The medieval catalogue of the abbey of Lorsch now online!

I discovered yesterday that there is a project to reconstitute online the scattered volumes of the library of the abbey of Lorsch in Germany, and that some of the books are now online.  This includes the lengthy 9th century list of books then in the library.

Lorsch was founded during the Dark Ages, as part of the revival of learning spearheaded by Charlemagne.  A whole series of monasteries were founded, running eastwards, including Lorsch.  The holdings of these libraries remained intact until the Renaissance.  The 15th century manuscript hunter Poggio Bracciolini took advantage of his attendance at the Council of Constance (as a papal sidekick) to visit many of them, in search of the lost works of classical antiquity.

Unfortunately they all suffered badly during the Thirty Years’ War, when the Swedish army campaigned in Southern Germany and destroyed all of them.  Unique items went to line the leak boots of Swedish bombardiers.  The loot of Lorsch was taken to the Palatinate, to Heidelberg, and the disposal of the books formed part of the settlement of the Thirty Years War.  The Lorsch books mostly went to the Vatican, to form the “Palatinus Latinus” collection.

Here’s the page for the Lorsch catalogue, today Ms. Vatican. Pal. Lat. 57.  The catalogue is folios 1-7.  (Note that you can’t use IE for this; use Chrome.)

The first page (folio 1r) is mostly bible books.  Here’s the top of folio 1v:


Chronica Eusebii. Hieronymi & Bedae. In uno codice.

Tripertita historia libri xii. Socratis, Zozomeni [i.e. Sozomen], Theodoriti. In uno codice.

Gesta pontificorum romanorum. In uno codice.

A little further down is the epitome of Pompeius Trogus in 44 books, in a single volume.

After a few leaves of Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose, etc, at the top of a leaf we find Tertullian:


Liber Tertulliani presbyteri   (Book of Tertullian the presbyter)
Item alius lib. Tertulliani.  (Likewise another book of Tertullian).

This was almost certainly a copy of the two volume Corpus Cluniacensis of the works of Tertullian.  Sadly it has not come down to us.

The catalogue was printed long ago in G. Becker, Catalogi Bibliothecarum Antiqui, Bonnae 1885.

Looking at these images makes me nostalgic for the 90s, when I had just started the Tertullian Project, and learned of the lost Tertullian of Lorsch.  There was no Google Books then.  So I travelled to Cambridge University Library to consult “Becker”.

This was held in the awe-inspiring Rare Books Room, where you weren’t allowed to photocopy.  Of course it was impossible to do more than skim the book, and I ended up buying a reprint online.  (These days Becker is freely available for download at, etc.)  It is by my elbow as I write, a very early purchase in my work online.  I read it, poring over the crabbed Latin, and reread it.  First I looked for Tertullian’s; but gradually it became so much more.

To read those library lists is to enter the literary history of the middle ages.  The book is a massive compendium of lists of the works that really filled up monastic libraries.  The bible at the front, then the fathers, then miscellania, then classical stuff at the back.  The lists are full of works never read today, but everywhere in the middle ages.  We read Tacitus and Suetonius; they read Dares Phrygius and Justinus.  It is a vision of a different world.

I never hoped that the manuscripts themselves would be online.  But so they are.

These are truly days of miracles and wonders.

Fragments of a 4th century manuscript of Cyprian’s Letters

A tweet from the British Library medieval manuscripts account drew my attention to five damaged leaves in a British Library manuscript, Additional 40165 A.  They are portions of Cyprian’s Letters, letters 55, 74 and 79.  This is CLA II 178.

What makes them exciting is the early date – 4th century, according to the BL twitter account (the online page does not give a date) – and the location, which is North Africa.  The Trismegistos site gives the date as 375-400 AD, and location as Europe or North Africa.

The manuscript was the subject of an article by no less than Cyprian scholar Maurice Bévenot in the Journal of Theological Studies[1]  Sadly this is not accessible to me.  (My access to JSTOR is provided by Oxford University alumni, so it is curious that an Oxford University Press journal is not included.)


Three fragments from St Cyprian’s epistles:.

1. Epistle LV, p. 645, 1. 11, “facit daemoniis” – p. 647, 1. 16, “inuenerint iudica[bit].” (f. 1r);

2. Epistle LXXIV: ‘[re]tro nusquam'(p. 801, 1. 12), to ‘effectus/m est.’ (p. 808,11. 9, 10) (ff. 2r-4r);

3. Epistle LXIX: ‘aepiscopo legitima’ (p. 752, 1. 11) – ‘episco[po] alium sibi’ (p. 754, 1. 17) (f. 5r).(References [to pages.lines] in Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Vol 3, Part 2).

