Inventa ergo… Or maybe not – Recensio, part 2.

Time to plunge into the text and see if I can find any errors in the manuscripts that might help me divide them up into families.

When I was collating the text of John the Deacon’s Life of St Nicholas, I came across a passage, which is interesting for the sheer number of textual variants, for the first word of the sentence.  St Nicholas has learned that a starving man, unable to afford a dowry for his three daughters, has decided to prostitute them.  He decides to do something about this.

Inventa ergo** cuiusdam noctis hora, sumens non modicum aurum, ligansque in panno, perrexit ad domum viri, quam undique circumspiciens, per fenestram quae competens videbatur, clam intro projecit, clamque discessit.

Therefore, when the hour of a certain night arrived,** he took not a little gold, and tying it in a cloth, he went to the man’s house, which he surveyed from all sides, and then, through a window which seemed appropriate to him, he secretly threw it inside and secretly departed.

I noticed this place when I was machine-comparing the editions.

  • Mombritius, Lippomano: inventa ergo … hora – the hour having been found/reached, therefore.
  • Falconius: nactus ergo … hora – (he) having reached, therefore … the hour.
  • Corsi: acta ergo … hora – the hour having come, therefore.
  • Mai: infamiis notata igitur – their disgrace having been noticed, therefore.

That’s a lot of differences, and that’s what, from a text criticism point of view, we need to find!  So… good news!  Now here are some thoughts, based on what I generally know about these editions.

  • Mombritius printed some unknown (probably late) manuscript.  Lippomano may have just reprinted Mombritius at this point.
  • Corsi used Falconius, but also a Berlin manuscript.  At this point in the manuscripts, there is an initial.  Is acta really Nacta, copied from a manuscript where the initial “N” had never been painted in?  So we could ignore it?
  • Mai’s edition is a printed version of an abbreviated form of the text, which turns into a paraphrase.  Maybe the scribe of the abbreviation found something odd here – maybe just something he read as atta? and improvised?

Maybe we have manuscripts missing the initial letter.  Let’s go and look, and see what we have.  Maybe we have a point at which the manuscript tradition diverges?  (This will also help me get more of the manuscript material in order on my disk.)

The first PDF, alphabetically, in my folder of manuscripts is Balliol 216.  This I made from a zip file of images, downloaded from the website, and pulled into a PDF using Finereader 15.  I’m opening it for the first time (in a very old copy of Acrobat 9 Pro).  I wince a bit as I see images on their sides and upside down.  I read the folio numbers as I page down, and get Nicholas at folio 33r as expected.  I bookmark it, and save the PDF properties so that the bookmarks will open whenever I open the PDF.

The text isn’t that great to read – a Gothic hand, drat it – but I know what I’m looking for.  It’s an initial.

Ooo.  On folio 34 there’s an erasure.  I note that in the bookmarks.

I page down.  Some of the photos are lying on their sides.  I rotate them.  I look out for familiar initials and bookmark them.  Acrobat is amazing.  Pity you can’t actually buy a copy any more.

I page down, looking for the end of the text.  I must have passed it, because I have a red initial “Igitur postquem beatissimi nicholaus ex hoc mundo migravit” – “After blessed Nicholas snuffed it”; but I know this isn’t part of my text, but some of the tedious miracle stories often added on the bottom.  So fol. 42r is past the end.  Bookmark that.

Back up.  Aha!  Bottom of f41v is what I’m looking for – “remearunt ad propria” – “they went home”, plus some standard stuff “magnificentes doninum jesum christum”.  That’s the end.  Bookmark it.

So I’m not going to find a handy initial.  Rats.  Hmm… I can make out “Tunc om” and then an abbreviation.  I got to my working file: it’s tunc omnes, and I’m in the middle of chapter 7.  Too far.  Mark it up anyway.  His ita transactis, the start of chapter 7, can’t be far – oh yes, there it is.  Sticky note, and bookmark.  Back up I go… ah, there’s Laban!  Good old Laban, I’m not far now.  And … there it is!

Balliol MS 216 - position of our passage
Inventa ergo? Not in Balliol 216! It’s Notata igitur.

Immediately we find… “Notata igitur!”  (Words before it are patrem tuum qui in caelis est, your father who is in heaven.  Unlike me.)  Different again from any of the manuscripts, although clearly the Mai abbreviated text is working from something of this type.

