Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Manuscript of the Month: An Unstudied Fragment of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae

September 15th, 2020

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz is conducting research on pre-1600 manuscripts at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Each month she will be writing about a manuscript she has worked with and the current KU Library catalog records will be updated in accordance with her findings. 

Kenneth Spencer Research Library MS 9/1:A22 contains an unstudied fragment of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae [‘History of the Kings of Britain’]. Geoffrey of Monmouth (approximately 1095 – approximately 1155) completed his Historia, also known as De gestis Britonum [‘On the Deeds of the Britons’], sometime before January 1139. One of the most renowned works of medieval historiography, Geoffrey’s Historia received acclaim almost instantaneously and was very influential not only in Latin but also in vernacular writing throughout the Middle Ages. The Historia opens with a prologue in which Geoffrey claims to have translated into Latin “a very old book in the British tongue” that he received from Walter, archdeacon of Oxford. The reason why he decided to translate this work, Geoffrey explains, is because he was not able to find any information about the early kings of Britain in other renowned historical works he consulted. Thus, in the Historia, Geoffrey traces the history of Britain from its first king, Brutus of Troy, to the end of the reign of Cadualadrus (Cadwaladr, reigned from approximately 655 to 682) in the seventh century.

There are close to 230 witnesses of Geoffrey’s Historia but the version of the text contained in MS 9/1:A22 is found in only ten surviving manuscripts, including this fragment. This rewriting of Geoffrey’s Historia is conventionally called the First Variant. Scholars have argued that the revision was done by a contemporary of Geoffrey and was completed before his death in around 1155, within a mere fifteen years after the Historia began circulating. The extant manuscripts of the First Variant date from the beginning of the thirteenth century and later. We know that the First Variant must have existed by 1155 because it was one of the sources used by Wace (approximately 1110–after 1174) in his Roman de Brut, a verse adaptation in Anglo-Norman of the Historia regum Britanniae. In its broad outlines, the narrative in the First Variant corresponds to the original of the Historia regum Britanniae. The majority of the chapters, however, are shortened and almost entirely rewritten. There are also a few additions to the narrative, some of which are deemed significant in changing the storyline, such as supplementary information about the history of Rome that was derived from the Historia Romana [‘Roman History’] of Landolfus Sagax.

Recto side of a fragment of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae (First Variant), England, first half of the thirteenth century. Call # MS 9/1:A22.
Recto side of the fragment. Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia regum Britanniae (First Variant), England, first half of the thirteenth century. Call # MS 9/1:A22. Click image to enlarge.
Verso side of a fragment of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae (First Variant), England, first half of the thirteenth century. Call # MS 9/1:A22.
Verso side of the fragment. Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia regum Britanniae (First Variant), England, first half of the thirteenth century. Call # MS 9/1:A22. Click image to enlarge.

The portion of the Historia regum Britanniae in the fragmentary MS 9/1:A22 contains parts of Chapters 31–39. Based on the variations, the text as it is preserved in MS 9/1:A22 most closely matches with that of Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, MS 13210D, one of the eight witnesses that was collated for the edition of the First Variant by Neil Wright in 1988. The beginnings of Chapter 34 (begins with “Succedente …” on line 3 on folio 1 recto, column b), Chapter 36 (begins with “Quod …” on line 4 on folio 1 verso, column a) and Chapter 39 (begins with “Rex …” on line 1 on folio 1 verso, column b) are present in MS 9/1:A22. However, Chapters 34 and 36 continue with no break and only the beginning of Chapter 39 is signaled with a paragraph mark (the sign that looks like a capital letter “C”). The initial R of the Latin word rex (“king” in English) that begins the chapter is also highlighted in red ink, although it is now somewhat faded. This shows that the text in the Spencer fragment is divided differently than how it is presented in the modern edition, and perhaps the manuscript as a whole was laid out differently from the other existing witnesses.

Parts of the text preserved in MS 9/1:A22 deal with Cordeilla, the youngest of the three daughters of King Leir, who became queen after her father’s forty-six year reign. In the Historia, Leir is credited with building a city by the river Soar, named after him Kaerleir in British, and Leicester in English. According to the story, Leir had no sons but three daughters: Gonorilla, Regau and Cordeilla. When the time came to marry his daughters and split his kingdom, he put them to a test to decide who would receive the largest share and asked each of his daughters how much they loved him. The elder daughters, who responded as their father wished, were married off to dukes of Cornwall and Scotland. Cordeilla, however, did not resort to flattery like her sisters did, and despite being the favorite of her father, she was punished by being married off to Aganippus, king of the Franks and sent away from Britain with no land or money. Leir split his kingdom and his wealth between his two elder daughters. As the King got older, he had a falling-out with both his elder daughters who eventually deprived him of his kingdom and royal authority. Running out of options, Leir sought out his youngest daughter Cordeilla, who, with her husband Aganippus, helped her father restore his power in Britain. Three years later, when he died, Cordeilla became the queen of Britain. This story, which first appears in Geoffrey’s Historia, was picked up by many later authors and inspired several works, including the famous King Lear by William Shakespeare (1564–1616).

As it stands, MS 9/1:A22 is less than half of the original leaf. Based on the stitch holes visible on the fold in the lower margin of the fragment, we can speculate that it was somehow bound in its current form, probably used as a flyleaf of another manuscript or printed book. We do not have any information about the origin or the early history of MS 9/1:A22, other than it was part of the famous library of Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792–1872), a detail which seems to have escaped notice until now.