The manuscript of which these fragments formed part, appears to have been the archetype, (at least in these three letters) of the English group of manuscripts (classed by von Soden, 1904) as ‘n’, which includes Royal MS 6 B XV, Oxford, Bodley Latin MS 210, New College MS 130, and Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 25. Decoration: Biblical quotations in red.

ff. 1-5: Origin: North Africa (Carthage?). ?Theodore of Tarsus and Hadrian, perhaps brought to England by them in the 7th century. In England by the 8th century: insular letter forms, e.g. ‘vr’ written over uncial ‘UR’ (f. 2v) (see Schipper 2004, p. 160). ff: 6-7:

Origin: England, S. W.?

Provenance of all parts : Used as flyleaves for a 12th-century Latin manuscript, now Additional 40165B: a table of contents of this manuscript in a hand of the 13th century covers an erased portion of the text (f. 3r).Bernard Howard, 12th Duke of Norfolk (b. 1765, d.1842): his bookplate in Additional 40165B.Purchased by the British Museum (with Additional 40165B) in the anonymous sale of manuscripts at Sotheby’s on 20th December 1921, lot 504, for £40.

Purchased by the British Museum (with Additional 40165B) in the anonymous sale of manuscripts at Sotheby’s on 20th December 1921, lot 504, for £40.

Here’s the twitter image:

The pages were cut-down and used as fly-leaves in the binding of a 12th century manuscript, which is how they survive.

Here’s the full leaf (3v), the bible stuff is the middle column.

The page is also of interest for indicating a means of citation – indenting one or two letters, and text in red.  This may be seen lower down, where the bible quote ends, and the original text resumes, outdenting by two letters[2]

It is unclear whether we can see paleographical evidence for origins in Roman North Africa.[3]  The pages have been trimmed, but Bévenot states that the original pages were written in four thin columns; very unusual, and a hang-over from the usage in the papyrus roll.

Very interesting to see!

  1. [1]M. Bévenot, “The oldest surviving manuscript of St. Cyprian now in the British Library”, in: Journal of Theological Studies (new series) 31, 1980, 368-377.  JSTOR.
  2. [2]See Patrick McGurk, “Citation marks in early Latin manuscripts. (With a list of citation marks in manuscripts earlier than A. D. 800 in English and Irish libraries)”, in: Scriptorium 14, 1961, 3-13.  Online here.
  3. [3]R. Rouse, “North African literary activity : a Cyprian fragment, the stichometric lists and a Donatist compendium”, Revue de histoire de textes 30, 2001, 189-238.

Does Victor of Vita quote from the Three Heavenly Witnesses?

Victor of Vita lived in Roman Africa after its conquest by the Vandals.  The Vandals were Arians, and their kings persecuted the Catholic clergy.  In 484 Victor wrote an account of the persecutions, which has come down to us in a number of manuscripts.  These I list from C. Halms 1878 edition in the Monumenta Germanica Historiae, series: Auctores Antiq., vol. 3.1. Online here.  There is also the CSEL 7 edition by Petschenig (1881).

  • A = Laon, Codex Laudunensis 113 (9th c.)  Contains only book 2, and a list of Catholic bishops at the synod of 484, which alone is preserved in this copy.  Another used by an early editor no longer seems to exist.
  • B = Bamberg, Codex Bambergensis signatus E, 3, 4. (9th c.)
  • C = Upper Austria, Codex monasterii Cremifanensis, sign. 36 (12th c.)
  • L = Berlin, Codex Berolinensis lat. quart. 1. (12th c.)
  • M = Munich, Codex Monacensis 2545 (previously cod. Alderspacensis) (12th c.)
  • P = Paris latinus 2015 (once Colbertinus 905)(10th c.)
  • R = Brussels, Codex Bruxellensis 1794. (10th c.)
  • V = Vienna, Codex Vindobonensis 583 (previously “Univ. 239”)(10th c.)
  • W = Vienna, Codex Vindobonensis 408 (formerly Admontensis from the abbey of Admont) (11th c.).  Contains some crude interpolations.  Derived from V.
  • a = Codex Abrincensis 162 (12th c.) Both mutilated and interpolated.
  • b = Berne, Codex Bernensis 48. (Once Floriacensis)(11th c.)  Similar to R but inferior.
  • s = Admont, Codex Admontensis 739 (12th c.).  Derived from V.

Analysis of the readings means that the manuscripts fall into two families, both derived from O, the original now manuscript (manuscripts in Greek letters are lost ancestor manuscripts of one family or another).  The tree of which manuscript was copied from what (the stemma) looks like this:

The editio princeps, the first edition is actually “Parisiis ab Iano Parvo (=Jehan Petit) Ludovico XII. regnante impressa”.  This undated edition was unknown to editors who generally thought that this was the edition of Beatus Rhenanus at Basle in 1535.

