Biggest Book in the Vatican

The biggest book in the Vatican Library, a celebrated bilingual Hebrew and Aramaic manuscript dated to 1294 and containing the whole Bible, is now online. I will let the Twitter post from @vaticanlibrary tell you why Urb.ebr.1 is so remarkable:

"Fully" available means that previous to this, a murky black-and-white image of Codex Urbinas 1 was the only offering online. A brief description at MBH tells us the codex contains the Tanakh, Masorah with Targum alternating and the Rashi commentary.

Also new online is the first Persian manuscript to have entered the Vatican Library. Written in the cursive "naskhi" script typical of the Middle East, this book dated to 1312 is one of the earliest surviving Persian manuscripts of any part of the Scriptures.

In all, 33 manuscripts arrived on the website of the library last week for all to see:
  1. Urb.ebr.1 (Upgraded to HQ), above
  2. Vat.gr.1646 (Upgraded to HQ),
  3. Vat.lat.1113 (Upgraded to HQ),
  4. Vat.lat.1479 (Upgraded to HQ),
  5. Vat.lat.2385,
  6. Vat.lat.3045,
  7. Vat.lat.3169,
  8. Vat.lat.3318 (Upgraded to HQ),
  9. Vat.lat.3350,
  10. Vat.lat.3362,
  11. Vat.lat.3422,
  12. Vat.lat.3423 (Upgraded to HQ),
  13. Vat.lat.4054,
  14. Vat.lat.4057,
  15. Vat.lat.4148 (Upgraded to HQ),
  16. Vat.lat.4154 (Upgraded to HQ),
  17. Vat.lat.4201,
  18. Vat.lat.4240 (Upgraded to HQ),
  19. Vat.lat.4241,
  20. Vat.lat.4243,
  21. Vat.lat.4246,
  22. Vat.lat.4257,
  23. Vat.lat.4259,
  24. Vat.lat.4298,
  25. Vat.lat.4306,
  26. Vat.lat.4326,
  27. Vat.lat.4333,
  28. Vat.lat.4340,
  29. Vat.lat.11521,
  30. Vat.lat.13363,
  31. Vat.mus.538,
  32. Vat.pers.4 (Upgraded to HQ), the 1312 Gospel of Matthew in Persian (above), shown in the United States in the Rome Reborn exhibition, the first Persian manuscript to enter the pope's collection. Anthony Grafton wrote: "The page displayed here includes the opening of the text of the Gospel of Matthew", though surely this is the ending thereof:
  33. Vat.sir.560.pt.A (Upgraded to HQ),
In addition, the Vatican Library online portal has added eight books which had already been online in color from Heidelberg University Library, Germany:
  1. Pal.lat.656,
  2. Pal.lat.657,
  3. Pal.lat.660,
  4. Pal.lat.662,
  5. Pal.lat.663,
  6. Pal.lat.664,
  7. Pal.lat.665,
  8. Pal.lat.666,
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 186. 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.


Layer Upon Layer

For about 700 years, an epic poem in Latin about the Roman civil war between Julius Caesar and the forces of the Roman Senate led by Pompey the Great provided the key introduction to students in western Europe to the themes of war and politics. Pharsalia or De Bello Civili was constantly studied and commented on.

My own interest in the matter revolves around the diagrams often attached to manuscripts of the poem, and the vexed question of who devised the diagrams and when. (Spoiler alert:) it wasn't Lucan. Perhaps it was a late antique grammaticus. Here's a sample from Cod. 370 at the Burgerbibliothek Bern.

In other Lucan manuscripts without diagrams, layer upon layer of commentary was added. The manuscript Vat.lat.3284 contains both the text of Lucan’s DBC and level after level of exegesis by different hands over a long period.

Alessio Mancini of Kiel notes in a newly published paper on it: "The most recent hand, in particular, supplies a true full-scale commentary to Lucan’s text, and has been ascribed by Mariagrazia Antonetti to an unknown humanist close to the members of the Accademia Romana." But Mancini sees "massive use of the recollectae to Lucan written by Benvenuto da Imola." He instead traces the last layer of glosses to Ferrara in the first decades of the 15th century.