On one side of the fragment there are annotations in pencil in modern hands that were inscribed prior to its acquisition by the University of Kansas: an encircled number “18” on the upper right corner and “XIth century” to the right in the lower margin. Based on other existing examples, it is possible to determine that the “XIth century” inscription was left by Ralph Lewis of William H. Robinson Ltd, a bookseller based in London that in 1946 purchased a thus far unsold portion of the library of Sir Thomas Phillipps. The fragments purchased from Phillipps’s library were sorted by Lewis, who noted down the century to which he thought a fragment was dated as well as a valuation. On his website, Peter Kidd, former Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library, provides further examples of ownership marks and bookseller annotations, specifically those that are found on Phillipps manuscripts.

Only the note on the date remains on MS 9/1:A22; Lewis’s eleventh century date, however, must be wrong given that this text did not even exist before the mid-twelfth century. This tells us that the bookseller had not yet identified the text and was making an educated guess. In addition to the date of the work, there are paleographical features, such as the consistent use of the crossed Tironian et sign (⁊) and round r after the letter o, which would indicate that this manuscript was copied at the earliest in the second half of the twelfth century. Features such as the letter a with a double bow, however, make it more likely that MS 9/1:A22 dates from the thirteenth century. The encircled number “18,” on the other hand was probably made by Bernard M. Rosenthal, a bookseller who operated first from New York and later from San Francisco, from whom the University of Kansas purchased several manuscripts and early printed books. I have not yet been able to locate an acquisition record for this fragment but it is likely that it was purchased from Bernard M. Rosenthal or one of his relatives, who were also renowned booksellers operating in Europe and who had regular dealings with the University of Kansas.

Kenneth Spencer Research Library also holds a 1517 edition of the Historia regum Britanniae printed in Paris, which is essentially a reprint of the first edition dated to 1508 apart from minor corrections (Summerfield B2889). Both the early edition and the manuscript fragment are available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open.

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz
Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher

Follow the account “Manuscripts &c.” on Twitter and Instagram for postings about manuscripts from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Manuscript of the Month: From Genoa to Crimea, the Wide World of Books

August 25th, 2020

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz is conducting research on pre-1600 manuscripts at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Each month she will be writing about a manuscript she has worked with and the current KU Library catalog records will be updated in accordance with her findings. 

Kenneth Spencer Research Library MS C277 includes a translation from Greek into Latin of the Epistles of Phalaris by Francesco Griffolini of Arezzo (1420–1483?). Although throughout the medieval and the early modern period the letters were attributed to Phalaris, a tyrant who ruled in Sicily during the sixth century BCE, it is now believed that this was not the case, mostly thanks to the work of Richard Bentley (1662–1742). A scholar of Greek and Latin, Bentley was the keeper of the king’s libraries and later the master of Trinity College in Cambridge, UK. In the late 1690s, during a scholarly controversy following the appearance of the edition of the Epistles of Phalaris by Charles Boyle, fourth earl of Orrery (1676–1731) in 1695, which is now known as the “Phalaris controversy,” Bentley proved that the Epistles were not written by Phalaris but instead forged centuries later, perhaps as late as the fourth century CE.

The translation of the Epistles of Phalaris by Francesco Griffolini of Arezzo was the first translation of this work in Greek into Latin and is believed to be dated to the 1440s. The fifteenth century saw a great revival of the ancient and classical literature, especially in Italy, and a surge in translations from Greek into Latin. It is also known that Francesco Griffolini later produced a prose translation of Homer’s Odyssey in Latin at the request of Pope Pius II, as well as translations of the homilies of John Chrysostom among others.

The translation of the Epistles of Phalaris by Francesco Griffolini is dedicated to Domenico Malatesta of Cesena, also known as Malatesta Novello (1418–1465), and opens with a dedicatory preface. As it stands, MS C277 is missing its first leaf and its second leaf is misbound and was placed as its final leaf at the end of the codex. Thus, the text begins in the middle of the preface, indeed in the middle of a sentence on what was originally the third folio of the manuscript. However, the first letter of the first word “arbitor” was later turned into a decorated initial in an effort to match the rest of the initials with penwork in the manuscript. The person responsible for this decorated initial A was probably the same person who added a title page to the manuscript to replace the leaf that had gone missing.

The title page on folio 1 recto, added later for Pseudo-Phalaris, Epistolae, Italy, 1463. Call # MS C277
The title page on folio 1r, added later. Pseudo-Phalaris, Epistolae, Italy, 1463. Call # MS C277. Click image to enlarge.
The beginning of the text on folio 2r for Spencer Research Library's copy of Pseudo-Phalaris's Epistolae, Italy, 1463. Call # MS C277
The beginning of the text on folio 2r. Pseudo-Phalaris, Epistolae, Italy, 1463. Call # MS C277. Click image to enlarge.

Some 150 copies of the translation of the Epistles of Phalaris by Francesco Griffolini survive in manuscript in addition to several print editions, the earliest of which is dated to 1468/1469. What sets MS C277 apart is that we know when and by whom the manuscript was copied. The information is relayed in a colophon at the end of the text: “Perfecte sunt per me Antonium de Boçollo notarium et in p[raese]ntiarum subcancellarium. Anno dominice nativitatis: MoccccoLxotercio die primo Iunii”: “These [letters] were completed by me, Antonius de Bozollo, notary and sub-chancellor at present, on the first of June in the 1463rd year of the birth of our Lord.”

Opening showing the colophon in red ink on folio 39 recto of Epistolae by Pseudo-Phalaris (MS C277)
The colophon on folio 39r of MS C277. Click image to enlarge.