There is a modern English translation in the Liverpool University Press series: Victor of Vita: History of the Vandal Persecution, tr. John Moorhead, Liverpool (1992); series: Translated Texts for Historians 10.

The passage that refers to the Comma Johanneum, the interpolated passage in 1 John 5:7 which discusses the Trinity, is in book 2, chapter 11 (section 82; p.34 of the edition).  Halms’ edition (which Moorhead translated) reads:

82. Vnde nullus ambiguitatis relinquitur locus, quin clareat spiritum sanctum et deum esse et suae voluntatis auctorem, qui cuncta operari et secundum propriae voluntatis arbitrium divinae dispensationis dona largiri apertissime demonstratur, quia ubi voluntaria gratiarum distributio praedicatur, non potest videri condicio servitutis: in creatura enim servitus intellegenda est, in trinitate vero dominatio ac libertas. Et ut adhuc luce clarius unius divinitatis esse cum patre et filio spiritum sanctum doceamus, Iohannis evangelistae testimonio conprobatur.  Ait namque: tres sunt qui testimonium perhibent in caelo, pater, verbum et spiritus sanctus, et hi tres unum sunt. Numquid ait: tres in differenti aequalitate seiuneti aut quibuslibet diversitatum gradibus longo separationis intervallo divisi? sed, tres, inquit, unum sunt.

The CSEL text is the same, and the apparatus contains only trivial variants.

This is rendered by Moorhead (p.56):

82 And so, no occasion for uncertainty is left. It is clear that the Holy Spirit is also God and the author of his own will, he who is most clearly shown to be at work in all things and to bestow the gifts of the divine dispensation according to the judgment of his own will, because where it is proclaimed that he distributes graces where he wills, servile condition cannot exist, for servitude is to be understood in what is created, but power and freedom in the Trinity. And so that we may teach the Holy Spirit to be of one divinity with the Father and the Son still more clearly than the light, here is proof from the testimony of John the evangelist. For he says: ‘There are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one.’ Surely he does he not say ‘three separated by a difference in quality’ or ‘divided by grades which differentiate, so that there is a great distance between them?’ No, he says that the ‘three are one.’

That’s that, pretty much; this 5th century Latin text definitely mentions the Three Heavenly Witnesses as part of the text of 1 John.

Moorhead adds a comment on the text of scripture used by Victor (p.xix ff.):

To avoid a multiplication of footnotes I have supplied references to biblical quotations and allusions in parentheses, without troubling to register minor ways, whether due to the text which Victor or the authors of the Book of the catholic faith were familiar with, faulty memory, or some other cause, in which they differ from modern printed versions of the Bible. The chapter and verse numbers of the psalms are those of the Vulgate, but the names of books of the Bible are those by which they are generally known in English. Where ‘Vulg’ is added, the text Victor cites is similar to the Vulgate and differs significantly from the modem translations readers may have at their disposal; where ‘cf’ is added, Victor’s text is significantly different from both the Vulgate and modem versions.[23]

The footnote:

23. It must be said that some of the variants which occur in the Book of the catholic faith constitute amendments in a Trinitarian direction.

It is perhaps inevitable in the circumstances, if undesirable, that the most useful reading was preferred.

Manuscripts of the Suda / Suidas

I recently had reason to consult manuscripts of the 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia known as the Suda, and known in the past under the misleading title of “Suidas”.  This I did, but I realised that I did not actually know what the main mss of the Suda might be.  Some 80 manuscripts are listed at Pinakes, containing all or part of the text. The following notes are from Adler’s edition, vol. 1, p.218 f.

