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Reviewed by:
  • Manuscripts of the Latin Classics 800–1200 ed. by Erik Kwakkel
  • Rita Copeland

Latin, Classics, manuscript studies, codicology, palaeography, Carolingian, scholarship, diagrams, rhetoric, Cicero, fragments, Ovid

Erik Kwakkel, ed. Manuscripts of the Latin Classics 800–1200. Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Book Culture. Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2015. 224 pp. + 22 color plates. €39.50. ISBN: 978-908-72-8226-4.

This small book contains treasures for manuscript research into the survival and reception of the classics in medieval Europe. Six specialists in different aspects of classical reception provide acute arguments about the material evidence for the uses of ancient inheritances: not simply that ancient texts survived, but under what surprising conditions of copying, annotating, and even textual editing the classics found new audiences and devotees. Codicological surveys of classical texts in medieval collections have been invaluable for literary and historical research; thus scholars from various disciplines have welcomed the completion in 2014 of Birger Munk Olsen’s L’étude des auteurs classiques latins aux XIe et XIIe siècles. But the essays brought together by Erik Kwakkel take as their common theme the distinctive codicology of the classical text: history of the book is the primary focus of these essays. As Kwakkel remarks in his introduction, “While the production method of such books [i.e., classical texts] may not be distinctive, the existence of certain codicological and palaeographical trends suggests that scribes did favour peculiarities—mannerisms, perhaps—when it came to copying and engaging with the classics” (p. 14). So this volume helps to define a new field within manuscript research: the classical text as specific kind of artifact and as the object (rather than just the instrument) of scholarship about the classics in the Middle Ages. Classical manuscripts merit study as a codicological category unto themselves (p. 16). [End Page 353]

The fine essay by Mariken Teeuwen, “Carolingian Scholarship on Classical Authors: Practices of Reading and Writing,” leads off the volume. Teeuwen demonstrates that the annotations in Carolingian manuscripts suggest uses well beyond that of school texts. Annotations suggest private scholarship, textual criticism, and record even scholarly discussion and disputes. The uses of Tironian notes suggest also a high level of professionalism in annotating texts. Robert G. Babcock’s illuminating chapter, “The Transmission of Tibullus in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries,” takes us into an area commonly recognized as among the most difficult to map: the extent to which the elegiac love poetry of Tibullus was properly known in the Middle Ages. Tibullus was known through florilegia, but Babcock reveals the crucial role of the tenth- and eleventh-century schools of Liège and introduces us to a previously undetected reader, Egbert of Liège. Egbert quotes and borrows from Tibullus in his own Fecunda ratis, reworking and borrowing from Tibullus’s first elegy in the course of generating his own religious didactic writing (resulting in a surprising combination of erotic elegy and Gospel message). Egbert would have discovered Tibullus in florilegia or, more interestingly, likely bound together with Claudian (as suggested in a booklist from the abbey of Lobbes).

Irene O’Daly’s essay takes us in another direction, the history of epistemology, in a highly original investigation, “Diagrams of Knowledge and Rhetoric in Manuscripts of Cicero’s De inventione.” Any historian of the trivium or quadrivium will have encountered the ancient and medieval schemes for classifying knowledge. But O’Daly advances our understanding by focusing on the graphic depictions of these classifying systems, the relations among the sciences visualized as diagrams, and the particular importance of such visual systems in manuscripts of the most influential Ciceronian rhetoric during the Middle Ages. The parts of rhetoric itself could be diagrammed as a visual prologue or prolegomenon to rhetoric. This essay epitomizes the attractive innovations of the studies in this volume: like the other chapters, O’Daly’s asks us to focus on a manuscript feature that we too often take for granted in our hunt for verbal content or data. When the materiality of the manuscripts is the object of our research, we see our own fields differently. Erik Kwakkel’s fascinating essay, “Classics on Scraps: Classical Manuscripts Made from...


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pp. 353-356
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