When the first touchscreens came out, a lot of us felt vaguely uncomfortable about touching pages. We had been inoculated by schoolteachers and librarians to feel guilty at putting our fingers on text.

It was not always like this. Much-used old manuscripts were also much touched. Images of the Devil are usually rubbed out by thousands of tappings to abjure him with a prayer. And certain sorts of text had to be touched to be used properly. Which brings me to a great glory among this week's 85 Vatican digitizations, Vat.lat.3806, with some of the oldest Eusebian canon tables of the Gospels.

The codex is known as the Rocca Sacramentary, a liturgical book for use in Fulda, Germany. Its early 10th-century scribe was a monk in Regensburg. To stop it getting too worn, it was given a couple of flyleaves at the front ripped from a Gospels (you know how it is, there's always rubbish lying around the place) with some tables painted in or near Rome in the 6th century.

The tables tell the reader where matching scenes and quotes occur in the four gospels. You need your fingers to use them. When searching for a match, you turn back to the front of the book to this index, look up your references in the table, hold your place on the table with a finger of the left hand and leaf through to the different "targets" with your right hand.

Indexes require index fingers. If it gets really complicated, you might need to use four fingers in a pianist's straddle to hold four places in the tables at once. Hand gymnastics.

The invention of tables of concordance was a major advance in the history of information technology, the topic of learned books by Anthony Grafton, Martin Wallraff and others (see below). And now that we have learned again to touch our texts, we understand in hindsight that pages designed to be touched were not a sin, but one of the great inventions to engage our bodies in the work of thinking.

The canons in the Rocca codex are thought to be the oldest western (Latin) examples, going back nearly as far as the oldest eastern examples in the Rabbula Gospels (Plut 01.56) in Florence.