  • A = Paris, BNF, gr. 2625 and 2626.  Both have an older and a younger section.  2625 older portion is not dated by Adler; the younger is 14th century.  The older part of 2626 is 12-13th century, the younger is 15th century.
  • R = Vatican 3-4, copied from A before 1449.
  • Marcianus 449 (today 558), 15th c.  Copied from A.
  • British Library Additional 11892-3. Copied from A in 1402 by George Baeophorus.
  • Vatican 2317 (= 2431).  AD 1463.  Copied from A.
  • F = Florence, Mediceo-Laurenziana 55, 1.  Copied from A in 1422.
  • V = Leiden, Vossianus, 12th century.  Written before 1204 when S was copied from it.  Adler gives no shelfmark, and it does not appear to be listed in Pinakes.  A google search suggests it is Leiden University Library, Vossianus gr. F 2.[1]
  • S = Cod. Vaticanus 1296.  AD 1204.  Copied from V. Currently divided in 3 volumes.
  • C = Oxford, Corpus Christi College 76-7.  End of 15th c.  Copied from V.
  • British Library, Harleianus 3100.  End of 15th c.  Copied from V.  Originally at Durham Cathedral; presented by the dean and chapter to Edward Harley in 1715; and sold to the British Museum with the other Harley mss in 1753.
  • G = Paris 2623.  Written before 1481 by Caesare Strategus.  Part of the mixed GIT family.
  • Holkham Hall 288 (now in Bodleian library), 1454 AD.   Related to G.
  • I = Codex Angelicus 75. 15th c.  Part of the mixed GIT family.
  • Escorial X I 1. 15th c.   Part of the mixed GIT family.
  • Paris suppl. 96.  15th c. Excerpts.  Part of the mixed GIT family.
  • T = Vatican 881.  AD 1434.  Part of the mixed GIT family.  Interpolated at the end.
  • U = Urbinas gr. 161.  AD 1461.  Related to T.
  • N = Marcianus XI, 8 ( today 991). 15th c.  Related to T.
  • B = Paris 2622. 13th c.  Part of the BLM family.
  • Madrid 4882. (O 89) 16th c.    Part of the BLM family.
  • Copenhagen Gl. Kgl. Saml. 413.  1465 AD.    Part of the BLM family.
  • Marcianus X 21-22, (today 1197-8). ca. 1475.    Part of the BLM family.
  • E = Brussels 11281. AD 1476.    Part of the BLM family.
  • L = Codex Sinaiticus, St Petersburg 125. 14th c.    Part of the BLM family.
  • D = Bodleian Misc. Gr. 289. (= Auct. V 52). 15th c.    Part of the BLM family.
  • H = Paris gr. 2624. 15th c.   Part of the BLM family.
  • Milan, Ambrosianus 494 (L 108 Sup.) 15th c.    Part of the BLM family.
  • M = Marcianus 448 (1047). 13th c.   Part of the BLM family.
  • Oxford, Bodleian Misc. 290 (Auct. V 53) 15th c. Copied from M.

There are also excerpts preserved.

Sadly no stemma is given by Adler.

  1. [1]Tiziano Dorandi, “Liber qui vocatur suda: Translation of the Suda by Robert Grosseteste”, 2013. Via here: “Abstract: Robert Grosseteste (Bishop of Lincoln from 1235) translated in Latin some entries of the Byzantine Lexicon known as the Suda, a translation which is still unpublished. This paper investigates the textual transmission of Suda’s translation. In the first part Grosseteste’s learning and knowledge of Ancient Greek are briefly outlined. In the same section his other translations from Greek are also discussed. A description of the extant manuscripts of Suda’s translation is provided, as well as a catalogue of the items (pertaining to a separate textual tradition), which are found in Grosseteste’s notulae of his doctrinal, literary and scholarly works. Special attention is paid to the so-called Lexicon Arundelianum (a Greek-Latin Lexicon – but entirely written in Latin – Transmitted by MS London, College of Arms, Arundel 9). Grosseteste sometimes combines several Suda’s items and/or inserts in the original Lexicon text some entries of the Etymologicum Gudianum. Moreover Grosseteste’s translations are extremely literal (verbum de verbo). Finally, MS Leiden University Library, Vossianus gr. F 2 (12th cent.) is proved to be the Suda Greek manuscript used by Grosseteste for his translation.”

A manuscript of a regionary catalogue and a manuscript of the Notitia Dignitatum online!

Update: I misread the announcement of that it contained the Notitia Dignitatum.  It does not.  Post amended!

A few years ago I uploaded the Chronography of 354 AD to the web, and I included some of the regionary catalogues here as part 14, with notes by me; the lists of buildings, temples, etc in the 14 regions of ancient Rome.

Times have changed, and I learn from the Vatican digitisation project twitter feed that one of the manuscripts of a regionary catalogue has come online, ms. Vat. lat. 3394, late 15th c., belong to Pomponio Leto.  It’s here.  It’s a dull-looking manuscript, but full of hard data!  Here’s the start of region V.

Starts: “75 private bathhouses / 78 cisterns / 12 bakeries (pistrina)”  Interesting to see the differences to the printed version I uploaded.

But this is not all.

We also now have online here the Bodleian’s copy of the Notitia Dignitatum too, which contains lists of military posts.

Shelfmark is Ms. Canon. Misc. 378, written in 1436.  Image 312 (f.153v) is a picture, showing Britain and the forts of the Saxon Shore, while image 313 (f.154r) gives a list of the forces available to the Count of the Saxon Shore.

The manuscript is a “collection of texts on the late Roman Empire, many of which have been illustrated”.  I could wish that it was easier to find out just what the contents actually are!  The browser is as useless as usual, or I might flip through it.  In the end I found a list here.  It includes Polemius Silvius’ calendar, De Rebus Bellicis, Altercatio Hadriani Augusti et Epicteti philosophi, Notitia urbis Constantinopolitanae, and regionary stuff. All useful and interesting to have!

