2017-11-12

Panorama of Rome in 1457

Postcards of Rome are two a penny, but panoramic views of the city in the early Renaissance are special. This week's surprise digitization at the Vatican Library is a miniature painted from near the Vatican in or just before 1457. Arnold Esch captions it as below (my translation):
An unusual perspective on Rome, more or less the view that would be seen from Pope Pius II's apartment. Until this period, it had been usual to do landscapes from Monte Mario, and these tended to be idealized rather than actual views. This is the first realistic panorama of Rome, a miniature for a manuscript of Euclid completed in 1457 that had been commissioned by Francesco del Borgo, Pius II's architect.

The view is from the Vatican garden above the papal palace, with, at center, the Cortile del Maresciallo (with the Capella Magna in front, the small tower of the east facade behind) and the Campanile of St Peter's, towards the city in the curve of the Tiber River. At left is a footpath to the Castell San Angelo and the Tiber, in the center the dome of the Pantheon, with the trees of the Capitol on both sides and St Maria in Ara Coeli and the Senatorial Palace; at right in foreground the northern slope of the Gianicolo.
Anthony Grafton adds in the Rome Reborn catalog that the image may have been the first view of Rome to use new methods by Leon Battista Alberti to plot positions of buildings accurately. For a comparison, check out this reconstruction on Tomaso Paynim's blog: I think the miniature is from a standpoint on the high ground at left. San Angelo is at right.

Here are the newly digitized manuscripts, including tweeted annotations from the eagle-eyed @LatinAristotle
  1. Ott.lat.3385.pt.1
  2. Reg.lat.1452, eTK incipits: A philosophis astronomiam sic diffinitam accepimus (14C); Philosophis astronomiam sic diffinitam accepimus
  3. Reg.lat.1494
  4. Reg.lat.1508
  5. Reg.lat.1514
  6. Reg.lat.1518
  7. Reg.lat.1534
  8. Reg.lat.1536
  9. Reg.lat.1538
  10. Reg.lat.1543
  11. Reg.lat.1615 ,
  12. Reg.lat.1640
  13. Urb.lat.1104
  14. Urb.lat.1106
  15. Vat.lat.1420
  16. Vat.lat.1884
  17. Vat.lat.1950
  18. Vat.lat.2019
  19. Vat.lat.2112 , Aristotle, Problemata (tr. Bartholomew of Messina), HT to @LatinAristotle
  20. Vat.lat.2155
  21. Vat.lat.2178 ,
  22. Vat.lat.2180
  23. Vat.lat.2207
  24. Vat.lat.2218
  25. Vat.lat.2224, panoramic view of Rome (above) in Euclid Geometry
  26. Vat.lat.2225, eTK incipit: Circa dictum Campani in quo dicitur quod magnitudo (15C) (Nicole Oresme)
  27. Vat.lat.2230
  28. Vat.lat.10293
New in color (previously online in black and white only): Vat.lat.2185 eTK incipit https://digi.vatlib.it/view/MSS_Vat.lat.2185, Cum in singulis scientiis secundum by 14th century author English mathematician Richard Suiseth, also known as The Calculator. Another manuscript of the same arrived online last week. In Heidelberg eight new Vatican manuscripts are online:
  1.  Vatikan, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 1947 Katalog der Privatbibliothek Ludwigs VI. (1584)
  2. Vatikan, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 1948 Katalog der Palatina in Rom, lateinische (sowie griech., hebr. und arabische) Handschriften
  3. Vatikan, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 1952 Sammelband: Verzeichnis lat. und griech. Autoren, Alexander de Villa Dei, Pflanzenglossar, Rezepte, Metrik (Fragm.), de iure naturali, tituli decretalium (12.-16. Jh.)
  4. Vatikan, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 1953 Luther, Martin: Apophtegmata etc. (Johannes Aurifaber?)
  5. Vatikan, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 1954 Luther, Martin: Opera diversa (Schülerabschrift?)
  6. Vatikan, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 1955 Luther, Martin: Diverses lat. und deutsch ; Briefabschriften
  7. Vatikan, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 1956 Katalog der Palatina (1581). Geschichte (1581)
  8. Vatikan, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 1959 Theologische Sammelhandschrift (1. Hälfte 15. Jh.)
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 136. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.

