2016-02-02

Galileo's Letters

Having trudged uphill in Florence to see a house in the street Costa de S. Giorgio which once belonged to Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) and reflected on the extraordinary (but non-fatal) conflict of Tuscany's court mathematician with the Inquisition, I was pleased to see a collection of his letters to his clerical friends show up in the February 1, 2016 batch of 85 digitizations at Digita Vaticana.

The house is not so great (no view, no plaza, steep street, here's a tour guide). The letters are written the way we all used to write to save paper: both sides. The ink ended up going all the way through. That's handy to get a sense of the ordinariness of Galileo and push away the mythic, exaggerated, immaculate aura he tends to take on in any account of the history of science.

See his drawing of sunspots on paper that is now discoloured. The digitizers provide spectrally adjusted scans of some of the most illegible sheets so you can read them better.

The newest digitizations, which take the posted total to 3,769 are full of beautiful things including five portolans (the resolution is still too low to read the place-names), the Pantheon Bible, the Planisio Bible and the Gospels of Monreale. The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana makes no running announcements about this project, so here, strictly unofficially, is the list I have compiled. The links are to catalog pages: when you arrive, click the book symbol to see the digitization.
  1. Barb.gr.197, miscellaneous authors, with a maze at 107r
  2. Barb.lat.6479, eighteen letters by Galileo. See the St Louis catalog. Of especial interest is Galileo's drawing on folio 18r of sunspots which he had observed:
    Anthony Grafton's Rome Reborn catalog notes that the spots' discovery "proved that the sun was not the perfect, unchanging body that traditional Aristotelian cosmology considered it to be. Galileo's work received strong support for a long time from [Maffeo Barberini (1597-1679], the future Pope Urban VIII."
  3. Barb.lat.6480,
  4. Borg.Carte.naut.VIII, portolan of Mediterranean to Baltic, seemingly the subject of Arthur Dürst's Seekarte des Andrea Benincasa (Borgiano VIII), 1508, though it has no Campbell number. See MapHistory.info
  5. Borg.Carte.naut.IX, portolan of Mediterranean (post 1600?)
  6. Borg.Carte.naut.X, portolan of Mediterranean and Black Sea (post 1600?)
  7. Borg.Carte.naut.XI, portolan of Mediterranean, fancy compass roses (post 1600?)
  8. Borg.Carte.naut.XIII, atlas of portolan maps; seemingly this has no Campbell number
  9. Borg.copt.109.cass.XV.fasc.53,
  10. Borg.lat.425, a richly illuminated Christmas missal. But what is this? An ad for the Austrian caffeinated soft drink Red Bull? [We have not checked the missal page yet, but Tuomas Levänen points out on Twitter this is likely to be the red heifer that Yahweh tells Moses and Aaron to slaughter and burn at Numbers 19: 1-10]
  11. Borg.sir.81,
  12. Chig.L.V.176, Boccaccio's Life of Dante, poetry about Dante, etc.
  13. Ott.gr.19,
  14. Ott.gr.179,
  15. Ott.gr.189,
  16. Ott.gr.192.pt.1,
  17. Ott.gr.193,
  18. Ott.gr.194,
  19. Ott.gr.207,
  20. Ott.gr.213,
  21. Pal.lat.471,
  22. Pal.lat.1491,
  23. Pal.lat.1493,
  24. Pal.lat.1494,
  25. Pal.lat.1495,
  26. Pal.lat.1496,
  27. Pal.lat.1518,
  28. Pal.lat.1524,
  29. Pal.lat.1540,
  30. Pal.lat.1553,
  31. Pal.lat.1554,
  32. Pal.lat.1556,
  33. Pal.lat.1557,
  34. Pal.lat.1562,
  35. Pal.lat.1564, the Agrimensores Codex, a superb copy made in 9th century Germany of a classical work. Not new online, and the Heidelberg viewer is better if you want to examine this one in detail.
  36. Pal.lat.1572,
  37. Pal.lat.1574,
  38. Pal.lat.1589,
  39. Pal.lat.1594,