A few months of interesting links

For some months I’ve been collecting bits and pieces.  Mostly I have nothing much to add, but they shouldn’t be lost.

Cool 9th century manuscript online as PDF

Via Rick Brannan I learn that a downloadable PDF of the Greek-Latin St Gall 9th century manuscript of Paul’s letters is online and can be downloaded as a single PDF:

Note the link on this page where you can download a PDF of what appears to be the entire Codex Boernerianus. It is beautiful.

And so you can.  It’s at the SLUB in Dresden here, where it has the shelfmark A.145.b.  It also contains Sedulius Scottus, I gather.

Nice to see the interlinear, isn’t it?

Codex Trecensis of Tertullian online

A correspondent advised me that the Codex Trecensis of the works of Tertullian has appeared online in scanned microfilm form at the IRHT.  Rubbish quality, but far better than nothing.  The ms is here.  De Resurrectione Carnis begins on 157r and ends on 194r.  De Baptismo begins on folio 194r and ends on 200v.  De Paenitentia begins on folio 200v.

Saints lives = Christian novels?

A review at BMCR by Elisabeth Schiffer of Stratis Papaioannou, Christian Novels from the ‘Menologion’ of Symeon Metaphrastes. Dumbarton Oaks medieval library, 45. Harvard University Press, 2017, caught my eye.   This contains 6 lives from Metaphrastes collection.

Even though hagiographical texts are among the most frequently translated Byzantine sources, little effort has been made so far to translate parts of Symeon Metaphrastes’ Menologion. This is primarily due to the generally unfortunate editorial situation of these texts: They are transmitted relatively standardized, but in a vast number of liturgical manuscripts.

In addition to summarizing the status of research on Symeon’s rewriting enterprise, Papaioannou explains in his introduction why he calls the texts in focus “Christian novels.” It is not unproblematic to apply this modern term, as he himself states, but he decided to do so because of the fictionality of these narratives and because of their resemblances to the late antique Greek novel. When saying this, it is important to emphasize—as Papaioannou explicitly does—that these texts of novelistic character were not understood as such by their audience. On the contrary, the Byzantines regarded these texts as relating true stories, written for edification and liturgical purposes (see pp. xiv-xviii).

It’s an interesting review of a neglected area of scholarship where the tools for research – editions and translations – are not available.

Full-text of the Greek Sibylline Oracles online for free

Annette Y Reed broke the story on Twitter: it’s J. Geffcken, Die Oracula Sibyllina, Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1902, which has turned up at here.   A useful transcription, rather than the original book, is also online here.

All known mss in the Bodleian library – detailed in online catalogue

Ben Albritton on Twitter shares:

This is awesome – “This catalogue provides descriptions of all known Western medieval manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, and of medieval manuscripts in selected Oxford colleges (currently Christ Church).” Sharing ICYMI too.

It also has direct links to the for Greek mss!

Where did the Byzantine text of the New Testament come from?

Peter Gurry at the ETC blog asks the question, and suggests that Westcott and Hort are no longer the authorities to consult.

How to respond to politically motivated persecution

Since the election of President Trump I have noted on Twitter a new form of anti-Christian posting.  There has been an endless stream of anti-Christian jeering online, demanding “how dare you support Trump”?  It is surreal to see how people who hate Christians suddenly have become expert theologians on what Jesus would do.  Thankfully a certain Kurt Schlichter writes *Sigh* No, Being A Christian Does Not Require You Meekly Submit To Leftist Tyranny:

Everyone seems to want to tell Christians that they are obligated to give in. There’s always some IPA-loving hipster who writes video game reviews when he’s not sobbing alone in the dark because no one loves him tweeting “Oh, that’s real Christian!” whenever a conservative fights back. I know that when I need theological clarification, I seek out the militant atheist who thinks Christ was a socialist and believes that the Golden Rule is that Christians are never allowed to never offend anyone.

It’s a good article, and sadly necessary in these horribly politicised times.  It’s worth remembering that, were times different, rightists would most certainly adopt the same lofty lecturing tone.

A quote for pastors from St Augustine

Timothy P. Jones posted on twitter:

“If I fail to show concern for the sheep that strays, the sheep who are strong will think it’s nothing but a joke to stray and to become lost. I do desire outward gains–but I’m more concerned with inward losses” (Augustine of Hippo).

Queried as to the source, he wrote:

It’s from Sermon 46 by Augustine–the entire message is an outstanding exposition of what it means to be a shepherd of God’s people…. I translated the above from thisHere’s a good English translation as well.

Artificial Intelligence in the Vatican Archives

I knew it.  It’s alive!!!

