THE REAPPEARANCE OF THE TEXTS OF THE
CLASSICS

By PROFESSOR ALBERT C. CLARK 1.

THE Latin classics had to face three great dangers, viz., (1) the attitude of the Church towards pagan literature, (2) the inroads of the barbarians into the Roman Empire, (3) the growth of the Romance languages which led to the corruption of Latin texts.

There were times when the Church was frankly hostile. Thus we are told that Gregory the Great (540-604) tried to suppress the works of Cicero, since their style diverted men from the study of the scriptures, and burnt all manuscripts of Livy which he could find, since the author was full of idolatrous superstitions. On the other hand some individuals, such as Augustine and Jerome, were deeply read in Classical literature. The father to whom we are most indebted is St. Benedict, who in 529 founded Monte Cassino, where he taught his monks to copy manuscripts, 'to fight against the temptations of the devil with pen and ink'. The order was not originally identified with learning, but classical manuscripts were among those which were copied. Hence, Monte Cassino became a centre of learning, and some authors have only survived in manuscripts written there. With him must be coupled Cassiodorus (480-570), minister of Theodoric and his successors. Cassiodorus, unlike Benedict, was interested in learning. He had a large library, including some Greek manuscripts, and trained copyists. He is said to be the first person who deliberately utilized the quiet of the convent for the preservation of learning.  The fact that so |p14 many classical authors have come down to us, seems due to him more than to any other single person.

There must have been great destruction of books during the invasions of the barbarians. They led, however, to a very interesting result, viz. the migration of scholars from Gaul to Ireland. This is stated in a manuscript, now at Leyden, in which the invasions are described. The writer speaks first of the Huns whom he describes as born from horrible intercourse with demons, then of the Vandals, Goths, and Alans. The result, he says, was that 'all the learned men on this side of the sea fled, and in districts beyond the sea, that is to say, in Ireland and wherever they betook themselves, brought about a very great increase of learning among the dwellers in those countries'. We may infer that the learned men took their books with them.

The growth of the Romance languages on the Continent was accompanied by the decay of Latin.. All sense of quantity was lost, the rules of grammar were forgotten, and barbarous spellings, due to pronunciation, were introduced. Gregory of Tours in the sixth century says : 'I ask pardon, if I transgress, either in letters or syllables, the art of grammar, with which I am not thoroughly acquainted. I fear that when I begin to write, since I am ignorant of literature and grammar, scholars will say to me, Thou churl and ignoramus . . . that can'st not distinguish between nouns, that dost often put feminines for masculines, and dost frequently put even the preposition in the wrong place.'

The missionary spirit was strong among the Irish monks, and they had a passion for travel. The writer of the life of St. Gall says of them 'Scotorum quibus consuetudo peregrinandi iam paene in naturam conversa est'.  They settled in Iona as early as 565. Then they went to the Continent. St. Columban founded the monastery of Bobbio, near Genoa, in 613, and St. Gall that of St. Gall near Constance, in 614. |p15 A number of other foundations followed, e. g. that of Péronne in 650. The Irish also extended their activities to England, the most notable foundation being that of Lindisfarne, in the middle of the seventh century. English learning, however, was not solely of Irish origin. In the south Theodore of Tarsus, a Greek, was Archbishop of Canterbury from 668-90, and as a result of his teaching Greek as well as Latin was known in England in the time of Bede. The Anglo-Saxon monks at an early date joined their Irish brethren on the Continent, or set up foundations of their own. It is disputed whether the Irish took their books with them, or collected them on the spot. What is certain is that, wherever they went, they founded libraries which included manuscripts of classical authors.

The Caroline Renaissance is the next event which claims our notice. In 782 Charlemagne, wishing to restore learning in his kingdom, summoned an Englishman, Alcuin of York, to act as his Minister of Education. Alcuin became Abbot of St. Martin at Tours, where he founded a scriptorium, in which the famous Caroline minuscule came into being. He taught his monks to write, instead of devoting themselves to the cultivation of the vine. His motto was : 'Fodere quam vites, melius est scribere libros.' His own studies lay chiefly in the direction of grammar and orthography. He succeeded in arresting the process of natural decay, and reintroduced classical Latin. Barbarous spellings disappeared as if by magic, and manuscripts were written by competent Scribes.

