Law Professor

Take a trip on Google Street View to Bologna, Italy, where one of the greatest law professors, Accursius, c. 1182-1263, is entombed with his son in a curious elevated sarcophagus at the side of a busy street. The Tombe dei Glossatori is a pretty little green-roofed shrine.

Accursius senior, c. 1182-1263, was a professor in Bologna whose work became a definitive textbook through the medieval period. He is thought to have built up and revised his 2 million words of commentary on the Institutions, Code, Digest and Novels of Justinian over a lifetime of research and writing.

Consider now how law students for hundreds of years consulted this man's law commentaries, and take a look at a 14th-century manuscript of his Apparatus dealing with the Digest from book 39 onwards. The Vatican Library has just digitized Vat.lat.1426 and you will see that not only does the Digest occupy the centre space with the margins full of glosses, but there are also glosses on the glosses. This may not be the oldest manuscript, but Robert Figueira notes that no archetypal manuscript has ever been identified.

The Vatican copy is interesting for its idiosyncratic illuminations, which would be delightful subjects for Make Up the Caption competitions. What are they saying here about the faceless bricklayer at right?[The true answer, by the way, is that this is the section De operis novi nuntiatione, illustrated by a king giving orders for a building campaign. HT to @Glossaeluris.]

The whimsical artist also shows us a comical curule chair below with the carved arms shaped like heads of surprised hounds emerging from one body. The gaze directions of the humans seem to suggest something odd is happening off-stage at right. But what?

Here is my full list of digitizations recorded in the past week, whereby I will exceptionally include Palatina items that were previously online at Heidelberg:
  1. Borg.et.23
  2. Pal.lat.8
  3. Pal.lat.26
  4. Pal.lat.28
  5. Pal.lat.29
  6. Pal.lat.30, Diurnale Benedictinum with Psalter Romanum, 13th century, Tuscany or perhaps Piedmont, Beuron number 370. Original online release at Heidelberg has more details.
  7. Pal.lat.31
  8. Pal.lat.32
  9. Pal.lat.34
  10. Pal.lat.35
  11. Pal.lat.1908
  12. Pal.lat.1917
  13. Pal.lat.1939
  14. Pal.lat.1940
  15. Pal.lat.1941
  16. Pal.lat.1962
  17. Pal.lat.1975
  18. Pal.lat.1986, the strange Bellifortis (c. 1405) of Konrad Kyeser (1366 – after 1405), a German military engineer. Listed on eTK (a service kindly provided by Medieval Academy of America).
    Zsombor Jékely kindly invites us to compare this to a fragmentary Bellifortis in Hungary here: http://real-ms.mtak.hu/90/
  19. Pal.lat.1990
  20. Pal.lat.1994
  21. Pal.lat.1995
  22. Vat.lat.1426, Accursius (above)
  23. Vat.lat.1538, Macrobius, Saturnalia
  24. Vat.lat.1540, an unfinished copy of Macrobius, Saturnalia, in an Italian humanistic cursive hand. Gaps left for miniatures, opening line, "[M]ultas variasque res in hac vita nobis," lacks planned illuminated M, and start of book 8, "[P]rimus mensis post epulas non remoti," (folio 165r) lacks P. A scholar has instead obtained this codex at a discount and used it to collect glosses in the margins.
  25. Vat.lat.1672
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 114. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.


King's Breviary

Among the world's greatest treasures of book art is the series of lavishly illuminated religious books ordered by King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary (1458-1490) to enhance his magnificent Renaissance library. What remains of this one-time royal library at Buda, estimated by Csaba Csapodi to have numbered 2,000 to 2,500 books, is now scattered round the world, but thanks to Zsombor Jékely you can browse many surviving volumes in the virtual Bibliotheca Corviniana Online, a directory of links to digitized manuscripts.