Well, not quite.  This is a piece in the Atlantic, Artificial Intelligence Is Cracking Open the Vatican’s Secret Archives: A new project untangles the handwritten texts in one of the world’s largest historical collections:

That said, the VSA [Vatican Secret Archives] isn’t much use to modern scholars, because it’s so inaccessible. Of those 53 miles, just a few millimeters’ worth of pages have been scanned and made available online. Even fewer pages have been transcribed into computer text and made searchable. If you want to peruse anything else, you have to apply for special access, schlep all the way to Rome, and go through every page by hand.

But a new project could change all that. Known as In Codice Ratio, it uses a combination of artificial intelligence and optical-character-recognition (OCR) software to scour these neglected texts and make their transcripts available for the very first time.

They’ve found a way around the limitations of OCR by using stroke recognition instead of letter recognition.  They open-sourced the manpower by getting students (who didn’t know Latin) to input sample data, and started getting results.

All early days, but … just imagine if we could really read the contents of our archives!

Kazakhstan abandons Cyrillic for Latin-based alphabet

Via SlashDot I read:

The Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan is changing its alphabet from Cyrillic script to the Latin-based style favored by the West. The change, announced on a blustery Tuesday morning in mid-February, was small but significant — and it elicited a big response. The government signed off on a new alphabet, based on a Latin script instead of Kazakhstan’s current use of Cyrillic, in October. But it has faced vocal criticism from the population — a rare occurrence in this nominally democratic country ruled by Nazarbayev’s iron fist for almost three decades. In this first version of the new alphabet, apostrophes were used to depict sounds specific to the Kazakh tongue, prompting critics to call it “ugly.” The second variation, which Kaipiyev liked better, makes use of acute accents above the extra letters. So, for example, the Republic of Kazakhstan, which would in the first version have been Qazaqstan Respy’bli’kasy, is now Qazaqstan Respyblikasy, removing the apostrophes.

The article at SlashDot instinctively opposed a change, which can only benefit every single Kazakhstani, by making a world of literature accessible.  Ataturk did the same, and for the same reason.

Tell Google that a book is in the public domain

Sometimes Google misclassifies books.  But there is a way to tell it that actually the book is public domain.  The Google link is here.  From It’s surprisingly easy to make government records public on Google Books:

While working on a recent story about hate speech spread by telephone in the ’60s and ’70s, I came across an interesting book that had been digitized by Google Books. Unfortunately, while it was a transcript of a Congressional hearing, and therefore should be in the public domain and not subject to copyright, it wasn’t fully accessible through Google’s archive….

But, as it turns out, Google provides a form where anyone can ask that a book scanned as part of Google Books be reviewed to determine if it’s in the public domain. And, despite internet companies sometimes earning a mediocre-at-best reputation for responding to user inquiries about free services, I’m happy to report that Google let me know within a week after filling out the form that the book would now be available for reading and download.

What does it mean to speak of an authorial/original/initial form of a Scriptural writing when faced with tremendous complexity in the actual data itself?

Back at ETC blog, Peter Gurry discusses this with Greg Lanier here.

Some of the difficulty, one senses, is because the interaction of the divine with an imperfect world is always inherently beyond our ability to understand.  It requires revelation, which is not supplied in this case.

And with that, I think I’ve dealt with a bunch of interesting stories which didn’t deserve a separate post.  Onward!

Fun with footnotes – the Laudatio Apostolorum of ps.Chrysostom

I do enjoy looking into footnotes.  I’ve been looking into another couple on a passage in Dirk Rohmann’s book, which we encountered a few days ago.  (I’m ignoring footnotes that I’m not looking at; but giving the context).

In John [Chrysostom]’s metaphorical words, the apostles have “gagged the tongues of the philosophers and stitched shut the mouths of the rhetoricians.” This passage echoes a similar statement in an unpublished manuscript (attributed to John) which asserts that “the senate decrees have been overthrown, the philosophers and orators have been put to shame, and the Areopagus has been wiped out.”[12] This statement could be right because it is attested that in the last quarter of the fourth century large private mansions were constructed on the Areopagus hill, traditionally a place that housed archives.

[12] Voicu (1997), 515: “Senatsbeschlüsse sind von den Aposteln umgestürzt, Philosophen u. Redner  beschämt u. der Areopag vernichtet worden”, referring to the unpublished manuscript Cod. Vat.  Gr. 455 fol. 119v. (Voicu, Sever J. 1997. “Johannes Chrysostomus II (Pseudo-Chrysostomica).” RAC 18:503–15)

Mmmm… unpublished manuscripts!!!

…the senate decrees have been overthrown, the philosophers and orators have been put to shame, and the Areopagus has been wiped out…

That does sound rather interesting.  I wondered what the context is?  What is this “unpublished manuscript”?  So… I thought I’d see what I could find!