  40. Pal.lat.1605,
  41. Pal.lat.1607,
  42. Pal.lat.1615,
  43. Pal.lat.1643,
  44. Pal.lat.1647,
  45. Pal.lat.1652,
  46. Pal.lat.1657,
  47. Patetta.1471, Benedetto Varchi's Florentine History of 1538
  48. Ross.215, the Rossi Codex, one of the earliest sources of 14th-century secular Italian music.
    Jeremy Norman's HistoryofInformation.com pulls together key facts about this treasure from Italy's far north, probably Verona, which only gained wide musicological attention less than a century ago.
  49. Urb.gr.110,
  50. Vat.gr.126,
  51. Vat.gr.342,
  52. Vat.gr.633,
  53. Vat.gr.1013,
  54. Vat.gr.1553,
  55. Vat.gr.2458,
  56. Vat.lat.37,
  57. Vat.lat.42, the Gospels of Monreale (Sicily), dated to about 1450, a large-format codex with elaborate initials like this Q. One wonders if there is not some Islamic artistic influence here:
  58. Vat.lat.163,
  59. Vat.lat.174,
  60. Vat.lat.279,
  61. Vat.lat.299,
  62. Vat.lat.300,
  63. Vat.lat.308,
  64. Vat.lat.312,
  65. Vat.lat.325,
  66. Vat.lat.328,
  67. Vat.lat.356,
  68. Vat.lat.381,
  69. Vat.lat.412,
  70. Vat.lat.478,
  71. Vat.lat.479.pt.1, Augustine, Sermons, 15th-century codex
  72. Vat.lat.479.pt.2, ditto
  73. Vat.lat.581, Gregory the Great, De inventione librorum moralium
  74. Vat.lat.1542, Saturnalia of Macrobius, 15th-century Italian
  75. Vat.lat.3196, Petrarch?
  76. Vat.lat.3206, troubador poetry. Commendably, Digita Vaticana provides spectrally manipulated scans of the first and final pages of this, because they are illegible at normal wavelengths
  77. Vat.lat.3273, Tibullus and Propertius, poetry, Renaissance copy
  78. Vat.lat.3366, Cristoforo Landino poetry (with his own? letter at front, ending Vale!)
  79. Vat.lat.3550.pt.1, the Matteo di Planisio Bible, made in Naples in about 1362. Here is Satan (right) eavesdropping as God tells Adam and Eve to abstain from certain fruit.
    Then there is this colourful scene from Genesis at fol. 12r (I am guessing it's Melchizedek coming out from Sodom (?) to serve bread and wine to Abraham, Eshkol, Aner and Mamre, Gen. 14:18):
    At fol 19r, Pharaoh's daughter finds Baby Moses while bathing (Exodus 2:1-10). The full frontal nudity is surprising, but this and the pose of her arms and thumbs seems to be an arty reference to Classical Egyptian painting, which might have been familiar to a Naples audience:
  80. Vat.lat.3827, Carolingian codex with records of Frankish and other early church councils
  81. Vat.lat.5007, 9th-century records of the diocese of Naples
  82. Vat.lat.12723, manuscript records of the Inquisition
  83. Vat.lat.12958, the Pantheon Bible, a finely illuminated complete bible from the 11th or 12th century, with this battle scene at 277v:
    In Vetus Latina studies, this bible is Beuron Number 363 on account of its Oratio Salomonis and Psalter Romanum.
  84. Vat.lat.13951, an autograph note by Alessandro Manzoni on a printed first-communion service
  85. Vat.lat.14475, certificates connected to 15th-century Vatican librarian Bartolomeo Manfredi
I am also keeping an eye on Heidelberg's releases of Vatican manuscripts, which take place place well in advance of Rome's issue of the same codices. The latest batch, on January 27, comprised six items:
  1. Pal. lat. 264 S. Gregorii; Aurelius Augustinus; B. Augustini: Sammelhandschrift (13-14th century)
  2. Pal. lat. 263 S. Gregorii: Pape urbis Rome dialogorum, libri IV (11-12th century)
  3. Pal. lat. 644 Constitutiones clementine (i.e. Clementis V) cum apparatu domini Iohannis Andree (15th century.)
  4. Pal. lat. 688 Miscellany (15th century)
  5. Pal. lat. 689 Miscellany (14th century)
  6. Pal. lat. 702 Summa de vitiis (13-14th century)
If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to Digita Vaticana.