In the following list of the April 4, 2016 digitizations (these bring the posted total to 4,072), I have marked several other gospels with newer canon tables you can compare them.
  1. Barb.lat.525, Evangeliary (gospel book) from Florence with prayers for each of its four city quarters during a procession. Here is the page for Porta San Giovanni:
  2. Barb.lat.637, Gospels, 9th century, with capitula lists but no canon tables
  3. Barb.or.135, printed book notable for this map of China:
  4. Borg.copt.109.cass.VI.fasc.17,
  5. Borg.copt.109.cass.VI.fasc.18,
  6. Borg.copt.109.cass.VI.fasc.20,
  7. Borg.copt.109.cass.XI.fasc.35,
  8. Borg.copt.109.cass.XVI.fasc.56,
  9. Borg.copt.109.cass.XVI.fasc.57,
  10. Borg.copt.109.cass.XVI.fasc.58,
  11. Borg.copt.109.cass.XVI.fasc.60,
  12. Borg.copt.109.cass.XVI.fasc.61,
  13. Borg.copt.136.pt.1,
  14. Borg.copt.136.pt.2,
  15. Chig.C.IV.111,  a 15th-century book of hours, an illuminated prayerbook with scenes from the Virgin's life. After asking on Twitter what this peculiar harp-like instrument played with a keyboard is ....
    ... responses came from Valerie Wilhite, and Cristina Alis Raurich in Spain who actually plays one:
  16. Chig.C.VI.161,
  17. Chig.E.IV.126,
  18. Chig.L.V.167,
  19. Chig.L.V.168,
  20. Chig.L.VII.251,
  21. Chig.L.VII.253,
  22. Chig.L.VIII.292,
  23. Chig.L.VIII.302,
  24. Chig.M.VII.143,
  25. Ott.lat.84,
  26. Ott.lat.457,
  27. Ott.lat.1212,
  28. Ott.lat.1523,
  29. Ott.lat.1717,
  30. Ott.lat.2530,
  31. Ott.lat.2546,
  32. Ott.lat.2864, Dante's Divine Comedy (thanks @noah_nonsense for the tip-off)
  33. Ott.lat.2866,
  34. Reg.lat.3,
  35. Reg.lat.10, Gospels, with canon tables
  36. Reg.lat.307, Augustine of Hippo on Gospel of John, 9th century
  37. Ross.314,
  38. Ross.613,
  39. Urb.gr.99,
  40. Vat.gr.2313.pt.A,
  41. Vat.lat.50,
  42. Vat.lat.51,
  43. Vat.lat.80,
  44. Vat.lat.85,
  45. Vat.lat.235,
  46. Vat.lat.238,
  47. Vat.lat.250,
  48. Vat.lat.252,
  49. Vat.lat.255,
  50. Vat.lat.256,
  51. Vat.lat.258,
  52. Vat.lat.311,
  53. Vat.lat.323,
  54. Vat.lat.438,
  55. Vat.lat.498,
  56. Vat.lat.540,
  57. Vat.lat.573,
  58. Vat.lat.602,
  59. Vat.lat.646,
  60. Vat.lat.722,
  61. Vat.lat.785.pt.2, Thomas Aquinas: here he is with his parchment scraper and quill, hard at work with a dove (Holy Spirit) on his shoulder whispering what to write in his ear
    This is one of five Thomas codices made for Pope John XXII in the first quarter of the 14th century. Corinne Péneau suggests the iconography of the dove, taken over from past images of saints John, Peter and Gregory the Great, marks the promotion at this time of Aquinas to sainthood.
  62. Vat.lat.1995, Latin translation of Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, etc.
  63. Vat.lat.1997, ditto
  64. Vat.lat.2376, John of Alexandria, commentary on Galen
  65. Vat.lat.3741, Gospels
  66. Vat.lat.3806, Rocca Sacramentary, for use in Fulda, scribe a monk in Regensburg, with two recycled flyleaves, fols 1-2, which are in fact 6th-century canon tables in Latin (by Eusebius): see Lowe, CLA Suppl. 1766, where the tables' origin is suggested to be the area of Rome
  67. Vat.lat.4220, Jerome, Letters to Paul etc
  68. Vat.lat.5762, from Bobbio, Letters of Jerome: note the poor, cheap parchment with holes and incomplete pages: the monks used whatever they could lay hands on, and wrote around the gaps.
  69. Vat.lat.5765, another fine old uncial manuscript from Bobbio, Italy, containing Isidore of Seville's De officiis (English translation via Google Books), dated to the beginning of the 8th century: this was made within 100 years of Isidore's lifetime. See Lowe, CLA 143   
  70. Vat.lat.5859, Ovid, Metamorphoses
  71. Vat.lat.5974, Gospels with canon tables
  72. Vat.lat.6083, more Gospels with canon tables
  73. Vat.lat.7224, 9th-century Gospels from Salzburg, Austria
  74. Vat.lat.7567, Bartolomeo da Colle (1421-1484): a manuscript of Dante
  75. Vat.lat.7795, more of the Bible of Aracoeli (see PUL 43)
  76. Vat.lat.7798, ditto
  77. Vat.lat.7801, ditto
  78. Vat.lat.8176, Pietro Bembo, letters
  79. Vat.lat.8208, Baldassar Castiglione, autograph
  80. Vat.lat.8262, scraps of book pages, handwritten notes, 17th century
  81. Vat.lat.8376, a damaged Paradiso of Dante associated with Bartolomeo da Colle (see above)
  82. Vat.lat.8700, illuminated missal, of Pius II
  83. Vat.lat.14613, a set of slats with writing on them:
    I didn't know what they were, but swiftly a tweet explained they were Scandinavian runes: which is the runic "alphabet" in its common order. The letters are mirrored, and some of them also upside down. We still don't know how this little treasure got to Rome.
  84. Vat.sir.51.pt.1,
  85. Vat.sir.51.pt.2,
In Heidelberg, 10 further Vatican manuscripts have arrived online in the past few days, and as usual actually come with descriptions:
  1. Pal. lat. 631, Gregorii IX decretales cum apparatu (Ioannis Andreae) (14.-15. Jh.)
  2. Pal. lat. 632, Gregorii IX decretales cum apparatu (Ioannis Andreae) (14.-15. Jh.)
  3. Pal. lat. 658 Iohannis summa super decretum (Gratiani) (14. Jh.)
  4. Pal. lat. 656 Sammelhandschrift (14. Jh.)
  5. Pal. lat. 640 Bonifatii VIII liber sextus decretalium, cum apparatu Ioannis Andreae (14. Jh.)
  6. Pal. lat. 642 Constitutiones Clementis V, cum apparatu Iohannis Andree (1460)
  7. Pal. lat. 703, Mag. Raymundi (de Pennaforti) summa de poenitentia et de matrimonio (14. Jh.)
  8. Pal. lat. 708, Ioannis (Friburgensis) Lectoris idem opus (14. Jh.)
  9. Pal. lat. 711, Sammelhandschrift (15. Jh.)
  10. Pal. lat. 732, Digestum vetus (14. Jh.)

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 (PUL) 44.]

Grafton, Anthony, and Megan Hale Williams. Christianity and the Transformation of the Book: Origen, Eusebius, and the Library of Caesarea. Harvard University Press, 2006.

Wallraff, Martin. Kodex und Kanon. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013.


  1. The musical instrument in Chig.C.IV.111 is a small portative organ, see:

  2. Hey, that's great. Did you see Cristina playing hers in the video (above)? I am really interested to see and hear one in real life now.

    1. Come to the course or the concert!