577: A codicological observation

droppedImageOne of the manuscripts I got to study on my last trip to Rome was Vaticano (Città del), Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 577, a late eighth- or early ninth-century manuscript originating from a centre in the Mainz region with insular influences. It contains the so-called Sententiae Bonifatii Palatinae and a version of the collection of canon law known as the Dionysiana. The whole manuscript is now helpfully accessible online on the database of digitised manuscripts of the Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, and the Sententiae are transcribed by Michael Elliot.

Useful as online digitised manuscripts are, it doesn’t allow for the following codicological observation.

The manuscript opens with the so-called Sententiae Bonifatii Palatinae (folios 1r-11) with an excerpt from Boniface’s Capitula de invasoribus ecclesiarum (fol. 1r-v), the only fragment of a text attributed to Boniface in the whole of the Sententiae. The whole of the manuscript is written in an Anglo-Saxon hand, with continental influences (demonstrated for instance by the use of a distinctive open cc-shaped a), except for the first folio which is in a continental hand. This first folium is a singleton and thus not part of the first quire. The first quire is made up out of 3 bifolia (instead of the 4
usual in the rest of the manuscript) and lacks a quire signature at the end. In fact, the first quire signature (“A”) is found on the recto of the first folium of the second quire (which consists of 5 bifolia, also unusual).

shapeimage_2Contrary to Mordek (Bibliotheca capitularium manuscripta, p. 774), I found the first quires to be structured thus:

I, 16, 210 (10 = strip), 38 etc.

or, to put it otherwise:

    I (singleton): fol. 1r-v

    16: fols. 2r-7v

    210: fols. 8r-16v (8v has quire signature “A”, 16v has “B”)


shapeimage_3According to Glatthaar (Bonifatius und das Sakrileg, p. 458), the first folio may have been a replacement of an older page, which – being the first folio of a book – was (at risk of being) damaged. The implication is that the later copyist of this page copied exactly the same text as the original. Or, Glatthaar concedes, the page was found elsewhere and added since it fitted.

The quire signatures seem to argue in favour of a view that sees the first folio as a replacement: folio 8r-v is no longer part of a bifolium, and, were it the last folium of the first quire, would have been attached to the very first page. The original arrangement also had a first folio preceding the rest of the Sententiae Bonifatiae. Whether or not that was the Bonifatian fragment presently on fol. 1r-v must remain uncertain.

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