Madaba Map online at last

The late antique Mosaic Map (below) in Madaba, Jordan is the world's oldest detailed Greek-language topological diagram still in existence. It is both a tourist attraction of the first order and a landmark in human cognitive history, since it indicates that sophisticated topological diagrams (though not maps) were in common use and well understood by the general public in the west by about 550 CE.

Four or five hundred years earlier, over-the-horizon diagrams had not been part of the culture. There is a continuing controversy about the Agrippa Survey, a public mural in Rome mentioned (once only) by Pliny the Elder which detailed the regions of the empire and their sizes. Whether it was a list or a diagram has never been conclusively proved.

Topological diagrams come into their own in late antiquity, with the Tabula Peutingeriana (preserved in one roll-form manuscript in Vienna, ÖNB cod. 324) and the Madaba "Map" as the two key examples. The fragment at Madaba is a mosaic floor in a church. It was originally much larger. But even depleted, its colorful depiction of Palestine and Jerusalem is amazing.

While the Tabula Peutingeriana is now online in the highest resolution at the Vienna library and in more convenient form at Richard Talbert's website, quality reproductions of the Madaba Mosaic are unfindable online. To my knowledge it has been published only twice: a painstaking colored drawing at 1:4 scale by Paul Palmer in 1906, and in a book of photographic plates by Herbert Donner.

A few weeks ago I decided to do something about this problem. I contacted the University of Toronto Library, where the Robarts Collection owns a printed copy of the Palmer drawing in the form of a large-format book printed at Leipzig. Palmer died in 1935, so the book is in the public domain. I suggested it be added to the library's admirable digitization program. Now, a few weeks later, it can be inspected online at the Archive.org library of books.

Here's a fish in the River Jordan:

These are houses in the city of Jerusalem:

Palmer was a Jerusalem architect of German-Swiss extraction, who relates in a short autobiography online:
During our involuntary stay at the Jordan we were told by some Arabs of Madeba that a beautiful mosaic-map of Palestine had been found while they were flooring the new Greek church. We decided to ride to Madeba at the first opportunity and to inspect this mosaic-map, to sketch it or to take some photographs. But, when we got there we could not get a true picture. Later by accident, two painters were staying in Jerusalem and I rode with them to Madeba. Working for several days, I made a drawing of the mosaic-map, I painted the exact colours of each of the stones and a copy of the original painting will still be obtainable from the Society of the German League for Exploration of Palestine (Gesellschaft des deutschen Vereins zur Erforschung Palästinas).
Herman Guthe (1849-1936) who wrote the book of commentary issued with the map, tells a slightly different story, in the Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins, saying the board of the society commissioned the drawing and Palmer travelled to Madeba in May 1901 to make it. Guthe notes how difficult travel then was: just the horse ride from the bank of the Jordan up to Madaba took eight hours.

A summary of sorts by Aharon Yaffe appeared in the Israel Review of Arts and Letters in 1998. The Palmer drawing at half size was republished in 1954 in Professor Avi Yonah's book, The Madaba mosaic map: with introduction and commentary (not online) and on a single sheet by the same publisher, the Israel Exploration Society, but eSbírky.cz in Prague, the only digital image repository holding the latter, seems to be permanently down.

Ill-lit tourist snaps of the mosaic are of no help and UNESCO's listing of the whole Um er-Rasas World Heritage site of which the church is part does not have any image of whole floor. Göttingen University's facsimile of the mosaic is good, but individual stones are not resolved in the online image.

That is why the long-overdue appearance of the mosaic online at a resolution where you can read all its detail is such a reason for celebration. Explore it and enjoy.

Avî-Yônā, Mîḵā’ēl. The Madaba Mosaic Map: With Introduction and Commentary. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1954.

Donner, Herbert. The Mosaic Map of Madaba: An Introductory Guide. Peeters Publishers, 1992.

