The Codex Agobardinus of Tertullian is online at Gallica!!

A red letter day, this.  I learn via Twitter and the Florus blog that some more Latin manuscripts have appeared on the French National Library site.  Among them is the oldest and most important manuscript of the works of Tertullian, the Codex Agobardinus (Paris lat. 1622).  It may be found here.  100Mb of joy!

This manuscript was something I always wanted to see, from my earliest interest in Tertullian and Patristics, back in 1997.  Eventually I worked out how I might get a reader’s pass for the BNF, and, very nervously, in 2002, I bought an air-ticket for a day trip and flew over to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.  I went to the BNF in the Rue de Richlieu and persuaded the staff to allow me access.  And I held it in my hands!

I looked at it for an hour, and then handed it back.  I got a very old-fashioned look from the serving woman, who seemed to resent the idea that I should order a manuscript out of the vault for so short a time.  Why didn’t you use a microfilm, she wondered?  How dare I!  But I also needed to visit the other BNF site, in my limited time.  And I didn’t fly to Paris to look at a microfilm!  I was, of course, immensely privileged to be able to see a manuscript at all.

Now, 11 years later, the world can look at this rare and precious volume.  It’s the oldest copy of Tertullian’s works.  It was probably written at Fulda in the 9th century.  It contained the only copy of Ad Nationes, for instance.  And … it once contained more works, all now lost.  A table of contents at the start (below) lists works that no man living has seen; de spe fidelium, de paradiso, de superstitione saeculi… how we would like to read these!

It makes me feel humble, somehow.  So many things in the world are worse than they were.  But for the learned, this is a time of miracles and wonders!

Page from Latin_1622_Tertullian_Agobardinus


15 thoughts on “The Codex Agobardinus of Tertullian is online at Gallica!!

  1. There are some others, may I list them here ? :

    — “Les bibliothèques medievales. Du VIe siècle a 1530.” : « mediévales à » ;

    — “Catalogue general des manuscripts latins, tome 2, ed. Ph. Lauer.” : « général manuscrits éd. » ;


    Titles seen by Migne are badly read by him :
    — “AD NATIONES LIB. I.” : « LIBER I » ;
    — “IT. AD NATIONES LIB. II.” : « IT LIBER II » ;
    — “DE SPECTACulis LIS (sic)” : « SPECTACULIS » ;
    — “DE IDOLOLAtria LA (sic)” : « IDOLATRIA » ;
    — “IT. AD UXOREM” : « IT » ;
    — “DE PARADUSO” : « PARADVSO (²) » ;
    — “DE CARNE XPI” : « 197 ΧΡΙ » ;
    — “DE PATENTIA” : « DE PATI | ENTIA » ;

    So, some of your (Roger Pearses’s) titles are wrong :
    — “52V – 70V Scorpiace” : « De scorpiace » ;
    — “105V – 118V De idololatria” : « De idolatria » ;
    — “118V – 166R De Anima” : « De censu animae ».


    1. Not a line but something I can’t identify, like a small « m ».
    2. Maybe « Y ».

  2. « {span style=”text-decoration: overline”}{/span} » does’nt work, so please, read :
    — “DE CARNE XPI” : « ΧΡ̅Ι̅ » ;
    — “LEGE IN XPO IHY” : « LEGE IN ΧΡ̅Ο ΙΗV̅ ».

    1. Or something like XXIIIIͫ.

  3. Migne’s transcription was rather rubbish, wasn’t it? I have done some fixes to it along the lines you suggest.

    However I’m not sure that the text reads DE TESTIMONIO ANIME; that last E looks a bit as if someone tried to turn it into a ligature for AE. What think you? I wondered whether the same mark is (much less) visible in DE ANIME (?) SUMMISSIONE.

    The names of the works in the list of folios are those printed in modern editions, rather than the forms given in the manuscript. So: “Scorpiace”, not “De Scorpiace”; and “De Idololatria”, not “De Idolatria”. “De censu animae” is probably the title of a different work, misused; the one contained in the Agobardinus is actually “De anima”.

    Thank you for these corrections. It’s marvellous what you can do once you can see the thing.

  4. I wonder where Migne read this codex in 1844 ? on a poor-quality microfilm, as we can see here ?… I think it would be better if you remove him from this page, and say that’s your reading… How can you (Migne) see (minuscules for my purpose) :

    liber oblatus ad altare s.stephani ex voto agobardi epi

    where it’s obviously written (you don’t need to be an old scholar familiar with MSS to see that…) :

    liber oblatus ad altare SCI stephani ex Uoto aCobardi epi

    and so on (DE SPECTACulis LIS (sic), DE IDOLOLAtria LA (sic)) ?…

    I love this Modern World where anybody, even one untimely born as me, can say : « The old scholar is wrong. », viewing a picture on the Web, though in the Ancient World, nobody except the scholars was able to have the books in hands… I’m too old in a World too young.

