Old and New

A bit of fun this week, comparing diagrams old and new in the spirit of plus ca change ...


Here is Cassiodorus (6th century) using a decision tree in legal reasoning. This has been translated for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original in Latin too.

And here is Ahmad Farouq (21st century) explaining the legal doctrine of negligence in Commonwealth jurisdictions in a remarkably similar stemmatic diagram that proceeds downwards, then left to right, quoting key words and key cases:


Here are the tribes of Mount Seir (in modern Jordan), who were perceived as having ancestral affiliations among one another by the authors of the Book of Genesis. They probably were tribally related, though not through eponymous ancestors as claimed here. The 5th-century author the Great Stemma diagrammed them thus:
A modern scientific approach is to build phylogenies among cultures based on language characteristics. Here is a diagram by Michael Dunn et al. on language groups:

These old and new diagrams show that although the form and sophistication of infographics has advanced enormously in the past century, the principle of visualization and its uses has deep and ancient origins.


Upgrade at the Vatican

As the Vatican's online library, Digita Vaticana, undergoes a major server migration and interface upgrade this week, you'll have to be patient about viewing the 34 new treasures that arrived online May 16. The interface is a major step forward, with easier paging through the books, quicker zooming buttons, and adoption of the IIIF standards used by other major archival digitization portals.

There's also a new logo, DigiVatLib. It's not clear yet if this replaces the Digita Vaticana branding. There's a promise of enhanced search functions for the next release and there will be a section to highlight the latest 20 manuscripts uploaded, but that does not seem to have been implemented yet.

Some manuscripts remain accessible, but for others you encounter a "sorry" screen that says: "The migration process of digitized manuscripts in the new platform is still ongoing and it will be completed in the next two weeks." I feel like a motorist at roadworks, knowing full well that I will appreciate the improvements later, but impatient to get through now.

Today is also a special occasion for this blog: this is the 50th edition of Piggin's Unofficial Lists of the digitizations in Rome. It was a great surprise to me when Dr Otto Vervaart marked this by writing a very comprehensive review on his own blog, Rechtsgeschiedenis, describing what this blog attempts to achieve. I say to him: Thank you very much: that encourages me to keep going forward.

The highlight of this week's new arrivals is Vat.lat.623, a fascinating 13th- or 14th-century revision of the Etymologies of Isidore of Seville (-636). The great Spanish scholar Carmen Codoñer observes that because of its encyclopaedic character, the Etymologies were continually open to supplement in later centuries, and this is one of the best examples of how it evolved.

We see in this codex  all sorts of clever medieval diagrams to better elucidate what ancient Isidore had been talking about.

On fol. 80r is an astonishing schematic of an arbor consanguinatis - a legal diagram explaining degrees of blood relationship - which revises it to just a few abstract sketch lines. There's a matching one in Vienna, ÖNB 683, but unfortunately not yet digitized.

Hermann Schadt believed this unique diagram (he called it a "lambda schema") must have been influenced by music theory, since a similar diagram is found in contemporary books about harmony and the Anima Mundi of Plato. The medieval academy was very interdisciplinary.

The preceding page has another reinterpretation of the arbor that you will not find in my manual of classical arbores, because it was a newfangled invention: it shows the family circle.

A Carmen Codoñer article that is online in French is devoted to another part of this codex where the editors added new medical material after Isidore's Book X, from fol. 39rb (de causa et exordio…) to 42ra (… et sanus efficitur). She establishes that this contains parts of Asaf’s Book of Medicines, a Hebrew encyclopedia of Greek and Jewish medicine, which is an interesting indication of how the medieval academy welcomed Jewish learning.

