From my diary

Back to John the Deacon’s Life of St Nicholas.

I’ve now completely retranslated chapter 1, the prologue, which I made an attempt at last year.  I’ve been comparing the text of the Falconius (1751) edition, which I am translating, with the Mombritius (1498) and the Mai (1820-ish) editions, and finding small differences, and noting them.

Over the last week I started downloading copies of manuscripts from the Bibliotheque Nationale Francais site, Gallica.  I’ve been bookmarking the start of John the Deacon, and looking at two places, one at the start and one at the end of the chapter.  I’m seeing variation alright.  But many of these manuscripts are probably all closely related.  I now have 9 manuscripts on disk, 2 of which do not contain chapter 1.

I’ve got three different lists of manuscripts.  The Bollandists list 121, and there are clearly more.  I don’t know how many are online – possibly around 20, I would guess.

Just finding online manuscripts by shelfmark is hard.  I have discovered the Biblissima site, and am using this.

It’s very helpful that the BNF allow downloads.  Less helpful are sites like the Vatican that force you to use a crummy viewer.

Ideally I could collect manuscripts using my mobile phone while lying on the sofa.  In actual practice it is quite hard work just to collect them, even using the PC.  But I am learning all the time.

Onward!

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From my diary

I’ve had no time to do anything useful for a week, but I’m still gathering materials on John the Deacon as a sideline.  Thanks to the kindness of Fr. Gerardo Cioffari at the St Nicholas Centre in Bari (= Centro Studi Nicolaiani) – himself a considerable scholar -, I now have access to Pasquale Corsi’s translation of John the Deacon.

I don’t dare look at Corsi’s translation until I’m rather more advanced with my own translation than I currently am!   Of course Dr Corsi worked on the text for years, rather than my dabbling, and knows far more about it.  Dr Cioffari also sent me a booklet with critical text of an important work on the translation of the relics of St Nicholas to Bari, which may be very useful in time.

The translation is contained in P. Corsi, La traslazione di San Nicola: Le fonti, Bari (1987), p.87-109.  His introduction is also useful, as this extract shows (plus google translate):

A tal fine, viene qui proposta una traduzione della Vita di san Nicola dal testo latino di Giovanni, diacono della Chiesa napoletana, il quale verso l’880 aveva tradotto precedenti fonti greche6. L’edizione seguita è quella da me stesso pubblicata di recente7, però con alcune modifiche sug­erite da ulteriori letture e da qualche ripensamento; naturalmente ho provveduto anche ad eliminare alcuni errori materiali di stampa. Per quanto riguarda la traduzione, ho cercato di mantenere un giusto equili­brio tra la fedeltà al testo latino e le strutture linguistiche dell’italiano mo­derno, allo scopo di non sacrificare né lo stile del nostro agiografo né la scorrevolezza della versione moderna. Ovviamente, non posso essere certo di essere riuscito nell’intento. Mi auguro comunqe di aver conservato per il lettore le principali caratteristiche dell’opera di Giovanni, senza per que­sto rendere difficoltosa la comprensione dei concetti e delle espressioni.

To this end, a translation of the Life of St. Nicholas is published here from the Latin text of John, deacon of the Neapolitan Church, who had translated previous Greek sources towards 1880 (6). The edition followed is the one I published recently (7), but with some changes suggested by further reading and some rethinking; naturally I have also taken steps to eliminate some printing errors. As for the translation, I have tried to maintain a fair balance between fidelity to the Latin text and the linguistic structures of modern Italian, in order not to sacrifice either the style of our hagiographer or the fluency of the modern version. Obviously, I cannot be sure that I have succeeded in this intention. However, I hope to have kept the main characteristics of John’s work for the reader, without making it difficult to understand the concepts and expressions.

6 BHL 6104-6117, particol 6104-6106; cfr. BHG 1352y. Si veda, in proposito, anche l’introduzione al saggio qui appresso citato al n. 7.  (=On this, see the introduction to the article in note 7 below)

 7 P. CORSI, La ‘‘Vita” di San Nicola e un codice della versione di Giovanni Diacono, in “Nicolaus” VII/2 (1979), pp. 359-380, particol. pp. 361-380.

I’ve now placed an interlibrary request for the article in note 7, which should bring the Latin text, as edited from Ms. Berlin 741.

Interestingly a random Google search revealed an earlier translation by P. Corsi, in Autori Vari, Bibliografia agiografica italiana 1976-1999, p.23, item 254:

254. Corsi Pasquale, Giovanni Diacono: Vita di San Nicola, tradotta dal latino dal ms. Berolin. 741. Bari. Centro Studi Nicolaiani. 1982. 28 pp., ill.