The Vatican Library owns one of the most prized items, the Breviary of Matthias Corvinus, Urb.lat.112, and has just digitized it. This volume is attributed to the Florentine master illuminator Attavante dei Attavanti, of whom Csapodi (article digitized by Roger Pearse) writes:
The work of this master and his school is easily recognizable by the delicate pattern of the classical floral design in the border decoration and its moderate use, and by the figural representations inserted into this ornamental frame. Some of these figures seem to be lifeless and conventional, but in many cases they may be portraits of contemporaries gazing at the reader from the leaves of the book.

Indeed. You would not have dared to paint a false smirk or scowl on the face of any eminent courtier in the administration of the martial Matthias. Or of any court lady in the ascendant:

For more on the Corvinian manuscripts, see my blog post two years ago, Hungary's Week, discussing Urb. lat. 110 (Missale Romanum or the Missal of Matthias Corvinus). Browse too to Rossiana 1164 (Missal of the Friars Minor); Barb.lat.168 (Livius: Historiarum decas I); and Ott.lat.501 (Pontificale).

Here is the full list of novelties from the past week or so:
  1. Barb.gr.438
  2. Barb.lat.4021
  3. Chig.P.VII.9.pt.B, part of an album of architectural drawings by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), with some designs by Carlo Fontana or Felice Della Greca (St Louis catalog). This section contains designs for the two-tiered altar at St. John Lateran (HT to @gundormr)
  4. Pal.lat.59
  5. Pal.lat.1747
  6. Pal.lat.1827
  7. Pal.lat.1916
  8. Pal.lat.1918
  9. Pal.lat.1920
  10. Pal.lat.1921
  11. Urb.lat.112
  12. Vat.et.208
  13. Vat.lat.518.pt.2
  14. Vat.lat.535.pt.1
  15. Vat.lat.535.pt.2
  16. Vat.lat.535.pt.3
  17. Vat.lat.1146
  18. Vat.lat.1156
  19. Vat.lat.1160
  20. Vat.lat.1243
  21. Vat.lat.1248
  22. Vat.lat.1256
  23. Vat.lat.1289
  24. Vat.lat.1355, Decretum Burchard, 11th century, notable for an arbor juris at 151v: do you think the top face in this totem looks vaguely like the young Karl Marx?
  25. Vat.lat.1363
  26. Vat.lat.1368
  27. Vat.lat.1369
  28. Vat.lat.1372
  29. Vat.lat.1376
  30. Vat.lat.1379
  31. Vat.lat.1393
  32. Vat.lat.1398
  33. Vat.lat.1407
  34. Vat.lat.1409
  35. Vat.lat.1421
  36. Vat.lat.1424
  37. Vat.lat.1425
  38. Vat.lat.1442
  39. Vat.lat.1461
  40. Vat.lat.1472
  41. Vat.lat.1475
  42. Vat.lat.1477
  43. Vat.lat.1488
  44. Vat.lat.1489
  45. Vat.lat.1493
  46. Vat.lat.1494
  47. Vat.lat.1497
  48. Vat.lat.1498
  49. Vat.lat.1500
  50. Vat.lat.1504
  51. Vat.lat.1507
  52. Vat.lat.1520
  53. Vat.lat.1524
  54. Vat.lat.1526
  55. Vat.lat.1533
  56. Vat.lat.1534
  57. Vat.lat.1536
  58. Vat.lat.1537
  59. Vat.lat.1539
  60. Vat.lat.1552
  61. Vat.lat.1556
  62. Vat.lat.1569, a copy of De rerum natura by Lucretius exhibited in Rome Reborn, where the catalog notes: This elegant manuscript of Lucretius's philosophical poem is an example of the interest in ancient accounts of nature taken by the Renaissance curia. The work, written in the first century B.C., contains one of the principal accounts of ancient atomism. This is one of numerous copies made at that time. The coat of arms of (Pope) Sixtus IV appears on it.
  63. Vat.lat.1571
  64. Vat.lat.1659
  65. Vat.lat.1682, Prognostichon Hierosolymitanum by Giovanni Michele Nagonio. The Rome Reborn catalog by Anthony Grafton notes: Nagonio, a papal functionary who wrote celebratory verses like these for many European monarchs, celebrates the triumphal entry of Julius II into Rome after his victory over the Bolognese.

