The Islands

A remarkable 10th-century manuscript from southern Italy, perhaps from Monte Cassino, reveals  some of the first tender shoots of medieval illustration. Vat.lat.3342, just digitized by the Vatican Library, is a copy of Solinus's Collectanea rerum memorabilium, a compilation of marvels such as lotus-eaters, Amazons and the Blemmye with eyes in their chests and other racy bits from Pliny's Natural History.

There are no monsters in this codex, but a user has added little sketches of the islands of the world and their characteristic forms, as taught in schools since antiquity. Here are Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and Crete:

Britain has the scholiast stumped: how on earth is it shaped? Too weird. So he leaves it out, providing the gloss only in his own Carolingian-style handwriting. In the case of Taprobane (modern Sri Lanka), no one knows what is there so he shows it as an empty blob:

The main script is Beneventan according to Lowe, or as an earlier librarian called it on the flyleaf, lettera longobarda. Patrick Gautier Dalché, who notes that this the oldest extant manuscript of Mommsen's Class I of Solinus witnesses, identifies the glosses as coming from the Historiae of Orosius.

In Latin antiquity it was more or less settled that the known world comprises three continents and six main islands. The shapes were taught to help the student remember islands by their classically known outlines: much indented Corsica, four-cornered Sardinia, triangular Sicily, elongated strip-like Crete and pear-shaped Sri Lanka.

In all, 40 manuscripts have been scanned and placed online in the past week. Here is the list:
  1. Borg.ind.3 (Upgraded to HQ),
  2. Borg.ind.39,
  3. Borg.ind.42,
  4. Borg.ind.43,
  5. Borg.ind.46,
  6. Chig.R.V.33 (Upgraded to HQ),
  7. Ott.lat.3374 (Upgraded to HQ),
  8. Ott.lat.3376,
  9. Ott.lat.3378,
  10. Urb.gr.56 (Upgraded to HQ),
  11. Vat.estr.or.80,
  12. Vat.estr.or.92 (Upgraded to HQ),
  13. Vat.gr.1298.pt.2 (Upgraded to HQ),
  14. Vat.ind.29,
  15. Vat.lat.2288,
  16. Vat.lat.2410,
  17. Vat.lat.2652,
  18. Vat.lat.2834 (Upgraded to HQ),
  19. Vat.lat.2858,
  20. Vat.lat.2873,
  21. Vat.lat.3252 (Upgraded to HQ),
  22. Vat.lat.3322 (Upgraded to HQ),
  23. Vat.lat.3324 (Upgraded to HQ),
  24. Vat.lat.3331,
  25. Vat.lat.3333 (Upgraded to HQ),
  26. Vat.lat.3336,
  27. Vat.lat.3342, a 10th-century copy of Solinus's Collectanea rerum memorabilium (above)
  28. Vat.lat.3344,
  29. Vat.lat.3355 (Upgraded to HQ),
  30. Vat.lat.3356,
  31. Vat.lat.3383,
  32. Vat.lat.3390,
  33. Vat.lat.3394,
  34. Vat.lat.3398,
  35. Vat.lat.3407,
  36. Vat.lat.3410,
  37. Vat.lat.3410.pt.A,
  38. Vat.lat.3411 (Upgraded to HQ),
  39. Vat.lat.3560,
  40. Vat.lat.6150,
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 165. 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.

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