The monastery of Fulda was founded some forty years before this time by the Anglo-Saxon, St. Boniface. Under the successors of Charlemagne it became the centre of the humanistic movement. Charlemagne himself founded the monastery of Lorsch, near Worms, in 763, which afterwards became one of the most important mediaeval libraries, His minister Hildebald (d. 819) formed a library at Cologne, and |p16 we are told that a number of manuscripts were sent by the Pope from Rome , to Cologne to be there copied. Many of the manuscripts presented by Hildebald still exist in the Cathedral library. Corvei; in Westphalia, was founded in 822 by monks from the Anglo-Saxon house at Corbie, near Amiens. The most notable figure in the movement was Servatus Lupus, Abbot of Ferrières from 842 to 862, who had himself received his education at Fulda. The letters of Servatus show that he was a genuine forerunner of the Italian renaissance. He obtained manuscripts from Fulda, Tours, York, and Rome. He was also interested in textual criticism, and was accustomed to borrow manuscripts, e. g. of Cicero's Letters and the Verrines, with. the help of which he corrected his own copies. He quotes out-of-the-way authors, e. g. Catullus, to illustrate a point of prosody.

This short sketch will suffice to show the extent to which the preservation of classical manuscripts is due to the Irish monks in the seventh century, and to the revival of learning in the eighth, which was largely due to Anglo-Saxon influence. It was in the monasteries founded at this time that the Italians of the fifteenth century made most of their discoveries. The favourite authors in the Middle Ages were :

(a) Poets : Virgil, Horace, Terence, Persius, Juvenal, Ovid, Lucan, and Statius. 

(b) Historians : Sallust, Justin, Val. Maximus, Q. Curtius, Prosper. 

(c) Rhetorical writers: Ad Herennium, Cic. de Inventione, Topica. 

(d) Philosophers : Cicero, de officiis, de Senectute, Tusculans. 

(e) Grammarians : Priscian, Servius, Macrobius.

Most others were rare, and a number of famous works have descended to us from single copies. Also, in some cases where we have a number of fairly ancient manuscripts, it can be |p17 proved that all are derived from a single copy. Thus, one-half of Cicero's philosophical works (Nat. D., Div., Tim., Fat., Top., Parad., Lucull., Leg.), found in seven manuscripts ranging from the ninth to the eleventh century, is shown by common dislocations and mutilations to go back to a single manuscript not older than the eighth century. It is therefore a matter of accident whether an author survived or was lost.

Mediaeval readers were also under some singular misapprehensions. Virgil, as is well known, was supposed to be a magician. Statius was confused with a Christian martyr of Toulouse, and was supposed to have been converted to Christianity by reading Virgil's fourth Eclogue. This error has caused Dante to admit him to Purgatory and ultimate salvation. Caesar was generally known as Celsus, on account of a colophon, found in many manuscripts, which attests a revision of the text by Julius Celsus. Still more strangely Martial was known as Cocus, the error being due to manuscripts containing all his poems with the inscription Martialis totus.

The Middle Ages end with Dante, and the new era is inseparably connected with the name of Petrarch (1304-74) The essential point to remember in connexion with him, is that he introduced a new conception of the classical authors. To previous ages they were 'dead', to him they were alive. Cicero was his 'father', . Virgil his ' brother' ; the writers of antiquity were his 'friends', who were present with him in spirit. He looked on the authors whose names were known to him as a company, and every vacant place seemed to him an intolerable loss. He was convinced that their writings contained all wisdom and rules of right conduct. This is the very kernel of humanism, viz. the application of learning and culture to human life. The development of this idea was the . supreme achievement of Petrarch's genius, and it was on lines laid down by him that the whole course of the Renaissance proceeded. |p18 Whereas in the Middle Ages Virgil had been the chief figure in Latin literature, Petrarch's gaze was chiefly fixed on Cicero, from whose philosophical works he derived many ideas which made especial appeal to him. Throughout his life he sought with ardour for new works of his hero. Petrarch made his first discovery of a new text in 1333, when 29 years of age. This was Cicero's speech pro Archia, which he found in Liege. He made a transcript of it, from which all the Italian copies are descended. He recorded the fact that in so large a town as Liege he had great difficulty in procuring any ink, and that the little which he could get was of the colour of saffron.