This week's 34 uploads take the posted total to 4,396, which is a larger number than the 2,614 posted on the new, upgraded front page (formerly the fund-raising site). It's not yet clear if these two sites are now being integrated: they have remained apart until now. With the interrupted access, it will take me more time to add images and descriptions to the list below, so come back in a week for more details.
  1. Vat.ebr.11,
  2. Vat.ebr.14,
  3. Vat.ebr.107,
  4. Vat.ebr.124,
  5. Vat.ebr.128,
  6. Vat.ebr.129,
  7. Vat.ebr.131,
  8. Vat.ebr.132,
  9. Vat.ebr.136,
  10. Vat.ebr.137,
  11. Vat.ebr.146,
  12. Vat.ebr.150,
  13. Vat.ebr.304,
  14. Vat.lat.36, Manfred Bible, sometimes thought to be 13th century, no later than 14th, see the article on these by Helene Toubert. Here is King Manfred of Sicily (fol. 522v) receiving his book:
  15. Vat.lat.171,
  16. Vat.lat.380,
  17. Vat.lat.453,
  18. Vat.lat.516,
  19. Vat.lat.546,
  20. Vat.lat.552,
  21. Vat.lat.558,
  22. Vat.lat.566, Boethius. I was hoping to find an arbor porphyriana in here, but see none, though there is an interesting branching drawing on fol 72v
  23. Vat.lat.571,
  24. Vat.lat.572,
  25. Vat.lat.588,
  26. Vat.lat.596,
  27. Vat.lat.606,
  28. Vat.lat.617,
  29. Vat.lat.623, magnificent 13th or 14th century Etymologies of Isidore (see above)
  30. Vat.lat.630.pt.2, Isidorus Mercator Decretalium collectio, a 10th-century legal manuscript with some final rubrics like this at folio 321r:
  31. Vat.lat.631.pt.2,
  32. Vat.lat.639,
  33. Vat.lat.664,
  34. Vat.lat.712,
There are also nine novelties, mainly legal manuscripts, at Bibliotheca Palatina, the German portal which separately digitizes the Pal.lat. series in Rome. These were once used by the law scholars at the ducal-cum-university library in Heidelberg:
  1. Pal. lat. 719 Sammelhandschrift (15. Jh.)
  2. Pal. lat. 747 Digestum novum (14. Jh.)
  3. Pal. lat. 738 Digestum vetus (14. Jh.)
  4. Pal. lat. 748 Digestum novum (13.-14. Jh.)
  5. Pal. lat. 740 Digestum vetus (13.-14. Jh.)
  6. Pal. lat. 737 Digestum vetus (13. Jh.)
  7. Pal. lat. 755 Digestum novum (13. Jh.)
  8. Pal. lat. 756 Digestum novum (14. Jh.)
  9. Pal. lat. 1830 Psalmos (Wittenberg, um 1547-1548)
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.


Medieval Diagram Commentary Rediscovered

Rediscovering a lost medieval work is the dream of many historians. It has come true for me in the last few weeks as a 6,000-word medieval commentary on a late antique diagram has emerged in my research. For 150 years, medieval manuscripts of Europe have been sifted and catalogued, but sometimes a big fat chunk of writing escapes the scholars' notice. Until now.

This little opus is not easy reading: a Latin commentary which contends that stories in the Old Testament of the Bible foreshadow the life of Christ and the history of the Christian church. What is wonderful about it is its reflections on data visualization, a topic that directly concerns web designers, educators and scientists today.

The commentary is written in gaps of the Great Stemma, a huge 5th-century diagram of biblical history and genealogy (reconstruction here), where the story proceeds from Adam at left to Jesus at right.

The commentator notes that the genealogy of the Gospel of Luke "is laid out like a builder's line in the hand of the Father", which makes sense if you look at the drawing:

The line is a string (funiculus) that a bricklayer pegs out to set a line of bricks to, and that's an interesting comment. A line of data, also described with another Latin word for a string, filum, is the fundamental unit of data visualization, whether it's a series of nodes in a network, an axis on a graph or dates in a timeline.

The commentator also quotes Gregory the Great (c.540– 604), a writer who is a pre-eminent late antique source on visualization. Gregory was interested in omnivision, the all-seeing view.

Gregory has a section (18.46) in Moralia in Iob where he disparages wisdom composed only of eloquent words (quam sunt verborum compositionibus) and contrasts surface perception (ante humanos oculos) with divine perception. The implication here is that you see things more truly in a diagram than when they are wordily explained. The commentator has quoted this passage in full in the opus.

You can read the full transcription of the rediscovered Latin document on my website (sorry, I cannot translate Latin, but the passage from Gregory can be found elsewhere in English (scroll down to [xlvi]). I have provided links from my transcription to the digitized manuscripts.

I can't yet tell you who the author is. Much of the little opus consists of quotes from the Expositio/Quaestiones in Vetus Testamentum by Gregory's contemporary, Isidore of Seville (560-636), so it could even have been composed during Isidore's lifetime.

How did the document emerge back into the light of day? Like so many good things, it was hidden in plain sight. It is copied in four well-known 12th-century grand bibles: the Bibles of Parc, Floreffe and Foigy (all from monasteries in the Meuse valley) and the Romanesque Bible of Burgos in Spain. Three of them are online, so that counts as very plain sight.
The epitome of Isidore is in the chunks of text at the bottom of this sample spread from the Parc Bible.

As a wise observer commented to me, philologists probably overlooked the work because it is written in the gaps in a drawing. Scholars generally expect a serious work to appear in a manuscript as slabs of text, not interlaced with a genealogy. The key difficulty in disentangling the text was to determine which bits are the Isidorian enthusiast's commentary and which bits have other origins.

Four strata in the development of the diagram as you see it above can be distinguished.