    On the facing page one sees a self-satisfied pontiff, ringed by short celebratory texts. Nagonio's poems, which fill the rest of the book, reach a self-parodic level of flattery.
  66. Vat.lat.1686
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 113. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.


Power Over Life or Death

In the bad old days, power did not come from the people, but from a warlord or king, who in turn ascribed his might to God. That is the subtext of this fine illumination from the legal commentary of the monk Gratian, digitized in the past week by the Vatican Library and placed online, where this fine illumination shows a microcephalous angel conferring power over life and death on a king while his courtiers flatter. Check the original to see his goons, just out of this screenshot, as they too look on:

Here is my list of 31 notable novelties:
  1. Barb.lat.2226
  2. Pal.lat.1772
  3. Pal.lat.1774
  4. Pal.lat.1818
  5. Pal.lat.1826
  6. Pal.lat.1829
  7. Pal.lat.1833
  8. Pal.lat.1840
  9. Pal.lat.1848
  10. Pal.lat.1856
  11. Pal.lat.1887
  12. Vat.lat.651, commentaries on the New Testament in a square-format codex. These have been bound together from 9th- and 10th-century books of varying scripts and layouts. Authors: Alcuin and Rabanus Maurus. Here's a fine three-column section:
  13. Vat.lat.1170, Manipulus florum, 14th century
  14. Vat.lat.1366, Gratian (above)
  15. Vat.lat.1370
  16. Vat.lat.1371
  17. Vat.lat.1374
  18. Vat.lat.1400, Giovanni d'Andrea, Glossaria
  19. Vat.lat.1403, another law textbook, with lawyers and even bishops showing respect to the judge:
  20. Vat.lat.1415
  21. Vat.lat.1422
  22. Vat.lat.1432
  23. Vat.lat.1433
  24. Vat.lat.1462
  25. Vat.lat.1502, 14th-century Latin grammatical compiliation, starting with Regulae grammaticales incerti auctoris, So here you go: who wants to identify the true author?
  26. Vat.lat.1508, Petrarch
  27. Vat.lat.1510
  28. Vat.lat.1518, grammarian Pomponius Porphyrio
  29. Vat.lat.1519
  30. Vat.lat.1525, Columella, Res Rusticae, with a fine Renaissance frontispiece with putti and this magpie:
  31. Vat.lat.1558 , a 16th-century manuscript of Isidore of Seville's Differentiae
If you have been following this blog, you will know that the Vatican Library began at the start of this year to digitize black and white microfilms first, then follow up with hi-res color digitizations later to replace them. It's a commendable move, but I have not found an easy way to track these transitions from monochrome to high resolution, which in many cases mark the codices real arrival online.