His great discovery, which was made in 1345, consisted of Cicero's Letters to Atticus, a very rare work in the Middle Ages. The manuscript belonged to the library of the cathedral at Verona. Although Petrarch was the first person to pro- claim the discovery to the world, and to make a copy of the manuscript, it was previously known to the author of a work known as Flores Morales, written at Verona in 1329; and to Pastrengo, the writer of an encyclopaedia, who was a friend of Petrarch and lived in Verona. We may, therefore, suspect that Pastrengo brought the manuscript to Petrarch's notice. It is from this memorable year that modern knowledge of Cicero dates.  To previous ages he had been superhuman, 'the god of eloquence', free from all mortal weakness. Petrarch now found that his idol was a mortal man, weak, timorous, and vacillating. He wrote a famous letter, dated June 1345, from 'Franciscus Petrarcha among the living' to Cicero in which he records his emotions. He says :

'I read very eagerly thy letters for which I had made long and anxious search, and which I found where I least expected them. I heard thee speaking at length, making many complaints, oft changing thy tone, Marcus Tullius. Long ago I had known thee as the counsellor of others, now at last |p19 I know what thou wert unto thyself. Listen in thy turn, wheresoever thou art, to this lament, I will not call it counsel, prompted by true love, which one of thy posterity, devoted to thy name, pours forth amid his tears. Thou ever restless and anxious, or to quote to thee thine own words, thou headstrong and ill-starred elder, what hadst thou to do with all this strife and with feuds which could not profit thee ? Why did the false glamour of glory entangle thee when old in the battles of younger men, and after a stormy career drag thee to a death unworthy of a philosopher ? Alas, forgetful of thy brother's advice and all thy own sound maxims, like a wayfarer at night, bearing a lantern in the darkness, thou didst shew a path to them that were to follow, and didst thyself stumble in piteous fashion.' He reproaches Cicero for the inconsistency of his behaviour towards Caesar and Pompey, and for attacking Antony, while allying himself with Octavian. He winds up by saying: 'I grieve as a friend for thy sake. I am ashamed and sorry for thy errors, and, like Brutus, I set at nought the accomplishments for which I know thee to have been 'so remarkable. What good is it forsooth to teach others, 'to speak ever in flowery language about the virtues, if thou dost not meanwhile listen to thyself ? How much better it would have been, for a philosopher above all men, to have grown old in the quiet of the country, thinking, as thou thyself sayest somewhere, of the eternal life, not of this short one here; never to have held the fasces, to have coveted triumphs, to have been puffed up with the thought of Catiline? But this is now too late. Farewell for ever, dear Cicero. Written among the living, on the right bank of the Adige, in the Italian city, Verona, beyond the Padus on the 16th of June, in the year 1345 after the birth of the God whom thou knewest not.'

Petrarch had a large collection of manuscripts, among them |p20 being copies of two very rare authors, viz. Catullus and Propertius. The Catullus was, without doubt, drawn from the unique copy which survived in the Verona library, which had already, been used by the author of the Flores. Nothing is known of the source from which he got Propertius. He seldom quotes these authors, since their spirit was repugnant to him. With Petrarch Boccaccio was intimately associated. Boccaccio in later life renounced all follies, and became an austere scholar. He was dominated by Petrarch, who snubbed and bullied him mercilessly, much in the same way as Johnson treated Boswell. Boccaccio, like Petrarch, made discoveries, the most important being Tacitus, Annals xi-xvi, and Hist. i-v. The Laurentian library contains the manu- script of Tacitus, the only one in which this part of the author has come down to us, together with Apuleius, again the manuscript from which all extant copies are derived : also another manuscript of Varro, de lingua Latino, and Cicero, pro Cluentio. This work of Varro survived in this manuscript only, and all manuscripts of the pro Cluentio were derived from this copy until another and more complete one came into the hands of Poggio. The two manuscripts, therefore, are of extraordinary interest. They are both written in the South Italian, or Beneventan, script, the centre of which was Monte Cassino. We know that Boccaccio visited the library there since Benvenuto da Imola describes the squalor in which he found it. We are told that 'he found the room which contained this treasure without a door or key, and when he entered, he saw grass growing in the windows and all the books and shelves covered with a thick layer of dust. When he turned over the MSS. he found many rare and ancient works with whole sheets cut out, or with the margins ruthlessly clipped. As he left the room he burst into tears and, on asking a monk whom he had met in the cloister to explain the neglect, was told that some of the monks, wishing |p21 to gain a few soldi, had torn out whole handfuls of leaves and made them into psalters, which they sold to boys, and had cut off strips of parchment, which they turned into amulets to sell to women.'

It seems very probable that Boccaccio found these manuscripts in this 'prison'. In view of a certain mystery which attaches to the Tacitus, it has been suggested that he stole it. It has been remarked that 'to rob the rats and mildew of their prey must have been an act of piety, and the conscience of Boccaccio quite easy'.

