- Material Restoration: A Fragment from Eleventh-Century Echternach in a Nineteenth-Century Parisian Codex
This elegantly argued book is informed by both the principles of traditional philology and ‘new’ or material philology. Professor Franklin’s stated premise is that for a full understanding of a text it is not possible to divorce it from the physical form in which it was created. She demonstrates this most convincingly in relation to the fragment referred to in the title: a parchment [End Page 261] bifolium that has its origins in the ancient abbey of Echternach and is now contained within a nineteenth-century codex, BnF MS lat. 9488.
Inside the bifolium is written a charter – dating from around 1000 – recording the donation to the abbey of the possessions of Sigefrithus I, count of Luxembourg, and his wife Hathawiga. Material evidence shows that the bifolium was originally inserted in the binding at the back of a codex produced in the abbey’s scriptorium, with the last blank page pasted down on the inside of wooden cover. During the eleventh century, two Latin poems with glosses and musical notes were added to the first blank page. Using painstaking detective work, Franklin identifies the bifolium’s original home as a codex composed of a miscellany of texts relating to Echternach, now BnF MS lat. 10195. She also argues that this context is integral to a detailed interpretation and analysis of the two Latin poems, ‘Salue abba mitissime’ and ‘O sacrata dies’, the second of which she publishes for the first time.
The story of how the bifolium migrated from the original miscellany to the nineteenth-century BnF MS lat. 9488, fols 77–78, involves greed, treachery, and questionable library practices. The great medieval library of Echternach survived intact until Napoleon’s invasion of Luxembourg, at which point the very best of Echternach’s extraordinary manuscripts were despatched to Paris to help create the collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. From 1809 until World War II, Luxembourg made repeated requests for the return of these national treasures, but with no success, in part because bindings had been replaced and inscriptions scraped away in order to obscure provenance. The binding of the Echternach miscellany was removed in 1818 and the bifolium incorporated into the newly created MS lat. 9488. Franklin argues that effacement of some Echternach manuscripts did not occur until the mid-1860s and even implicates the BnF head of manuscripts, Léopold Delisle. Ultimately, however, this is an account of the survival of the written word and its material artefacts.
The University of Melbourne