We know that the digitization work is proceeding sequentially, and is currently working through the shelfmark range Vat.lat. 1300-1500. So at the risk of possibly repeating notes on items I have already blogged about, I will list 13 outstanding codices from this range that I know to now be available in the better digital quality:
  1. Vat.lat.1322, Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, Latin, one of oldest books of the pope, dating from the 6th century.  TM 66106 = Lowe, CLA 1 8
  2. Vat.lat.1341, the 9th-century Collectio Hispana Gallica Augustodunensis which contains acts of Spanish and African councils. This is a unique resource, and the fact that ecclesiastical forgers (the Pseudo-Isidore gang) made the codex to build their credibility in no way reduces its enormous value as a historical record. Full list of the councils with the transcript at MGH
  3. Vat.lat.1342 another text of Chalcedon from the 8th century TM 66107 = Lowe, CLA 1 9 =
  4. Vat.lat.1345 text of the 1120 Council of Nablus where laws of the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem were prepared
  5. Vat.lat.1346 see for the arbor juris diagram
  6. Vat.lat.1347 with the celebrated law collection Collectio canonum quadripartita 
  7. Vat.lat.1349 an 11th century Collectio Canonum et Conciliorum.  
  8. Vat.lat.1360 see for the arbor juris diagrams
  9. Vat.lat.1383 see for the arbor juris diagrams
  10. Vat.lat.1390 see for the arbor juris diagrams
  11. Vat.lat.1391 law textbook, mainly Bernardo Bottoni, but the remarkable thing in it is a blank separation page, folio III, ripped from a very early Dante with snatches of Purgatorio
  12. Vat.lat.1468 Glossarium, 11th century, see Lowe Beneventan Script, p. 15a.
  13. Vat.lat.1512 8th-century manuscript of Claudius Donatus's 4th-century Interpretationes Vergilianae from Luxeuil, France in an unusual round hand: TM 66108 = Lowe, CLA 1 10

This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 112. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.


Algorithmic Drawing

Great art is not all about channeling emotion. It's also technique and following algorithms. The artist employed for the drawings in a 14th-century Italian manuscript of Virgil's Aeneid - the codex has just been digitized by the Vatican Library - reveals all too clearly his methodical approach in two drawings on the same page:

At top of the margin on folio 36v is a deer and below is a hare, illustrating the account of the hunt of Dido and Aeneas (IV, 117). John Murdoch comments in his Album of Science volume on antiquity and the Middle Ages, 204 (Scribner, 1984):
All of the animals are drawn in standard, unpretentious profile poses. Those standing on their hind legs are quite similar in overall form. [These two] are not merely similar, but almost identical. All one needed to do to transform the deer at top into the hare below was to replace the antlers with ears. One is tempted to think that the artist employed instructions from a model book that explained how to draw any number of animals with minimal change.
The pictures are undoubtedly interesting, though, showing garments and architecture of the 14th century in great detail, for example a contemporary Italian town:

Here are the main novelties on the Vatican Library digital portal from the past week:
  1. Borg.ar.279
  2. Borg.pers.15, a singularity, being a Latin-Persian dictionary, which was compiled by Ignazio de Jesus, ODC, used a bastard script and never got past manuscript stage. Anthony Grafton comments on this Dictionarium latino persicum in the Rome Reborn catalog:
    The Italian missionary priest Ignazio de Jesus (died 1667) dedicated this Latin-Persian dictionary to Cardinal Antonio Barberini (1607-1681), Prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, the new division of the curia in charge of missionary efforts. Unlike the author's Persian grammar, this dictionary was not printed. Father Ignazio lists Latin words alphabetically in the first column, gives the Persian equivalent in a Roman script transliteration (representing sounds not in the Roman alphabet by the addition of diacritic marks derived from the Persian version of the Arabic alphabet), and finally gives the Persian written form.
    Here is abacus to start the letter A:
  3. Urb.lat.1779
  4. Vat.copt.98
  5. Vat.lat.905
  6. Vat.lat.1245
  7. Vat.lat.1246
  8. Vat.lat.1338
  9. Vat.lat.1381
  10. Vat.lat.1383, Bernardo Bottoni's legal commentary with Juvenal interspersed. The arbor juris drawings are incomplete. The scribe never got round to writing in the kinship terms. But curiously the artist did draw the generic ego or Everyman who is the starting point of all the degrees of relationship:
  11. Vat.lat.1392
  12. Vat.lat.1399
  13. Vat.lat.1401
  14. Vat.lat.1404
  15. Vat.lat.1406
  16. Vat.lat.1446
  17. Vat.lat.1470
  18. Vat.lat.1485
  19. Vat.lat.1496
  20. Vat.lat.1523
  21. Vat.lat.1527
  22. Vat.lat.2761, see above regarding fol 36v
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 111. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.