More manuscripts of the “notae” in the margins of Cassiodorus, “Expositio Psalmorum”

I gave some examples in a previous post of the unpublished “notae”, symbols indicating what type of comment was involved, in the margin of Cassiodorus’ Expositio Psalmorum, his commentary on the Psalms.  The notae are listed and explained at the top; and I gave some manuscript images.

After doing so, a few more online manuscripts came to hand.  I got them by looking at Halporn’s 1981 article on the manuscripts (JSTOR), plus quite a bit of legwork!

First and best of these is in Munich, at the BSB, a manuscript of the 2nd quarter of the 9th century, with the shelfmark Clm 14077.  It’s online here.  This manuscript does not just give the notae and the meaning: it also gives an example after each.  This is unusual, and must indicate creative work by the copyist.  Here is folio 1r:

Nice, isn’t it?  But it also demonstrates how these sorts of indices, meta-textual elements, are vulnerable to interference in transmission.

The next one is a more conventional manuscript, this time in Paris, at the BNF.  The shelfmark is Paris latinus 2194.  It’s 10th century, once belonged to Colbert, and is online here.  Sadly we have only a monochrome image, but it is a very clear one!

Note at the top the shelfmark’s of past owners.  It was “Cod. Colb. 447” – manuscript 447, when it was owned by Colbert.  Then it was “Regius 3642”, that is manuscript 3642 in the Royal library.  At the revolution the old royal library became the core of the new Bibliothèque Nationale Français, and “2194” was written lower down.  Manuscripts move around like bumblebees sometimes, and they reflect the times through which they passed.

The “notae” appear, with the usual explanation, followed by the preface.  But see how the microfilm hides the actual symbols in the margin for the most part!

Also available online here is BNF Paris lat. 2195, this time in colour.  This manuscript was written in the first quarter of the 9th century, and was once the property of the abbey of St Martial at Limoges, according to the catalogue.

Here the “notae” are clearly photographed.  In fact it is notable that modern digitisation projects make a far better job of it than the old microfilmers.  Perhaps the reputation of the institution is on the line.  A microfilm might be seen by one or two scholars, who had been overcharged for it, and nobody cared if the quality was any good.  Indeed the BNF certainly tried to sell me some quite useless microfilms once; and I had to threaten to involve Visa before they refunded my money.  But the world can see these digital copies; and there is national prestige at stake.  The end result is good for everyone, however.

This leaf has clearly been damaged.  I would guess that the manuscript had lost its cover, at some point during its history, and the top right got wet and rotted.  But it is still with us!

Another example of damage is in Vatican Palatinus latinus 271:It’s not clear what has happened here, is it, but the notae are unreadable.

Something similar has happened in the manuscript from Reichenau, now Karlsruhe Aug. Perg. 155, online here:

On the other hand we get this in Bamberg Msc Bibl. 56 (online here):

The ink has faded, and made the symbols hard to read, and a subsequent hand has redrawn them!

It is really very remarkable to be able to compare something like this so easily from my study.  We are so fortunate.  These are days of wonders!

Notae in the margins of Cassiodorus, “Expositio Psalmorum”

An  interesting volume has appeared this year, which unfortunately I have not seen, but that I learned about from Jesse Keskiaho on twitter.  The book is by Evina Steinová, based on her 2016 dissertation (online here, I now find), and now in a revised book form from Brepols here as Notam superponere studui : The Use of Annotation Symbols in the Early Middle Ages (2019).  I understand that it contains an interesting piece on a work by the 6th century statesman-turned-monk Cassiodorus.

Cassiodorus’ commentary on the Psalms, the Expositio Psalmorum (= Clavis Patrum Latinorum no. 900) is a long allegorical commentary based largely on Augustine.  So long a work was set forth in three manuscript volumes each containing the commentary on 50 psalms.  It was completed at the start of 548 and dedicated to Pope Vigilius; and then reworked between 560-70 with marginal “notae” or symbols, which indicate the type of content.[1]  He provided the key to these signs at the beginning of the work.

