Tag Archives: Liber Papiensis

Revising the Description of Florence, BML, MS Plut. 89 sup 86

I’ve spent a few days this week revising and correcting my description of Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana MS 89 Plut. 86 which I studied and described as part of my FWF Lise-Meitner project (my end of project blogpost from May can be found here). I acknowledged in March when I uploaded the descriptions that they were drafts, reasonably good, I hoped, but that I would polish and replace each in short order, as required. I’d expected that phase to come some throughout the summer, but time, tide and the writing of the next research proposal and monographs wait for no one. Winter is already drawing in and, so far, I’ve only revised one of the manuscripts. The finalised description of the Florence manuscript and the other drafts can be found on the main portal on this website. The other manuscripts will get revised as and when I get the chance. Hopefully most of the others won’t require as much work as this one did!

It’s quite common in research to only publish successful findings, while errors and wrong directions get swept quietly under the rug. Perhaps they get aired with friends, or at a departmental seminar, but they’re rarely made public. It’s also becoming more common to note that this is not actually a good response. On the one hand, it curates an impression of researchers as infallible that can be down-right disheartening if you compare all your own errors with everybody else’s apparent stream of perpetual successes. On the other hand, sharing and talking through some of those mistakes may be useful for others engaged in similar research or for clarifying a methodology if a similar situation is encountered again. So, in the spirit of comradeship and usefulness, here’s an outline list and commentary of some of the errors I made in my original draft description of the Florence manuscript of the Liber Papiensis and how/why I corrected them. Conveniently, by going through the emendations and alterations in the order they appear in the description, I get to leave the biggest to last.

I should also note that, despite the issues, I have been using these descriptions as a working tool. I’m currently in the process of writing the first draft of my chapter on the materiality of the Liber Papiensis manuscripts, and am currently focusing on the various strategies taken to pricking and ruling the quires and producing the ruling grid. Through the process of writing up a prose description, which is a detailed form of analysis in itself, some of the major errors were revealed. Other errors came to light simply from having put nine months between writing them and re-reading them (not to mention over two years from first taking the notes on which the descriptions were based in a fortnight of manuscript handling in Florence in August 2014).

The first error is an invisible one from the outside, and arose from bad data management. Oh, I’ll make excuses about a hard-drive having burnt out, and a laptop having died between then and now, but that’s really no excuse. When I went to try and find the .doc of the description I discovered it was… gone. All I could find was an early draft from 2015, which had only about quarter of the information. Thankfully, I had the pdf from the website, and was able to cut and paste a lot of the information back into a word file, and reformatting most of it wasn’t too bad. Apart from the tables and diagrams in the appendices, those required a bit more effort. I’ll come back to the actual contents of the table of ruling grids in due course.

The next error is an issue of naming.  I raised this in my blog post from May of this year, when the funded period of my postdoc came to an end. From the outset of my project, I’d referred to the collected text of the Lombard Laws and Frankish and Saxon capitularies as the Liber legis langobardorum rather than the alternate title, the Liber Papiensis, by which it is also known. I opted for the former, having read in the scholarship that this was attested in the manuscripts (I don’t have the reference to hand at the moment, unfortunately). Conversely, the name the Liber Papiensis is modern, a convention adopted in the mid-nineteenth century when the laws were edited for volume IV of the Leges series of the Monumenta Germiniae Historica. All very good, except that the manuscript attestation of the Liber legis langobardorum only survives on other versions of the laws, whether the Edictus or the twelfth-century re-systemisation of the Lombarda. As I said, this wasn’t a newly-discovered error of the last week, but a long-standing correction that has been lingering on the to do list for months.

The next error was actually the last I discovered, floating to the surface of that golden-haze moment when I thought the corrections were finalised, I re-made the pdf, sent a copy to the printer and then went to collect it. My eye glanced down to the front page and took in the opening sentence of the manuscript’s summary, which I reproduce here verbatim for your amusement:

“A distinctly decorated manuscript of relatively portable size, with numerous line-drawn initials with foliate and knot-work features and highlighting in red-ink.”

What on earth, I asked myself, does ‘distinctly decorated’ mean? It reads like one of subjectively vague description of palaeographic hands, when some scribe is described as elegant, dramatic, crowded, untutored or whatever. an expression that means everything (to the describer, perhaps) and nothing (to the bemused reader). I certainly agree with my former self in that the Florence manuscript is relatively more decorated than most of the other surviving copies of the Liber Papiensis dating to the eleventh and early twelfth centuries. (The two volumes of the copy of the Liber Papiensis now held in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan MSS O 53 sup and O 55 sup, are even more decorative than the Florence manuscript, in that there are animalistic and anthropomorphic elements to the initials, and a wider range of coloured inks are also used. Meanwhile, the copy in the British Library, London, MS Add. 5411 has a half-page line-drawing of an enthroned Charlemagne flanked by two dapper retainers at the start of the capitularies. I digress from my subject here, though). But still, what does ‘distinctly decorated’ really mean? The latter part of the sentence covers it I think, as it emphasises the foliate and know work construction of the line-drawn initials used to introduce new clauses. Conveniently, a cleaner opening sentence to the summary description of the manuscript can be produced simply by removing those two offending words, and increasing rather than losing meaning in the process: “A manuscript of relatively portable size, with numerous line-drawn initials with foliate and knot-work features and highlighting in red-ink”.