We do not know much about Antonius de Bozollo other than what he professes in the colophon; that he was a notary and scribe, and at the time he was working for the Archbishop of Genoa, Paolo di Campofregoso (mentioned in the colophon as “P. […] Archiep[iscop]o Ianuen[si]”). Neither do we have any information about the early history of MS C277. It is plausible, however, that MS C277 was copied in or near Genoa. Indeed, it seems like the manuscript was not only copied there but remained in Genoa at least until the early nineteenth century. The watermarks on the paper flyleaves that were added to the manuscript with its latest and current binding were in use in the early nineteenth century in Genoa, and there are some notes in Italian in a modern hand about the contents of the manuscript on the front pastedown.

What is perhaps equally interesting is that the only other identifiable codex to be copied by Antonius de Bozollo is another copy of the Epistles of Phalaris. This manuscript is now San Francisco, State of California, Sutro Collection, MS 07, and it is also concluded with a colophon similar to that of MS C277. This time, the manuscript is dated to February 1, 1464, and was copied at the request of Pancratius Gentilis olim Falamonice, member of a Genoan family.

The colophon on folio 46 recto of the copy of the Epistolae held in San Francisco, State of California, Sutro Collection, MS 07
The colophon on folio 46r in San Francisco, State of California, Sutro Collection, MS 07. Source: Digital Scriptorium.

Based on the dates in the colophons, the two copies of the same text were copied by Antonius de Bozollo only eight months apart. Not only is the Humanistic script of the main text in both manuscripts very similar, but so are the manners in which the rubrics are inserted and the initials illuminated. This leads me to believe that Antonius de Bozollo was probably responsible for the entire production of the manuscript.

Other than MS C277 and Sutro Collection MS 07, which are definitely copied by the same Antonius de Bozollo, the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts includes a Sotheby’s auction catalog record from June 1993 for another manuscript that seems to have been copied by an Antonio de Bozollo at the turn of the sixteenth century. In this case, not only is the suggested dating some 40 years later than these two manuscripts but also the current whereabouts of this manuscript is unknown, and therefore we cannot verify whether or not this Antonio de Bozollo is the same scribe as that of MS C277 and Sutro Collection MS 07. Or, it may be that the manuscript was simply misdated by the auctioneers and is actually to be dated rather earlier.

There is, however, another manuscript in which the name Antonius de Bozollo appears, but this time he is not the scribe but the owner. Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Typ 17 contains a copy of Francesco Petrarca’s Africa copied by Giovanni Antonio de Colli on the island of Chios on the Aegean Sea and dated to June 13, 1461. Antonius de Bozollo has left an ownership inscription on the lower margin in black ink, just below the lengthy colophon, detailing his purchase of the manuscript. It begins with the date and place: November 28, 1474, Caffa (modern Feodosia in Crimea). It then reads that Antonius de Bozollo the notary purchased the book from Michael Niger for 100 silver aspers of Caffa. Those who witnessed the purchase are Iohannes de Niger and Leonardus Negrinus, who might have been related to the seller.

The colophon and ownership inscription on folio 152 verso at Harvard University's Houghton Library, MS Typ 17
The colophon and ownership inscription on folio 152v in Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Typ 17. Source: HOLLIS.

There are good reasons to think that the notary copying MS C277 in Genoa is the same person buying the book that was copied in Chios a decade later in Caffa. Indeed, we often forget how connected the medieval world was. The Republic of Genoa had a series of trading posts in the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Black Seas. Indeed, outposts on the coast of the Black Sea existed since the second half of the thirteenth century, and until its incorporation into the Ottoman Empire in 1475, Caffa on the southern coast of Crimea was a prominent Genoese trade center. Similarly, Chios on the Aegean Sea was under Genoese rule from the beginning of the fourteenth century until its incorporation into the Ottoman Empire in 1566. This allows us to explain how a book that was produced in Chios ended up being sold in Caffa in less than a decade. It might also explain how a Genoan notary ended up in Crimea. The name of Antonius de Bozollo also appears in a series of records of the Bank of Saint George (also known as Ufficio di San Giorgio), a financial institution of the Republic of Genoa, in the years 1473 and 1474. One of these documents is from Caffa and is dated 1474.

The more that significant information such as the names of scribes and previous owners is recorded in catalogs, and the more that non-literary texts such as notarial documents are edited, the more we will be able to connect manuscripts and the producers and owners of these artifacts as well as the places that they have been. I would like to extend my gratitude to the late Bernard M. Rosenthal who had already pointed out the ownership inscription by Antonius de Bozollo in MS Typ 17 at the time of the sale of this manuscript to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library as well as Consuelo Dutschke who contacted us in December 2019 with the same information.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from Bernard M. Rosenthal Inc. in 1994 (?), and it is available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open.

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz
Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher

Follow the account “Manuscripts &c.” on Twitter and Instagram for postings about manuscripts from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Manuscript of the Month: To Transcribe, or Not To Transcribe, That is Not the Question

July 28th, 2020

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz is conducting research on pre-1600 manuscripts at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Each month she will be writing about a manuscript she has worked with and the current KU Library catalog records will be updated in accordance with her findings. 

