Moerbeke Archimedes is Now Online

My friend Pieter Beullens discovered and made known that the Archimedes Codex of William of Moerbeke at the Vatican Library is online at last. Although this Latin book is one of their most historic digital publications, the coders at Digita Vaticana somehow botched the release, lodging the manuscript in the wrong area of the portal, where no one would ever look for it.

Only three witnesses in the original Greek of the works of Archimedes -- A, B, and C -- are known to have survived the Byzantine period.

C is the privately owned Archimedes Palimpsest (images) which is the famous subject of the book The Archimedes Codex by Reviel Netz and William Noel (2007).

B, not recorded since 1311. 

A was last seen in 1564, but was copied several times, foremost by Poliziano, whose apograph, imitating the writing and mise en page of the antigraph, is in Florence and online (ms. Plut.28.4)

William of Moerbeke, who was a Dominican, generally taken to be Flemish, used A and B to compile a Latin version of Archimedes in or about 1269. William is a giant in the medieval transmission of the classics (see Pieter Beullens' tweets for a feeling). In 1881, it was realized that codex Ott.lat.1850 at the Vatican is the draft/original/autograph of the Archimedes part of his work.

You can now page through Ott.lat.1850. I at first thought this was a 2018 digitization, but @LatinAristotle tells me he first spotted it in 2016.

The Moerbeke pages are bound together with two extraneous parts, one of them printed Latin text.When this posting went up, the URL was https://digi.vatlib.it/view/Ott.lat.1850, which wrongly places it among the incunables and in fact should attach to Cardinal Ottoboni's own copy of the Anthologia Graeca Planudea (ia00765000). I'll message the library on Monday, and if we are right I expect they will fix it.

Why is the Moerbeke codex historic? Firstly, it was the only witness of the text of Floating Bodies until the beginning of the 20th century and the discovery of C above. Secondly it is our only means of accessing B. Thirdly, it can guide us to what copyists of A may have overlooked. And fourthly, with Moerbeke's own marginal notes, it is itself a major artefact in the history of science.

Clagett, M. (1982). William of Moerbeke: Translator of Archimedes. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 126(5), 356-366. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/986212

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