2016-01-28

Bodmer Papyrus

A cache of 22 papyri, all apparently discovered and assembled in Egypt in 1952, was smuggled later to Switzerland to be sold for the highest possible price. This celebrated remnant of a library of the ancient world is named after Martin Bodmer, the wealthy scion of a Swiss silk manufacturing family, who purchased the papyri en bloc for his book collection at Cologny near Geneva.

Written in Greek, most are little codices, a few are rolls. Most of the ancient world's books have vanished, but the dry air of Egypt preserved just a few like these. The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana now holds several Bodmer Papyri of importance to Christianity.
One is an item known to scholarship as \mathfrak{P}72, a 3rd- or 4th-century manuscript. Part of it, containing sections of epistles Peter 1 and 2, was donated to Pope Paul VI in 1969. [My thanks to Brent Nongbri of Sydney (his page on Academia.edu) for explaining this to me.] Its BAV shelfmark is Papiri Bodmer VIII. The leaves have been unbound and each is kept in a glass frame. Its age naturally makes it a matter of interest in the debate on my blog last year about the world's oldest book.

P72 is celebrated enough to have its own Wikipedia entry with links that you can follow up. It came online on January 25, the first of the Bodmer Papyi to appear and one of the latest 136 Digita Vaticana releases. The images are dissimilar from the other scans and may simply come from the BAV's photographic collection. Previously, only some black-and-white microfilm images of this papyrus were accessible online via CSNTM.