2017-11-07

Pit-bull Professor

One of the fiercest fights in the history of scholarship opposed two very different men: on the one side a charismatic school science teacher - on the other, a university professor with a grudge.

A polymath who got his high school students to help in his research, Konrad Miller (1844-1933) introduced the German public to mappae mundi and the Tabula Peutingeriana, a Roman-era world chart. His celebrity seems to have personally offended Wilhelm Kubitschek (1858-1936), a numismatist and professor of ancient history at the University of Vienna, Austria. (Does anyone have photographs of them?)

Today, Miller is recognized as a founding father of cartographic history studies. He is still famed for a lithographic reproduction of the Tabula and Itineraria Romana, a massive 1916 handbook of its content. Both are now in the public domain (but you need to go to Russia to get a copy of IR). Kubitschek's assault on Miller's oeuvre is almost forgotten, so over the past few days I have been digging up and annotating the two main reviews.

Miller had been a smart farm boy who obtained both holy orders and a science doctorate in geology. Living in an era when the Catholic Church had too many, not few priests, he earned his living from age 37 on the staff of a public school in Stuttgart, Germany and in retirement ran a pilgrimage-tourism business.

Kubitschek, a student of Gustav Hirschfeld, had also been a schoolteacher before becoming chief of the royal Austrian coin collection and gaining his chair. In his pit-bull attack on Miller, it's possible to read habitual spite, or the defensive attitude of many old-time institutional academics towards amateurs and popularizers, but I suspect some kind of personal disappointment was the real driver of his feud, which went on for decades, according to Gerhard Winkler's biographical  note.

In 1902, Kubitschek had published Eine römische Straßenkarte, (DOI 10.11588/diglit.31257.7), a speculative analysis of the Tabula that was partly dire and partly ahead of its time, arguing the Tabula had nothing to do with an imperial frieze in Rome, the Agrippa Mural, and was possibly created as a private project. Perhaps he had vainly hoped for a commission to produce a new Tabula edition.

As it happens, the Peutinger Chart section of his mature 1919 article on ancient maps for the Pauly-Wissowa encyclopaedia was finally digitized just two weeks ago by Wikisource: read it now, though it still needs a second proof-read by a German-speaker.

It would have angered Kubitschek that outdated ideas were gaining fresh currency through Miller's best-selling publications. Miller, on the other hand, also had his work and a public life and was clearly not interested in avante garde theory: he thought entrepreneur-style and wanted to get a cheap facsimile and handbook on the market before his health declined.

He does reply to the fulminations of Kubitschek and other opponents, but gives them little space. Kubitschek, on the other hand, must have spent months marshaling his arguments against Miller in two enormous infinitely detailed reviews totalling 160 pages and complains he was denied more space that he needed to list Miller's failings.

I have annotated the two articles in English for those who don't read German or value a quick guide to what the feud was about. The title is: Explained: Kubitschek's Feud with Konrad Miller: A Manual. I have just uploaded this compilation to Academia.edu as one of my series of manuals.

The two texts are in the public domain. I thank the institutions which provided them and have made only fair use of them in my manual.

While much of Kubitschek's 1917 assault now seems petty, overblown and nasty, he is a century ahead of his time when he lays out what a proper new edition of the Tabula ought to provide (in addition to the best possible imaging, a transcription to the highest standards and a palaeographical analysis):
  1. It should convert all TP labels to modern script (a desideratum first achieved 100 years later in my own digital edition, 2017), minutely showing where all vignettes and rivers are placed;
  2. A critical analysis must be devoted to the scribal omissions of lines and the TP duplications (a difficult topic where we are not quite there yet);
  3. A graphic reconstruction is needed: he apparently means a geographical visualization of TP routes with a scale map as basis, a need only met in the 21st century by the Barrington Atlas, the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire and OmnesViae;
  4. Good indexes (i.e. search tools) are required, a need met since 2010 by the Talbert Database.
There's one more thing. The best news we could have would be the rediscovery of the Michael Hummelberg drawings of the Tabula as it was in 1526. They were last seen a century ago in the Museo San Martino in Naples (Codex R 35). Will they ever be found?

