I grabbed a long-overdue day at the British Library yesterday. Apart from looking at Indian Ocean French pirate books (much more on which in future posts), I patiently worked my way through several thousand pages of the BL’s palaeography dating source books (most of which are on open shelves in the far end of the Manuscripts Reading Room, shelfmark MSS411.7), as I had intended to do back in 2009.
There were plenty of familiar authors’ names to keep me virtually company there – Charles Burnett, Malcolm Parkes, and Andrew Watson, to name but three – but in the end, it was just a matter of picking a date range (I chose 1400 to 1550) and ploughing through each book in turn to see what you find.
Palaeography dating books contain a long succession of images of manuscript pages (where the date of each image is known), usually arranged by date (though some have a miscellaneous section at the end containing images of handwritten pages whose date isn’t known exactly). Though some images have clearly been cherry-picked for their interesting content (e.g. nice marginal illustrations, ciphers, notable layouts, etc), there is rarely any more organization: the contents of the pages are a function not of any particular style but of the manuscripts the archives happens to have in them in that date range.
I went through the Swiss archives book set, the Austrian archives book set, and several of the 20+-volume Italian archives before running out of time. As you’d expect, much less than 1% was of specific interest to Voynich Manuscript researchers, but… I did find at least one thing that may well be worth looking more closely at.
Basel. Univ. Bibl. A X 132
In its section on Universitätsbibliothek Basel‘s manuscripts, Paul Oskar Kristeller’s “Iter Italicum” vol.5 says:
“A X 132. Steinmann, pp. 419, 457, 548. misc XV. Joh. Gualensis O.F.M., breviloquium philosophorum de virtutibus antiquorum principum (f.83). Vocabularius hebraico-latinus (202). Vocabularius graeco-latinus (220).”
Kristeller’s reference to (Martin) Steinmann appears to be to “Die Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek Basel, Register zu den Abteilungen A I – A XI und O”, Basel, 1982: unfortunately, I ran out of time so didn’t get a chance to see this. But I did find the 1907 listing for the manuscript in Die Handschriften der Oeffentlichen Bibliothek der Universität Basel : Erste Abteilung : Die deutschen Handschriften : Erster Band : BASEL 1907″:
244 A. X. 132.
9. Johannes Gallensis, Breviloquium de virtutibus antiquorum principum et philosophorum.
Vgl. Histoire litter. de la France, T. 25, p. 182. Der Name des Verfassers findet sich in unserer IIs. im alten Inhaltsverzeichnis: a Johanni Gallensi editum.
Bl. 83v: Breuiloquium de virtutibus principum antiquorum et philosophorum. Quoniam misericordia et veritas custodiunt regem…
Bl. 101r Schi.: vbi vis permanere ego vita. Amen.
Completus est libellus de virtutibus principum et philosophorum Anno | a nativitate domini 1465 tercia die mensis septembris que | fuit dies martis.
Hence the date that this section of the manuscript was completed was “3rd September 1465”.
And there is a mention in the handschriftencensus page to “Katalog der datierten Handschriften in der Schweiz in lateinischer Schrift vom Anfang des Mittelalters bis 1550, Bd. 1: Die Handschriften der Bibliotheken von Aarau, Appenzell und Basel, Text- und Abbildungsband”, Dietikon-Zürich 1977, S. 110, by Beat Matthias von Scarpatetti, which is where I found it.
It’s listed on Google Books: the text description of A X 132 is in section 296 of the “Text-” half of volume 1, while the handwriting is reproduced in Abb. 463 of the “Abbildungs-” half of volume 1.
Breviloquium de virtutibus antiquorum
Incidentally, Johannes Gallensis is one of the names that the thirteenth century Franciscan theologian John of Wales” was known by. His “Breviloquium de virtutibus antiquorum…” was a well-copied work: at least fifty copies are listed here, and there may well be many others.
Even though the handwriting we’re interested in runs from fol. 83r through to fol. 101r of Basel Univ. Bibl. A X 132, there are no images of this that I could find online at all, not even on the e-codices database doesn’t have a copy of in it.
And (worse) my mobile phone ran out of battery taking photos of pirate treasure books before I got this far. So all I can do for the moment is tell you about it rather than show it to you. But I thought you’d like to know anyway…
So: if anyone has access to a copy of “Katalog der datierten Handschriften in der Schweiz in lateinischer Schrift vom Anfang des Mittelalters bis 1550, Bd. 1: Die Handschriften der Bibliotheken von Aarau, Appenzell und Basel, Text- und Abbildungsband”, could I ask them to scan in a copy of Abb. 463 and email it to me? I’ll post it here as soon as I can, thanks very much!