The main area that needed correcting, however, was the table of ruling grids. As can be seen from the quire diagram (which, apart form having been remade as I couldn’t cut and paste it from my pdf, remains the same), there are only two atypical quires in the manuscript, the first and the last. Quire 1 has a folio added at some later point, while Quire 17 was produced from the outset from five bifolia rather than the more regular four. Apart from that later, additional folio at the start of the manuscript, the scribe made no use of half-sheets (or singletons if you prefer) and every folio is one side of a complete bifolium. Moreover, every ruling grid throughout the manuscript has through-lines that extend through the central spine of the bifolium. As such it can be confirmed that both sides of each bifolium were ruled simultaneously as one large, open sheet. This is not unusual, of course. But my tabulation of the ruling grids described them by folio, effectively treating each half as an independent block. Perhaps that is not painfully problematic, but it jarred with me when I was trying to use the description as raw data to write my section on the pricking and ruling of the manuscript. So, I decided to revise it. And there I found another set of errors.

Examination of the photos of the manuscript available online from the BML revealed that a notable number of the extenders and through-lines I’d recorded by folio back in 2014 didn’t always match the images. Now many of the ruling lines are faint and often difficult to discern, and my notes from the library frequently mentioned this. But comparing the two revealed a much different pattern. My impression before had been that each bifolium had been ruled individually, and where two ruling grids appeared to be roughly the same it was in most cases chance rather than design or an artefact of the scribe’s working practice. Reviewing the data revealed a significantly large number of adjacent bifolia with paired ruling grids, and sometimes where there were still differences between them there was enough evidence to support a strong hunch that the difference was because some lines on one were too faint to notice. It seemed that the regularly (if not exclusively) employed pattern was to rule the bifolia stacked simultaneously in stacked pairs.

Revising that error took the better part of the three days. It was definitely worth it. Moreover, I also uncovered in the process some further evidence that did not quite fit that model: Suggestions of the ruling grid sometimes having been produced in two phases. However, that reaches beyond the requirements of describing the manuscript, and brings me back to the interpretation of how the scribe physically produced the manuscript, a further insight into the material praxis of their book culture. As such undertaking corrections to my previous work, some of which I have been a touch embarrassed to confess to and type up, has brought me full circle to the activity that allowed me to spot the errors in the first place. I’ll save further discussion for the monograph, but suffice to say it’s peeled back another layer of the obfuscating mist that lies between us, looking on in the modern day, and the minutiae of activity of the otherwise unknown scribe who made this delightful and intriguing manuscript of laws, capitularies and related text in the last decades of the eleventh century.

 


Oh, and I’ve also made multiple back-ups of the revised files 🙂

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End of project, but research continues

On the last day of April 2016 the funding for my current research project came to an end (an Austrian FWF Lise-Meitner international mobility postdoctoral fellowship, project No. M1698-G21 entitled Lombard Law-Books in the Long-Eleventh Century). The project has been a marvelous experience, during which time I’ve discovered lots of new things, answered or refined many of the research questions I began with, and opened up a whole bunch of further questions. One major, and a I hope useful, output of the project has been to produce detailed descriptions of each of the main manuscripts investigated in this project and to make them freely available to the public. At the moment they are in polished draft condition, and final versions should hopefully be uploaded throughout the course of the summer. If you have any comments on them, please do contact me! The portal page can be found here.

In all, I would say that this has been an ideal outcome for a research project. Needless to say, there is still more to be done before and work progresses steadily. The main things on the current agenda are to continue writing the monograph from the project and finalise and submit a couple of articles that are pulling together. I’ll also be presenting some of the research findings at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds this year (am looking forward to seeing you if you’re there too!), and all while laying the foundations for the next research project.

But rather than talking about what comes next, I thought I would take a moment to review the case studies that I proposed at the start of the project, and how they evolved throughout. Originally I envisaged four case-studies in all, some of them more loosely connected than others, but all building on each other. I began by building on the research findings of my preliminary study in which I argued on codicological grounds that one manuscript of the Liber Papiensis, Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek MS Cod. 471 had originally been produced as two separate volumes that were then bound together into a single codex. I was also able to demonstrate that it was the scribe of the second volume of the manuscript who reworked both parts into a united book. As one of the fundamental defining features of the Liber Papiensis is its unity, and the Vienna manuscript was first produced some three-quarters of a century after the Liber Papiensis was first redacted, this raised some interesting questions.

