Characteristic Handwriting

The handwriting styles of dozens of people older than me are as familiar as their faces. Of the generation younger than me, I only know the hands of my closest relatives. The world is changing as people key their messages instead of scrawling them, and there are times when I feel like a mobile starting gate at a harness race: behind me a jostling world where we knew one another by our scripts; ahead of me, a blank new era where an individual's handwriting is as private a matter as their belly button.

This week's digitizations by Digita Vaticana put me in mind of that change, because one of them is of a book which is generally agreed to be an author's manuscript from 750 years ago: a commentary by the Dominican philosopher-theologian Thomas Aquinas. Vat. lat. 9851 has, as one might expect, lots of crossings out, as on folio 35v:

At the back is various by-play including a letter (typewritten in 1951 - the thin end of the wedge as hand-script began to recede) by the bishop of Salamanca.

Autographs of Aquinas are quite rare. There is a codex in Naples, and this book's shelf neighbour, Vat. lat 9850 containing Super Boethium De Trinitate (fol. 1–104) and Super Isaiam (fol. 105–114).

What is extraordinary is that there were people last century not only skilled enough to decipher this Latin cuneiform, but actually able to recognize one man's own handwriting into the bargain.

Maria Burger (publication), for example, published an article some years ago, arguing that Aquinas was the person who inscribed glosses in  Cologne Cathedral Codex 30. In an age where handwriting is atrophying, for how much longer will people be able to make such an identification at a glance?

The full list of digitizations runs to 29, and brings the posted total before Easter to 3,987. Here's my unofficial list. You won't get it anywhere else: the Biblioteca does not publish any official list.
  1. Reg.lat.1, Vulgate Bible
  2. Reg.lat.4, Gospels with canon tables, Siglum Pr in Fischer tally of 490 Latin gospel manuscripts
  3. Reg.lat.1535, Martianus Capella, De Nuptiis
  4. Ott.lat.79, Ottoboni Gospels, northern France, 9th century, with canon tables in arches. This magnificent beast is the bottom of a letter L (for Liber, the first word of the Gospel of Matthew, and later the origin of the currency symbol £ formed in similar fashion):
    @ParvaVox responded:
  5. Ott.lat.296, Gospels
  6. Vat.gr.139, Plutarch
  7. Vat.lat.112, glossed Minor Prophets, Daniel, etc.
  8. Vat.lat.505, Augustine of Hippo, letters, various
  9. Vat.lat.513, Augustine, Against Five Heresies, various
  10. Vat.lat.514, Augustine, various
  11. Vat.lat.557, a Commentary on the Book of Epigrams of Prosper of Aquitaine (2r-27v)
  12. Vat.lat.564, Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy
  13. Vat.lat.569, no clear incipit
  14. Vat.lat.575, Gregory the Great
  15. Vat.lat.580, Gregory the Great
  16. Vat.lat.592, Gregory the Great, Regula Pastoralis
  17. Vat.lat.594, Gregory the Great, Dialogues
  18. Vat.lat.609, Augustine, Letters, etc
  19. Vat.lat.3201, the Ottimo Commento, a commentary on Dante. This was long attributed to Andrea Lancia of Florence, but a 2010 article has apparently disproved that authorship
  20. Vat.lat.4776,
  21. Vat.lat.5764, Isidore, Etymologiae (part). The flyleaves, front and back, are 8th-century uncial pages from Bobbio, Italy with the Lowe designation CLA 1 42 (TM 66138). @ParvaVox notes:
  22. Vat.lat.5776, an 11th-century manuscript of which significant parts are re-used parchment with under-layers reaching back to 7th-century Bobbio, Lowe designations CLA 1 44; 1 45; 1 46; 1 47 (TM). @ParvaVox notes:
  23. Vat.lat.7082, Piccolomini, autograph
  24. Vat.lat.7793, part of Bible of Aracoeli: Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, glossed
  25. Vat.lat.7797, part of Bible of Aracoeli: Gospels, glossed, with illuminations credited to Master Nicolaus. Here is a winged man holding a very long scroll to represent the Evangelist Matthew:
  26. Vat.lat.7799, part of Bible of Aracoeli: Ezekiel onwards, glossed
  27. Vat.lat.8209, letters?
  28. Vat.lat.8913, Matthias Palmerius, died 1483, see CERL
  29. Vat.lat.9851, Thomas Aquinas, his autograph of Scriptum super Sentiis, dating from about 1255. The topic is the Sentences of Peter Lombard, written 100 years earlier. A note bound inside states the codex was given to a Dominican Oratory of Aversa (see Buratti) by Charles II of Naples (in about 1300).  Auguste Pelzer in a comprehensive article states that he supervised the rebinding of this codex in 1952. The black and white page is a (printed) photograph of a folio at Coria in Spain. See also a review by Landgraf of a main work on Thomist autographs.
If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to Digita Vaticana. [This is Piggin's Unofficial List 43.]

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