If a scribe has two copies of a text in different bookhands, which will he copy?

At the renaissance there was an explosion of copies of manuscripts.  These thick neat manuscripts will be familiar to all who have handled manuscripts at all, and are found everywhere.  Fifteenth century copies are commonplace.

I’ve just been reading Emil Kroymann’s study of the transmission of the text of Tertullian in Italy, and the role played by the central book-collector of the renaissance, Niccolo Niccoli.  Niccoli was one of us.  If he lived today, he’d be a blogger.  He was an awkward chap, who enjoyed poor health, and was difficult to deal with.  He amassed a huge collection of manuscripts, which passed to Lorenzo the Magnificent after his death, and are today in the Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana in Florence.

Kroymann did a journey into Italy at the end of the 19th century, and collated all the Italian manuscripts he could find.  In particular he found a manuscript in Florence, written in a gothic book-hand, and a copy of it in Niccoli’s hand, done in a Roman book-hand, both in the Laurentian.

The result of his collation was to discover that all of the Italian copies were descended from Niccoli’s manuscript.  Not one was copied direct from the manuscript in gothic book-hand, despite the fact that the two copies have always been together.  The scribes found it easier to read a copy in “Roman” font, rather than the gothic hand.

Yet the gothic manuscript was not ancient.  It too was written in the 15th century, by two Franciscans at Pforzheim in southern Germany.  Cardinal Orsini had made a  journey there, and returned carrying a copy of Plautus — THE copy of Plautus, which alone contains a mass of his plays — and this Tertullian manuscript.  Both were “borrowed” by Niccoli, to copy; Orsini was able to extract the Plautus from Niccoli’s hands, but the Tertullian he never got back.

We need to be aware of the “path of least resistance” that scribes will take, when technology changes.  There are various doorways down the years through which an ancient text must pass in order to reach us.   Probably one copy is made, in each case, in the new format; and that becomes the ancestor of all subsequent copies. 

When the roll format was abandoned in the 4th century in favour of the parchment codex book, those texts not copied into the new format doubtless speedily ceased to exist.  The compiler of the Theodosian codex ca. 450 complains even then that works by second-century jurists like Ulpian no longer are accessible.  The flimsier papyrus rolls, no longer considered the most valuable or easiest to use, must quickly have fallen apart.

Likewise when the uncial and capital book-hand of antiquity gave way to the various minuscule book hands in the 9th century, which were both more economic in parchment and easier to write, the older copies must have become inconvenient.  They were still readable, and parchment is forever; but if you had to carry a volume to a neighbouring monastery so they could copy it, would you want a big or a small volume?

We see the same phenomenon here in Italy in the fifteenth century.  The scribes could have used the copy that Niccolo used; but found it easier to copy the copy, typos and all.

Then we all know how the first text to be placed into print tended to become the ancestor of all printed texts up to the 19th century.  Again, this was  a doorway.  Yet the texts that were printed were by no means the best; they were often those which were simply most readily available.

Today we have texts being placed onto the internet.  This too, I suspect, is a doorway.  There will come a time, soon, when offline material is simply ignored.  These texts too will perish.


Dionysius Bar Salibi’s “Commentary on the Gospels”, Papias and Eusebius

The massive commentary on the Gospels of the 13th century Syriac writer Dionysius Bar Salibi has never been translated into English.  But at one point it looked as if it might be.  An Irish scholar named Dudley Loftus made use of a manuscript in Trinity College, Dublin, and made a Latin translation of the whole thing.  This still exists, in manuscript, and I have seen it in the Bodleian, among the mss. of Dr. John Fell, where it is numbered #6 and #7.  The ms is crumbling, and probably unphotographed; of course I wasn’t allowed to take a copy.

But it seems that Loftus found that he could not publish his translation.  Instead he made an English version of extracts, which he did publish as “A clear and learned explication of the history of our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ: taken out of above thirty Greek, Syriack, and other oriental authors: by Dionysius Syrus, … and faithfully translated by D. Loftus. / [by] DIONYSIUS BAR SALIBI, Bishop of Amadia ; Loftus, Dudley ; JESUS CHRIST. (1695)”

This contains some interesting material.  It contains a passage from Papias, which my friend Tom Schmidt is going to blog about.  But while looking for this, I also found a quotation from Eusebius!  The work is really something of a catena, and thus the statement of Eusebius about how the Lord was dead for 3 days appears in it, on p.58.