Donner, Herbert, and Heinz Cüppers. Die Mosaikkarte von Madeba: Tafelband. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 1977.

Palmer, Paul, Hermann Guthe, and Deutscher Verein zur Erforschung Palästinas. Die Mosaikkarte von Madeba. Leipzig, Baedeker, 1906. http://archive.org/details/diemosaikkartevo00deut.


Cicero Codex , Key to Roman Idea of Cognition

Graeco-Roman science was often contrary to experimental science, but its landmark observations on visual memory were mostly right. We know this thanks to an ancient codex which contained the barely legible but complete text of De Oratore by the Roman orator Cicero and was discovered in 1421 in Lodi, Italy, lent out to humanists and-- incredibly-- had vanished forever by 1425.

Only one direct copy of this lost Codex Laudensis (L) made during those four years exists. As our Easter present, the Vatican Library has just digitized Vat.lat.2901 (V) and placed it online.

Cicero mentions the science of visual perception while introducing the palace-of-memory method of memorizing what to say whenever you are speaking without notes. He starts by quoting the generally correct view of cognitive science of his own day that the keenest of all our senses is the sense of sight (acerrimum autem ex omnibus nostris sensibus esse sensum videndi -- Cicero, De Oratore II, 357.)

He develops from this the method to leverage your visual memory, a method of which he was not the inventor, but becomes a precious witness. It starts with the observation that:
... perceptions received by the ears or by reflection can be most easily retained in the mind if they are also conveyed to our minds by the mediation of the eyes ... (2.357: qua re facillime animo teneri posse ea, quae perciperentur auribus aut cogitatione, si etiam commendatione oculorum animis traderentur).
He then describes what we would now call gist memory:
... with the result that things not seen and not lying in the field of visual discernment are earmarked by a sort of outline and image and shape so that we keep hold of (as it were by an act of sight) things that we can scarcely embrace by an act of thought. (Ut res caecas et ab aspectus iudicio remotas conformatio quaedam et imago et figura ita notaret, ut ea, quae cogitando complecti vix possemus, intuendo quasi teneremus).
And then segues over to what we would call spatial perception and memory, pointing out its role in combination with the somewhat different visual memory.
But these forms and bodies, like all the things that come under our view require an abode, inasmuch as a material object without a locality is inconceivable. (2.358:  His autem formis atque corporibus, sicut omnibus, quae sub aspectum veniunt, [admonetur memoria nostra atque excitatur;] sede opus est, etenim corpus intellegi sine loco non potest.
The method of memorizing, which he attributes to the legendary Greek orator Simonides, is to imagine a familiar place and stock it in your imagination with visual marker tags for things you want to remember. The technique is still being taught nowadays. Here's the place, folio 53v, where it is set out:

The above text was also preserved in a lost Carolingian manuscript, known as M, but none of the copies of M existing today is a direct one, which is to say they are copies of copies (of copies).