Kenneth Spencer Research Library Pryce MS P4 has received renewed attention in the past weeks as we ventured into an international transcription competition: “La Sfera Challenge.” The “International La Sfera Challenge” involves transcribing multiple copies of a single text, Gregorio (Goro) Dati’s La Sfera. There are over 150 surviving manuscripts containing this fifteenth-century geographical treatise in Italian, and one of these is Pryce MS P4. During the first iteration of the challenge earlier this year, three different manuscripts were transcribed, and the second, ongoing at the time of the publication of this blogpost, will add to that count five more manuscripts, including Pryce MS P4. The project is supported by the IIIF ConsortiumFromThePage and Stanford Libraries, and the transcriptions of all the manuscripts and other related scholarly products resulting from the “La Sfera Challenge” are being made available open access to scholars and the general public. Led by Laura Ingallinella, Karen Severud Cook and myself, Team Spencer consists of a group of ten scholars from across Europe and the US with different fields of expertise who are set to transcribe Pryce MS P4.

Transcribing a manuscript text is a great way to gain insight into the making of a manuscript and the different stages of copying and illumination. It is a very intense process in which one needs to consider carefully every single mark left on the leaves and its potential implications not only for the meaning of the text but also for the production of the artifact. This is particularly true for manuscripts for which we do not have a lot of information, such as Pryce MS P4: neither the scribe nor the place or the date of production is known. A collaborative transcription effort, such as the “La Sfera Challenge,” allows us to discover more about a manuscript, especially compared to a solitary exercise, as there is more than one person asking similar questions and a group of transcribers discussing what is on the page.

Image of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library's copy of Dati's La Sfera (Pryce MS P4), open to the end of Book II on folio 13v and the beginning of Book III on folio 14r.
The end of Book II on fol. 13v and the beginning of Book III on fol. 14r. Gregorio Dati, La Sfera, Italy, mid-fifteenth century. Call # Pryce MS P4. Click image to enlarge.

The text of La Sfera is constructed very methodically: it contains four books, with each book containing 36 stanzas and each stanza containing eight lines. In most cases, this even spread of the total 144 stanzas over four books enabled scribes to create uniform-looking layouts when copying the text. La Sfera is found on fols 2r–25r in Pryce MS P4, in two gatherings, both of which are composed of 12 leaves. Each folio contains 24 lines; i.e., three stanzas. Book I occupies fols 2r–7v, Book II fols 8r–13v, Book III fols 14r–19v and Book IV fols 20r–25r. However, only the beginnings of Book II and Book III are signaled in the manuscript on the upper margins of fol. 8r and fol. 14r respectively. Therefore, if there was no comparative material, one would easily think that there were only three books. The omission of the division between the third and fourth books occasionally also occurs in a number of other manuscripts of La Sfera. Furthermore, in Pryce MS P4 Book IV is missing three stanzas: it begins on fol. 20r, which contains stanzas one to three and then on fol. 20v it continues with the seventh stanza, while skipping the fourth, fifth and sixth stanzas.

How the books and chapters of a text are divided or whether there are any missing or additional parts of text are the kinds of peculiarities that enable scholars to make connections between different manuscript copies of a certain text. These kinds of alterations from one manuscript to the other can help determine, for example, whether or not a manuscript might have been copied from another existing manuscript, or whether two manuscripts might be related in some other way. Since the text continues from one side of the leaf to the next in Pryce MS P4, loss of a leaf for the missing stanzas is out of the question. Either the scribe got distracted or misremembered where they left off and began copying the seventh instead of the fourth stanza, or their exemplar—the manuscript from which they were copying—was also missing these three stanzas. There is no indication in the manuscript that the scribe or later readers spotted that there were missing stanzas; indeed, this is one of the things that was hitherto unnoticed about the copy of La Sfera in Pryce MS P4. Thus, in Pryce MS P4, each book occupies six leaves, with the exception of the last one, which is copied on five and a half leaves with the verso of the final leaf (fol. 25v) left blank.

Image of of folio 15r of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library's copy of Dati's La Sfera (Pryce MS P4), with enlarged sections illustrating examples of different letterforms for letters r and z.
Examples of different letterforms for letters r and z on fol. 15r of Pryce MS P4. Click image to enlarge. Full transcription of fol. 15r can be found on FromThePage.

The text of La Sfera in Pryce MS P4 is not given a title nor is it attributed to an author. The main text was copied by a single scribe. Since we do not know the identity of the scribe or exactly when and where they might have copied the manuscript, a detailed examination of any distinguishable textual and scribal features becomes very important. An interesting paleographical and orthographical feature in Pryce MS P4 is that the scribe uses two different letterforms for the letter r as well as two different letterforms for the letter z. Whereas the use of two different letterforms for the letter r might be due to scribal practices of the times, the different letterforms for the letter z are almost certainly due to the different phonetics of the words, even though they are both represented with the letter z in modern Italian. When pronounced unvoiced, the letter z produces the “ts” sound and when voiced, the “dz” sound. Therefore, for example, we have decided to distinguish between the two different letterforms used for the letter z in the manuscript and represent these as “ç” (for “ts”) and “z” (for “dz”) in our transcription, which can now be viewed in full on FromThePage.

Image of of folio 16r of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library's copy of Dati's La Sfera (Pryce MS P4), with enlarged sections illustrating the preference for /ct/ instead of /tt/ in the spelling of words.
Examples of preference of /ct/ instead of /tt/ in the spelling of words on fol. 16r of Pryce MS P4. Click image to enlarge. Full transcription of fol. 16r can be found on FromThePage.