The RAC seems to be the Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum which no normal person has access to.  It’s not accessible online.  That’s annoying.  Presumably nobody ever looks at it.

My next thought was that perhaps the manuscript itself was online?  Maybe I could take a look at it?  Maybe get a text transcribed, or translated?  After all, 15,000 Vatican manuscripts are now online.  But unfortunately this is not one of them.  Okay…

But surely the Pinakes database, maintained by the IRHT, will list the manuscript and it’s contents?  Well indeed they do!  The entry is here.  The manuscript appears to be a Byzantine homiliary, of the 10th century, and the passage comes from a very short work (folios 118v-120v), entitled Laudatio SS Apostolorum (= Praise of the holy apostles), CPG 4970 (BHG 0160i), incipit Οἱ πρὸ τῆς κλήσεως ἁλιεῖς καὶ μετὰ τὴν κλῆσιν πάλιν ἁλιεῖς, and ending ὅτι ἔδει ἐξ ὕψους μεγάλαις ταῖς πτέρυξιν ἐφιπτάμενον τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα φίλους θεοῦ καὶ προφήτας κατασκευάζειν… ἀμήν.  Three manuscripts are listed – Thank heavens for the thoroughness of the IRHT cataloguers!  The CPG entry tells us no more; a couple of items of inaccessible bibliography are listed by the BHG.  A google search reveals another article by Sever J. Voicu, likewise inaccessible.[1]  I infer that the work does indeed have some interesting features!

We can do nothing with this work at the moment.  It’s quite unusual, these days, that I can’t find some kind of access online to some of this stuff.  But of course this was once normal.  It’s a reminder of what is still offline.

But once the manuscript comes online at the Vatican site, I must have a look.  If the manuscript is legible – and Greek manuscripts tend to be heavily abbreviated – then I might try to get a transcription made; and then a translation.  It might be fun!

There is nothing we can do at the moment, however.  Nice footnote, to nice stuff.

  1. [1]S.J.Voicu, “Echi costantinopolitani di sant’Ireneo. Note su una pseudocrisostomica «Laudatio apostolorum» (CPG 4970)”, in Ultra Terminum Vagari. Scritti in onore di Carl Nylander, a cura di B. Magnusson, S. Renzetti, P. Vian & S.J. Voicu, Roma: Edizioni Quasar. Associazione Internazionale di Archeologia Classica, 1997, 357-366.

A portrait of Constantius II from 354, via two intermediaries

As manuscripts of the Vatican come online, it becomes possible to look at items previously known to us only from poor-quality photographs.  This is a good thing.

Years ago I made an online edition of the Chronography of 354, an illustrated luxury manuscript made for a Roman aristocrat in 354 AD, and transmitted to us by copies.  The pictures exist in various versions, mostly derived from a Carolingian copy now lost.  The best set, in monochrome, are preserved in Vatican Ms. Barberini lat.2154 B.  Sadly the full colours of the ancient original are not preserved; but the renaissance artist did his best to copy the Carolingian original.

Here’s one of the illustrations, on folio 13, depicting Constantius II, in the uncharacteristic pose of money falling from his hand.  Somehow one suspects that this charmless man did look rather like this.  (It is a pity that, as with other Italian stuff put online, the image is defaced with a watermark screaming “mine! mine! mine!!”)

A fragment of Bede’s “De ratione temporum” from his own lifetime?

Here’s a fun item!  Inside the binding of a book, somebody found a really early fragment of a manuscript of Bede’s De ratione temporum.  (This is the only work which mentions “Eostre”, and includes all his calculations of dates and events.)

Even more fun – it’s online in a nice high-resolution image at Darmstadt!  It can be found here, where it is manuscript 4262.  The piece originates at Wearmouth – i.e. in Bede’s own monastery – around 725, in his own lifetime.

It’s amazing to consider that Bede may have seen this being copied!

But there is more.  This is a chunk of chapter 27, De magnitudine, vel defectu solis et lunae, as you may verify from this old edition here.  In this passage, he quotes Pliny the Elder book 37.  You can see the red heading of Bede’s chapter in the left hand column; and the name of “Plinius” on the third line underneath.

Here’s one side of the folium:

And here’s the other (which plainly needs a bit of work with a graphics tool):

Here’s some of the Latin text:

De magnitudine, vel defectu solis, sive lunae, Plinius secundus in opere pulcherrimo naturalis historiae ita describit: Manifestum est solem interventu lunas occultari, lunamque terrae objectu, ac vices reddi, eosdem solis radios luna interpositu suo auferente terrae, terraeque lunae.

The “eosdem solis radios luna” is particularly clear in the right-hand column, two lines down.