My strictly unofficial list of the 136 releases is below (the BAV makes no running announcements), and I will add more annotations to this list as I have time. The links below lead to a BAV catalog page. You then have to click on book logo at the top left to see the actual digitization.
  1. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.G.36,
  2. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.H.46,
  3. Arch.Cap.S.Pietro.I.15,
  4. Barb.lat.4072,
  5. Barb.lat.4073, Dante
  6. Barb.lat.4079,
  7. Barb.lat.4087,
  8. Barb.lat.4098,
  9. Barb.lat.4116,
  10. Barb.lat.4117,
  11. Barb.lat.4119,
  12. Barb.lat.7943, charters, I see a date 1624 on one
  13. Barb.or.143,
  14. Barb.or.157,
  15. Borgh.226, Novels of Justinian
  16. Cappon.298,
  17. Chig.L.VIII.293, Dante?, annotations to verse
  18. Ott.lat.3316,
  19. Pal.gr.140,
  20. Pal.lat.23,
  21. Pal.lat.47,
  22. Pal.lat.965,
  23. Pal.lat.972,
  24. Pal.lat.974,
  25. Pal.lat.975,
  26. Pal.lat.976,
  27. Pal.lat.978,
  28. Pal.lat.980,
  29. Pal.lat.1207,
  30. Pal.lat.1276,
  31. Pal.lat.1351,
  32. Pal.lat.1362.pt.A,
  33. Pal.lat.1362.pt.B,
  34. Pal.lat.1365,
  35. Pal.lat.1400,
  36. Pal.lat.1418,
  37. Pal.lat.1424,
  38. Pal.lat.1447,
  39. Pal.lat.1459,
  40. Pal.lat.1463,
  41. Pal.lat.1464,
  42. Pal.lat.1465,
  43. Pal.lat.1472,
  44. Pal.lat.1475,
  45. Pal.lat.1479,
  46. Pal.lat.1483,
  47. Pal.lat.1486,
  48. Pal.lat.1488,
  49. Pal.lat.1489,
  50. Pap.Bodmer.VIII, see above
  51. Ross.463, just a few fragments of a lost 14th-century codex of Dante's Divine Comedy
  52. Urb.lat.13,
  53. Urb.lat.31,
  54. Urb.lat.52,
  55. Urb.lat.59,
  56. Urb.lat.99,
  57. Urb.lat.119,
  58. Urb.lat.120,
  59. Urb.lat.242,
  60. Urb.lat.272,
  61. Urb.lat.306,
  62. Urb.lat.312,
  63. Urb.lat.315,
  64. Urb.lat.324,
  65. Urb.lat.325,
  66. Urb.lat.326,
  67. Urb.lat.338,
  68. Urb.lat.340,
  69. Urb.lat.342,
  70. Urb.lat.344,
  71. Urb.lat.350, Aeneid by Virgil, see Rome Reborn catalog where Anthony Grafton opines (I am not sure why) that "this is perhaps the most lavishly illustrated of all copies of Virgil in existence." Here's a detail:
  72. Urb.lat.357,
  73. Urb.lat.362,
  74. Urb.lat.363,
  75. Urb.lat.364,
  76. Urb.lat.369,
  77. Urb.lat.377,
  78. Urb.lat.379,
  79. Urb.lat.380,
  80. Urb.lat.382,
  81. Urb.lat.386,
  82. Urb.lat.390,
  83. Urb.lat.391,
  84. Urb.lat.392,
  85. Urb.lat.393,
  86. Urb.lat.394,
  87. Urb.lat.395,
  88. Urb.lat.398,
  89. Urb.lat.399,
  90. Urb.lat.403,
  91. Urb.lat.404, papal bulls
  92. Urb.lat.408,
  93. Urb.lat.409,
  94. Urb.lat.414,
  95. Urb.lat.415, De Rebus Gestis Alexandri Magni of Q. Curtius Rufus (Life of Alexandra the Great) with this bad-tempered child faun at fol. 1r
  96. Urb.lat.419,
  97. Urb.lat.422,
  98. Urb.lat.424,
  99. Urb.lat.431,
  100. Urb.lat.436,
  101. Urb.lat.437,
  102. Urb.lat.440,
  103. Urb.lat.441,
  104. Urb.lat.455,
  105. Urb.lat.456,
  106. Urb.lat.459, Liber insularum archipelagi by Cristoforo Buondelmonti, a book of maps and account of the author's adventurous exploration of the islands of the Aegean in 1415 or so. The illustrations suggest the nostalgic and obsessive love for the classical past, notes Anthony Grafton's Rome Reborn catalog. See the St Louis catalog too. Here is Mytilene on Lesbos (fol. XXXr), 600 years before the current refugee wave was arriving on the island:
  107. Urb.lat.464, Florentine History by Leonardo Bruni, best-selling 15th-century author. See the St Louis catalog and Grafton's Rome Reborn catalog.
  108. Urb.lat.469,
  109. Urb.lat.471,
  110. Urb.lat.475,
  111. Urb.lat.480,
  112. Urb.lat.481, homilies of Ephraem the Syrian, Latin translation, and here he is:
  113. Urb.lat.482,
  114. Urb.lat.484,
  115. Urb.lat.486,
  116. Urb.lat.520,
  117. Urb.lat.682, Dante
  118. Vat.ar.2016,
  119. Vat.gr.2556,
  120. Vat.lat.28,
  121. Vat.lat.41,
  122. Vat.lat.48,
  123. Vat.lat.84, The Psalter of Nonantola (10th to 11th century), Beuron number 368
  124. Vat.lat.120,
  125. Vat.lat.144,
  126. Vat.lat.242,
  127. Vat.lat.270,
  128. Vat.lat.389,
  129. Vat.lat.409,
  130. Vat.lat.459, Augustine, Confessions, 11th-12th century
  131. Vat.lat.471,
  132. Vat.lat.521, Humbert on Augustine, incipit "Viris religiosis non modicum ... "
  133. Vat.lat.4780, Dante
  134. Vat.lat.5465, an 8th or 9th-century Latin Gospel Book in uncial with fine Eusebian canon tables. The codicologist Michael Gorman (whose key article on the topic I have featured previously on this blog here and here) says it is one of a set of the southern Tuscan type, stating: "It seems to me that the abbey at Monte Amiata is a very probable origin for some of these manuscripts. We know of few likely alternatives." I have blogged on Monte Amiata here as well in case you are curious about the place itself. On canon tables, note Martin Wallraff's plans for an edition.
  135. Vat.lat.5691, Cardinal Cesare Baronio, 1538-1607, Annales ecclesiastici, vol. VIII
  136. Vat.lat.5758, Sermons of Augustine in one of the oldest manuscripts, made at Bobbio, Italy in the 6th or 7th century, see the catalog entry at St Louis. It is marked on the front (p. 1) as coming from the book chest of Abbot Bobolenus. This pre-Carolingian homiliary is one of the sources of W. M. Lindsay's Notae Latinae covering abbreviations in the early minuscule period such as "ff kk" for "beloved brothers. Martin Hellmann is studying these. The codex also has some small but interesting initials, like this A on p. 95:
The posted total of items is 3,684 after one item, Vat.gr.126 was removed from the schedule for reasons unknown on Jan 28. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to Digita Vaticana.