The scribe of Pryce MS P4 also displays some familiarity with the Latin language. For example, the beginning of Book II and Book III are marked with rubrics in Latin: “liber secundus” (book two) and “liber tercius” (book three) on the upper margins of fol. 8r and fol. 14r respectively. This in itself is not indicative of knowledge of Latin, as it was relatively common to use Latin in the rubrics even when the main text was in a vernacular language. The scribe, moreover, in many cases seems to favor spellings in Latin when writing in Italian. For example, they consistently use the Latin form /ct/ instead of /tt/ in the spelling of words, writing “quactro” for “quattro” (four), “octo” for “otto” (eight) and “tucti” for “tutti” (all), etc.

Image of of folio 7 verso of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library's copy of Dati's La Sfera (Pryce MS P4), with blown up segments showing examples of Latin abbreviations, such as "per" and "con."
Examples of Latin abbreviations on fol. 7v of Pryce MS P4. Click image to enlarge. Full transcription of fol. 7v can be found on FromThePage.

Another significant characteristic of the scribe of Pryce MS P4 is the use of abbreviations that derive from Latin even though the text copied is in Italian. Albeit limited in number, the use of Latin abbreviations is pretty consistent throughout the text, notably the letter p with stroke through its descender representing letters /per/ and the sign resembling the Hindu-Arabic numeral 9 for letters /con/ as well as the combination of the letter q and the letter n with a macron as an abbreviation for the word “quando” (when), which derives directly from Latin.

Image of of folio 10 verso of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library's copy of Dati's La Sfera (Pryce MS P4), with blown up segments show spaces left for initials at the beginning of each stanza.
Spaces left for initials at the beginning of each stanza on fol. 10v of Pryce MS P4. Click image to enlarge.

As mentioned, each folio contains 24 lines; i.e., three stanzas. These 24 lines are continuous and there are no spaces left in between stanzas therefore it looks like there are no indications of stanzas in Pryce MS P4. A closer look, however, reveals otherwise. A space was reserved for an initial letter (presumably decorated) at the beginning of each stanza by the scribe. Consistent throughout the manuscript, at the beginning of each folio, there is a 3-line space left for the initial of the first stanza of that folio and a 1-line space for each of the initials of the second and the third stanzas. Thus, either the scribe was aware that the text was in stanzas of eight lines or the exemplar they were using had some sort of division of stanzas.

The decorated initials, however, were never filled in. In most cases, another hand, possibly the one responsible for supplying the rubrics, has supplied the initials in the form of somewhat enlarged letters. Yet, this was not done in a consistent or systematic manner. On fol. 10v, for example, the first initial, the letter S, was supplied in the 3-line space left for the initial of the first stanza, the second initial was completely forgotten and then the third initial was supplied incorrectly as the letter d, only to be corrected later on as the letter Q. In other cases, such as fol. 21, it seems that only guide letters—small letters placed in the spaces provided for initials that indicate which letters are to be added later—were provided. Presumably the guide letters also were inserted by someone other than the main scribe of the text, as their presence is not consistent.

Image of of folio 21r of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library's copy of Dati's La Sfera (Pryce MS P4), with blown up segments showing spaces left for initials, which now only contain guide letters, at the beginning of each stanza.
Spaces left for initials, which now only contain guide letters, at the beginning of each stanza on fol. 21r of Pryce MS P4. Click image to enlarge.

Although there are not a lot of interventions in the main text that can definitively be ascribed to another person, it is clear that others have worked on Pryce MS P4 in addition to our anonymous scribe. Not only are there different strategies for supplying the initials but also the handwriting of the rubrics and the labels of the maps and other illustrations found in the manuscript is markedly different than that of the main text. There may even have been readers leaving their marks on the leaves as there are manicules—symbols in the shape of a pointing hand that are used to draw attention to certain parts of the text—on two separate folios. As we complete our transcription Pryce MS P4 this week, we will surely find more interesting features.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from H. P. Kraus in 1968, and it is available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open. In the meantime, you can see more of Pryce MS P4 on Digital Scriptorium and FromThePage.

Read more about Pryce MS P4:

“La Sfera Challenge” website also maintains a wider bibliography on La Sfera and its manuscripts.

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz
Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher

Follow the account “Manuscripts &c.” on Twitter and Instagram for postings about manuscripts from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Manuscript of the Month: What Is in a Medieval Chronicle?

June 30th, 2020

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz is conducting research on pre-1600 manuscripts at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Each month she will be writing about a manuscript she has worked with and the current KU Library catalog records will be updated in accordance with her findings. 

The description of Kenneth Spencer Research Library MS B90 was titled “Contemporary Manuscript of the World Chronicle of Martin of Troppau” in William Salloch’s Catalogue 258 dated to 1968. Marianne and William Salloch were the founders of the successful bookselling business based in New York, William Salloch, Old, Rare and Scholarly Books. William (1906–1990) was a medievalist by training and the 422 catalogs he and Marianne issued between 1939 until 1989 went beyond being simple sales listings for rare books and manuscripts, becoming reference books in their own right. Over the years, the University of Kansas acquired several manuscripts from the Sallochs, including this one and another, MS D13, that was the topic of my blogpost last month.

The author in question, Martin of Troppau, is better known in English today as Martin of Opava or Martin of Poland (from Martinus Oppaviensis or Martinus Polonus in Latin). Based on contemporary references, it is thought that Martin was from Opava (Troppau in German), today a city in the Czech Republic, and was born sometime before 1230. A Dominican friar, he became active in Rome and served the Papacy first under Pope Alexander IV (1199 or around 1185–1261) and then under several of his successors until his own death in 1278, shortly after being appointed Archbishop of Gniezno in central-western Poland. As the author of the Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum (The Chronicle of Popes and Emperors), Martin of Opava is considered by many scholars to be the most influential European chronicler of the later Middle Ages. The Chronicle is estimated to have survived in around 500 manuscripts in the original Latin as well as in several translations, including Greek, Armenian and Persian in addition to western European vernacular languages. It was also used as a source or continued with current events by later chroniclers.