Hirschfeld, Gustav. Review of Weltkarte des Castorius, by Konrad Miller. Berliner Philologische Wochenschrift 8 (1888): 624–34.
Kubitschek, Wilhelm. ‘Bemerkungen zu Konrad Millers Itineraria Romana’. Zeitschrift für die Österreichischen Gymnasien 68 (1917): 740–54, 865–93.
———. ‘Eine römische Straßenkarte’. Jahreshefte des Österreichischen Archäologischen Instituts in Wien 5 (1902): 20–96.
———. Review of: Konrad Miller, Itineraria Romana, etc., by Konrad Miller. Göttingische gelehrte Anzeigen 179, no. 1–2 (1917): 1-.
———. ‘Karten’. 1, X, 1919. https://de.wikisource.org/wiki/RE:Karten.
Miller, Konrad. ‘Die Weltkarte des Castorius genannt die Peutingersche Tafel (= Castori Romanorum cosmographi tabula quae dicitur Peutingeriana)’. Ravensburg: Otto Maier, 1887. http://archive.org/details/Tabula_Peutingeriana_complete.
———. Itineraria romana. Stuttgart: Strecker und Schröder, 1916. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000968347.
———. Rekonstruierte Karten. Vol. 6. 6 vols. Mappaemundi: die ältesten Weltkarten. Stuttgart: Roth, 1898.

2017-11-04

Soothe the Eyes

A great book should soothe the eyes, or that's what a subscription in one of this week's codices digitized at the Vatican Library suggests.

Vat.lat.5949, a 12th century martyrology from the Abbey of Monte Cassino (see also last week's post), contains two lines (above) transcribed and translated by Francis Newton:
Mulcet visum litteras / nodos et colores
Ingerens optutibus excellentiores

It (the book) soothes the eye, setting before the gaze
Letters, knots and colors quite outstanding
The Martyrdom of Eustasius with Regula S. Benedicti, Kalendarium and Homiliae Capitulares is one of 22 items placed newly online, and this book is indeed full of wonderful colored knot patterns:
  1. Ott.lat.3385.pt.2, listed in eTK with these two incipits: Cum a primo tanquam ab optimo (14c); Hec sunt verba que
  2. Reg.lat.198
  3. Reg.lat.1107
  4. Reg.lat.1377
  5. Reg.lat.1393 Vergil's Aeneid, HT to @LatinAristotle
  6. Reg.lat.1402
  7. Reg.lat.1420
  8. Reg.lat.1423
  9. Reg.lat.1437
  10. Reg.lat.1440
  11. Reg.lat.1458
  12. Reg.lat.1470
  13. Reg.lat.1473
  14. Reg.lat.1488
  15. Reg.lat.1499
  16. Reg.lat.1612
  17. Vat.lat.2129
  18. Vat.lat.2130, logic and mathematics. eTK lists: Cum in singulis scientiis secundum by 14th century author English mathematician Richard Suiseth, also known as The Calculator. Here is the librarian's contents list:
  19. Vat.lat.2152
  20. Vat.lat.5949, see above and Lowe p. 68.
  21. Vat.lat.11253
  22. Vat.lat.13152.pt.1
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 135. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.

2017-10-29

From Monte Cassino

Monte Cassino, the fabled monastery of Benedict of Nursia, produced many of the great manuscripts now in the Vatican Apostolic Library, among them the 11th-century Vat.lat.1203, a prestige copy (and indeed the only copy) of the Miracles of Saint Benedict by Desiderius, assisted by Alberic. Here's a sketch at the back, probably of much later date, depicting Benedict:
The work dates to 1076-1079 and this codex presumably immediately after, scribed by the monk who had penned Vat.lat.5735 (not yet online). Among authors who have written about it are Antonio Manfredi and Frances Newton. The initials are particularly celebrated, such as this one that looks like a letter R in a big skirt going for a stroll:

Here is the full list of digitizations in the latter part of the week:
  1. Ott.lat.746
  2. Reg.lat.182
  3. Reg.lat.202
  4. Reg.lat.1080
  5. Reg.lat.1339
  6. Reg.lat.1344
  7. Reg.lat.1447
  8. Reg.lat.1472
  9. Reg.lat.1474
  10. Reg.lat.1483
  11. Reg.lat.1529, a Carolingian Seneca, copied in Italy, annotated by Heiric of Auxerre: HT to @ParvaVox
  12. Reg.lat.1530
  13. Vat.gr.170
  14. Vat.gr.1456
  15. Vat.lat.1203, above
  16. Vat.lat.1330 , synodal acts, Renaissance copy
  17. Vat.lat.1730
  18. Vat.lat.1818
  19. Vat.lat.1981, 11th-century copy of Eutropius's and Paul the Deacon's Histories, says @ParvaVox. There's also a library catalogue on the first page.
  20. Vat.lat.2038
  21. Vat.lat.2128
  22. Vat.lat.2143
  23. Vat.lat.2158
  24. Vat.lat.2202
For your browsing convenience, I also bring you the Palatina digitizations, summarized from the Heidelberg RSS feed:
  1. Pal. lat. 1430 Leowitz, Cyprian: Tabulae (Augsburg, um 1560)
  2. Pal. lat. 1769 Guarino ; Plato; Plautus, Titus Maccius: Sammelhandschrift (Deutschland, 15. Jh.)
  3. Pal. lat. 1849 Johann Hilten: Sammelhandschrift (Süddeutschland (?), Thüringen, Mitte 16. Jh.)
  4. Pal. lat. 1853 Enzinas, Francisco ¬de¬: De statu Belgico (Westdeutschland, 1577)
  5. Pal. lat. 1855 Reformatorische Sammelhandschrift (Heidelberg (?), 1518-nach 1538)
  6. Pal. lat. 1858 Scripta de controversia de duabus naturis in Christo et communicatione idiomatum (Königsberg, 1576-1577)
  7. Pal. lat. 1859 Sermones de tempore et de sanctis (Franken (Öhringen ?), um 1553)
  8. Pal. lat. 1860 Du Moulin, Pierre (der Ältere): Synodi Dordrechtanae decreta ; Confessio fidei (Dordrecht, 1619)
  9. Pal. lat. 1863 Matthäus Hofstetter: Dialogo (Deutschland, um 1600-1610)
  10. Pal. lat. 1864 Almosenregister ; Briefe (Augsburg, um 1540)
  11. Pal. lat. 1880 Humanistischer Sammelband (Süddeutschland, Italien, 15.-17. Jh.)
  12. Pal. lat. 1881 Epitaphia ducum Saxoniae (Heidelberg, 1615-1622)
  13. Pal. lat. 1882 Locorum communium collectio (Deutschland, 1537)
  14. Pal. lat. 1885 Alchemistische Illustrationen (Süddeutschland, um 1570-1580)
  15. Pal. lat. 1890 Johannes Pleniger: Medizinische Sammelhandschrift (Heidelberg, 1530-1546)
  16. Pal. lat. 1891 Paulus ; Hippocrates; u.a.: Medizinische Sammelhandschrift (Deutschland, Mitte 16. Jh (1540-1541))
  17. Pal. lat. 1893 Quiricus de Augustis; Bartholomaeus de Montagnana; Mundinus de Lenciis; Zacharias de Feltris; Bernardus de Treveris; Odo ; Georg Agricola; u.a.: Medizinischer Sammelband (Heidelberg (II) , Amberg (II) , Regensburg (III), Ende 15. Jh (I) ; 1574 (II) ; um 1560 (III) ; 2. Hälfte 15. Jh. (IV))
  18. Pal. lat. 1894 Medizinischer Sammelband: Rezeptare (Nürnberg (I) , Italien (II) , Heidelberg (III), 1. Hälfte 16. Jh. (I, II) ; 1545 (III))
  19. Pal. lat. 1895 Johannes Magenbuch: Collectanea medica (Nürnberg, 16. Jh. (1524-1543))
  20. Pal. lat. 1896 Johannes Pleniger: Medizinische Sammelhandschrift (Heidelberg, 1. Hälfte 16. Jh.)
  21. Pal. lat. 1899 Sammelband (Süddeutschland (?), Ende 14.-1. Hälfte 15. Jh.)
  22. Pal. lat. 1900 Guarino ; Does, Johan ¬van der¬: Sammelhandschrift (Italien , Holland, 15. Jh. ; Ende 16. Jh. ; Ende 15. Jh. ; Ende 15. Jh.)
  23. Pal. lat. 1901 Sammelband (Heidelberg, Jena (?), Norditalien (?), 2. Hälfte 15. Jh.-1617)
  24. Pal. lat. 1902 Epistolae variorum (verschiedene Orte, 1530-1618)
  25. Pal. lat. 1903 Epistolae ad Henricum Smetium (verschiedene Orte, 1601-1614)
  26. Pal. lat. 1910 Gruter, Jan: Notae et Excerpta (Deutschland , Heidelberg, 1. Hälfte 13. Jh. ; um 1600-1617)
  27. Pal. lat. 1927 Katalog der Palatina (1581). Bücher ohne Einband (Theol., Hist., Jur.) (1581)
  28. Pal. lat. 1928 Katalog der Bibliothek des Klosters Fulda, 16. Jh. (16. Jh.)
  29. Pal. lat. 1929 Katalog der Schloßbibliothek (1555/56). Lateinische Theologie (1555/1556)
  30. Pal. lat. 1932 Katalog der Schloßbibliothek (1555/56). Deutsche Theologie (1555/56)
  31. Pal. lat. 1933 Katalog der Schloßbibliothek (1555/56). Artes dicendi (1555/56)
  32. Pal. lat. 1934 Katalog der Schloßbibliothek (1555/56). Philosophie (1555/56)
  33. Pal. lat. 1935 Katalog der Schloßbibliothek (1555/56). Physik, philosophische Opera omnia (1555/56)
  34. Pal. lat. 1936 Katalog der Schloßbibliothek (1555/56). Philosophie, Miscellanea (1555/56)
  35. Pal. lat. 1937 Katalog der Schloßbibliothek (1555/56). Historigraphie, Geographie (1555/56)
  36. Pal. lat. 1942 Katalog der Schloßbibliothek (1555/56). Medizin (1555/56)
  37. Pal. lat. 1943 Katalog der Schloßbibliothek (1555/56). Medizin (1555/56)
  38. Pal. lat. 1944 Katalog der Schloßbibliothek (1555/56). Jurisprudenz (1555/56)
  39. Pal. lat. 1945 Katalog der Palatina (1581). Jurisprudenz (1581)
  40. Pal. lat. 1946 Katalog der Schloßbibliothek (1555/56). Griechische und lateinische Dichter (1555/56)
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 134. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.