The St Nicholas Centre publications are very nicely printed and illustrated, I should add.

But Corsi’s edition, although certainly an advance on any previous edition, is not the critical edition that we all need.  This I learn from a really useful database page, at Mirabileweb, here:

Non è disponibile un’edizione critica; un recente lavoro di P. Corsi non esaurisce i complessi rapporti tra i lemmi BHL e le edizioni antiche di Mombrizio, Falconio e A. Mai.

A critical edition is not available; a recent work by P. Corsi does not exhaust the complex relationships between the BHL lemmas and the ancient editions of Mombrizio, Falconio and A. Mai.

This is in line with my own understanding: the transmission of the text is very complicated.  Somebody needs to do a doctoral thesis on it!

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Working with pre-critical Latin texts

Which comes first?  The text or the translation?  The question is not as simple as it seems.

There is no finer way to come to grips with a text than by preparing an exact translation of it into another language.  This forces the translator to look at every case ending, every -ae and -um; every verb tense and mood and voice.  It highlights, very rapidly, areas of the text that have some kind of awkwardness about them.

I once knew a Swedish scholar who was tasked with preparing a critical edition of one of the works of Tertullian – I no longer remember which one.  He began by translating an existing edition into English (!), very literally.  This gave him a word-by-word knowledge of the text, which is why he did it.

My own efforts to translate John the Deacon’s Life of St Nicholas have reminded me of this forcefully.  Some portions of the text are very much harder to translate than others.

In some cases the text itself – the Falconius edition of 1751 – seems suspect.  When this happens, I increasingly find myself consulting the Mombritius edition of 1478, and the Mai edition of 1840.  I have, indeed, come to mistrust the Falconius text.  But along the way, I find that interesting things emerge.

I have found that the Mai edition often simply omits a “difficult” sentence altogether.  The first three chapters of the text are particularly difficult, and I see that Mai simply omits most of it.  Clearly the scribe of whatever manuscript lies behind the Mai edition felt exactly as I did about the text; and didn’t propose to strain his brain with it.  Omitted sentences include all those which simply transcribe a Greek word.  These are a source of difficulty to the Mai scribe.  I do understand, indeed.  At one point John uses the word “heroes” with the meaning “bishops”!  I wonder what a Greek dictionary would show?

For John was translating an awful Greek text, the “Methodius ad Theodorum”, which is beyond my abilities.  I suspect that the two – Methodius and John – need to be edited together.  But my long years of corporate experience make me well aware of “scope creep”, as a risk to any project, and I refuse to be side-tracked.  My translation will be of John, and John only.

It would also be possible to start doing some text critical work on the text.  After all, a small number of manuscripts are already online.  The Bollandist website lists a good many.

I have already OCR’d the texts of Falconius, Mombritius and Mai, and created Word documents of them.  What I might do is to run a text comparison on these, and see what comes out.  It would be purely for fun, of course, but it might be interesting.

If only one could OCR the manuscripts.  But that said, today I found in one sentence of Falconius three OCR errors.  This did delay me rather.

As with everything I do, I believe that whatever I do will be useful to others; and whatever I leave undone, well, the world is no worse off in this than it was before.

But clearly it would be possible for me to continue this, and produce some form of critical text.  It might not be very good, depending on how much time and effort I devoted to it.  But in this case, the translation would be the father of the text.  Yet here again, to produce a proper critical edition of John the Deacon would certainly require knowledge of the Greek.  It would not be a simple task.

I shall not go down this route.  As I usually do, I will include the text that I have translated.  This will be a somewhat modified version of Falconius.  But I won’t go further than that.

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A bit of web searching for BHL 6106 = chapter 12 of John the Deacon’s Life of St Nicholas

Alright, I got tempted.  I did a google search on BHL 6106, the chapter of John of the Deacon’s Life of St Nicholas that I am currently translating, or rather prevaricating about translating!

Almost instantly I came up with two manuscripts at the French National Library.  The first is 12th century, Ms. BNF Paris Latin 5573.  The splendid catalogue – which came up with the match – is here.  At the bottom is a link to a full digital manuscript, fully downloadable.    The catalogue tells me which folio to look on.  Magic.

The next was BNF Paris Latin 18303, 11th century, and really rather attractive!  Catalogue is here.  I downloaded it and scrolled to fol. 37, and there is the start of my text:

BNF Paris Latin 18303 fol. 37r.

