A missing manuscript

Another interesting post at Antiochepedia is worth repeating entirely:

The pool of original sources on Antioch is shallow to say the least. By a very roundabout hunt (for something else) I stumbled upon an 1866 article in a French journal (Bibliothèque de l’École des chartes) in which Leopold Delisle discusses a collection of manuscripts that Lord Ashburnham bought from a Mr Barrois. More sleuthing revealed that this collection was auctioned off in 1897 in a spectacular series of auctions. Amongst the documents that the author mentioned is one that caught my eye, seemingly a manuscript copied by the Benedictines. This document (numbered 6755) had the following subject matter in Delisle’s words:

1. Une partie du manuscrit a ete copie en 1267 (One part of the manuscript was copied in 1267)
2. Il y a des extraits de saint Bernard et de saint Augustin (extracts of St. Bernard and St. Augustine)
3. Il y a un traite de musique commencant par les mots (a musical treatise commencing with the words) Quoniam circa artem, et occupant neuf feuillets (and occupying 9 folios).
4. Un feuillet renferme au recto la description des environs de Jerusalem (Si quis ab occidentalibus), et au verso une court description d’Antioche (Haec urbs). Le feuillet suivants contient une liste des villes conquises en Espagne par Charlemagne. (A folio with a description of the environs of Jerusalem on the recto, and on the verso a short description of Antioch.  The following folios contain a list of cities in Spain conquered by Charlemagne)
5. Le traite de Methodius commence au verso d’un feuillet et occupe les quatre feuillets suivants. (The treatise of Methodius begins on the verso of a folio and occupies the next four folios).

The catalogue of Mr Barrois has an entry relating to the manuscript that says: 11. Descriptio nobilissime urbis Antiochie. Fol 61 verso. – ” Haec urbs Antiochia valde et pulcra et honorabilis”. So the description is short but might appear to be a pre-12th century description of the city.

Some sleuthing revealed a book called “Catalogue des manuscrits des fonds Libri et Barrois” in Google Books. This is in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. The catalogue describes 180 manuscripts. Concordances on . [264]-273 indicate the correspondence of their numbers in the Bibliothèque Nationale with those in the Fonds Libri and fonds Barrois at Ashburnham Place.

Fol. 61 v°. » Descriptio nobilissime urbis Antiochie “Нес urbs Antiochia valde est pulcra et honorabilis, quia intra muros ejus sunt quatuor montanee maxime et nimis alte… “

Its location would be an interesting addition to the pool of reports on the city. Now to find out where the manuscript went in the library auction so long ago…

The Delisle article here is Observations sur l’origine de plusieurs manuscrits de la collection de Mr Barrois, Bibliothèque de l’école des chartes 27 (1866) pp. 193-264.  I need to follow the trail myself and see where it leads. 

On p. 195, Delisle states that Barrois acquired at least 30 manuscripts stolen from the Royal Library (now the Bibliotheque Nationale Francais) around 1840.  His collection was sold to Lord Ashburnham around 1849.  Delisle lists on p.194-5 the various parts of the Ashburnham collection, and their catalogues.  The Barrois mss formed the second part of this collection.

On p.196, the first Barrois ms., Delisle states that “In 1848 the absence from the (French National) library was noted of ms. Latin 6755, which was described in the catalogue of 1744, and also in a catalogue of the Royal Library by the “Benedictines” (probably the Maurists) half a century earlier.  He prints both, and in each case they correspond to the catalogue above.  It looks as if the ms was cut up, and turned into three mss (doubtless for profit), and the portion of interest to us is Ms. Barrois 284.  The description is on f.61v of that ms (was on f. 88v of the BNF 6755).

(More when I’ve finished running the Acrobat OCR on the PDF’s)

The Barrois mss of the Ashburnham collection were apparently sold in 1901 at Sotheby, according to the New York Times.  This article lists buyers!  However it also says in the introduction: “Later Leopold Delisle proved that about one tenth of the manuscripts had been stolen from French libraries and thirteen years ago” — i.e. in 1888 —  “France reacquired them by purchase”.

So probably this ms. is again in the BNF, and should be listed in its catalogue.  The BNF catalogues are all digitised here.  But the catalogue for 6755 is merely the old one.  Apparently updates are in the Bibliothèque de l’Ecole des Chartes, which is in Gallica.  There is an entry in the 1888 volume, by Delisle, about the Barrois mss (p.41-46).  Delisle recounts the negotiations, and how he went to London and bought the manuscripts.  He states the intention to reconstitute, as far as possible, the original volumes from the mess left by Barrois.

Probably the answer is to email the BNF and ask about this ms.  A photograph of ms. latin 6755, fol 61v, will probably be the goods.

Isn’t it wonderful what we can now find online?!


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