Soon after the acquisition by the Spencer Library of item no. 10 in the Sallochs’ Catalogue 258, the manuscript was given the shelfmark MS B90 and was cataloged under the name “Martinus Polonus” in the in-house manuscript catalog of the Library called Catalog IV. This information was later transferred to the description in the online catalog of the University of Kansas Libraries and later also to that of the Digital Scriptorium website, which serves as an online union catalog and image repository for US institutions, of which Spencer Library is a member.

It was noted in the Salloch’s catalog description that “the history of the text and its tradition is quite complicated since Martin of Troppau revised his own history several times; each manuscript offers an original and different text.” This warning in disguise was followed by a list of scholarly works including Ludwig Weiland’s 1872 edition of the text in the renowned Monumenta Germaniae Historica series, which remains the only modern edition of Martin of Opava’s Chronicle. During the half century since the manuscript was purchased by the Spencer Library in 1969, no one has embarked on verifying the information provided by the bookseller, that is, whether or not the work in MS B90 is in fact Martin of Opava’s Chronicle. Despite her careful examination of the contents of the manuscript, Ann Hyde, the former Manuscripts Librarian at the Spencer Library, noted in the entry she made for Catalog IV: “I did not examine these works [the edition of the text and the other reference works mentioned in the description by Salloch] and do not know where our version stands in the text-pedigree, or if it is known at all.”

The text preserved in MS B90 is one of the so-called “pope-and-emperor chronicles,” a famous model for chronicles in the Latin Middle Ages, in which short biographies of popes and emperors of Rome were narrated in chronological succession from Antiquity to the contemporary present day. Martin of Opava was certainly not the first author to compile such a chronicle and he utilized several previous histories and chronicles as his sources. He envisaged, however, a novel layout for his Chronicle, in which each page had fifty lines and each line corresponded to a year. He further arranged his chronicle so that the history of the popes faced the history of the emperors in any given opening of the book. Thus, each opening would depict a fifty-year period, with the papal and imperial histories also chronologically aligned. In the final version of his Chronicle, this tabular history of the popes and emperors was prefaced by a geographical and historical introduction, especially focusing on Rome.

Image of Front Cover (wooden board) and folio 1 recto of Spencer Research Library manuscript MS B90.
Interior of the front cover on the left and the beginning of the text on fol. 1r on the right. Cathalogus sive cronica omnium pontificum et imperatorum Romanum [Catalog or Chronicles of All Popes and Emperors of the Romans], central Europe or Italy?, last quarter of the thirteenth century? Call # MS B90. Click image to enlarge.

Not all later scribes adhered to Martin of Opava’s original layout of tabular, parallel histories when they copied his Chronicle. It can be immediately seen that a parallel layout was not the case in MS B90 either. Written by a single hand, the text in MS B90 runs like a narrative with no schematic arrangement and the papal accounts precede the imperial ones. The manuscript opens with the following rubric (fol. 1r):

Incipit cathalog(us) sive cronica om(n)iu(m) ponti | ficum (et) imp(er)ato(rum) Romano(rum) ubi anni et | menses (et) dies eo(rum) ponunt(ur) (et) notabilia f(a)c(t)a | eo(rum) (et) distinguit(ur) quis imp(er)ator sub quo | papa sedit. Incipiens a (Christ)o q(ui) fuit p(ri)mus (et) | su(m)mus pontifex (et) ab Octaviano Augusto | q(ui) ei(us) t(em)p(or)e imp(er)avit p(er)tingens usque ad Hono | riu(m) t(er)ciu(m) papa(m) et ad Fredericu(m) qui nu(n)c ad imp(er)iu(m) sublimat(ur).

In this very brief preface, the reader is told that this is a chronicle of all popes and Roman emperors and that it will begin with Jesus Christ and the Emperor Augustus, who reigned during Jesus’s youth, and continue until Pope Honorius III and Emperor Frederick, who is now in power. Pope Honorius III was the head of the Catholic Church from 1216 until his death in 1227. During that time, Frederick II was the Holy Roman Emperor, between 1220 and 1250. The mention of Honorius III and Frederick II as the endpoint of the chronicle indicates that they were the author’s contemporaries, which in turn provides a time frame in which this preface was put down into writing: not before 1220 and not after 1227. This is when Martin of Opava was probably not even born.

Indeed, this same preface is found in another pope-and-emperor chronicle, written by Gilbert of Rome, which was among the many sources Martin of Opava listed in his much longer preface to his Chronicle. Nothing is really known about Gilbert (also known as Gilbertus Romanus) except that he was perhaps a native of Italy and that he was active in Rome. The 1879 MGH edition of the text, which again remains the only modern edition of Gilbert of Rome’s Chronicle to date, identifies less than 20 surviving witnesses of his Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum Romanorum (The Chronicle of Popes and Emperors of Rome). What is more, the majority of the accounts of the popes in MS B90 follow Gilbert of Rome’s Chronicle almost to the letter. Some of the popes, however, such as Pope Sylvester II (999–1003) and Pope Gregory VII (1073–1085) receive a longer treatment than it is found in any of the other known witnesses of Gilbert’s Chronicle. Furthermore, the accounts of the popes do not conclude with Pope Honorius III as was promised in the preface but instead continue seamlessly until Pope Clement IV (1265–1268). These observations on the papal accounts indicate, on the one hand, that the prologue in MS B90 was copied from Gilbert’s Chronicle and the text is heavily based on it (up to the 1220s) but, on the other hand, that there are additions that take the accounts of the popes to the late 1260s.