The underlying diagram, containing 540 names written in connected roundels and extending the length of a papyrus roll, was devised by an anonymous patristic author to demonstrate the flow of Old Testament history and to reconcile a conflict between the genealogy of Jesus offered by the Gospel of Matthew and that laid out in the Gospel of Luke.

The original state of this lowest layer is witnessed by a manuscript in Florence (Plut. 20.54, 11th century). Its date prior to 427 and its extent is documented by a text known as the Liber Genealogus. The Great Stemma, as I call it, is the only known large Patristic diagram. As evidence of data visualization in western antiquity, its importance is only surpassed by that of the Peutinger Table of highways of the Roman world.

The Christian diagram, of which 25 witnesses including the four bibles survive, is known to have initially circulated in early medieval Spain sub-sectioned into 18 codex pages.

In one fork of its development, its solution to the contradiction between the Gospel genealogies was anonymously altered to conform to a theory by Julius Africanus. The Latin translation by Rufinus of the essence of that proposal was appended. This is the second of the strata in the version we are concerned with here, and is witnessed solely by a text-only abstract in the Bible of Ripoll at the Vatican (Vat. lat. 5729, 11th century).

Imbued with the spirit of Isidore, the epitomizer later implanted the bible commentary on that surface. He or she entered many notes in the blank spaces to lay down a third stratum.

In a final development, an editor, perhaps a northern European in the mid medieval period, prefaced the main diagram with an arbor consanguinatis figure and a brief text associating the diagrams with one another as symbols of Christ's cross. This fourth stratum, seen only in the three Mosan bibles (mid 12th century), has been recently analysed by Andrea Worm and requires no discussion here.

Until we understand this stratification, we cannot recognize stratum three as a distinct entity. Only scientific investigation can extract stratum three from the matrix of words in which it has become fossilized. Scholars of Isidore will be excited at the emergence of this commentary, which contains the essence of the Expositio, at about one-twelfth of that work's length, since it illuminates the way the medieval world received and adapted the works of Isidore.

I have thought a lot about whether Isidore himself might have created this version, since it seems to me, from my own experience of a lifetime of editorial cutting, that it is easy to expand a text by inserting interlinear words and phrases while keeping its syntax, but difficult on the fly to abbreviate a handwritten text while preserving its syntax, as this epitome does.

That thought might lead one to the notion that this text could have been Isidore's own first draft. However I cannot yet see any definite evidence for that in the text. In fact, we cannot establish with any certainty where or when the commentary was written. I would tend to guess at 7th- or 8th-century Spain, but other scholars will have to take that issue on.

For links to the digitized manuscripts and literature, check out my web page.


Jewish Learning

One of the priorities of the digitization programme at the Vatican Library is to release the Hebrew manuscripts, given that there is significant funding for that part of the work. These illustrate the importance of education among medieval Jewry and what works were available in Hebrew translation in Jewish schools.

A total of 26 digitizations released May 11-12 includes translations to Hebrew of Boethius and Thomas Aquinas from the Latin, of Aristotle from the Greek and of medical texts from Arabic. Here is the full list, which raises the posted total to 4,362. As usual, click or tap on the images to see the originals at Digita Vaticana.
  1. Neofiti.5, mid 15th century: commentary on Isaiah and Jeremiah by David ben Yosef Ḳimḥi, (c1160-c1235)
  2. Neofiti.6, Menahem b. Benjamin Recanati's kabbalistic commentary on the Pentateuch., dated about 1400
  3. Neofiti.8, Hebrew translation of Consolatio Philosophiae by Boethius, also homilies, mid 15th century
  4. Neofiti.10, Maḥzor, rite of Catalonia, mid 15th century
  5. Neofiti.13, Yeroḥam ben Meshulam: Toldot Adam ṿe-Ḥaṿah: this biblical genealogy features some great word-art pages where the script is lathed like this:
  6. Neofiti.16, Averroes' Middle Commentary on Aristotle's Analytica posteriora and Analytica priora, 15th century
  7. Neofiti.18, Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle's De anima in Hebrew translation
  8. Neofiti.19, Kimhi, Sefer ha-Shorashim.
  9. Neofiti.20, Kimhi, another Sefer ha-Shorashim, mid 15th century
  10. Neofiti.21, Kimhi, Mikhlol, mid 14th century
  11. Neofiti.25, Parts of the Zohar, 16th century
  12. Neofiti.26, Yosef ben Avraham G'iḳaṭilah, b. 1248 Shaʿarei Orah, about 1400
  13. Neofiti.27, various including Midrash Ruth, early 15th century
  14. Neofiti.28, Sefer Pardes Rimmonim, by Mosheh ben Yaʿaḳov Ḳordoṿero (1522-1570) about 1600
  15. Neofiti.29, a volume of medical texts in seven parts in Hebrew, much dated to 1331, including translations from Arabic and Greek
  16. Neofiti.35, Christian sermons in Hebrew, late 16th century
  17. Neofiti.42, Yeḥiʼel Mili, Tappuḥei Zahav Tapuḥe zahav, 17th century
  18. Neofiti.47, Aristotle, Hebrew translation of Nichomachean Ethics 
  19. Neofiti.48, Poema di Yosef
  20. Ott.lat.15, legal texts, compiled by Capuchins
  21. Ross.356, early 15th century book of Hebrew personal prayers for many occasions including circumcision, for charms and amulets and so on.
  22. Vat.ebr.106, Avraham ben Meʾir (1089-1164) Commentary on the Torah with supercommentaries by other authors above, below and left and right, each by different authors: the layout is really impressive:
  23. Vat.lat.267, Ambrose of Milan, De fide ad Gratianum Augustum libri I-V and other
    works in a 9th or 10th century manuscript
  24. Vat.lat.616, homilies of Gregory the Great, with this illumination of a rapt audience listening to him as he preaches:
    Note the front flyleaf containing fragments on Seneca from an old dismembered manuscript:
  25. Vat.lat.689, Liber Sententiarum of Peter Lombard, including this handy list of capital crimes that would get you your head chopped off:
    Sacrilege,  homicide, adultery, fornication, false testimony.... Cut it out to and keep it as a warning, in case you're ever tempted to misbehave.
  26. Vat.lat.705, Alexander Halensis, (c1185-1245): Summae theologicae liber III praeposito quaestionum indice, 13th century ms