2017-10-27

Squeezing Secrets from the Peutinger Diagram

Do all roads lead to Rome? Not with the Peutinger Diagram. In neither sense of the phrase.

In Africa as depicted on this extraordinary late antique geographical chart (see Talbert's digital version), the roads do not even point toward Rome. They run from east to west, ending at dusty forts on the desert's edge. I simplified their layout to a system diagram (below), showing how the chart-maker emphasized an array of parallel routes and inserted only occasional connections between these main lines.

By contrast, in Italy, nearly all the highways lead to (or depart from) Rome. That appears to have been a guiding inspiration when the chart-maker was laying out the routes from the Alps to the gates of Rome. But as will see from my latest system diagram, this one for Italy (it has just gone online), there are some important exceptions.

To make these system diagrams, I squeeze the Tabula like a concertina. The Tabula (surviving in a single manuscript, Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Codex Vindobonensis 324) is a very long roll, to be read in the horizontal. Eliminating that longness and adding some height enables us to see the network structure at a glance and comb apart the manuscript's jagged thickets of connections.


The limit of my squeezing is always the point where the slightly sloping lines in the original rear up to an angle of 45 degrees from the horizontal, since the most useful outcome is a spider diagram that resembles the London Underground network diagram. The horizontal scale is thus reduced and the crooked lines are regularized into a grid, but no other re-arranging is permissible.

One use of this assay procedure is to test how proportionate to the geographical landform the Tabula is. One can put the peninsula's outline on screen (anchored to Milan: press the radio button next to "landmass" to "on") and see that at one-fifth the width, the match is surprisingly good.

The grey shape you can see here is a silhouette of the coast which has been given a one-eighth turn so that the peninsula aligns horizontally. Look for the spur, heel and instep of Italy (the toe is out of sight). In the image above, you'll note that Naples (Neapoli) has been pushed too far downwards, and Rome and Benevento are placed too far to the right, but all in all, this mapping is closer to the real thing than the Underground diagram is to the real London.

I began with a proverb, all roads lead to Rome, which signifies that a variety of methods produce the same result. That is of course untrue in information visualization, where two different renderings of the same data - a scale map and a network diagram - often produce a very different impression on us.