V is one of 63 manuscripts just released online. Here is the full list:
  1. Barb.lat.298,
  2. Ott.lat.3368,
  3. Reg.lat.846 (Upgraded to HQ), 9th century, from France, possibly theTours region; provenance Paris, St. Sulpice. One of the codices containing (fols. 106v-107r) a fascinating little text on the origin of the name Adam: it says that Adam was created from earth brought by the four archangels from the four corners of the world, sprinkled with water from the four rivers of Paradise, inspired by the four winds, and named after the four stars. Hence the four letters of his name. Charles Wright, creator of wonderful medieval manuscript surveys, has just published an article about this in The Embroidered Bible: Studies in Biblical Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in Honour of Michael E. Stone, eds Lorenzo DiTommaso, Matthias Henze, William Adler (ISBN: 9789004355880).
  4. Reg.lat.2123,
  5. Urb.lat.1251 (Upgraded to HQ),
  6. Vat.lat.858.pt.1,
  7. Vat.lat.858.pt.2,
  8. Vat.lat.936,
  9. Vat.lat.1473.pt.1,
  10. Vat.lat.1473.pt.2,
  11. Vat.lat.2169,
  12. Vat.lat.2212,
  13. Vat.lat.2231,
  14. Vat.lat.2244,
  15. Vat.lat.2325,
  16. Vat.lat.2330,
  17. Vat.lat.2413,
  18. Vat.lat.2517,
  19. Vat.lat.2666 (Upgraded to HQ),
  20. Vat.lat.2683,
  21. Vat.lat.2688,
  22. Vat.lat.2738,
  23. Vat.lat.2739,
  24. Vat.lat.2747,
  25. Vat.lat.2749,
  26. Vat.lat.2769,
  27. Vat.lat.2775,
  28. Vat.lat.2782 (Upgraded to HQ),
  29. Vat.lat.2788,
  30. Vat.lat.2798,
  31. Vat.lat.2799,
  32. Vat.lat.2801,
  33. Vat.lat.2802,
  34. Vat.lat.2807,
  35. Vat.lat.2811,
  36. Vat.lat.2812,
  37. Vat.lat.2813,
  38. Vat.lat.2814,
  39. Vat.lat.2817,
  40. Vat.lat.2819,
  41. Vat.lat.2820,
  42. Vat.lat.2824,
  43. Vat.lat.2825,
  44. Vat.lat.2826,
  45. Vat.lat.2827,
  46. Vat.lat.2829 (Upgraded to HQ),
  47. Vat.lat.2831,
  48. Vat.lat.2843 (Upgraded to HQ),
  49. Vat.lat.2845, With incipit: Plato tria arbitratur esse rerum initia; author: Laurentius Miniatensis Bonincontri. See eTK
  50. Vat.lat.2850 (Upgraded to HQ),
  51. Vat.lat.2852,
  52. Vat.lat.2862 (Upgraded to HQ),
  53. Vat.lat.2865,
  54. Vat.lat.2874 (Upgraded to HQ),
  55. Vat.lat.2875,
  56. Vat.lat.2881,
  57. Vat.lat.2885,
  58. Vat.lat.2892,
  59. Vat.lat.2897,
  60. Vat.lat.2901, key source of Cicero, De Oratore, manuscript V(above)
  61. Vat.lat.2903 (Upgraded to HQ),
  62. Vat.lat.2905 (Upgraded to HQ),
  63. Vat.lat.2937,
  64. Vat.lat.2943,
  65. Vat.lat.2948,
  66. Vat.lat.2949 (Upgraded to HQ),
  67. Vat.lat.3024 (Upgraded to HQ),
  68. Vat.lat.3077,
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 155. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.


Bruges Book of Hours in Color

The Bruges Book of Hours, Ross. 94 at the Vatican Library, has just arrived online in color, after previously only being accessible in indistinct black and white. It is so exquisite that Belser Verlag of Zurich printed a facsimile of it in 1983. It is thought to have been illuminated by three separate artists because of stylistic differences, but neither they nor their customer have been identified.

One of the early 16th-century artists worked on the full-page miniatures. Here is an image of the Massacre of the Innocents with gold leaf in the margins:

The other two worked on the initials and on the bordures, such as the fanciful bird and the young of a wild boar snatching green acorns below:

The Vatican Library digital portal seems to have only three new items this week, all upgrades from black and white. The list:
  1. Reg.gr.107 (Upgraded to HQ), Porphyry and the philosophical works of Aristotle in the original Greek. See Pinakes
  2. Reg.gr.116 (Upgraded to HQ), see Pinakes. Contains a logical diagram in a discussion of Aristotle. The Cambridge Intellectual History of Byzantium (eds Anthony Kaldellis, Niketas Siniossoglou) says the explanation of the diagram (first below) in the Prior Analytics is attributed to an otherwise Alousianos:

  3. Ross.94 (Upgraded to HQ), above
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 154. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.


