Images of 5th century letter titles in Pliny the Younger

The Lowe and Rand publication[1] of the Morgan fragment of the 5th century Saint-Victor manuscript of the letters of Pliny the Younger has, by great good fortune, images of the transition between books 2 and 3.  These include a contents list for book 3, consisting of the recipients, followed by the opening words.

Let’s have a look.  Note that you can click on each image for a larger view.

Here’s the end of the first folio of the Morgan fragment — folio 48r, as it was, of the whole manuscript, as the folio number written in a 15th century Italian hand indicates.

So nothing special: “Exp(licit) liber II | Inc(ipit) Lib(er) III.” — “Book 2 ends | Book 3 begins”, plus the usual “feliciter”.  Over the page we find on the verso this:


The lines are alternate black and red ink.  (I do apologise for the wretched quality).  And the next page is similar (you can see the folio number, 49, top right):

This ends with a line of marks, and then on the verso the text begins:

“C.Plinius Calusio Suo Salutem. Nescio nullum …”  Note how the words of the text are not separated in this 5th century manuscript, and the the first two words of the text are as in the table of contents.  And also notice … how the full name of the recipient, Calusius Rufus, is NOT given in the title in the text, which simply says “C. Pliny to his (dear) Calusius, greeting”.

Likewise the beginning of the next letter is also in the Morgan fragment, on folio 61:

Ignore the 15th century scribblings at the top, and note the folio number.  Here it reads “C. Plinius Maximo suo salutem.”  This is the next addressee; Vibius Maximus, as we learn from the index and nowhere else.

The same is true of the next three letters, also present in these few folios, which I will spare you here.  The index of addressees gives two names in every case; the actual superscriptio to the letter gives one.

The presence of extra information in the titles means that these cannot be scribal work; they must come down from Pliny himself, unless we propose to imagine some intermediate person locating this information and adding it, which seems unlikely and unnecessary.

The Lowe and Rand publication, bless  them, also gives the chapter titles in the only other manuscript that has them.  Here they are:

Note that the addressee of the first letter is as it is in the 5th century ms., but the first two words have been moved to the right, to save space.

The titles continue onto the next folio, and then, once again, the superscription of the letter only has the one name, “Calusius”.

Curiously yesterday I discovered a 15th century manuscript of Pliny at the Bibliotheque Nationale site in Paris, shelfmark Ms. Latin 8557.  Let’s have a look at the same point in that:

 There are no titles in this, and the first letter simply refers to “Calusius”.

  1. [1]E.A. Lowe and E.K. Rand, A Sixth-Century Fragment of the Letters of Pliny the Younger: A Study of Six Leaves of an Uncial Manuscript Preserved in the Pierpont Morgan Library New York, Washington (1922).  Online here.

From my diary

I’m going through the mill at work at the moment, which makes life rather heavy, and engagement with hobbies impossible.  To add to the fun, I have only a slow mobile broadband connection on my laptop in the evenings, which makes the necessary task of collecting and responding to my email a slow and painful one.  This leaves little at the end of the day.

But this evening I was able to download E. A. Lowe and E. K. Rand, A sixth century fragment of the letters of Pliny the Younger, from my inbox, to which a kind correspondant had sent it, and I have been reading it with much interest.  The plates do not merely reproduce the 12 leaves of the 5th century manuscript of Pliny; they also reproduce the corresponding portion of manuscripts B and F, which derive from it.  This naturally includes the table of contents in B (F omits these).

I will blog about these in due course.  But the book is well worth reading for the painstaking way in which the authors address all the concerns about authenticity, date and so forth.  Inevitably it is rather technical, but if you find manuscripts interesting, it’s a godsend.

I have yet to discover quite why this item is not on Google books.  Apparently it is on the Hathi website, in low-resolution form, where it may be downloaded one page at a time.  My correspondant kindly did this evil task, and then zipped the files up into a PDF — thank you!