Gorman, Michael. “Manuscript Books at Monte Amiata in the Eleventh Century.” Scriptorium 56 (2002): 225–93: 268–71.

2016-01-19

Codex Benedictus

A fierce conflict between the Abbey of Fleury in France and the Abbey of Montecassino in Italy over which was the genuine resting place of the bones of Benedict of Nursia, founder of western monasticism, reached a high point in 1071 with the production in Italy of an elaborate illuminated lectionary that staked Montecassino's claim in art.

Known as the Codex Benedictus, this great work came online at Digita Vaticana on January 18. It was created for use on the feasts of saints Benedict, Maurus (Benedict's first disciple) and Scholastica (Benedict's sister). At Montecassino, they could not point to an actual tomb of Benedict, but they insisted he lay somewhere in the abbey precincts.

The making of the codex, which features 66 large and colourful miniatures of Benedict's life, was supervised by Abbot Desiderius (1058-1086) who composed part of the text and had himself pictured on the dedication page, folio IIr, handing over this tribute to the long-dead Benedict himself. An inscription reads: Cum domibus miros plures pater accipe libros.

Among the scenes is Benedict showing to a younger monk, Servandus, the world from a high tower as angels fly past the window carrying the soul of a bishop, Germanus (folio LXXIVv). This is a re-interpretation of Benedict's often-quoted dream of having seen the world from a heavenly perspective, which can be read in Gregory the Great's Dialogues 2.35.

Gregory puts an interpretation on Benedict's report of viewing the "whole world" from the tower which Patrick Gautier Dalché considers tantamount to a Late Antique theory of visualization:
The soul of him who sees in this manner is above itself; for being rapt up in the light of God, it is inwardly in itself enlarged above itself, and when it is so exalted and looks downward, then it comprehends how little all that is, which before in former baseness it could not comprehend. (Gardner translation).
On folio LXXXr is an image of Benedict's Entombment (below). The codex, which also contains texts by Alberic of Montecassino, features many smaller details and initials.

An elaborate facsimile of it was published in 1981 as an expensive collectible. Now you can enjoy it for free. For a comprehensive and excellent introduction to the codex and these images, read John Wickstrom's 1998 article, Pope Gregory's  Life of St. Benedict and the Illustrations of Abbot Desiderius of Monte Cassino, on Academia.edu.

