Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sententiae in quatuor IV libris distinctae:
Manuscript Fragments from Library of Congress’ 1513 Edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia by Martin Waldseemüller

Structure of Manuscript

The copy of Martin Waldseemüller’s 1513 edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia housed in the Geography and Map Division of the Library Congress contains a group of interesting vellum fragments used as guards to attach the maps found in the book to the binding. The fragments are manuscripts in two different hands, the identity of which, until now, has been unknown since the book’s acquisition by the Library in 1867.

The manuscript found in the Ptolemy is made up of a series of heavily annotated fragments with glossae volatiles from the Sententiae in quatuor IV libris distinctae (Four Books of Sentences) by Peter Lombard (ca.1100-1160). The fragments, which total 46 in number, each consist of from four to seven lines of text in four columns and all come from the first book, “On the Mystery of the Trinity”. The text is written in Northern Textualis Formata[1] indicating a possible date range of 1275-1350.

(click on figure to enlarge)
The first book of the Sententiae discusses, from a purely cosmological viewpoint, the evidence for the existence of God. The doctrine of the Trinity is also discussed using a series of analogies that come from Late Antiquity, mostly taken from the works of Augustine. Lombard denies that any real knowledge of the doctrine can be obtained from these analogies without positive revelation and faith, and emphasizes, again with Augustine, the fact that human speech cannot give a satisfactory account of the nature of God.

The glossae volatiles (flying glosses) on many of the fragments are all in the same hand and are found throughout the text. These glosses consist of three types. The first are corrections made to the Latin orthography using cross outs and replacement text. These corrections are simply grammatical changes made to the manuscript text. These glosses may have been used in preparing of a printed edition. The second type of gloss consists in simple annotations regarding the location of portions of the text that are quotes from other works. The third type of annotation is much more extensive and deals with the subject of the written text itself. An example of this is where the annotator is troubled by the phrase “from the altar the coal by which the mouths of the faithful”. The annotator alludes to a similarity of this passage to Isaiah 6:6: “And there flew toward me one of the Seraphim, and in his hand a coal, which he had taken with forceps from the altar.”

The manuscript contains rubrics (red characters) that fulfill several functions in this particular manuscript.
1 .They mark subdivisions within the chapters.
2. They identify sources of quotations or the beginnings of quotations.
3. They point out important or difficult issues. For example there are several cases of “be careful” or “pay attention here” found in the fragments.

The 1513 Ptolemy is the only one of Waldessumüller’s works for which a printer and firm date are known. The text and the maps of the Geographia were printed by Johannes Schott of Strasbourg and many of the pages of the 1513 edition have the same watermarks as those found on Waldseemüller’s 1507 and 1513 World Maps[2]. The fragments may have been discarded after the preparation of a printed edition as several editions of the Sententiae in quatuor IV libris distinctae were made in Strasbourg in the late 15th and early sixteenth centuries. The manuscript shows commonalities with two of these editions and may have been used for the Duns Scotus Commentary on the Sententiae in quatuor IV libris distinctae, printed in Strasbourg in 1474.

[1] Albert Derolez, The Paleography of Gothic Manuscript Books: from the twelfth to the early sixteenth century. (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press), 2003.
[2] John Hessler, The Naming of America: Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 World Map and the Cosmographiae Introductio, (London: Giles and the Library of Congress), 2008.

I want to thank Lage Carlsen, Senior Book Conservator at the Library of Congress, for providing the photographs of the manuscript fragments and Chet van Duzer for the intial attribution of the Lombard fragments.