Man is an Animal

On the frontispiece of his Latin translation of Aristotle's Historia animalium, Theodore Gaza asked the miniaturist to paint Aristotle as scriba naturae, the scribe of nature.

We see the great Greek philosopher seated at a desk as many species wait to tell him their history. Foremost are a specimen man and woman, along with a monkey, dog, ass, deer, pair of sheep, dragon, bear, camel, ox, lion, horse and elephant plus sundry fish and small animals in the foreground.

The manuscript, Vat.lat.2094, was presented to Pope Sixtus IV, probably in 1473 according to John Monfasani in a wonderful article about the philosophical discord surrounding it. The codex has just arrived online in full color at the Vatican Library's digital portal after previously being only accessible in muddy grey.

Gaza was supposedly appalled to be given the miserly papal fee of 50 ducats for his translation and allegedly threw the money in the Tiber in rage, then departed to Greek-speaking Apulia to die. But (see pages 498-503) ...
[QT] ... Theodore Gaza's presentation copy of Aristotle's zoological works in Latin (Vat. lat. 2094). Allan Gotthelf [and] I wrote an article in which we showed the story of the 50 ducats to be a myth! https://t.co/3IPueJWlD2
— Pieter Beullens (@LatinAristotle) March 11, 2018
I doubt if the couple in the picture are Adam and Eve as sometimes claimed. The notion of man as an animal species goes back long before before Darwin. Aristotle had no doubt about this matter, uncomfortable as it is for some people. The History of Animals explicitly treats humans as part of the subject and the miniaturist (several candidates are mentioned by Monfasani) puts this front and centre.

The dedication shows Gaza hard at work, sitting at what looks somewhat like the prisoner-made tubular steel desks that I remember from my school days. Whether the skinny legs of desks in the Quattrocento were in fact of turned wood or wrought iron is a matter beyond my ken.

For more about this celebrated manuscript, see the Rome Reborn catalog, where Anthony Grafton draws attention to the medal depicting the Ponte Sisto, a Rome bridge to be put up as part of Sixtus's construction program. The codex also contains De partibus animalium and De generatione animalium by Aristotle. The dedication also features in John Murdoch's Album of Science as image number 159.

One more subject of interest is a unicorn lurking in the picture. It is the shaggy thing behind the horse and the elephant's tusks. For a most interesting account by a zoologist of what a unicorn might have been, read the article by Chris Lavers (PDF download at Duke), 'The Ancients' One-Horned Ass'.