Digita Vaticana's new posted total of manuscripts after the 55 uploads on January 18, 2016 is 3,549. The secret list of new arrivals (which I compiled using spot-the-difference software) is below, whereby I will leave the Pal.lat. series undiscussed, as they have been public in Germany for some time.
  1. Barb.lat.4409, architectural drawings of the Vatican by Domenico Castelli
  2. Borgh.280, Anonymous: Summarium sive Breviarium super Decretum, 14th century
  3. Cappon.313.pt.A, architectural engravings of Rome
  4. Pal.lat.636,
  5. Pal.lat.697,
  6. Pal.lat.943,
  7. Pal.lat.944,
  8. Pal.lat.945,
  9. Pal.lat.947,
  10. Pal.lat.948,
  11. Pal.lat.949,
  12. Pal.lat.959,
  13. Pal.lat.960,
  14. Pal.lat.961,
  15. Pal.lat.964,
  16. Pal.lat.968,
  17. Pal.lat.981,
  18. Pal.lat.982,
  19. Pal.lat.983,
  20. Pal.lat.984,
  21. Pal.lat.985,
  22. Pal.lat.986,
  23. Pal.lat.988,
  24. Pal.lat.1060,
  25. Pal.lat.1094,
  26. Pal.lat.1098,
  27. Pal.lat.1102,
  28. Pal.lat.1112,
  29. Pal.lat.1113,
  30. Pal.lat.1136,
  31. Pal.lat.1181,
  32. Pal.lat.1202,
  33. Urb.lat.92, Bernard of Clairvaux's letter against Peter Abelard
  34. Urb.lat.155, civil law commentary by Roffredo Epiphanius and Bonaguida
  35. Urb.lat.167, William Durandus and Bartolus de Saxoferrato
  36. Urb.lat.177, Roland Passagerus
  37. Urb.lat.184, Aristotle, Physics, etc.
  38. Urb.lat.236, Galen, Avicenna, etc, in a 14th-century manuscript
  39. Urb.lat.275,
  40. Urb.lat.288,
  41. Urb.lat.301, a revision of Cornucopia, a mid-15th century commentary on Martial by Niccolò Perotti. This featured in the Rome Reborn exhibition in the mid-1990s in the United States, where Anthony Grafton's catalog notes: Later the work was revised and expanded by Perotti's son Pyrrhus.
  42. Urb.lat.311,
  43. Urb.lat.319, Cicero, 15th-century ms.
  44. Urb.lat.321, ditto
  45. Urb.lat.331, Petrarch, 15th-century ms.
  46. Urb.lat.332, ditto
  47. Urb.lat.333, ditto
  48. Urb.lat.334, Petrarch, De remediis utriusque fortunae
  49. Urb.lat.343, Plautus, comedies
  50. Urb.lat.355, Seneca, tragedies
  51. Urb.lat.356, ditto
  52. Urb.lat.368, anthology of poetry and fables, 15th century, full contents copiously listed by Stornajolo's catalog
  53. Urb.lat.373, poetry by Porcelli and others, 15th century
  54. Urb.lat.402, writings by Piccolomini before he became Pope Pius II, 15th century
  55. Vat.lat.1202, the Codex Benedictus (above)
Here's a silly monkey that thinks it can hide behind a tiny and leafless tree (detail of folio 1r of Urb. lat.373):

If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to Digita Vaticana.

Gautier Dalché, Patrick. “L’Héritage Antique de Cartographie Médiévale: Les Problèmes de les Acquis.” In Cartography in Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Fresh Perspectives, New Methods, edited by Richard J. A. Talbert and Richard Watson Unger. Leiden: Brill, 2008.

2016-01-08

His and Hers

Our latest investigation concerns a curious courtroom scene possibly drawn by Nicolò da Bologna in Urb.lat.160 at folio 5r. I introduced this manuscript in November 2015 when it was brought online by Digita Vaticana. The St Louis catalog discusses the codex in some detail, as does Stornajolo's Codices Urbinates Latini, Codices 1-500, pp 166-167.

The caption under the scene says "Bonifatius". The miniature appears on the opening page of the Liber Sextus, a compilation of decretals issued under the authority of Pope Bonifatius (Boniface) VIII in 1298. The text on the two columns of this manuscript page has not been fully set up in print since 1582 but can be easily read in a reproduction in the UCLA Digital Collections here at the UCLA Library.