Image of folios 16v-17r of MS B90, showing the end of the accounts of the popes on fol. 16v and the beginning of the accounts of the emperors on fol. 17r.
End of the accounts of the popes on fol. 16v and the beginning of the accounts of the emperors on fol. 17r. Call # MS B90. Click image to enlarge.

Whereas the account of the popes concludes with Pope Clement IV, whose papacy ended on November 29, 1268, the account of the emperors ends with the year 1270 in MS B90. Although this seems like a discrepancy at first sight, it is not surprising. Following the death of Pope Clement IV came the longest papal election in the history of the Catholic Church and the successor of Pope Clement IV, Pope Gregory X, only began his office on September 1, 1271. This special set of circumstances enables us to date the text to sometime in 1270 or early 1271.

Most of the accounts of the emperors in MS B90 have additions to them that are not found in Gilbert’s Chronicle but neither do they match exactly that of Martin’s. The closest account that matches that of Martin’s is perhaps the account of Emperor Frederick II. This is in fact the last account in Gilbert of Rome’s Chronicle. After the narration of Frederick II’s reign, both MS B90 and Martin of Opava’s Chronicle begin narrating the events by year, starting with 1250. This final part of the text in MS B90 again does not match fully with that of Martin of Opava’s Chronicle. For example, the years 1259 and 1263, which get a special mention of events in Martin’s Chronicle, are completely left out in MS B90.

Picture of the opening Folios 50v-51r of MS B90, giving the end of the accounts of the emperors and the beginning of the account on the life of Jesus Christ on fol. 51r
End of the accounts of the emperors and the beginning of the account on the life of Jesus Christ on fol. 51r. Call # MS B90. Click image to enlarge.

Following the end of the accounts of the emperors with the year 1270, MS B90 has an additional account on the life of Jesus Christ that spans fols 51r-52v. And, this is in fact how Martin’s account of the popes with Jesus Christ begins in his Chronicle. Although again not an exact match, the version in MS B90 is quite close to what is recorded in Martin’s Chronicle. The fact that this extended, longer version of the account of Jesus Christ is appended to the end of the text as a discrete section, especially when another version of the account is already narrated in the very beginning where it supposed to have been narrated, is quite intriguing. Relying on past sources, adding, subtracting, redacting and every aspect imaginable of réécriture were at the heart of medieval historiographical writing and in that regard MS B90 is no exception in displaying how texts came to be in the Middle Ages.

It is certain that the version of the Chronicle of Popes and Emperors we have in MS B90 was composed sometime around 1270. Whether the manuscript was also copied around the same time is another matter. A series of paleographical features in MS B90 such as the crossed Tironian et sign (⁊) and the letter a with open upper bow as well as certain codicological features such as the manner in which the wooden boards are attached to the bookblock may very well indicate that this manuscript was copied at the end of the thirteenth century, as suggested by Salloch. Therefore, it seems as though MS B90 is a clean copy of a very early draft of Martin of Opava’s notes, which consisted a copy of Gilbert of Rome’s Chronicle with expansions of some of the earlier accounts and additions until the year 1270. Since MS B90 has virtually no corrections or annotations, this cannot be Martin of Opava’s working copy, but rather a copy made from his notes before he began to expand and rewrite the majority of the accounts. Alternatively, this could be an expansion and continuation of Gilbert of Rome’s Chronicle, independent of Martin of Opava’s work, which may even have served as one of Martin’s as yet unidentified sources. Although it is clear that we can no longer call MS B90 a witness to Martin of Opava’s Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum, a closer investigation into the manuscript might reveal clues as to the earlier stages of his composition of his Chronicle.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from William Salloch in January 1969, and it is available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open.

Editions of both texts are available online:

  • Gilbert of Rome. Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum Romanorum, ed. Oswald Holder-Egger. In Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Scriptores, SS 24, 117–140. Hannover: Hahn, 1879. [open access]
  • Martin of Opava. Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum, ed. Ludwig Weiland. In Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Scriptores, SS 22, ed. Georg Heinrich Pertz, 377–475. Hannover: Hahn, 1872. [open access]

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz
Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher

Follow the account “Manuscripts &c.” on Twitter and Instagram for postings about pre-1600 manuscripts from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Manuscript of the Month: A Fifteenth-Century Compendium of Illustrious Men

May 26th, 2020

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz is conducting research on pre-1600 manuscripts at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Each month she will be writing about a manuscript she has worked with and the current KU Library catalog records will be updated in accordance with her findings. 

Kenneth Spencer Research Library MS D13 is a fifteenth-century manuscript that includes two works, both of which contain short biographies of classical historical figures. The first work is attributed to the fourth-century grammarian Aemilius Probus with the following rubric:“ Probi Emilii liber de excellentissimis ducib[us] exterarum gentium felicer incipit” (“Aemilius Probus’s book, ‘On the Most Eminent Generals of Foreign Peoples,’ happily begins”). The second one, on the other hand, is assigned to the first-century natural scientist Pliny the Elder with the following rubric: “Plinii Veronensis de viris illustrib(us) liber incipit feliciter in no(m)i(n)e d(omi)ni” (“Pliny of Verona’s book, ‘On the Illustrious Men,’ happily begins in the name of the Lord”). Both of these attributions, to Aemilius Probus and Pliny the Elder respectively, are in fact incorrect.

