Chapter divisions in Pliny the Elder

I’ve returned to looking at Diana Albino’s article on ancient chapter divisions and summaries, and I was rereading my translation of a long chunk here.

One bit caught my eye, about the use of the diple, coronis and paragraphos marks:

Already in the papyri, in fact, the various parts are often separated from each other by intervals of spacing, or through the device of protruding into the margin the first letter of the initial line of each section, or by means of special signs to indicate diplh~, korwni/j and paragra/foj. … These ways of subdivision are also preserved in the Middle Ages. Thus, in codex M (end of the 5th century, beginning of the 6th) of the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder, the chapters are marked by empty intervals or capital letters or even the sign of coronis (8).

(8) Cfr. K. DZIATZKO: Untersuchungen ueber ausgewahlte Kapitel des antiken Buchwesens, Leipzig, 1900, p. 53 and pp. 113-114; PLINII Naturalis Historia ed. SILLING, Gothae 1855 voI. VI, Proleg. pp. 18, 20, 26.

Dziatzko’s book is online at Google books here.  P.53 merely gives a general description of the manuscript ‘M’ of Pliny’s Natural History, which is a palimpsest of the Stiftes St. Paul in Kämthen Kärnten, numbered III (formerly LXXXVII), written in majuscule around the start of the 6th century.  It contains most of books 11-15.  It was first used by F. Mone for vol. 6 of his edition (Gotha, 1855; hence ‘M’).

The material in question is on p.114, and discusses the sections arising from the content, which are delimited by larger letters and gaps in the text.  The divisions, especially in the latter part of the manuscript, are marked by a new line and a disengaged letter in the margin.  But in some cases there is a large letter in the margin, for no obvious reason.  Dziatzko speculates that this is the remains of a paragraphos signalled in the ancestor copy.

Footnote 1 adds:

Hier wie sonst noch öfter steht am Ende der vorausgehenden, nicht vollen Zeile, überdies die Koronis. — Uebrigens sind, was nicht zu verwundem ist, manche Abschnitte an Stellen angesetzt, die man anders und auch besser auswählen könnte.

Here, as elsewhere more often, we find the Koronis, at the end of the previous line, not the whole line, moreover. – By the way, unsurprisingly, some divisions are in places where different and better ones could have been chosen.

I could see no mention in all this, however, of numerals in the margin, indicating that the sections were numbered and perhaps connected with the author’s table of contents in book 1.

The book is an interesting one, tho, and deserves to be better known.  I only wish my German was better!

UPDATE: I was wondering where “Kämthen” might be.  A google search leaves me still in the dark.  Might it be “Kempten” in Bavaria?  But if so, where is this St. Paul monastery? 

UPDATE2: But it turns out — thanks to JS in the comments — that I simply had an OCR error, and it is really Kärnthen, or Kärnten as it is today!


9 thoughts on “Chapter divisions in Pliny the Elder

  1. I just popped in again and thought I’d give your question another try (once I decide to chase up a ‘puzzle’ I like to see if I can solve it) with a bit of obtuse googling as I call it.

    I think your St Pauls in Kämthen is definitely the St Pauls monastery in Kärnten.

    The province (?) Kärnten was also spelt Kärnthen and if you look up old books in German you will see how often the typesetting/printing would make Kärnthen look like Kämthen (I found examples Kärnthen transcribed as Kämthen in .txt files in

    I’ll spare you the details of history about the province that I came across in the process which was also a bit of fun to decipher.

  2. You are right — it *is* Kärnthen. In fact that is what Dziatzko wrote. I have just gone back to the Google books page images and rechecked.

    And you were right to suspect OCR error. OCR often treats ‘m’ as ‘rn’, it is true. And when I was translating that stuff from Dziatzko, I started by copying what the OCR’d German text — I was in a hurry — and I never noticed.

    It is certainly true that, as German changed during the 19th century, “th” often became “t”. The most frequent example I see is “Theil” becoming “Teil”. Likewise ‘C’ became ‘K’. So I would expect Kämthen to be called Kämten today, and this is why I wondered about Kempten.

    So today it would therefore be called Kärnten.

    Thank you so much for this!

  3. Note: the websites seem to be for the town. Any idea if there is one for the monastery? It is the whereabouts of the manuscript that is interesting.

  4. It’s OK 🙂

    Yes, that must be it. And it looks as if still has its mss.!

    It would probably be possible to go and photograph there, I suspect.

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