The Latin text is printed in the Patrologia Latina vol. 70.  A more modern edition by Adriaen was printed in the Corpus Christianorum 97-8 (1958), but Walsh states that it is merely a revision of the PL text, and full of mistakes.  There is an English translation by P.G. Walsh in the Ancient Christian Writers series (in three volumes 50, 51 and 52).  A new edition was intended by James W. Halporn, who published a list of the manuscripts in “The manuscripts of Cassiodorus’ ‘Expositio Psalmorum'” in Traditio 37 (1981), p.388-396 (JSTOR).  I’m unclear that any edition ever appeared, and Halporn died in 2011.  Discussion of the tradition of the text is in Richard N. Bailey, “Bede’s text of Cassiodorus’ Commentary on the Psalms”, JTS 34 (1983), 189-193.

The Patrologia Latina text, infuriatingly, omits the notae, and the introductory list.  Here is the page on which the praefatio ends, and the commentary text begins:

Inevitably the translation by Walsh from this text also omits the notae.

The marginal notae may be seen, however, in a 9th century manuscript now in the Bibliothèque Nationale Français in Paris, shelfmark BNF lat. 14491, originally in the abbey of Saint-Victor in Paris.  This is online here in an exceedingly clear microfilm copy (the download, sadly, is low resolution).  On folio 10, following the “praefatio”, there is a list of the symbols used and their meaning:

Isn’t this gorgeous?  RA = ‘rithmetic.  Mc = music… and a little star, an asterisk = astronomy.  This section appears between the “veniamus” at the end of the praefatio and the heading of the first section of the commentary.  Transcribing as best I can:

Diversas notas more maiorum certis locis aestimabimus effigiendas.  Has cum explanationibus suis subter adiuncximus.  Ut quicquid lector voluerit inquirere per similitudines earum, sine aliqua difficultate debeat invenire.  (We will find that various symbols need to be marked in certain places, according to the custom of the ancients.  We’ve added these with their explanations below.  If any reader wishes to search by using their appearance, they ought to find them without difficulty.)

Hoc in idiomatis. Id est propriis locutionibus legis divinae.   (idioms. i.e. the correct way of speaking of the divine law)
Hoc in dogmatibus. valde necessariis.  (doctrines.  Very necessary)
Hoc in diffinitionibus.  (definitions)
Hoc in schematibus.  (figures)
Hoc in ethimologiis.  (etymologies)
Hoc in interpraetatione nominum.  (the interpretation of names)
Hoc in arte rethorica. (the art of rhetoric)
Hoc in topicis.  (topics)
Hoc in syllogismis.  (syllogisms)
Hoc in arithmetica.  (arithmetic)
Hoc in geometrica. (geometry)
Hoc in musica. (music)
Hoc in astronomia. (astronomy)

Examples of the use of these notae/symbols appear in the same manuscript, starting on the page facing the list of symbols.

In the 10th century Bamburg manuscript, Staatsbibliothek Bamberg Msc.Bibl.56 (online here) we have the first page with this:

I would have made this larger, but I could see no way to download the image; only warnings about the (non-existent) copyright claimed by the German state on the image.

The 9th century Karlsruhe manuscript, Aug. perg. 155, sadly has suffered damage:

Also online is British Library Additional 16962, also 9th century, which is indeed a volume of the work, but of the third volumes: psalms 101-150.

It’s very interesting to see such a scholarly help, I must say.

  1. [1]Halporn, “Mss”, p.388.

Cassiodorus “Chronicle” now online in English

Bouke Procee has kindly sent me a copy of his translation of this 6th century chronicle, and made it public domain so that we can all use it.  A text is also included.  Here it is:

Much of the material is reused from earlier Chronicles; the impact of Jerome’s Chronicle is obvious here, as in every subsequent chronicle.  But the most interesting material is from his own time – the account of the games given in Rome in 519 AD by Eutharic, and the statement that the audience were now quite unaccustomed to such shows.

It is excellent to have such texts accessible in English.  The task of translating most of the entries is a humdrum one, which is perhaps often shirked on the basis that most of those interested can just as well read it in Latin.  But it is far easier still for many people to skim down the text in a translation, and, of course, for Google to find it.  I think we can all be grateful to Mr Procee for taking this one on.  It just makes life easier.