Magic.  This sort of thing is so easy.  Everyone should do it!

Well done the BNF for getting this stuff up there and out there.

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From my diary

I’ve settled back down to translating the Life of St Nicholas by John the Deacon.  The new and improved Google Translate for Latin has made it a far easier task.  The word order was exotic, and I had to crawl through each sentence, one by one, decrypting each word.  This was tedious and time-consuming.  Now at least I have a very decent guide to each sentence, and can concentrate on individual points.

As happens sometimes, I have ended up translating the chapters – or readings, for I think these are probably readings for church services – in reverse order.  I have done chapters 15, 14 and 13, and am now wading through chapter 12.

The later chapters are of dubious authenticity.  Chapter 12 is the first – starting from the end – to have transliterations of Greek words in it, for proper names.  This reflects the fact that the Life was translated from the Greek Methodius ad Theodorum, in Naples in the 9th century.

The text is the 1751 edition of Falconius, which is fairly dodgy.  At points I think it must be corrupt.  Curiously this does not bother Google Translate at all, which laughs at spelling mistakes etc.  One word didn’t feature in any dictionary that I have, but it did not stop Google.  I would guess that Falconius has printed some odd medieval spelling.

Once I have a complete draft translation, I think that I shall have to look at manuscripts.  It is really curious that no critical edition exists.  I believe that several manuscripts are online, and it might be useful to look at these.

I also need to follow up whatever bibliographical hints I can get from the Bibliographia Hagiographica Latina.  Simply googling the BHL references will probably lead me to a few sources.

I think there is a full Italian translation of the text by Pasquale Corsi in La traslazione di San Nicola: le fonti, Bari: Biblioteca di San Nicola: Centro Studi Nicolaiani (1987) Series: Studi e testi / Centro Studi Nicolaiani 8.  But much Italian scholarship is ridiculously hard to access here, and little of it is online, or has attracted the attention of the PDF pirates.   However I gather that book might be available from the Centro Studi Nicolaiana, so I have just popped them an email to enquire.

Now back to John the Deacon!

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Google Translate Latin – how it was, and how it is

In 2019 I prepared to work on translating John the Deacon’s Life of St Nicholas.  I created a separate file for each chapter.  In each file I had the full text of the chapter.  Beneath that, on alternate lines, interleaved, was a sentence of the Latin and then the Google Translate output.  It is interesting to rerun that Latin and compare the raw output.

Here’s the start of chapter 13:

Imperator autem audiens famam pacis et victoriae, repletus gaudio, obviam eis exiit, cum magna multitudine populorum, et Magistro militum, et omni coetu utriusque sexus, et gloriose quasi victores suscipiens;

Google Translate Latin 2019:

The Emperor, having heard of the fame of the victory of peace, and, filled with joy, that he went out to meet them, with the great host of peoples, and the captain of the guard, and to all the congregation of men and women, and of the glorious, as it were the victors, he took it;

Google Translate Latin 2022:

The emperor, on hearing the news of peace and victory, was filled with joy, and went out to meet them, with a large number of people, and with the captain of the soldiers, and with every assembly of both sexes, and receiving them with distinction as conquerors;

Then:

magnifici in Palatio eius fuerunt.

Google Translate Latin 2019:

There were magnificent in Palatine.

Google Translate Latin 2022:

There were magnificent men in his palace.

Next:

Coacti autem quidam, et invidia diaboli ducti, caeperunt nova consilia exquirere, quatenus illos morti traderent:

Google Translate Latin 2019:

And some were forced and led envy of the devil, began to seek out new plans, highlighting them to death;

Google Translate Latin 2022:

But some, being compelled, and led by the envy of the devil, began to seek out new counsels, that they might deliver them to death:

And so on.  I should add that this is the raw, unamended output in both cases.

We are very, very fortunate.

 

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From my diary

I have returned to work on making a translation of John the Deacon’s Life of St Nicholas.  In July 2019 I prepared a Latin text.  The edition of Falconius, in 1751 seems to be all that there is!   During November and December 2020 I translated a couple of chapters with immense pain and huge labour – the structure of the sentences is hard to work with – and then I set it aside and went off to do other things.  At one point last night I was seriously contemplating simply abandoning the job.

How things have changed.  Last night I jumped to the end and passed chapter 15 through the new and greatly improved Google Translate for Latin.  It did a  magnificent job, far better than I could have done, and did it in seconds.  Of course it needed manual adjustment, but it was sobering how much better it was.  In half an hour the chapter was complete.