We know from a letter of Boccaccio that he was in possession of the Tacitus in January 1371, when he wrote to Niccolò da Montefalcone, Abbot of S. Stephano in Calabria, asking him to let him have a fragment of the manuscript which was in his keeping. It is an interesting fact that in his work, De mulieribus claris, five lives, those of Agrippina, Epicharis, Paulina, Poppaea, and Triaria, are founded on Tacitus, whose text is often reproduced verbally. This book is supposed to have been completed at Naples in 1362, but the lives in question all come at the end, so probably they are a later addition.

The books of Boccaccio went after his death, in 1375, to the church of S. Spirito in Florence. There is a catalogue of the library there, dated 1451, in which there is mentioned a special collection, termed the parva libreria, of books belonging to him and Petrarch. Among them was a transcript of the Tacitus made by him.

The most important event which took place in the remaining part of the fourteenth century, was the arrival of Manuel Chrysoloras in Italy, on a mission from the Byzantine court to seek for help against the Turks, who already threatened the capital. He was a man of the highest nobility, being connected with the Emperor, and, what was still more important, he was a first-rate scholar, well acquainted with |p22  classical Greek. Until then the. Italians could not learn Greek, since they had no one to teach them except some ignorant Calabrians. Petrarch took lessons, when at Avignon, from one of these named Barlaam, but never succeeded in learning much more than the alphabet. Later on, in 1358, he met in Padua another Calabrian, Leontio Pilato. He does not appear to have renewed his own studies, but stimulated the faithful Boccaccio to make an attempt. Pilato came to Florence and was made Reader in Greek. He was not an attractive person. Boccaccio describes him as possessing 'a grim visage, an ugly face, a long beard, jet-black hair ', and speaks of him as 'absent-minded, bad mannered, and impolite'. Pilato was entrusted by his patrons with the task of translating the Iliad, which he performed according to his lights. His translation is wretched doggerel, full of strange errors due to his ignorance of classical Greek. Thus he regularly confuses ῥα with ῥαδιώς and renders, e. g.

1.56 κήδετο γὰρ Δαναῶν ὃτι ῥα θνήσκουτας ὁρᾶτο by 'quia leviter morientes videbat'. The ignorance both of Pilato and of Petrarch may be judged from the following gem :

1.222. δώματ̕ ἐς αἰγιόχοιο Διὸς μετὰ δαίμονας α̈́λλους

Pilato renders : 

'ad domos capram lactantis Iovis cum demonibus aliis '.

Petrarch annotates in his copy of the translation :

'omnes dei gentium demonia. Notanda confessio testis huius antiquissimi et maximi.'

When Pilato had finished his task, he became sulky and insisted on returning to Greece. He was shipwrecked on the way and lost his life. Petrarch says of him that he was 'magna belua, surdior scopulis ad quos ibat '.

The ignorance of the Calabrian clergy at this time is striking, since in the thirteenth century, Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln and Chancellor of Oxford--of whom Roger Bacon says 'Dominus Robertus, dictus Grossum caput, solus novit |p23 scientias '--had been able to import into England competent teachers from the Greek-speaking districts of Calabria. The flame which was then lighted, however, soon flickered out. The short-lived English renaissance of the thirteenth century has left only a few monuments, such as some translations of Aristotle, the Greek grammar of Roger Bacon, and a lexicon, recently discovered by Dr. Montague James in the Library of the College of Arms in Victoria Street, London, designed for the circle of Grosseteste and Bacon, in which some 16,000 Greek words are glossed.

Chrysoloras was made Reader of Greek in Florence, and lectured from 1396-1400 to large audiences. The older men did not make much progress, but some of the younger gained considerable proficiency, and from this time onwards most Italian scholars knew Greek as well as Latin. The chief Hellenists in the first part of the fifteenth century were Lionardo Aretino and Ambrogio Traversari.

The mantle of Petrarch descended to Coluccio Salutati (1330-1406), Chancellor of Florence. He had been a friend of Petrarch, and. after Petrarch's death obtained books from his library. He also collected manuscripts, among them being one of Propertius ; one of Catullus taken from the Veronensis, now Paris 14137, the oldest manuscript of the author now extant ; also a copy of the Letters to Atticus, made from the manuscript discovered by Petrarch. He also had a singular piece of luck in being the first person to bring to light Cicero's letters ad Familiares. He was informed that a new manuscript of Cicero's letters, in addition to the one found by Petrarch, had been discovered at Vercelli, and that both manuscripts were in the possession of Giangaleazzo Visconti at Milan. Florence and Milan were generally at war, but in 1392, when there was a truce, he obtained a copy of the new manuscript from Pasquino, Chancellor of Milan, whom he addresses as an intimate friend.. When the copy |p24 arrived, he found, to his delight, that it contained an entirely fresh collection of Cicero's letters. The Vercelli MS., a beautiful specimen of ninth-century writing, is now in the Laurentian Library.