The first case study then sought to expand the focus from the Vienna manuscript to investigate the other six surviving manuscripts of the Liber Papiensis, produced between the second quarter of the eleventh century and the first quarter of the twelfth. The research demonstrated that five of the manuscripts in all were most likely or definitely produced originally as two volumes, while only one was conclusively produced as a single manuscript from the outset, Padua, Biblioteca del Seminario Vescoville, MS 528. Interestingly, and I would argue significantly, this was also the last of the manuscripts which was produced. The other manuscript, Venice, Biblioteca Marciana, MS 2751, is now only a fragment of 44 folios from what would have been the first part, which prohibits codicological investigation of how the two parts related. This is, to say the least a little frustrating, not least because as the second youngest of the manuscripts its production date of ca 1100 CE falls into the gap between when the last confirmed manuscript of the Liber Papiensis that was produced in two parts (Florence, Biblioteca Medicia Laurenziana, MS Plut. 89 sup 86, CA 1080-1100) and the Padua manuscript, of ca 1100-1125. Such is life. Regardless of the difficulties, this case-study, the findings of which throw into question all previous assumptions about the Liber Papiensis and the book culture of the Lombardist scholars in the eleventh and early twelfth centuries, took a central role in the project, and spawned a follow up research query as to how the scribes and readers envisaged and used the book. In response to this, the focus of the other case-studies shifted to various extents.

The second case study, if I am to be honest, is probably the one which suffered the most from the revision of research objectives in light of the ongoing findings of the project. Originally I proposed a comparative study of the Vienna manuscript and its sister, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, as they were not only near contemporaries from the third quarter of the eleventh century, but also shared two scribes. One of these scribes was identified in an earlier study by the palaeographer Antonio Ciaralli, to be a notary named Iohannis, who was active in the vicinity of Pavia in the 1070s, and who produced a charter witnessing the sale of a vineyard. The case study initially intended to focus then on the book culture at Pavia in the period. However, beyond the charter written by Iohannis there is too little evidence to explicitly tie the two law-books to Pavia. Rather than remaining a narrow study of the book culture of just two of the manuscripts, the scope of the study expanded to include them all, but in a more abstract, north Italian setting. Looking back over the original proposal, and thinking back over the progress of the research this outcome seems to have been inevitable, and to have been hinted at from the outset. The joy of hindsight! Much still remains to be done in this area, although I can already see the threads coalescing as I progress through the first draft of the monograph and work on a couple of articles.

Case-studies three and four were closely related from the outset. Each proposed to study the mise-en-page of a section of the Liber Papiensis, the one examining the laws of Liutprand, the other the capitularies of Charlemagne. In practice, this expanded, to become a structured analysis of the mise-en-page of the entirety of each manuscript. One part of this focused on the peritext, and the way in which additions, glosses and diagrams were connected to the main text, which in turn fed into the second case-study. The second part of this focused on the construction of hierarchy for sub-clauses, and the treatment of prologues for the laws of individual kings and emperors. This latter part of the study allowed developments in the mise-en-page across the manuscripts to provide independent confirmation of the codicological arguments for the Liber Papinesis as being, throughout most of the eleventh century, a book of two volumes.

In all, then, the project has been a success, but also one which has developed organically and reflexively throughout its duration. One such point has been my transition from using the term Liber legis langobardorum to the Liber Papiensis instead. Originally, I rejected the latter term as it was only the name by which the laws were edited under in the 19th century edition published by the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Leges IV). Conversely, a few asides in the scholarship noted that some of the manuscripts were entitled as the Liber legis langobardorum which, as the attested medieval title, made it seem a far more appropriate name to use. However, on examination of the manuscripts, it was revealed that this latter title was only ever used for manuscript witnesses of other versions of the text, for instance in the twelfth-century version of the (so-called?) Lombarda redaction, now held at Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale Brancatina, MS I. B. 12 (note that, in the MGH discussion of manuscripts, this is given the wrong (or previous?) shelf-mark of MS II. B. 28 – Leges IV, p. lxi)

I am still pursuing and refining the implications of a lot of the project’s findings but wish to conclude with one general but important point. The use of the term ‘the long-eleventh century’. This was originally used as a short hand means of fitting the temporal focus of the project (which extended from the late tenth century to the early twelfth century) into a 60-character limit, including spaces. The term, however, received some flak from various quarters, including one of the anonymous reviewers of the project. As the project has progressed however, the inevitable conclusion has been reached that the eleventh century must be considered long. It does not matter that the following twelfth century may also be considered long, and it is certainly not an implication of that that the eleventh century must by needs be short. This period was one in which great changes happened, but changes which evolved from the previous.

Overall, the fact that extending the eleventh century to be a ‘long’ one has received such emotive (and sometimes vitriolic) responses, suggests to me that there is something worthwhile to be considered there. Something which people, perhaps, do not want to face. Significant changes did occur in that time, and they developed through continuous agency form the materials that came before, and rejecting a narrative that can incorporate that is to reject the agency of people in the eleventh century. Likewise, it seems to me little more than an attempt to cling on to the outdated and repeatedly disproven notion that the twelfth century was a time of revolution, in which ideas and approaches sprung from an intellectual vacuum. The book cultures of the eleventh century, along with countless other things, emphasise that enforcing a strict line in the periodization between the early and high middle ages is naïve, disingenuous and ahistorical.