Eusebius; Mathew by way of Exposition adds after this, of the Evening of the Sabbath the dawning of the Firstday of the Week, denoting the Hour and time of the Night after the Sabbath, which was when the First day of the Week dawned. ‘Tis true, Mathew wrote in the Hebrew, and he who Translated the Scripture into the Greek Language, rendered the Dawning of tbe Day, the Evening of the Sabbath; and Mathew, by the Evening, means the whole Length and Evening af the Night; as John calls the passing away, or the least Part of the Night, Day; and therefore adds, whilest it was yet dark, least it should be thought, that he spoke of the Morning; so Mathew also, when he said, the Evening of the Sabbath, lest Men might think it was spoken of the Evening Season, he adds, When the First day of the Week began to dawn.

I suspect this is more the sense of Eusebius’ thought than his words; it will be interesting to see, when the Syriac fragments are properly published, how this compares.


A lead on the lost manuscript of the full text of Eusebius’ “Diaphonia”

Result!  I’ve now got an idea of where to look for the lost full text of Eusebius’ Quaestiones ad Stephanum/Marinum!

When Angelo Mai published the sad remains of this work in 1823, he added a note that Latino Latini (in the 16th century) said that Cardinal Sirleto had told him that he had seen a manuscript of this work, in three books, in Sicily.  Migne reprinted this. 

But I suffer from acute reluctance to repeat stuff unchecked.  For a year now I have been trying to locate a copy of the letter in which Latini said this.  Today I succeeded.  And … it turns out that Mai has misled us all.  He did not mark insertions and omissions into what Latini wrote.  Here is an excerpt:

Scire etiam te vult in Sicilia inventum esse Eustathii Antiocheni Episcopi librum de mundi creatione, idest de sex dierum operibus, unde Basilii plurima videantur sumpta esse; praeterea libros tres Eusebii Caesariensis de Evangeliorum diaphonea, qui omnes, ut ipse sperat, brevi in lucem prodibunt.

He also wants you to know that in Sicily there have been found the book of Eustathius bishop of Antioch on the creation of the world, that is of the works of the six days, from which many things seem to have been taken by Basil; in addition three books of Eusebius of Caesarea on the divergences in the Gospels, all of which, so he hopes, will be brought into the light shortly.

Now this is an important difference.  For the first time we learn that the main find is a volume of Eustathius; and, if we translate praeterea as “following it”, it suggests to me that the two ‘finds’ are in a single physical volume.  If so, it becomes no mystery that the Eusebius might “disappear.”

When cataloguing a pile of manuscripts, the lazy librarian flips open the cover, scribbles down the title of the first work in it, and then closes the book and moves on to the next one.  And if there is one characteristic endemic to the Southern Italian librarian, it is laziness.  And who in the world would trouble themselves over a volume of Eustathius?  My eyes close, almost at the name.  How likely is this to be interesting?  Not very.  How likely is it that anyone has examined such a volume in centuries?  Not very.

What this means is that we ought to be looking in the manuscript catalogues for a volume of Eustathius.  If there is one, say in the old Royal Library in Naples, the capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, it may well repay investigation!

“You will find,” said Martin Routh, “it is a very good practice to always verify your references.”  Wouldn’t it be something to rediscover that manuscript!!!

UPDATE: I have tossed an email of enquiry to the Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples, and also to the Biblioteca centrale della Regione siciliana.  They ought to know what they have.  If they reply.


Eusebius, Cardinal Sirleto, and the letters of Latino Latini

The last known manuscript of Eusebius “Gospel questions” is mentioned by Latino Latini in a letter to Andreas Masius.  The information about it begins “Sirleto wants you to know…”  The quotation was printed by Angelo Mai when he first printed the remains of that work of Eusebius, reprinted by Migne, and so on.  I’ve been trying to locate the letter in which Latini says this, without much luck.

But in a way, perhaps I am looking at the wrong end.  Latini never saw the manuscript.  His information came from Sirleto.  Possibly it came by word of mouth, but equally there might be a letter somewhere from Sirleto to Latini — such letters do exist. 

What I need to do, I think, is to find the correspondence of Sirleto.  Do the papers of Latini contain the letters he received, I wonder?  Pierre Petitmengin will know, so I ought to ask him.  Have Sirleto’s letters been published?

I know nothing about Sirleto.  In Petitmengin’s article I find mention of P. Paschini, Guglielmo Sirleto prima del cardinalato [1565] in Tre ricerche sulla storia della Chiesa nel Cinquecento, Rome, 1945, p. 153-281.  There is an article on Sirleto, Guglielmo in the Biographisch-bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon, 10 (1995), c. 532-33. There is Denzler, Georg. Kardinal Guglielmo Sirleto : (1514 – 1585.) Leben u. Werk. Ein Beitrag z. nachtridentin. Reform. München : Hueber, 1964.  I hate books in German.