At one point Falconius printed in the text, “Ab atis dirigas”, in the middle of a prayer asking the Lord to guide the monks, etc.  This was beyond me, until I put the sentence into the standard Google search and found a parallel text with the same sentence, where it read “Abbatis dirigas” – “may you guide the abbots”!  Wonderful!

Falconius’ text is less than ideal.  This morning I was looking at chapter 14 – I’ve already done about half of it using the same tools – and I suffered a bit from him printing “penniculum” rather than “peniculum”, a sponge.  There is no critical edition.  Falconius seems to be the only edition of any sort, except for an incunable by Mombritius which does not contain these final chapters.  But there are manuscripts online – more than Falconius had -, and I have Google search.  The job can be done.

It is 10:20 here, and I must go out.  This afternoon I shall return to John the Deacon.  I’m looking forward to it.

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From my diary

The third unfinished project on my desktop is a translation from the Latin of the Life of St Nicholas by John the Deacon, who lived in Naples in the middle of the 9th century.   John was bilingual, and created his work by translating the Greek Life by Methodius – the one that defeated all my translators.

It is a hard thing to pick something after a year or more, even if you are reasonably well-organised, unless you leave a file of notes written to your future self as to where you were and what you were doing.  (Memo to self: do this next time!!)  So I spent the end of yesterday and a couple of hours today trying to work out what I had, and reorganising the working directory.

The Latin text was printed by Mombritius in his Sanctuarium in 1477 or 1478 – it’s undated.  I did OCR this and create a corrected file, but then I concluded that it was a bit too rough to work with; spellings, punctuation, etc.  The text was printed again from some Vatican manuscripts by Falconius in 1751, who helpfully placed chapters 13-15 as an appendix and instead inserted a bunch of chapters from completely different Life of St Nicholas.  Luckily the BHL volume specifies this, and I had prepared an electronic text with a note to myself about just this.

I had also divided the text into 15 files, and I had started the translation of chapter 1.  I vaguely remember finding it very hard work indeed, which was why I stopped.

I’ve now sorted out the directory, and done a little more on chapter 1.  After a year of Latin, it is less difficult.  It really does help to establish exactly what the construction is, and to footnote a query if not sure, for later examination!  Mind you, in a couple of sentences I have already come across two words which are not in my QuickLatin.  The word order is horrendous sometimes, although the case of the words makes clear their function.  Was John trying to show off in his prologue, like some dull Victorian German editor, I wonder?  Let us hope that it settles down in the next chapter!

So all I need now is time and motivation.  I shall start grinding away.

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“John the deacon” – just who was he?

There are several Italian authors of the Dark Ages known loosely as John the Deacon, and a google search will quickly find evidence that people get confused.  The text that I am working on, BHL 6104, is a Life of St Nicholas of Myra, in Latin, translated by “John the Deacon”.  I struggled with this, so I thought that these notes might help someone!

The first place to look is the Clavis Scriptorum Latinorum Medii Aevi Italiae (700-1000), or SCLMAI, edited by B. Valtorta and published by Sismel in Florence in 2006 in one volume.  This lists most of the following figures, all of whom left literary works, under the name of “John” or “Giovani”, some of whom are relevant, and I’ve added some notes under each.

  • Iohannes Aretinus, episcopus = Bishop John of Arezzo.

Bishop of Arezzo in the second half of the 9th century.  In 875 at the request of Pope John VIII he was part of a mission of Charles the Bald to invite him to Rome for consecration.  In July 877 he participated in a council in Ravenna called by the same pope.  He died in the summer of 900.  Author of a Latin translation of a Greek text on the ascension of Mary.

  • Iohannes Canaparius, monachus.

A monk in the monastery of Sts Boniface and Alexius on the Aventine in Rome and author of the Miracula s. Alexii.  Became abbot in 1002, and probably knew St Adalbert of Prague during his stay in Rome.  Died 1004.  Author of the Passio S. Adaberti martyris Christi.

  • Iohannes Casinensis, monachus = John of Montecassino = John the Monk (of Montecassino).  9th century.

The CSLMAI says that nothing is known of him, except that he lived at the end of the 10th c., and wrote a Passio S. Iohannis martyris.

Articles at Treccani say: John the Deacon (or John of Montecassino, or Giovanni Imonide, latin Iohannes Hymonides). – Monk of Montecassino, historian (b. ca. 852 – d. before 882). Influential at the curia of John VIII, friend of Anastasius Bibliothecarius, he composed from archival material one of the best lives of Gregory the Great. It is very likely that he was involved with the Liber pontificalis; more questionable is the attribution to him of other works, among which the so-called Cena Cypriani.  (This short note from Treccani; a much longer article with bibliography by Paolo Chiesa is here).

