Queen's Library

Christina Vasa was not bookish. Erudite, intellectual and knowledgeable in nine languages, she had one of the finest private libraries of old manuscripts in Europe. But power was her drug. She wore a dagger, ran wars and had people murdered for crossing her. Last year I admired her silver throne in Stockholm:

Out of boredom after 10 years as King of Sweden (the Swedes refused to call her "queen"), she abdicated, took her library with her and toured her cavalcade as if she owned all Europe (Daddy nearly did. But Gustav II Adolf of Sweden had been killed in battle in 1632 just as his conquests were advancing.)

After her death in 1689, the papacy finangled ownership of Christina's famous library, and legions of scholars have tried to unravel where she got all these prizes from. Élisabeth Pellegrin has suggested that apart from the widespread pillaging of libraries in the 17th century, a main factor was the depreciation of manuscript values after the rise of print.

Of the two Reg.lat. items new online this week, one, Reg.lat.1705, is the Bucolica commentary of Servius Grammaticus. It may be French, though not one of the very old mss used in the edition. In a quick web search I cannot find exactly where it came from. Perhaps it was picked up by her dealers in Paris and sent to Stockholm? There is 1641 receipt written in Paris on fol. 1r:

The other, Reg.lat.1881, a Renaissance Quintilian, turns out not to have been Christina's. The papal library was perhaps short of shelves, and this codex got later shoved into Reg.lat. (you know how it is when your bookcases get too full). Pellegrin says it was in fact a papal acquisition post-1690 and had once belonged to Niccolò Perotti (1429-1480), archbishop of Siponto. Here's an angel in it, dancing not on a pin but in a thicket:

One might think that 325 years later, Sweden would either demand the Fonds de la Reine back, or seize its chance to virtually recover the Vasa treasures as a digital library online, now that the technology exists to replicate it and the Vatican is willing. After all, the Swedish taxpayer paid for these fantastic manuscripts in the first place.

Germany is already replicating online the Palatine Library, a similarly sized and esteemed collection from Heidelberg seized by the papacy. Search the virtual Bibliotheca Palatatina here. But astonishingly, the Swedes do nothing. Add your opinion in the comments below if you think Sweden should wake up and act on this opportunity.

Here is the full list of 49 manuscripts brought online on August 24:
  1. Borg.copt.109.cass.XX.fasc.78
  2. Borg.copt.109.cass.XXII.fasc.89
  3. Reg.lat.1705
  4. Reg.lat.1881
  5. Urb.gr.33
  6. Vat.ebr.38
  7. Vat.ebr.39
  8. Vat.ebr.364
  9. Vat.ebr.371
  10. Vat.ebr.374
  11. Vat.ebr.375
  12. Vat.ebr.376
  13. Vat.ebr.378
  14. Vat.ebr.379
  15. Vat.ebr.380
  16. Vat.ebr.381
  17. Vat.ebr.382
  18. Vat.ebr.383
  19. Vat.ebr.384.pt.2
  20. Vat.ebr.385
  21. Vat.ebr.386
  22. Vat.ebr.387
  23. Vat.ebr.388
  24. Vat.ebr.389
  25. Vat.lat.135
  26. Vat.lat.254
  27. Vat.lat.634
  28. Vat.lat.758
  29. Vat.lat.796
  30. Vat.lat.818
  31. Vat.lat.820
  32. Vat.lat.831
  33. Vat.lat.833
  34. Vat.lat.844
  35. Vat.lat.846
  36. Vat.lat.850
  37. Vat.lat.860
  38. Vat.lat.872
  39. Vat.lat.874
  40. Vat.lat.904
  41. Vat.lat.925
  42. Vat.lat.934
  43. Vat.lat.942
  44. Vat.lat.945
  45. Vat.lat.950
  46. Vat.lat.962
  47. Vat.lat.964
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 66. 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.
  • Pellegrin Élisabeth. "Possesseurs français et italiens de manuscrits latins du fonds de la Reine à la Bibliothèque Vaticane." In: Revue d'histoire des textes, bulletin n°3 (1973), 1974. pp. 271-297; DOI : 10.3406/rht.1974.1097 http://www.persee.fr/doc/rht_0373-6075_1974_num_3_1973_1097

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