Online there is an article in a curious Catholic Encyclopedia site (a site which puts page scans online and then meanly defaces them!), and in the Italian Wikipedia, which links to a site about cardinals in English with a Sirleto article with bibliography.  Looking through the last, someone published stuff from Sirleto’s papers, and suggests that these are in the Vatican.

UPDATE: There is a Wikipedia article, spelling his name Gugliemo, and a real Catholic Encyclopedia site.


Latino Latini, Sirleto, and the last, lost manuscript of Eusebius’ “Gospel Questions”

One problem with a project that runs on is that you forget stuff.  And I realise, with irritation, that I have done just this.  For my own benefit, here is the matter again.

Eusebius’ work on problems in the gospels, and their solutions, is lost.  But for a moment in the 16th century, it looked as if it might be recovered.  Angelo Mai, in the 1st edition of his publication of the fragments, refers (p. xii) to a letter by the scholar Latino Latini (Latinus Latinius) to Andreas Masius. In this he says:

Sirletus scire te vult, in Sicilia inventos esse libros tres Eusebii caesariensis de evangeliorum diaphonia, qui ut ipse sperat brevi in lucem edentur.

Sirleto wants you to know that in Sicily there may be found three books by Eusebius of Caesarea on the differences in the gospels, which he hopes soon to publish.

I would like to get this letter translated and include it in my translation of the remains of this work.  But… where to find it?

Mai gives the reference: Op. Tom. II, p. 116.  This seemingly helpful note is in fact deeply unhelpful, because it is too brief.  No work named “Opera” exists. 

A google search here reveals that this letter should be dated 1663.

The following item might seem to be it:

Epistolae, conjecturae, et observationes sacra, profanaque eruditione ornatae / Ex Bibliotheca Cathedralis Ecclesiae Viterbiensis a D. Magro … collectae …, Published: Romae : Viterbii, 1659-1667. Physical desc.: 2 v. ; 23 cm. (4to) Other names: Magri, Domenico, 1604-1672.

But in fact I have examined a copy of this at Cambridge University Library (shelfmark Acton.c.49.128), and it contains no such text, although it does include letters to Masius.  Another book of the same title exists at Durham.  I don’t know of another work by this writer which could be it.  His only other work, Bibliotheca Sacra et Profana, also in 2 volumes, is perhaps the only possibility.  I am hampered by these books being in rare books rooms, and themselves being rare!  A copy exists at Oxford, which may be read only in Duke Humphrey’s reading room (shelfmark S 67 Th).  Another is at Satan’s Seat, the British Library (shelfmark 1492.i.14).

I shall resume the struggle soon!  Perhaps the Cambridge copy is defective somehow.  I suspect, tho, that everyone has taken Migne’s reference, borrowed from Mai, and no-one before me has ever checked this!

Later: Mai probably used the Vatican collection.  Why not check there?  I find, by searching on “latini, latino”, two editions of the letters.

Author : Latini, Latino, 1513-1593.
Title : Latini Latinii … Epistolae, coniecturae & observationes sacra profanaque eruditione ornatae. Ex bibliotheca cathedralis ecclesiae Viterbiensis, a Dominico Magro … studio ac decennali labore selectae … Tomus secundus.
Publication : Viterbii, ex typ. Brancatia, apud Petrum Martinellum,
Date of publication : 1667.
Physical description : xii, 213 p. 1 tav. 22 cm.
Language : Latin
Date of record : 950117 
No.   Department   Call number  
1   MAG   Stamp.Chig.IV.947


Author : Latini, Latino, 1513-1593.
Title : Latini Latinii … Epistolae, coniecturae et observationes sacra, profanaque eruditione ornatae … a Dominico Magro … studio ac labore collectae …
Publication : Romae, typis Tinassij,
Date of publication : 1659-1667.
Physical description : 2 v. in 1 24 cm.
Language : Latin
Date of record : 950117
No.   Department   Call number  
1   MAG   Mai.XI.P.VII.30    
2   MAG   R.G.Teol.IV.4185    
3   MAG   Stamp.Barb.Y.X.75-76    
4   MAG   Stamp.Ferr.IV.4011    

Interesting that the call number, or shelfmark, of the latter includes one in a “Mai” collection!  Who knew that Mai’s books were at the Vatican?  Not me, that’s for sure.  But this does tend to suggest the existence of two different editions, printed at different places in the same year.