  • Iohannes Cluniacensis, monachus (Salernitanus) = John of Cluny, or John of Salerno = John the Monk (of Cluny / Salerno).  Also Iohannes Romanus; Iohannes Italus (!)

Born in Italy, probably in Rome, he met Odo of Cluny in 938 and became a monk.  Two years later he accompanied Odo to Rome, where he was later appointed prior of the monastery of St. Paul.  In 943 he moved to Salerno where he composed the Life of Odo, who had died in Nov. 18, 942.  Author of Sententiae Morales super Iob, and Vita S. Odonis Abbatis.

  • Iohannes Hymmonides Romanus, diaconus = John Hymmonides, or John Romanus = John the Deacon (of Rome).

The SCLMAI : Born around 825, a deacon of the church of Rome.  After the death of Pope Nicholas I (Nov. 867) he was exiled by the emperor Ludovicus II.  He became part of the entourage of Pope John VIII, and was connected to Anastasius Bibliothecarius and Gauderico di Velletri.  He planned (in vain) to continue the Historia Tripartita of Cassiodorus, and Anastasius Bibliothecarius trabslated a Greek Chronographia Tripartita to assist him.  He died around 880, certainly before 882.  He might be the author of the life of Pope Hadrian II contained in the Liber Pontificalis.  Author of the Cena Cypriani; Vita S. Clementis; Vita S. Gregorii Magni.

The confusion between this man and John of Montecassino is obvious.

  • Iohannes Mediolanensis, presbyter = John of Milan = John the Priest.

8-9th century, hagiographer.  Author of a single work on the Passio of the Virgin Mary.

  • Iohannes Neapolitanus, diaconus (and see also Guarimpotus Neapolitanus) = John of Naples = John the Deacon (of Naples).  9-10th century.  This is undoubtedly our author.

Hagiographer and translator, deacon on the church of S. Gennaro ad Diaconiam (=St Januarius) at Naples.  He was a pupil of the priest Auxilius, active in Naples ca. 896.  In 902 he took part in the translation of the relics of St Severinus to Naples, and in 906 in that of the relics of the martyr Sosius to the monastery of St Severinus of Naples.  His works are characterised in the Neapolitan school of translation from Greek by their extreme freedom and formal elegance.  He may be the same as Guarimpotus Neapolitanus, in which case Guarimpoto would have been his name before ordination.  The date of his death is unknown.  Author of: Acta XL Martyrum Sebastenorum; Acta S. Sosii; Gesta Episcoporum Neapolitanorum; Passio S. Maximi Cumanae; Translatio S. Severini Neapolim; Vita S. Euthymii Abbatis; Vita S. Nicolai.  The Life of St Nicholas was made at the age of 20 or 25 at the exhortation of the monk Athanasius, who may perhaps be identified with the Athanasiuis sent to Misenum with John to look for the relics of St. Sosius.  BHL 611-7 are epitomes of the work.  (SCLMAI; Long article with bibliography by Luigi Andrea Berto at Trecani here)

  • Iohannes Ravennas, archiepiscopus = Archbishop John of Ravenna. died. 929.  Author of 7 works.
  • Iohannes Venetus, diaconus = John the Deacon (of Venice). b. ca.940-945, d. after 1018.  Not in the SCLMAI.

Author of the Chronicon Venetum, the oldest Venetian history.  (Wikipedia article here).

We must also mention one further figure:

  • Guarimpotus Neapolitanus = Guarimpoto of Naples.  9-10th century.

Translator and hagiographer.  It is unclear whether he can be identified with “Guarimpotus Grammaticus”, author of the translation of the sermon of Cosmas Vestitor on the translation of relics of John Chrysostom; likewise with John the deacon of Naples, with whose works the author of the Passio Eustratii has strong stylistic affinities.  The name of Guarimpotus appears only in the prologue of the Passio Eustratii, so all his works are uncertain to some degree.  Author of: a lost Passio S. Blasii (possible remains in BHL 1380-1379, which may instead be by Bonitus Neapolitanus Subdiaconus); Passio S. Eustratii et IV sociorum in Armenia, BHG 646-646a, PG 116, 468-515, made at the request of Athanasius II, bishop of Naples in 875-898; Passio S. Febroniae; Passio S. Petri Alexandrini, BHL 6692-3; Vita S. Athanasii ep. Neapolitani; Translatio S. Athanasii ep. Neapolitani.