The manuscript dates from about 1380, but the anonymous St Louis cataloger thinks the art may be from 50 years later, noting "The Liber Sextus appears to be written around the same time, but its decoration was probably executed in the 15th century, around 1420-1440, in northern Italy, perhaps Ferrara."

Who is the man in the blue tunic on the far left of the image? My interpretation of the scene is that it shows Bonifatius at centre consulting his law book. Kneeling in front of him are two advocates. The advocate at right is pointing to the woman and is apparently speaking on her behalf. The left advocate appears to represent the man in the blue hat. The setting is Renaissance Italy.

It would be plausible to suppose the two litigants are husband and wife, as couples were frequent parties in canonical courts. The other four seated men in red hats appear to be part of the panel of judges. They are evidently listening to what is being said. The room is low and has a daytime garden visible through the four windows, but that is probably an artistic framing device only, not a real location.

What is going on? The man in blue on the left is scowling. The woman has drawn up her skirt to expose her hem, her blue-slippered foot and an ankle. Perhaps she is avowing she has nothing to hide. @zippyman818 notes that her white/blue garment is the opposite in decoration to the man's blue/white combination at the hem, which must symbolize some irreconcilable difference.

Both man and woman are wearing blue slippers. They are both clearly well-off. And here is the big question: what is the man holding?
It's black, it has a bulb at the bottom left end and it looks as if it is about 60 centimetres long. @zippyman818 and I have been having some fun in a Twitter exchange (expand from this one to see the whole conversation) trying to work out the puzzle.

The first consideration is whether it might be a gun. The first firearm in Europe was the arquebus, and I read that it was employed in the army of Matthias Corvinus, which might get us back to a date of 1460. But this image long predates that, and in any case the object does not have a hook, which is essential to cope with gun recoil (and muzzle loading), and the bulb cannot have a function in any firearm.

Another early answer was a horn, but there is no mouthpiece on the thing. Again the bulb is the puzzle. It's not a klaxon, as rubber bulbs had not been invented. Besides why would a rich litigant take a horn to court? @zippyman818 has also suggested a long-handed chisel or a herb cutter with a mezzaluna blade, but again, why would the pope let you bring one into his courtroom?

[A completely different approach proposes that the object is ceremonial in nature. The arguments are set out in the comments below. Armin argues that it is a sconce, a kind of torch (in case the trial goes on past nightfall?) Ilya Graubart is proposing a mace (if medieval popes had armies, perhaps they had maces or sceptres as well). These arguments would suggest that Mr Blue Tunic is not a litigant, but maybe the pope's majordomo or some other papal panjandrum.]

It has been suggested the black thing might be an artistic emblem identifying some historic person who sought justice from the real-life jurist Bonifatius, or a speaking stick entitling the person to hold the floor, but Blue Tunic's mouth is shut. Or it might be a ritual object like an aspergillum or some entirely forgotten symbol.

My own tendency is believe it is an item of evidence connected to a marital lawsuit, perhaps a sword scabbard. Is the wife being accused of adultery with the sword's owner perhaps? At this point we become fanciful. But clearly, when the miniature was drawn, this object was immediately recognizable and perhaps it even elicited a laugh from the Renaissance reader.

2016-01-06

Lateran Palace

The Vatican is an independent country, the remnant of the old Papal States of Italy. It has an exclave about half an hour away by foot, the Lateran Palace. This used to be the seat of the popes and is now a museum. That palace was heavily rebuilt in the 17th century, but we have some idea of what it looked like previously from the historian-archivist Giacomo Grimaldi's manuscript description.

Last May, the first part of his survey of Old St Peter's Basilica was brought online, as I reported at the time on this blog. The second part has just been released on Digita Vaticana and is a further huge compilation of art preservation, sadly spoiled by running ink and even burns in some places.

