A medieval catalogue of classical books at the abbey of Arras

Opening my copy of G. Becker’s Catalogi bibliothecarum antiqui to a random page, I find myself looking at the following entry (p.254):

126. Monasterium S. Vedasti Atrebatense = Arras. saec. XII.

Libri philosophice artis et auctores beati Vedasti hi sunt: 1. 2. duo Virgilii. – 3.4. duo Lucani. – 5. unus Oratius. – 6. Priscianus unus. – 7-9. Boetii III. – 10. Boetius in periermeniis Aristotelis. – 11. commentum in ysagogis Porfirii. – 12. item commentum periermeniarum Aristotelis de Greco in Latinum translatum. – 13. dialectica Augustini et decem predicamenta et Arator in uno volumine. – 14. item alius Arator et Prosper in uno volumine. – 15. liber rethoricorum Tulii Ciceronis, decem predicamenta Aristotelis in uno volumine. – 16. item decem predicamenta Arist. et commentum Boecii super ea. – 17. topica Tullii Ciceronis libri III. – 18. liber Euricii, liber Probi per versus, Boetius de musica, Aurelianus de laude musice discipline, versus Hubaldi ad Carolum imperatorem, Macrobius de sumnio Scipionis, divisio mathematice, Sedulius et Iuvencus in uno volumine. – 19. Terentius. – 20. ciclus Dionisii. – 21. glosarius et maior Donatus. – 22. somnium Scipionis. – 23. passionalis medicinalis libri IV. – 24. calculatio Albini. – 25. excerptum de metrica arte. – 26. item alius de eadem arte. Libri divini hi sunt: 27. Augustinus…

And it continues with a long list of libri divini, up to number 167.   Twenty-six non-patristic or biblical texts.

Behind the strange spellings are some familiar names.  Two volumes of Vergil; two of Lucan.  “Oratius” I did not know but must be Horace, while Priscian is a grammar.  Three volumes of Boethius follow, then another on Aristotle.  Number 11 is a commentary on the Isagogue of Porphyry, followed by a commentary on the Peri Hermenias or De interpretatione which the cataloguer seems to realise is a translation from Greek into Latin.  Cicero is then well represented; and there are two copies of the Dream of Scipio, quoted by Macrobius and thereby preserved from Cicero’s De republica.

It’s not always clear which text is meant.  The monkish cataloguer had no list of works at his disposal, which he could consult in cases of uncertainty.  All he could do was read the rubrics at the head of each book and transcribe the sometimes corrupted entries. 

It’s an interesting game, to look at these entries and try to puzzle out what they mean.   I commend it to everyone.

1 Response to “A medieval catalogue of classical books at the abbey of Arras”


  1. phil bova

    This is amazing. Being a Latin person, I would love to get my hands on stuff like this.