    I can’t see nothing else in these « e » than a « e », not a ligature « æ » ; but I’m not a specialist at all, far from that.

    The so called « LIB̅ XXIIIIͫ » means « libri viginti quattuor » : can you read here « ΧΧΙΙΙΙͦͬ », with “or” as a phonetic value ?

    « Scorpiace » : I can’t understand how can stand alone an ablative without its “de” !…

    If you’re interested by Capentier’s letter stuck p. Iv, I can try to transcribe it – I don’t know if somebody already did it – ; but I must say in advance that it’s absolutely of no interest ! (He complains of his sickness…)

  5. De scorpiace, I, 1 :
    — « Nicander scribit et pingit. » for A. Reifferscheid-G. Wissowa (1890) ;
    nicander (¹) & scripsit & pingit (line 6), that is « Nicander et scripsit et pingit. ».

    Four words only, two or three variants !… And there is only one manuscript extant ! (Codex Casinensis, 384 has only one phrase… Maybe some other manuscripts now lost are to be found in the editio princeps of Mesnart (1545)…)

    Since Nicander lived 300 years before Tertullian, I would write : « Nicander et scripsit et pinxit. »…

    Very funny.

    1. It looks (to me) more like « ricander » than « nicander »…

  6. I’ve paid no attention to the letter in French. Sorry! I wonder who the author is; a Charpentier brought out a translation in French of Tertullian’s works.

    The text of Tertullian’s works is not in great shape. That’s a good catch, tho, on all those variants in Scorpiace!

  7. Here is a poor draft trying to transcribe the Carpentier’s letter (folio Iv). « * » means undeciphered letter, italics uncertain reading. Now, the text :

    Mon Reverend **** et tres cher maitre

    je vous prie d avoir la bonté de remettre
    ce MS. entre les mains de Mr Boivin, et de
    retirer mon recepisse. je l’aurois rapporté moy
    meme si je n’etois incommodé. Des maux de ****
    que je ressentois depuis plus de deux mois
    et quelque autre petite bagatelle m’otant
    l’appetit m’affoiblissoient de jour en jour. Ce qui
    m’ayant obligé de voir le medecin il m’a
    contraint d’aller a l’infirmerie. ce qui me
    mortifie le plus c’est que je seroy privé du
    plaisir de vous voir. vous m’obligerez en
    m’accusant la reception de ce MS. et en me
    faisant savoir comment vont les choses je suis avec
    respect et attachement Votre tres humble et tres
    obeissant serviteur
    ** *. Carpentier ***.

    demandez s’il vous plaist si Mr Delacroix
    s’est resouvenu de ce que je lui ay demandé

    « ** *. Carpentier *** » seems to be a Tertullian editor, a Benedictine Father, Dom Pierre Carpentier (1697-1767) ; « Mr Boivin », a librarian at the Royal Library in Paris, in charge of Greek manuscripts, Jean Boivin, dit Boivin de Villeneuve (1663-1726). The Addressee, and Mr Delacroix, are unknown (to me…).

    In Modern French :

    Mon Révérend **** et très cher Maître,

    Je vous prie d’avoir la bonté de remettre
    ce manuscrit entre les mains de Mr Boivin, et de
    retirer mon récépissé. Je l’aurais rapporté moi-
    même si je n’étais incommodé. Des maux de ****
    que je ressentais depuis plus de deux mois
    et quelque autre petite bagatelle m’ôtant
    l’appétit m’affaiblissaient de jour en jour. Ce qui
    m’ayant obligé de voir le médecin, il m’a
    contraint d’aller à l’infirmerie. Ce qui me
    mortifie le plus, c’est que je serai privé du
    plaisir de vous voir. Vous m’obligerez en
    m’accusant la réception de ce manuscrit et en me
    faisant savoir comment vont les choses. Je suis avec
    respect et attachement Votre très humble et très
    obéissant serviteur
    ** *. Carpentier ***.

    Demandez s’il vous plaît si Mr Delacroix
    s’est ressouvenu de ce que je lui ai demandé.

    Me too, I want the Codex Agobardinus at home for a while !…

  8. Thank you very much for doing this, and adding the notes on who and why. This is very interesting.

    A covering letter then, sent with the manuscript to his friend, and asking the friend to return the ms. to the royal library and recover his receipt for it.

    But of course the manuscript just looks like a book, externally anyway, and not even a large one. Our modern reverence for mss is because none of us ever see them, and, when we do, it is under conditions of “special privilege” and almost church-like reverence. In the end, they are just books. Albeit unique ones.

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