Grimaldi's sketch of the palace before the alterations shows it thus, with numbering indexed to specific features:
This sketch is the basis for a better-known engraving by Louis Rouhier in the 1656 book by Cesare Raspono which is reproduced at the Bildarchiv Foto Marburg.

From the interior of the old palace we can see a mosaic ceiling of Byzantine style in the triclinium as Grimaldi saw it:
Compare this to the existing reconstruction which is stiffer and rather graceless:

Also in the January 4, 2016 uploads are an early medieval chronicle and very early manuscripts of Terence and Donatus. Here is the full list:
  1. Barb.gr.4,
  2. Barb.gr.265,
  3. Barb.gr.336,
  4. Barb.gr.463,
  5. Barb.gr.472,
  6. Barb.lat.74, Boccaccio’s Glosses on Statius
  7. Barb.lat.444, offices, masses, beautiful Renaissance illumination, but sadly it has has suffered water damage as you see in this miniature of the Visitation:
  8. Barb.lat.457, Vulgate Bible, possibly from the library of  King Matthias Corvinus, with swash initials
  9. Barb.lat.1669, folded charters with seal on outside
  10. Barb.lat.1682, Petrarch, letters? in a fine antiqua hand, unfinished illumination 
  11. Barb.lat.2048, Commentary by Tommaso Campanella (1568-1639)
  12. Barb.lat.2733.pt.2 (above), the Instrumenta autentica translationum sanctorum corporum et sacrarum reliquiarum e veteri in novam principis apostolorum basilicam, containing notes on Old St Peters and the Old Lateran, part 1 of which was brought online last year. This codex includes an architectural plan of the new St Peter's:
  13. Barb.lat.3640, Gabriello Chiabrera (1552-1638)
  14. Barb.lat.3644, Dante, Comedy
  15. Barb.lat.3953, Italian comic poetry
  16. Barb.lat.3975, Italian poetry
  17. Barb.lat.4007, Italian
  18. Barb.lat.4015, Dante
  19. Barb.lat.4024,
  20. Barb.lat.4029, Pietro Alighieri
  21. Barb.lat.4049,
  22. Barb.lat.4071, Boccaccio
  23. Barb.or.157.pt.A, a single sheet of Arabic
  24. Borg.turc.8, poet (prince?) Mustafa: To the Glory of God Lord of the Universe
  25. Reg.lat.528, hagiographical
  26. Reg.lat.713, the Chronicle of Fredegar; this is the second half of a codex of which the other part is Voss.lat.Q.5 at Leiden in the Netherlands (digitized at Socrates.Leiden); Bischoff 2212. The usual edition is that of Bruno Krusch in the MGH, digitized here. This manuscript is there termed 3.I.
  27. Ross.12, Petrarch
  28. Vat.gr.192,
  29. Vat.gr.2556.pt.,
  30. Vat.lat.17, Vulgate Bible, 14th century
  31. Vat.lat.82, Psalter Ambrosianum with Canticles, Beuron Number 407, version with diacritic signs
  32. Vat.lat.195, Cyprian of Carthage, 15th century manuscript
  33. Vat.lat.213, Homilies of Origen in Latin translation 
  34. Vat.lat.399, John Chrystostom, On Psalms, etc.
  35. Vat.lat.414.pt.3, Augustine of Hippo, various
  36. Vat.lat.416, Augustine, De Trinitate, etc.
  37. Vat.lat.430, Augustine of Hippo, City of God
  38. Vat.lat.436, Augustine of Hippo, City of God
  39. Vat.lat.458, Augustine of Hippo, Sermons, letters, etc
  40. Vat.lat.475, Augustine of Hippo, Sermons
  41. Vat.lat.476, Augustine of Hippo, Sermons
  42. Vat.lat.1512, the oldest extant manuscript of Claudius Donatus (4th-century author), Interpretationes Vergilianae, made about 800 at monastery of Luxueil
  43. Vat.lat.1640, the so-called codex decurtatus with the sigle G of the Comedies of Terence, a  10th-century codex from Germany or Lorraine
If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to Digita Vaticana.