Out of these, three figures actually appear as “John the Deacon”; John Hymmonides, John of Naples, and in fact also John of Montecassino.  Following the links reveals that our boy is in fact John of Naples, translator of more than one hagiographical work from Greek.

I also found that searching for “Giovanni Diacono” produced a lot of information and some excellent bibliography.

What I had not realised was that Naples, in the 6th-9th century, was actually part of the Byzantine Empire, as the Duchy of Naples.  Its ruler held the titles of dux and magister militum.  Originally dependent on the exarchate of Ravenna, it transferred to the supervision of the Byzantine governor of Sicily after the fall of Ravenna.  But in practice it was rare for a Byzantine army to appear in Sicily, and Naples therefore remained largely independent.  It was vexed by constant Lombard raids, which devastated the countryside.  At other periods the Byzantine government sent Greek settlers to reinforce the Greek population.  The majority of the people were Latin speaking.  By around 840 the Byzantine rule had dissipated to nothing, and the Duchy ceased to feature the Byzantine emperor on its coins.  All the same, this was a bilingual environment, and there was a school of translations into Latin; including the text that we are concerned with here, the Life of St Nicholas.

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Free! Database of manuscripts containing Latin Saint’s Lives – at the Bollandists

I’ve been looking for manuscripts of the “Life” of St Nicholas by John the Deacon.  In the process I have just come across something very useful.

This is the “Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Online” (although it doesn’t contain the BHL info) or Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina manuscripta (BHLms) database.  And … it is free!  You have to enter your name and email address,but then you can do what you want.

It’s hosted at the Société des Bollandistes.  Look under “online resources“.  The direct URL is here.  Click on Recherche, enter your name and email address (why?) and then you are in.

I clicked on “Trouver un texte hagiographique d’après son numéro BHL“, and entered 6104, which is the BHL number for the first part of John the Deacon’s Life.  This led to a page on the text, and then

Liste des manuscrits transmettant ce texte, décrits dans les catalogues des Bollandistes: par fonds ou par siècle.

Clicking on “fonds” – i.e. the libraries that hold the manuscripts – gave me a list ordered by library.  “siècle” gave me an even more useful list, in date order, thereby allowing me to concentrate on the earliest mss.  What I got was this:

Screen grab of the oldest manuscripts of John the deacon’s “Life of St Nicholas”

Note the statement at the top: 121 manuscripts counted in the catalogues published by the Bollandists.  That too is useful information.

The links do not lead to online manuscripts.  So it’s Google time.

Googling for “Chartres manuscrits” led me to a web page.  From this I learned that the Americans bombed Chartres in the war and destroyed half of its manuscripts, and cooked the rest.  But some survive.  A full list is here.  It turned out that the Bollandist “Ms. 68” now has the shelfmark ms.27, and … appears in the list of destroyed manuscripts.  So no luck, then.  The link to the catalogue info for it is here.

Googling for “Orleans manuscrits”, the next item, brought up a website alright: the “Aurelia – Bibliotheque numerique d’Orleans“.  I entered “342” in the search, and, among other cruft, got a picture of a manuscript cover and “Views de saints et Sermons”, 342, Xe, XIe, et XII siecles”.  That looked OK, so I clicked on it and got … catalogue stuff.  A bit more experimenting and I found you have to click on the *image* itself.  There are facilities to download the manuscript, but unfortunately someone – a paperpusher, one fears – has limited it to 4 pages at a time.

The Life is supposedly at the start, but the very first page that one sees is damaged.  There are several references to St Nicholas tho.  It looks as if the cover was removed at some point, and the parchment is worn by being coverless for some period.  Turning the page reveals pen trials; turning again reveals a modern list of contents, and then the first page of the text (click to enlarge):

Orleans – manuscript 342, folio 6r. Life of St Nicholas by John the Deacon (BHL 6104)

The note at the top of the page – “Monasterii sancti Benedicti Floriacensi” – tells us that prior to the French revolution the ms. belonged to the Benedictine abbey of Fleury.  So here is yet another manuscript online, although it took a fair bit of clicking to get it.

The Bollandist list of mnuscripts is inevitably incomplete.  I know of other manuscripts of this particular Latin text, thanks to the entry in the Clavis Scriptorum Latinorum Medii Aevi: Italiae volume, which has an entry for John the Deacon / John of Naples, and which was the source that led me to the BHL Online.  But it’s still an invaluable resource.

Recommended.

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