Zoom meeting – A paper on fragments of medieval Latin manuscripts originating in Transylvania, by Adrian Paphagi

On March 26 at 3pm GMT / UTC (1100 EDT) Dr Adrian Papahagi will present a paper via Zoom with the title Evidence Preserved by Destruction: Recycling Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Transylvania during the (Counter)Reformation.  You can register for it here.  (H/T @FragmentariumMS on Twitter here.)  I may listen in myself.

Like most of us, I was quite unaware that there were Latin manuscripts written in medieval Translyvania.  But indeed there were.  There were Benedictine Abbeys, and Franciscan Friaries in the region.  The area was only transferred to Romania in modern times.

Dr P. has published a paper “Lost Libraries and Surviving Manuscripts: The Case of Medieval Transylvania” in: Library & Information History 31 (2015), 35–53, in English, with the following abstract:

The medieval dioceses of Transylvania, Oradea, and Cenad were the easternmost ramparts of Western culture. Cathedrals, Benedictine and Cistercian abbeys, Franciscan and Dominican convents, parish churches, and urban communities owned books and libraries in the Middle Ages. Most of these were lost to fires and plunders. The Tartars’ invasion in 1241 and the Reformation were also major occasions for book destruction. Starting from surviving book lists and manuscripts preserved in Romania and abroad, the present article attempts to reconstruct the landscape of literacy in medieval Transylvania.

The paper discusses what collections now exist, and where the manuscripts are.  From this I learn that most of the manuscripts were destroyed, and only about 100 produced or owned before 1500 are extant.

I also found at Academia.edu a paper by Adinel C. Dinca, “The Medieval Book in Early Modern Transylvania Preliminary Assessments”, in: SUBB – Historia 62 (2017), 24-34, here.  This again is valuable to those who come to it new.

Alba Iulia – known to readers of this blog hitherto as the site of a Mithraeum – was the capital of Transylvania and today has the largest collection of medieval manuscripts, the Batthyaneum Library.  This was created only in the 1780s by Bishop Ignatius Batthyany, mainly by purchase from other areas of the Hapsburg domains, so it doesn’t contain much from medieval Transylvania.  Some of its manuscripts are online, according to this blog post at the Medieval Hungary blog.  I found that going to the search engine here – NOT the search on the main page – and entering “Batthyaneum”  gave 15 results, some of them incunables.  I saw nothing of great interest to us, tho.  Apparently the state seized the library from the church in 1949, after which “access became very limited”, and still is.

Always interesting to hear about something a bit wild!