A total of 53 digitizations have appeared this week. Here is the full list:
  1. Barb.lat.2711,
  2. Chig.H.VIII.250 (Upgraded to HQ),
  3. Ott.lat.441 (Upgraded to HQ),
  4. Ott.lat.1400,
  5. Ott.lat.1662 (Upgraded to HQ),
  6. Ott.lat.1777 (Upgraded to HQ),
  7. Ott.lat.1787 (Upgraded to HQ),
  8. Ott.lat.2041 (Upgraded to HQ),
  9. Ott.lat.2110 (Upgraded to HQ),
  10. Ott.lat.3091 (Upgraded to HQ),
    Also seen in @JBPiggin's list: is this a handwritten prototype of Cappelli's Dizionario? Look for the τελωσ on f. 7r! https://t.co/U0Fp8LHSuj
    — Pieter Beullens (@LatinAristotle) March 11, 2018
  11. Reg.lat.27 (Upgraded to HQ),
  12. Reg.lat.453 (Upgraded to HQ),
  13. Reg.lat.612 (Upgraded to HQ),
  14. Reg.lat.703.pt.1 (Upgraded to HQ),
  15. Reg.lat.809,
  16. Reg.lat.1249,
  17. Reg.lat.1479 (Upgraded to HQ),
  18. Reg.lat.1958 (Upgraded to HQ),
    Latin version of Avicenna's commentary on Aristotle's Physica @DigitaVaticana
    HT @JBPiggin https://t.co/BZeIe5vtzF pic.twitter.com/CpvS67S0fj
    — Pieter Beullens (@LatinAristotle) March 11, 2018
  19. Vat.lat.454.pt.1,
  20. Vat.lat.937,
  21. Vat.lat.2094 (Upgraded to HQ), Historia animalium, De partibus animalium, De generatione animalium by Aristotle in the Theodore Gaza translation (above). Richly decorated, as in this fine initial M:
  22. Vat.lat.2274 (Upgraded to HQ),
  23. Vat.lat.2328,
  24. Vat.lat.2334,
  25. Vat.lat.2366 (Upgraded to HQ), a 15th-century medical manuscript including Avicenna: Lectura super I at ff. 94ra-132vb.
  26. Vat.lat.2434 (Upgraded to HQ),
  27. Vat.lat.2435,
  28. Vat.lat.2737,
  29. Vat.lat.2741,
  30. Vat.lat.2742 (Upgraded to HQ),
  31. Vat.lat.2744,
  32. Vat.lat.2750,
  33. Vat.lat.2753,
  34. Vat.lat.2755,
  35. Vat.lat.2756,
  36. Vat.lat.2757,
  37. Vat.lat.2758,
  38. Vat.lat.2776,
  39. Vat.lat.2792,
  40. Vat.lat.2794 (Upgraded to HQ),
  41. Vat.lat.2805,
  42. Vat.lat.2810,
  43. Vat.lat.2815,
  44. Vat.lat.2816,
  45. Vat.lat.2823,
  46. Vat.lat.2841,
  47. Vat.lat.2859,
  48. Vat.lat.2866,
  49. Vat.lat.2872,
  50. Vat.lat.2877 (Upgraded to HQ),
  51. Vat.lat.2891,
  52. Vat.lat.2894,
  53. Vat.lat.6214,
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 153. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.

Beullens, Pieter, and Allan Gotthelf. "Theodore Gaza’s translation of Aristotle’s De Animalibus: content, influence, and date." Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 47, no. 4 (2007): 469-513. http://openpublishing.library.duke.edu/index.php/grbs/article/viewFile/761/841

Monfasani, John. "Aristotle as Scribe of Nature: The Title-Page of MS Vat. Lat. 2094." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 69 (2006): 193-205. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40025844.


Rescue Archaeology

Pirro Ligorio (1512-1582), an Italian architect, painter and garden designer during the Renaissance, made a lasting contribution to history by recording what we might now call "rescue archaeology," the quick and dirty examination of earthed remains before they are scoured out for construction and dumped.

Copies of books 3 and 4 of his antiquarian notes, Ott.lat.3366 and Ott.lat.3367, have just come online at the Vatican Library portal. He was accused in his day of faking records, though controversy continues about whether this was fair. His records are hugely important, since much of what he recorded was later swept away. Here are images of how to armour a fist and of a palace:

This week there are a total of 18 new items:
  1. Ott.lat.3366, notes by Pirro Ligorio (above)
  2. Ott.lat.3367, Ligorio, book 4
  3. Vat.lat.2302, Summa of Raymond of Peñafort
  4. Vat.lat.2398, medical, translated from the Arabic of Razi, with this fine presentation initial:
  5. Vat.lat.2714 (Upgraded to HQ), Orthographia of Gasparino Barzizza
  6. Vat.lat.2715, massively annotated Priscian
  7. Vat.lat.2754,
  8. Vat.lat.2763,
  9. Vat.lat.2764,
  10. Vat.lat.2767,
  11. Vat.lat.2787 (Upgraded to HQ), Ovid
  12. Vat.lat.2790,
  13. Vat.lat.2795 (Upgraded to HQ), Claudianus, 15th-century codex
  14. Vat.lat.2800,
  15. Vat.lat.2808,
  16. Vat.lat.2809,
  17. Vat.lat.2828,
  18. Vat.lat.2936, Leonardo Bruni
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 152. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.