Here’s the same bit in the Liverpool University translation by Faith Wallis, p.78-79:

Pliny relates the following information concerning the size or eclipse of the Sun and Moon in that most delightful book, the Natural History: “It is obvious that the Sun is obscured by the intervention of the Moon, and the Moon by the interposition of the Earth, and each affects the other. The Moon takes away by its interposition the very same rays of the Sun which the Earth takes away from the Moon.”

Isn’t it amazing that a page of a copy contemporary with the author, and from the same monastery, is still extant?  It does demonstrate the importance of looking in these 16th century bindings.

Well done Darmstadt, for making that accessible online!  (They ask that I mention their reference of urn:nbn:de:tuda-tudigit-51806)

An extant “sillybos” – parchment label – from an ancient roll

The British Library manuscripts blog has produced a rather marvellous article by Matthew Nicholls on Ancient Libraries.

But what made it special to me was an image of an item which I had never seen before.

As we all know, ancient books were written on rolls of papyrus.  The modern book form or “codex” belongs to late antiquity.  But the title of the work in each roll was written on a parchment slip known as the sillybos, or sometimes sittybos – the literature doesn’t indicate which is correct – which protruded from the end, allowing the reader to find out which roll he needed without unrolling any of them.

Cicero refers to such items in his letters to Atticus.  In book 4, letter 8, 2, we read:[1]

Postea vero quam Tyrannio mihi libros disposuit, mens addita videtur meis aedibus. Qua quidem in re mirifica opera Dionysi et Menophili tui fuit. Nihil venustius quam illa tua pegmata, postquam mi sillybis libros iIlustrarunt. Vale. Et scribas ad me velim de gladiatoribus, sed ita, bene si rem gerunt; non quaero, male si se gessere.

Since Tyrannio has arranged my books, the house seems to have acquired a soul: and your Dionysius and Menophilus were of extraordinary service. Nothing could be more charming than those bookcases of yours now that the books are adorned with title-slips. Farewell. Please let me know about the gladiators: but only if they are behaving well; if not, I don’t want to know.

 In book 4, letter 5.4 we read:[2]

Domum meam quod crebro invisis est mihi valde gratum. Viaticum Crassipes praeripit. Tu “de via recta in hortos.” Videtur commodius ad te: postridie scilicet; quid enim tua? Sed viderimus. Bibliothecam mihi tui pinxerunt constructione et sillybis. Eos velim laudes.

I am very grateful to you for going to see my house so often. Crassipes is swallowing all my travelling money. You say I must go straight to your country house. It seems to me more convenient to go to your town house, and on the next day. It can’t make any difference to you. But we shall see. Your men have beautified my library by binding the books and affixing title-slips. Please thank them.

A painting from Herculaneum shows an example of a roll with a sillybos dangling out of the end of the roll:

Matthew has posted here an image of one, attached to its original roll:

The slip has on it the name of “Bacchylides” – a poet of the 5th c. BC – with the title of the work, the Dithyramboi, underneath.  The bit of text attached is from the 17th dithyramb. The manuscript is BL papyrus 2056 (= P.Oxy. 1091), and is 2nd century AD in date.  It is, of course, from Oxyrhynchus, as is papyrus 733, the unique manuscript of Bacchylides’ poems.

It’s wonderful to see something like this.  It’s obvious how these could become detached, and a work could become anonymous and untitled.

Here is a parchment sillybos of the 1st-2nd century AD which became detached from a copy of the lost work, Sophronos, Mimes on Women. (I take this from Sarah Bond’s excellent article on the same subject).  This item is P.Oxy.II 304:

Another sillybos of the 1-2nd century is preserved from a copy of the 9th book of Hermarchus against Empedocles, POxy vol. 47, 3318.

A 2nd century AD sillybos comes from a commentary (hypomnema) on the Simonidea, possibly the Sayings of Simonides, POxy 25, 2433:

Even more interestingly, Dr B. tells us that a sillybos might be known as an index in Latin (although Cicero uses the Greek term), as we find in Livy 38, 56.  Here the lost speech of Scipio against Naevius (it looks as if Scipio was speaking for the defence) had Naevius’ name mentioned only in the sillybos, not in the speech itself:

[6] The index8 of the speech of Publius Scipio contains the name of Marcus Naevius, tribune of the people; the speech itself lacks the name of the accuser; it calls him now “a ne’er-do-well,” now “a no-good.” 

Note that a number of other sillyboi may be seen at the Oxyrhynchus website here.

I was also able to find another ancient depiction of a sillybos, protruding from a roll in the paintings from Pompei.  I found this online here.

Updated 21/07/2018 with additional images.

  1. [1]Loeb edition, vol. 1, p.292-3.
  2. [2]Loeb edition, vol. 1, p.284-5