That manuscript has just been digitized by the Vatican Library, along with 41 other treasures in the past week. The full list:
  1. Ross.21,
  2. Ross.37,
  3. Vat.lat.2353,
  4. Vat.lat.2407,
  5. Vat.lat.3221 (Upgraded to HQ),
  6. Vat.lat.3284,
  7. Vat.lat.3345,
  8. Vat.lat.3363 (Upgraded to HQ),
  9. Vat.lat.3401,
  10. Vat.lat.3421,
  11. Vat.lat.3936,
  12. Vat.lat.3954 (Upgraded to HQ), a 1475 inventory of the pope's library, described for the Rome Reborn exhibition as one of the oldest surviving catalogs of the library. It has the signature of the compiler, Bartolomeo Platina, on fol. 76 and uses classification by subject, author, and title.
  13. Vat.lat.4004,
  14. Vat.lat.4025,
  15. Vat.lat.4037.pt.1 (Upgraded to HQ), speeches and letters of Bessarion, with some scientific texts included. Jordanus lists an anonymous mathematical text.
  16. Vat.lat.4073,
  17. Vat.lat.4076,
  18. Vat.lat.4079 (Upgraded to HQ),
  19. Vat.lat.4084, a 14th century compilation of 11 Arabic (Alhandreus, etc), Aristotelean and other astronomical/mathematical texts. See Jordanus and eTK. Here is a fine zodiac diagram:
  20. Vat.lat.4115 (Upgraded to HQ),
  21. Vat.lat.4122,
  22. Vat.lat.4123,
  23. Vat.lat.4129,
  24. Vat.lat.4130,
  25. Vat.lat.4131,
  26. Vat.lat.4138,
  27. Vat.lat.4141 (Upgraded to HQ),
  28. Vat.lat.4155,
  29. Vat.lat.4156 (Upgraded to HQ),
  30. Vat.lat.4172,
  31. Vat.lat.4174,
  32. Vat.lat.4178.pt.1,
  33. Vat.lat.4191,
  34. Vat.lat.4211,
  35. Vat.lat.4213,
  36. Vat.lat.4236,
  37. Vat.lat.4237,
  38. Vat.lat.4283,
  39. Vat.lat.4295,
  40. Vat.lat.4318,
  41. Vat.lat.4320,
  42. Vat.lat.4341,
There are also 28 items which have long been online in Heidelberg and have now joined the Vatican portal too:
  1. Pal.lat.608.pt.1 (Upgraded to HQ),
  2. Pal.lat.616,
  3. Pal.lat.619,
  4. Pal.lat.626,
  5. Pal.lat.627,
  6. Pal.lat.628,
  7. Pal.lat.630,
  8. Pal.lat.631,
  9. Pal.lat.632,
  10. Pal.lat.633,
  11. Pal.lat.634,
  12. Pal.lat.637,
  13. Pal.lat.638,
  14. Pal.lat.639,
  15. Pal.lat.640,
  16. Pal.lat.642,
  17. Pal.lat.644,
  18. Pal.lat.645,
  19. Pal.lat.646,
  20. Pal.lat.647 (Upgraded to HQ),
  21. Pal.lat.648,
  22. Pal.lat.650,
  23. Pal.lat.651,
  24. Pal.lat.652,
  25. Pal.lat.654,
  26. Pal.lat.655,
  27. Pal.lat.658 (Upgraded to HQ),
  28. Pal.lat.661,
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 185. 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.



Endpapers and flyleaves are always worth a look when a Vatican manuscript arrives online. One item this week, a 14th-century book of canon law, has been bound up in wrecked bits of a 12th-century copy of the Legenda Aurea of Jacobus de Voragine.

Used parchment cost nothing, and libraries always had stocks of worn-out books.

This Sancto Sebastiano text, if you need it, is at Intratext.

In all, 13 manuscripts were new this week:
  1. Ross.24
  2. Vat.lat.2379,
  3. Vat.lat.2382, Galen and Hippocrates
  4. Vat.lat.2383, Galen in Latin
  5. Vat.lat.3395, already flagged by DigitaVaticana:
  6. Vat.lat.3988, a 14th-century book of Constitutiones of the popes, with leaves from a 12th-century Legenda Aurea as endpapers (Dolezalek catalog).
  7. Vat.lat.4027 (Upgraded to HQ),
  8. Vat.lat.4176, church history, with acta of Council of Constance?
  9. Vat.lat.4179,
  10. Vat.lat.4196, a heavily annotated study of the Book of Leviticus
  11. Vat.lat.4209, similar to above, the Epistles, starting with Corinthians
  12. Vat.lat.4248 (Upgraded to HQ),
  13. Vat.lat.4262,
There are also ten items which have been online in Heidelberg and have now joined the Vatican portal too:
  1. Pal.lat.608.pt.2 (Upgraded to HQ),
  2. Pal.lat.612,
  3. Pal.lat.613,
  4. Pal.lat.614,
  5. Pal.lat.615,
  6. Pal.lat.618,
  7. Pal.lat.621,
  8. Pal.lat.623,
  9. Pal.lat.624,
  10. Pal.lat.625,
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 184. 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.


