
  15. Cappon.270,
  16. Cappon.282.pt.1,
  17. Cappon.282.pt.2,
  18. Cappon.283.pt.1,
  19. Cappon.285,
  20. Cappon.286,
  21. Cappon.289,
  22. Cappon.290,
  23. Cappon.308,
  24. Chig.G.IV.114, book of crests
  25. Chig.L.VI.196,
  26. Chig.M.VII.146, mixed codex with astronomy, Italian maps of Mediterranean coast, Hippocratic medical writings
  27. Ott.lat.234, Joannis Langiaci, Panegyricus
  28. Ott.lat.585, Summa de sufficienna sacramentorum
  29. Ott.lat.1676, Ovid, Epistula XV
  30. Reg.lat.1621, thin Renaissance manuscript of Pseudo-Ovid. This was once thought to be an important source of the poem Consolatio ad Liviam until Oldecop discovered that it was a copy on parchment (perhaps as a luxury present) taken from a printed Venetian edition of 1492. See Reeve's article in Revue d'Histoire des Textes. Here is "Ovid":
  31. Reg.lat.1756, contains works by Constantine the African including Liber chirurgiae, the Liber graduum, and De genitalibus membris which describes female reproductive organs. Also the De quattuor humoribus of Constantine's mentor, Alfanus, bishop of Salerno. See discussion by Monica Green
  32. Vat.gr.909, Euripides
  33. Vat.lat.2791, Ovid, Epistula XV
  34. Vat.lat.5005, Albertus Magnus, c.1193-1280 De Mineralibus libri quinque - 15th century ms
  35. Vat.lat.5644, music, Antifona solenne per i Vespri, a book from Coluccio Salutati's former library in Florence. Article by Bannister describes how its date can be established as 1160.
  36. Vat.lat.9134, Roman monumental epigraphs transcribed and decoded
  37. Vat.sir.495, Nicene creed, letter of Constantine the Great convening Council of Nicaea and other council documents in Syriac translation (Smelov)
  38. Vat.slav.7, eight sheets only
Here is an ostrich running in Borg.Carte.naut.VII:

As always, if you can provide more details on these, use the comments box below. [This is Piggin's Unofficial List 23.]