The purpose of reflowing the Tabula in this fashion is to reveal some of its subtler graphic characteristics, which tend to escape notice when we stare at the roll-form original. The great Theodor Mommsen did something similar in 1851 before he became Germany's most famous professor. In his paper, ‘Die Unteritalien betreffenden Abschnitte der ravennatischen Kosmographie’, he rectified the Tabula layout much as I have done. (The job must have caused extreme stress to the printer.)

My systemic view is both more useful (with overlays and links) and more rigorous. You will notice in my analysis is that I have classified the roads into major (colored) routes with many stops (which I would argue derive from the original Tabula) and minor (black) cross-country routes with few stops, which are much more likely to be casual additions to the chart by later readers.

Reflowing will make features you have overlooked pop out visually. It may also reveal if you have misconceptions about the data. My first attempt at this stratification did expose a misconception. This concerned three land routes in southern Italy. The original Tabula shows Roma - Corfinio, Nares Lvcanas - Vibona Balentia (both olive green) and Erdonia - Gnatie (dark blue) as sinuous, fragmented, error-ridden routes. I mistook these for write-ins by a later user or editor.

The compressed version shows that if these routes are straightened out, they fit snugly enough into the available space. The road to Corfinio is a fairly important path across the Apennines, while the Nares - Vibona and Erdonia - Gnatie connections run parallel to (and quite close to) their respective coasts.

Of the remaining thin black lines, some represent now indeterminate sub-networks, such as near Hostilia, where the Tabula's original layout has been lost, or one or two borderline cases, such as a detour through Todo (Tvder), which may have been part of the first layout. But for the rest, I would argue they are no more than ancillary mark-up, not part of the primitive design.

I have already hinted at a related discovery: compared to the Mezzogiorno, a disproportionately greater width of the Tabula has been allocated to the parallel tracks from the Alps to Rome. Perhaps the chart-maker started at the left and ran out of room, but whatever the reason, the Mezzogiorno ended up being a crowded part of the chart where the three connections above had to be folded up to fit.

That in turn is a main reason why I could not compact the Tabula's southern Italy by a factor of more than 5, whereas it was feasible to compress the Tabula's Africa by a factor of 20. Compressing is done by opening an image of the Tabula in the Inkscape graphics program and using its Transform > Scale command to reduce the drawing to a stated percentage of its original width. Attempting to take Italia below 20 per cent caused some of the gently inclined paths to go nearly vertical.

The disproportion between the two parts of Italy may disprove one of my earlier arguments too. In a draft article, I pointed out this year that across the Tabula's thin, river-like Adriatic, southern Italian cities are shown opposite Dalmatian coast cities that are almost due north of them.




The red lines in this sketch show these matches. From northern Italy, the one match shown involves the shortest line to the closest point, whereas five cities of southern Italy are not matched to the closest towns opposite. Knowing that the Mezzogiorno has been pushed into a space on the Tabula that is not big enough for it, we can guess this (rather than the African point of view) may explain the poor correspondences.


The Dutch scholar B. H. Stolte (see my missing manual) proposed nearly 70 years ago that the original Tabula was originally drawn scaled to one quarter of its present width. I am not entirely convinced by his argument, let alone his supposition that this applies to the whole chart, not just parts of it, although my system diagram demonstrates that compression is a possibility. I think it is simpler to assume that the chart-maker instinctively laid out most of his Italia lines either horizontally or at an incline of about 11 degrees, which would suffice to account for the neat, 45-degree compass rose of alignments when we compress the Italia zone of the chart.

We know now that the Tabula is not a "map" of the Roman Empire's road system. It leaves out too many major roads to merit that description. Its over-selects roads that run lengthwise on the roll and neglects the oblique ones.

I imagine the chart-maker planning his design with ostraca - old scraps of pottery or writing material - writing names on each from the itinerary texts and laying his scraps out in lines across the ground, a hypothesis I have already applied to the genesis of Great Stemma history diagram of antiquity.

Adopting the same approach as he had employed in Africa, the chart-maker drew the routes of northern Italia as parallel tracks (and indeed ignored all routes that were not longitudinal). These are the five or six main strands north (to the left) of Rome. These parallel routes shift and join like channels in an estuary, but the parallel reticulate pattern, as I call it, prevails. The Great North Road, the wine-red route from Rome via Fano and Bononia (Bologna), necessarily has kinks, since it crosses from Rome to the Adriatic coast, then turn north-west.

