2019-01-12

I know that handwriting ...

Now that most of us have almost given up writing by hand, one's admiration grows for those who can recognize from the faults the handwriting of people long dead. It is one of the scholarship's more recherché specialities.

From the clever people at Autografi dei Letterati Italiani we discover that several jottings in a Vatican Library copy of Cicero, Vat.lat.3246, were put there by one Antonio Beccadelli (1394-1471), a humanist poet and diplomat. Beccadelli, nicknamed Il Panormita, had an income as a courtier that allowed him to acquire his own library.

The codex is one of six put online this week in the first working week of the library's digitizations for 2019.

Before starting the list, I'd like to announce a private achievement: This week I published The Great Stemma: A Graphic History in the Fifth Century as an open-source edition. It's the scholarly counterpart to my recently published book Mind's Eye which tells the discovery story of a neglected Latin chart of history. Spread the word: I am depending on friends to enlarge the readership of both.

And now for the list:
  1. Ross.259, a de luxe manuscript from Paris of Augustine of Hippo's letters. Beautiful filigree work by Jacquet Maci in the illumination (see Mirabile):
  2. Vat.lat.2476, Gentilis de Fulgineo on Avicenna's medical writings, 15th century
  3. Vat.lat.3246 (Upgraded to HQ), ninth-century copy in a Caroline hand (thanks @gundormr for correcting this) of Cicero's Tusculan Disputations, formerly owned by Antonius Beccadellus (1394-1471), and Fulvio Orsini (1529-1600), according to Mirabile. In binding paper with some Beneventan writing.
  4. Vat.lat.4116 (Upgraded to HQ), a 15th century manuscript of Defensorium ecclesiasticae potestatis by Adam de Eston (1330-1397) (thanks Mirabile) with these amazing border designs: 
  5. Vat.lat.4354, a compilation of Franciscan Order resources from about 1430, see Mirabile
  6. Vat.lat.4517, with an anonymous Latin grammar from fol 22, incipit Coelum et terra sunt plena (listing by G. L. Bursill-Hall)
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 191. 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.

2019-01-05

All the Isidorian Bibles Online

A very special set of medieval bibles is complete at last, thanks to the recent digitization of the Foigny Bible in the French National Library, some of the best news of last year for codicologists.

These rare Vulgate bibles, one from Burgos in Spain and three from the Meuse Valley on the Franco-Belgian border, offer the sole surviving evidence of a shadowy struggle over belief in seventh-century Visigothic Spain.

Four years ago, I celebrated the arrival online of the Floreffe Bible (now in the British Library). Now the fourth and last is there to appreciate, the Foigny Bible, thanks to the Polonsky Foundation funding a project to virtually unite treasures of London and Paris that belong together. The illuminations in the Foigny Bible (here the Nativity) are wonderful:


Here are links to the whole set of four:

The Foigny Bible starts off with a prologue set which is found in the others too, a fairly sure sign that all these 11th and 12th century bibles derive from a much earlier model:
  • an arbor consanguinatis;
  • the Great Stemma, with a 6,000-word epitome of exegesis by Isidore in the blank spaces;
  • the Prologus Theodulfi
  • a second Prologus (Stegmüller, Rep. Biblicum, n° 284).
  • a second Prologus (Stegmüller, Rep. Biblicum, n° 285).
  • a capitula
And what were the Visigothic Christians arguing about? Whether St. Joachim, the supposed grandfather of Jesus existed! 


A late-antique "family tree" of Jesus, the Great Stemma (above), had been spreading through Iberia in the seventh century and it showed a legendary sheep-farmer, Joachim, in pride of place. Isidore of Seville thought this claim was nonsense. We don't know if Isidore himself altered the chart, but someone very smart and aligned with Isidore's thought took pen and rewired the "tree", cutting out poor Jo like a gastric bypass.

As for the 6,000 words of Isidorian Exegesis written in the gaps, you'll  have to make up your own mind who wrote it. Maybe that was Isidore too? Since it had never been identified or published previously, I edited the text some years ago.