Even though the first work is attributed to Aemilius Probus in many of the surviving manuscripts, including MS D13, it is believed that the work known with the title De excellentibus ducibus exterarum gentium (“On the Eminent Generals of Foreign Peoples”) is part of a larger work by Cornelius Nepos, an author of the late first century BCE who himself was from Verona. This larger work, titled De viris illustribus (“On Illustrious Men”), is thought to have comprised at least sixteen books but not much has survived intact other than the De excellentibus ducibus exterarum gentium. The second work, attributed to “Pliny of Verona” in a number of medieval manuscripts, including MS D13, is usually titled the De viris illustribus urbis Romae (“On Illustrious Men of the City of Rome”). It once was thought to have been written by the fourth-century author Sextus Aurelius Victor, but is now believed to have been composed by an anonymous author of the fourth century referred to as pseudo-Sextus Aurelius Victor.

Image of the Beginning of the De excellentissimis ducibus exterarum gentium, with decorative blue and red initial (fol. 2r) Italy, fifteenth century.
Beginning of the De excellentissimis ducibus exterarum gentium. Italy, fifteenth century. Call # MS D13. Click image to enlarge. See additional images from this manuscript in the Digital Scriptorium.
Image of Beginning of the De viris illustribus, with illuminated initial (folio 66 recto). Italy, fifteenth century. Call# MS D13.
Beginning of the De viris illustribus. Italy, fifteenth century. Call # MS D13. Click image to enlarge. See additional images from this manuscript in the Digital Scriptorium.

In MS D13, the De excellentibus ducibus exterarum gentium opens with a preface and includes twenty-three biographies ranging from that of Miltiades (around 555–489 BCE), the Athenian general who defeated the Persians at the Battle of Marathon, to that of Hannibal (247–183/181 BCE), the Carthaginian general who commanded the army of Carthage against Rome during the Second Punic War. The De viris illustribus urbis Romae follows the De excellentibus ducibus exterarum gentium with no preface, and includes seventy-seven somewhat shorter biographies beginning with that of Procas, the great grandfather of Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, and ending with Pompey the Great, a leading Roman general of the first century BCE. Ordinarily, this work has eighty-six biographies.

Even though the decorated initials that open each work in MS D13 are in starkly different styles, the manuscript was probably written by a single scribe. It was also very well planned, consisting of nine quires of ten leaves each (the final leaf, which was probably blank is missing). There is no indication that there were other texts before or after either of the two works. Therefore, it may be argued that the scribe had carefully planned to copy both of these works one after the other and intended to create this larger book of biographies by juxtaposing these two works.

John C. Rolfe, the translator of the Loeb edition to the text states that “Nepos arranged his biographies in groups of two books each. The first book of every group included the distinguished men of foreign nations, for the most part Greeks; the second, those of Rome. From references of Nepos himself and others the categories of generals, historians, kings and poets have been determined” (“Introduction,” ix). The argument that the book on the generals of foreign peoples was supposed to be followed by a book on the Roman generals is also supported by the closing words of the De excellentibus ducibus exterarum gentium:

Sed nos tempus est huius libri facere finem et Romanorum explicare imperatores, quo facilius, collatis utrorumque factis, qui viri praeferendi sint possit iudicari.

But it is time for us to put an end to this book and give an account of the Roman generals, to make it easier, with the deeds of both gathered together, to judge which men ought to be given the higher rank.

Thus, the fact that in MS D13 the book on the generals of foreign peoples by Nepos, which has survived, is followed by a series of illustrious individuals from Roman history, somewhat restores the work back to its original form, to the way it was intended to be read.

Unfortunately, P. K. Marshall, who wrote the most detailed study of the manuscript tradition of the De excellentibus ducibus exterarum gentium, did not comment on MS D13, even though he indicated that he had examined the manuscript. In his 1977 study, Marshall lists 86 witnesses to the text including MS D13, two of which had already been lost. He does not, however, comment on what other texts are contained in the manuscripts that include the De excellentibus ducibus exterarum gentium. In addition, to my knowledge there is no detailed study of the manuscript transmission of the anonymous De viris illustribus urbis Romae other than the brief discussion included in the Teubner edition. Thus, we do not know how common it was to cut the text short and not include all the eighty-six biographies. Similarly, we do not know which other works the De viris illustribus urbis Romae was associated with in the manuscripts. It would be interesting to see whether the two works found in MS D13 are arranged in the same way in other surviving manuscripts or whether this was the idea of the compiler of this particular manuscript.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library purchased the manuscript from William Salloch in 1956, and it is available for consultation at the Library’s Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room when the library is open.

  • See the edition and translation of the De excellentibus ducibus exterarum gentium: Cornelius Nepos. On Great Generals, On Historians. Trans. John C. Rolfe. LCL 467. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984. ISBN: 978-0-674-995-514-7.
  • See the edition of the De viris illustribus: Sexti Aurelii Victoris Liber de Caesaribus; praecedunt Origo gentis romanae et Liber de viris illustribus urbis Romae, subsequitur Epitome de Caesaribus. Ed. Franz Pichlmayr. Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1911. Public domain.
  • Read about the manuscripts of the De excellentibus ducibus exterarum gentium: P. K. Marshall. Institute of Classical Studies Bulletin Supplement No: 37: The Manuscript Tradition of Cornelius Nepos. February 1977.

N. Kıvılcım Yavuz
Ann Hyde Postdoctoral Researcher

Follow the account “Manuscripts &c.” on Twitter and Instagram for postings about manuscripts from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.