The routes in the Mezzogiorno turned out to be less parallel and more reticulate than in the north of Italy. In my spider diagram, the shore roads and the road parallel to each in the hinterland are easy to see, but it is the cross-peninsular routes that now catch the eye.

Two of these cross routes (purple and red) lead northeastwards from the port of Salerno to the "spur" of Italy, ending at Pescara (Ostia Eterni) and Siponto. These are not roads to Rome, but roads to use when avoiding Rome. If my hypothesis that the Tabula was drawn in Africa is correct, these would instruct any travelers from Africa heading over to the Adriatic coast.

There's another enhancement to my spider diagram which researchers may find useful. We only possess a single manuscript of the Tabula, but we possess a text that is half useful: the so-called Anonymous Cosmographer of Ravenna wrote a dreary listing of world place-names, probably in the 8th century, in which large sections match the name series in the Tabula.

The Cosmographia, which is the topic of Mommsen's paper already mentioned, does not directly help us to reconstruct the primitive version of the Tabula, which dates from five centuries earlier. But it does flag possible omissions or alterations in the Vienna manuscript. Because of its usefulness, I am offering an overlay where a brown line traces on the Tabula the places the Cosmographia mentions.

To make this useful to future researchers, I have marked the missing names with white circles. If you haven't found them yet, there are three controls in the top left corner of my system diagram (link again) which show and hide the layers: the spider layout, the outline of Italy, and the Cosmographia order. You simply need to click or tap the radio button controls. Try not to display more than one at once.

And where does "All roads lead to Rome" come from? The librarians at Notre Dame say:
The proverb "All roads lead to Rome" derives from medieval Latin. It was first recorded in writing in 1175 by Alain de Lille, a French theologian and poet, whose Liber Parabolarum renders it as 'mille viae ducunt homines per saecula Romam' (a thousand roads lead men forever to Rome). The first documented English use of the proverb occurs more than two hundred years later, in Geoffrey Chaucer's Astrolabe of 1391, where it appears as 'right as diverse pathes leden diverse folk the righte way to Rome.'

Mommsen, Theodor. ‘Die Unteritalien betreffenden Abschnitte der ravennatischen Kosmographie’. Berichte über die Verhandlungen der Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaft zu Leipzig, Philologisch-Historische Klasse 3 (1851): 80–117.

2017-10-24

Unique Mythography Text Online

The Vatican Library has just surpassed 15,000 codices or maps imaged and placed online. The two uploads that pushed the portal over the line were Reg.lat.1439 (12the century, possibly French), which contains Macrobius's Commentary on the Dream of Scipio as well as Cicero’s Laelius de Amicitia, and Reg.lat.1313, the Colloquium heptaplomeres (Colloquium of the Seven about Secrets of the Sublime).


Of especial great interest in the latest group is a unique 9th-century text in Reg.lat.1401 which relays and parses Greek and Latin mythology for a medieval audience. It is by the first of three anonymous medieval authors who are now known as the Mythographi Vaticani. The writings of Mythographer 2 and Mythographer 3 (found elsewhere as well) are also compiled into this precious and irreplaceable codex.

The profound knowledge of classical myths in the Middle Ages -- and their huge role in Renaissance art -- largely goes back to these three texts. For more information, see Wikipedia and the 1947 article by Kathleen Elliott and John (JP) Elder.

Here is my list of 16 new volumes released in the first part of this week:
  1. Reg.lat.199, Isidore of Seville, Sententiae (HT to @gundormr)
  2. Reg.lat.1079
  3. Reg.lat.1081
  4. Reg.lat.1191
  5. Reg.lat.1313
  6. Reg.lat.1326
  7. Reg.lat.1439
  8. Reg.lat.1348
  9. Reg.lat.1382
  10. Reg.lat.1401, the Three Vatican Mythographers (above)
  11. Reg.lat.1425
  12. Reg.lat.1433
  13. Reg.lat.1448
  14. Reg.lat.1450, John de Wesalia, see eTK for more.
  15. Reg.lat.1460
  16. Reg.lat.1463
Meanwhile color versions keep replacing old, low-quality black and white scans. For example, an Apollonius of Perga math text, , has just shown up in hi-res.