Mind's Eye Has Been Published

When were family-tree diagrams invented? My new book, Mind's Eye: How One Ancient Latin Invented Our Way to Visualize Stories, uncovers the progenitor of today's graphic timelines and trees in an ancient three-meter-wide chart of history.

Hidden in plain sight, the Great Stemma -- a Roman masterpiece -- has never been honored at book length before.

The Great Stemma was not only a vast visual abstraction of the march of time from Creation as far as the birth of Jesus Christ, but also marked a swerve in civilization towards exploiting our visual perception as an extra tool for thinking.

I argue that diagrams and visual displays exploit the computing power of human vision to short-cut our reasoning tasks. Cognitive science is only now able to grasp what a major shift in human culture this was. My research places that creative leap in the ancient world.

I foreshadowed Mind's Eye two years ago (when the book's working title was "Expositor" and I was still following up some loose ends in the inquiry). Since then, I have added some great cover art (the theme comes from Neptune's Necklace, a wondrous seaweed from the South Pacific) and converted the manuscript to e-book format. A print version may follow.

Here's the link which leads to stores where you can buy Mind's Eye at a low introductory price: https://books2read.com/PigginMindsEye (to which I add a modest plea: buy from one of the non-Kindle stores, where the price to you is the same, but I get a bigger royalty!)

Mind's Eye can be read rapidly, by skimming the 117 illustrations and checking out the QR links. Or it can be savored as an 88,000-word narrative in which I narrate how I brought this neglected graphic to light.


We Love Geography

Last month I gave a paper at the Kartographiehistorisches Colloquium, and was surprised that more than 100 people were waiting in Friedenstein Palace in Gotha, Germany to listen. Geography and its paraphernalia fascinate a lot of people.

That feeling seems to have taken hold back in the 15th century, when Italian nobles began spending insane amounts of money to own their own Geographies of Ptolemy.

The Vatican Library has just digitized Vat.lat.3810, volume one of a two-volume luxury edition dating from about 1470. Anthony Grafton wrote when this was displayed in the United States:
By the middle of the century increasingly opulent manuscripts of the Geography had become fashionable as conspicuous displays of wealth; and travellers and explorers as well as scholars read them.
Now it has to said that Ptolemy is not light reading, for any of the above. Most of his book is a directory of places with latitudes and longitudes, like the coast of Puglia here:

About as interesting as tide tables or the phone book. The real reason that this gorgeous book was commissioned was for the maps by Nicholas Germanus, which are in the previously released Vat.lat.3811, and these would make any of my historical cartography friends drool with pleasure:

This week's digitizations are few in number, but perhaps there is a rush in store for us. Here is the list of 17:
  1. Ross.86.pt.1,
  2. Vat.lat.2339,
  3. Vat.lat.2358,
  4. Vat.lat.2869,
  5. Vat.lat.2979,
  6. Vat.lat.3035, Logic of Paulus Pergulensis, see Jordanus. With this fine Porphyrian Tree: 
  7. Vat.lat.3737,
  8. Vat.lat.3810 (Upgraded to HQ), Geography of Ptolemy (above)
  9. Vat.lat.4018,
  10. Vat.lat.4157,
  11. Vat.lat.4159,
  12. Vat.lat.4161,
  13. Vat.lat.4163,
  14. Vat.lat.4166,
  15. Vat.lat.4190,
  16. Vat.lat.4226,
  17. Vat.lat.13362,
Five more items already online at Heidelberg now at Vatican too:
  1. Pal.lat.571,
  2. Pal.lat.572 (Upgraded to HQ),
  3. Pal.lat.603 (Upgraded to HQ),
  4. Pal.lat.606 (Upgraded to HQ),
  5. Pal.lat.609,
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 183. 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.