I won’t drag you through this process for each manuscript.  But I’m doing the same thing in each case.  What do I get?

  • Balliol 216 (13th) = Notata igitur
  • Berlin theol. lat. qu 140 (11th) = Acta igitur, which is Corsi’s reading from just this manuscript
  • BNF lat 196 (12th) = Acta igitur, with the capital.
  • BNF lat. 989 (10th c) = v faded.  I think it’s a Notata igitur, with the capital, after some image manipulation.  The N and the ata are clear.
  • BNF lat 1765 (13th) = Nacta igitur.  But something is odd about this ms – the text is a lot shorter and ends with “accepit insulam”, part way through chapter 7, then another text, which seems to be called the “Relatio Simplicii” in another ms (below) and then an odd ending from BHL 6108a.  Then the Passio of St Lucy.
  • BNF lat. 1864 (14th) = Notata ergo.  This text ends with the usual remearunt, but then follows with material printed by Falconius as chapters 14 and 15 – the first manuscript copy I have seen of this.
  • BNF lat. 2627 (11th) = Notata ergo.  This too ends with chapters 14 and 15.
  • BNF lat. 3791 (12th) = Nacta ergo.  The front of the ms is missing.  This copy ends with remearunt and then follows the Life of St Lucy.
  • BNF lat. 3809A (15th) = ???  There’s definitely an ergo but what’s the first word, with the initial, following the “a – li – ud. -“?  It looks like “Clam“? “without knowledge of the hour”?  The thing ends with the ch.14, and a bunch of miracles, then the life of St Ambrose.

  • BNF lat. 5308 (12th) – Transacta ergo.
  • BNF lat. 5573 (12th c.) – Nacta ergo, but marginal correction to facta.
  • Fribourg L 5 (13th) – Nacta igitur.  This does not seem to have the usual remearunt, but does have chapters 14, 15 and then ending from BHL 6108a, and then the “Relatio Simplicii” about the transitus of St Nicholas.
  • Milan P113 supp – Nacta ergo.  This ends with “chapters 14 and 15” and then the Life of St Waleric (who?)
  • Munich BSB Clm 12642 (14th) – Nactus ergo, but the Nactus appears to be in a different hand, so an erasure and correction.
  • Vatican Barb. lat. 583, f.44v – blessed if I know!  It’s something in Beneventan, which I can’t read.  I’ve posted to Twitter.

  • Vatican – Nacta ergo.  But with an unilluminated N.  Easy copyist error to write “Acta”.
  • UPDATE: Vat. lat.1271 (12th c.) – Inventa ergo.  Finally!

I’m beginning to wear out here, so I will stop for now. I’ve learned quite a bit. Clearly I need to catalogue exactly how each copy ends.

But notice what is not found in any of these?  The “inventa” that we started with!

Later: By chance I’ve found a perfect example of why the text cannot be “Acta”.  It’s in my next blog post, here.

Later still: Or maybe it was originally Acta, “corrected” to Nacta?

The Munich copy of vol. 2 of Mombritius, “Sanctuarium”, p.163, showing “inventa”


10 thoughts on “Inventa ergo… Or maybe not – Recensio, part 2.

  1. It seems clear that the original reading was “nacta”, since it is easy to see how the other variants could have arisen from it, but not how it could have arisen from them.
    Acta: as already amply explained, by omission of the initial.
    Nactus: giving the participle its more usual active meaning, and supplying it with a direct object (“horam” instead of “hora”).
    Inventa: a synonym, but one that is unequivocally passive. (The scribes seem to be quite happy to substitute synonyms, cf. the alternation between “ergo” and “igitur”.)
    Notata: probably a misreading — or a “correction”, if the scribe was unhappy with “nacta” as passive.
    All of them, except the first, “improvements”.

  2. Interesting thoughts these – thank you. I was drifting towards nacta. I had wondered if nactus was somebody mistaking nacta for nactu with an abbreviation mark; but I’d have thought they’d know better.

    The different readings should help to classify mss tho.

  3. Thanks for your interesting website; I stumbled across this entry in your blog. I only wanted to say that in the image of Balliol 216, the g with superscript o after Notata is in fact “ergo.” So: Notata ergo cuiusdam noctis hora.

  4. In your first image above, Balliol 216, the reading is “Notata ergo”. (The superscript “o” shows that the abbreviated word cannot be “igitur”, which contains no “o”.)

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