This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 133. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.

Breaching the 15,000 barrier

Today, the tally of online manuscripts at the Vatican Library ticked past 15,000. It's a moment to savor, like the DAX stock index surpassing 13,000 this month, but with a difference. Investments can go down as well as up. Virtual libraries only go up.

How did we get here?

In early 2014, the years of dismal efforts at the Vatican to create an online manuscripts portal had nothing much to show. The DigiVatLib site at that time was a hand me down. It indexed a few hundred manuscripts which had in fact been scanned for Germany's Bibliotheca Palatina Project, mainly funded by the Manfred Lautenschläger Stiftung, and copied to Rome for free.

The site only offered 24 items from the Vatican Library's other collections. Bear in mind that this was the world's biggest manuscript library, with more than 82,000 handwritten books in the vaults.

On March 20, 2014, a news conference announced a new contractor for digitization, NTT Data, a Japanese software company. It was an historic decision, because this professionalized a project that had been dogged by incompetence, and made it more attractive to wealthy donors who expected to see results for their money. NTT Data Italia did even more. It put up seed money, tossing in a whopping 18 million euros of its own, nominally to digitize 3,000 named manuscripts up to 2019.

Experts could thus be hired and servers bought. The fact that the tally of digitizations on the site's front page is now 15,000 presumably means that other funding has been added to the mix, although the Vatican Library does not publish income data. We do know that the Polonsky Project came in with about 1 million euros to digitize Hebrew and Greek manuscripts at the Vatican, work that ended last month. Mellon pitched in 563,000 dollars this year, but for metadata, not digitization.

The pace has kept accelerating. In May 2015, the manuscripts portal managed to surpass 2,000 items, and on November 3, 2015, it breached the 3,000 barrier, making it the biggest digitization program in Italy, overtaking the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence. During 2016, the portal doubled in size.

In January of this year, the program ballooned from 6,000 to 10,338 items overnight by an expedient. Much of the manuscript collection is backed up by old-fashioned black-and-white microfilm and some of these films had been scanned at client request, so these digital scans were placed online. These low-resolution images are a stopgap while high-resolution color scans of the same codices are being carried out.

The fact that we are now at the 15,000 mark indicates the project is not only in the finest of health, but also scores as probably the biggest manuscript portal in the world, though firm comparative data is hard to come by.

A search of the French national site Gallica for "manuscripts" with dates before 1600 produces 20,475 hits, but a significant number of these are single-page items. In Spain, the Biblioteca Digital Hispánica shows 15,971 manuscripts online, but the number sinks to 10,716 if you filter out post-1600 dates. Munich's Digitale Sammlungen shows about 5,300 digitized manuscripts earlier than 1600, whereas Manuscripta Mediaevalia, a portal which consolidates many of the German and Swiss repositories (including Munich, but not other centers), shows 13,340 digitized "manuscripts" online, but only 5,954 dating before 1600. Italy's Internet Culturale claims 19,426 online pre-1600 manuscripts at Italian libraries (not the Vatican), but this is full of duplicates. Of the total, 18,284 hits represent just 3,000 codices at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence.

To summarize, and this is only an informed hunch, the current size of the four biggest national virtual libraries, counting just codices (multipage books) from before 1600 only, may be:
Vatican:12,000
France:11,000
Spain:11,000
Germany:6,000

What remains to be improved? My first beef with the portal is its slowness to download. The biggest single collection, Vat.lat., now offers nearly 4,000 manuscripts with 4,000 fiddly little thumbnail pictures coming down the pipe at you in one unwieldy page. There is no URL leading to a text-only main-site index of Vat.lat. Please, DigiVatLib, break up the Vat.Lib. table of contents into several sub-collections: 1-999, 1000-1999, and so on.

A second desideratum is to digitize the hand-written catalogs from the Vatican Library's Sala Consultatione MSS. These hand lists are not only vital as finding aids to the collections. They would provide provisional descriptions for the many manuscripts that go online with no metadata whatever. And these hand-annotated  books are historic documents of world rank in their own right. As long as these are withheld from virtual users of the library, there can be no pretence that use of the portal is as good as going to Rome in person.