Brings news on research into the history of text presentation. Recent posts deal with my discovery of the world's oldest data visualization, the 5th-century Great Stemma. This blog also offers a way to comment on the www.piggin.net website and communicate with the author, Jean-Baptiste Piggin.
A University of Bologna textbook precisely datable to 1430 contains key texts in mathematics and astronomy in Italian and Latin. The Vatican Library has just upgraded its digitization of this treasure, Vat.lat.4825, to full color and high resolution, and you will see below how welcome this is.
This codex is a festival of visualization, including; mnemonic hands
There are also scatological illuminations of the sort long favoured by discerning male student customers:
See Jordanus for a full listing of the content. It is one of the stars of a release over the past week of 67 new digitizations. My unofficial list:
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 212. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 211. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.
Two boats with sails and oars are depicted in the Madaba Mosaic Map, a miraculously preserved sixth-century giant floor map of Palestine. One has a cargo of white stuff, the other of a vibrantly coloured substance being shipped over the Dead Sea. The tesserae depicting the boatmen have been smashed and replaced with a random red-and-yellow mix of mosaic pieces:
The boat at left carries salt, which is there for the digging on the Dead Sea coast. Recently I asked an archaeologist friend what he thought was aboard the boat at right and he promptly said: bitumen. This surprised me, but he explained that the Dead Sea used to be covered in floating globs of asphalt. It would have glistened, so perhaps that is why the mosaic shows it rainbow-fashion.
I have since learned that under the Romans, the asphalt or bitumen was so ample that it was harvested from the beaches or fished out of the water and exported. Hot work, but it was much in demand by the glue trade around the Mediterranean (and had earlier been used, it is said, for mummification in Egypt).
One of the most notable manuscripts to be digitized in the past week by the Vatican Library is the Cartulary of the Chapter of the Holy Sepulchre, Vat.lat.4947, a set of records of land endowments and dealings by Christian priests in Crusader Jerusalem in the period 1162-1165. From a review by Olivier Guyotjeannin, I learn that the Cartulary contains a record dealing with salt and bitumen harvesting at the time of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
I wonder how long the bitumen trade continued overall. Evidently for a good two thousand years! An account by George Frederick Wright in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915) quotes Josephus saying lumps of asphalt as big as an ox were common in his day. But by the 19th century, big asphalt seepages from the lake bottom were rare, coinciding with earthquakes, though lake dwellers still knew to harvest and sell the releases. Today the last remains are only pebble-sized.
In all, the library released 39 digitizations in the past week. My list:
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 210. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.
Nissenbaum, Arie (1978). 'Dead Sea Asphalts — Historical Aspects', Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, 62, 837–44. Online
A post two years ago highlighted records in the Vatican Library illuminating the doomed attempt to establish a Christian kingdom in Palestine after the Crusades, the finale of a conflict many Muslims angrily remember to this day.
One of those manuscripts is a book of genealogies containing the Lignages d'Outremer, a French-language compilation describing the leading settler families and their descents. This week that work, at folios 276-296 of Vat.lat.4789, has been re-released in high resolution and full color after only a microfilm in black and white had been available.
Arlima informs us this is the second recension of the Lignages. For a quick introduction to its scope, see Wikipedia.
In all, 39 manuscripts arrived online over the past week. My list:
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 209. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.
One of the Vatican's finest manuscripts of the Decretrum Gratiani, a great collection of laws, has just been digitized. The high resolution lets you zoom in close to figures like this rosy-cheeked bishop:
Here's a king from the copious initials:
This 14th century codex from Toulouse is made up of 404 folios and contains the commentary of Bartholomew of Brixen in the margins. Mirabile has details on its former owners.
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 208. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.
The fortunes of some manuscripts take them to the very brink of destruction, as we see with a Neapolitan part-bible, Vat.lat.8183, digitized in the past week by the Vatican Library.
The miniaturist is believed to have been Matteo Planisio. This codex containing Prophets and Psalms once contained gorgeous colourful 14th-century miniatures, but many were snipped out by a "collector". Check it out, because the vandal did not get them all.
This week 26 manuscripts were scanned and put online for all the world to enjoy. My list:
Ross.118 (Upgraded to HQ), an exquisite book of hours in mint condition
Vat.lat.2482 (Upgraded to HQ), Avicenna, Eugubinus de Montecatino, Albertus Magnus and Petrus de Abano in a 300-folio, mainly medical anthology from the 15th century: see eTK. There's a librarian's handy table of contents at the front.
Vat.lat.4871 (Upgraded to HQ), philosophical, with a text by Franciscus de Marchia on univocal concepts
Vat.lat.8183, Italian part bible which begins with Isaiah (above)
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 207. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.