This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 49 of digitizations conducted at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. 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.


Seneca and Paul

Among the most intriguing Vatican items to be digitized this week is Vat. lat. 251, an 11th-century manuscript containing an entirely bogus correspondence between the Classical Roman writer Seneca and the Christian apostle Paul of Tarsus. Claude W Barlow, who published a translation of it to English in 1938, suggests the letters were really composed by a student of rhetoric in about 390 CE. 

Alcuin ( -804), the great English scholar, prepared an edition of the Correspondence. Whether he believed it to be genuine cannot really be divined, but in the high Middle Ages, this fiction was universally believed to be fact, and it was only the early humanists who dared point out that it was surely absurd to suppose the letters to be anything but a creative literary work.

The translation by Barlow, who denotes this manuscript as A in his 1938 edition of the correspondence, can be read at Archive.org.

The Latin letters are found at ff. 223v-225v of the newly digitized codex. Here is Seneca allegedly writing: "I must admit I loved reading your letters to the Galatians, to the Corinthians and to the Achaeans."
The complete list of digitizations on May 2, 2016 is below:
  1. Barb.gr.243,
  2. Barb.lat.1670, a 17th-century deed
  3. Borg.ebr.2,
  4. Borg.ebr.5,
  5. Borg.ebr.6,
  6. Borg.ebr.8,
  7. Borg.ebr.15,
  8. Ross.325, Torah, 15th century
  9. Ross.360, Mahzor, Sephardic rite, 15th century
  10. Ross.478, Haftarot, Italian rite, late 13th century
  11. Ross.533, Hebrew commentary on prophets, date about 1325
  12. Ross.1188, Hebrew Esther scroll, 18th century
  13. Ross.1189, early 18th century Esther scroll
  14. Vat.lat.91, Peter Lombard, Glossae continuae in Psalmos?
  15. Vat.lat.251, ff. 1-1v: Leo Magnus, a fragment of Ep. 16; 2-223v: Hilarius, Tractatus super Psalmos; 223v-225v Epistolae Senecae ad apostolum Paulum et Pauli ad eundem (the fictitious Correspondence between Seneca and St Paul); Barlow: XI cent., mm. 306 x 216, ff. I + 226. The entire manuscript was copied by a single scribe in two columns of thirty lines to the page.
    A note in a different hand on f. 226v claims this codex was one of the books acquired for the monastery of Avellana by Petrus Damianus while he was abbot 1041-1058, but Erik Kwakkel says that given the script of the codex (his book on the evolution of book hands), this date cannot be true:
  16. Vat.lat.352,
  17. Vat.lat.622,
  18. Vat.lat.625,
  19. Vat.lat.626,
  20. Vat.lat.627,
  21. Vat.lat.630.pt.1, Isidorus Mercator Decretalium collectio
  22. Vat.lat.638, Venerable Bede, 11th century ms, In Lucae Evangelium expositio, praeviis litteris
  23. Vat.lat.661, mainly Bernard of Clairvaux, 15th century manuscript
  24. Vat.lat.681, Sentences of Peter Lombard, with this couple (she is in a blue wedding dress, note her short veil) making their marriage vows, both left hands on the bible:
    Baschet notes that it is very rare to find a 12th century depiction of the vows being recited.
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 48 of Vatican digitizations. 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.