Among the well-loved old books digitized in the past week by the Vatican Library is a missale plenum of the late 10th or early 11th century from somewhere in central Italy.
Vat.lat.4770 provided a bishop, or abbot or senior priest with liturgical rites for most occasions including for dedication of a church. Although it has a loose appearance, it is well planned in layout, with space set aside for initials and the text spaced where required for the necessary musical notation:
It has one particular curiosity: a sudden change in script from the ordinary Carolingian minuscule of the period to Beneventan in a passage over the turn at fols. 216r-216v. Presumably the scribe knew both, and was deft enough to swap script and revert while working at full tilt.
Here is the full unofficial list of 42 new releases:
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 206. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.
Vat.lat.2509 (Upgraded to HQ), Compilation 1 with Apparatus of Tancred [original version] (1-93); Compilation 2 with Apparatus of Tancred [original version] (94-139); Compilation 3 [French rec.] with Apparatus of Tancred [final version] (140-275v); Compilation 4 with Apparatus of Johannes Teutonicus (276-310) (from the list of Brendan McManus).
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 205. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.
One of the many curious features of the Tabula Peutingeriana is a depiction of Monte Tifata, a holy mountain in Campania, Italy. Tifata is a strong point, a ridge 600 metres high with steep slopes. From the top you get a view both ways along the Via Appia, and also to Vesuvius to the south and the River Volturno below (Corryx, Wikipedia, 2016).
The Tabula depicts Tifata Mons with two notable temples and a sacred spring:
From left to right (west to east) these places are the Baths of Sulla, a Temple of Diana (Diana Tifatina) and a Temple of Jove (Iovis Tifatinus). The whole drawing seems to be fairly accurate, as it is now accepted that the temple to Diana was at the western foot of the mountain and its stone is probably incorporated within the walls of the splendid Benedictine basilica of Sant'Angelo in Formis.
Stefania Quilici Gigli hypothesizes that the Baths of Sulla were close by. Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (c. 138 BC – 78 BC) had won a victory at Caio Norbano near here on his 83 BC March on Rome. The Roman historian Velleius states that Sulla made a foundation of land and waters here to celebrate this, reading thus in the Shipley translation:
It was while Sulla was ascending Mount Tifata that he had encountered Gaius Norbanus. After his victory over him he paid a vow of gratitude to Diana, to whom that region is sacred, and consecrated to the goddess the waters renowned for their salubrity and water to heal, as well as all the lands in the vicinity. The record of this pleasing act of piety is witnessed to this day by an inscription on the door of the temple, and a bronze tablet within the edifice.
This does not explicitly say there were baths, but Stefania Quilici Giglithinks nearby land-marker inscriptions of a later period refer to this land use and both custom and the Tabula would indicate the “waters” were utilized as baths. The purpose of bathing would have been healing rather than play.
The temple of Jove is thought to have been at the summit, near today’s illuminated cross, the Croce del Tifata:
Knowing all this, the illustrations in the Tabula are most interesting. The two pictures of temples are of a type, but with different fronts. One (Diana) shows a rose window in the front, the other (Jove) shows a high doorway, and I realize after seeing a picture of Sant'Angelo that this probably represents an arch added at the front:
The third image shows an expansive building of two storeys with a tower and a similar arched entrance at left. The usual Tabula icon for a baths lacks such a tower, so perhaps the extra element is a distinctive feature of the Tifata site.
As I note above, I am sceptical of the view that baths denote recreation on the Tabula. I think the primary connotation of such buildings was as ritual sites, and thus the focus would be on the holy waters.
A de luxe Renaissance atlas containing Ptolemy's Geography in Latin translation has just shown up online. The maps are as beautiful as any from the period. Here's Cyprus, Palestine and Syria:
These hand-drawn illuminations are believed to be the earliest surviving maps from the cartographer Heinrich Martellus Germanus and although the manuscript is not explicitly dated, are thought to have been drawn in 1480 in Florence. The Latin translation is by Iacopo d'Angelo da Scarperia.
The codex dates from the period when the West was rediscovering the 2nd-century scientist Ptolemy. Curiously, Ptolemy's work had impressed his contemporaries with its detail, but failed to trigger any cartographical revolution at the time, perhaps because his ideas were too difficult for antique or late antique students to fully grasp. My forthcoming paper in Amsterdam in July will be touching on that topic.
In all, 41 manuscripts came online over the past week at the Vatican Library. Here is the full list:
Vat.lat.7289, beautiful Renaissance codex, Latin translation of Ptolemy's Geography, see above
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 204. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.