I now turn to the person to whom the recovery of Latin manuscripts in the early part of the fifteenth century was chiefly due, viz. Niccolò Niccoli (1363-1437). Many modern writers speak of him as a copyist of manuscripts. This description is very inadequate. After the death of Coluccio he became the central figure in the humanistic movement, and the first organizer of research on a large-scale. He was himself not a rich man, but he was backed by the wealth of Cosimo de' Medici, who paid all his bills, and put at his service the agents of his bank in various countries. Niccolò seldom left Florence, and never went far, but all manuscripts made their way to him, and he formed a great collection of manuscripts, both Greek and Latin, which after his death passed to St. Marco, and are now in the Laurentian and National. Libraries in Florence. In each of them the owner's name is inscribed.

Niccolò was a short man, rather stout, who always seemed to be laughing at something or somebody. When walking in the Street he wore 'bellissimi panni rosati ' reaching to the ground. He used antique vases at his table, which was covered with porcelain, and drank from crystal cups. We are told that 'a vederlo così antico come era, era una gentilezza '. He could not endure the braying of an ass, the grating of a saw, or the squeaking of a mouse. He was what in oxford is termed a 'character'.

The chief of Niccolò's agents was Poggio, 1380-1459, the son of a poor apothecary, born at Terra Nuova, near Arezzo. His father was named Guccio, and he is himself generally described as Poggius Gucci, e. g. in the deed of his appointment as Chancellor of Florence, when sixty-three years of age. |p25 Modern writers are fond of calling him Poggio Bracciolini, or Bracciolini simply. The Bracciolini were a noble family of Pistoia, and Poggio never claims any connexion with them until 1453. The claim is sufficiently disproved by a note of the official who in 1373, when he drew up the register for Terra Nuova, in which he returns the property of Guccio at 40 lire; appends the note 'nulli sunt nobiles habitantes in dicto communi'. Poggio late in life married a girl with aristocratic connexions, and appears to have resolved to find some for himself. Poggio wrote a beautiful hand, and soon became a member of Niccolò's circle. No cloud ever dimmed their friendship, though both were quarrelsome, especially Poggio.

The idea of making a search in 'German' libraries for new manuscripts of the classics appears to have been conceived by Niccolò Niccoli, and to have been supported by Zabarella, Archbishop of Florence. The opportunity came when the Council of Constance took place (1414-18). Poggio was nominated to conduct the inquiry. Until then he had been a flighty youth. His great friend, Lionardo, says of him in a letter to Niccolò : 'our friend Poggio is very slack and neglects all his business and duties. If you think that he behaves differently in Siena from the way in which he behaved when in Florence, you are much mistaken. He has changed his residence, but not his disposition. Wherever he is and wherever he goes, he is accompanied and followed by the same carelessness.' Events were to prove that Lionardo was mistaken in his diagnosis.

Poggio went to Constance in the train of John XXIII and arrived on 28 October 144. He was one of the secretaries to the Pope, and therefore had official business to attend to. His researches were to be conducted in leisure hours as opportunity arose. With him was associated a col- league, Bartholomeo da Montepulciano, who played a minor |p26 part in the discoveries which were made. During his absence from Italy he was in constant correspondence with Niccolò. The first manuscript which Poggio sent to Niccolò came from the famous Abbey of Cluny, near Mâcon. It contained the speeches pro Sexto Roscio, pro Cluentio, pro Murena, pro Caelio, pro Milone, The pro Sex. Roscio and pro Murena were wholly new to the Italians, and all extant manuscripts are descended from the Cluniacensis. Also, it was the only source for the end of the pro Cluentio and four large lacunae in the body of the speech where the Monte Cassino MS., discovered by Boccaccio, had been deficient. In the speeches pro Caelio and pro Milone it was of rare excellence. The manuscript was very old and in very bad condition, so much so that F. Barbaro, when he saw it in Florence, found himself. unable to read a word of it.

The manuscript reached Italy in 1415, as is shown by the fact that a copy of Cicero's speeches, made for Cosimo de' Medici by Joannes Arretinus, a well-known calligrapher, which contains the two new orations, bears the date 9 February 1416. The end of the pro Cluentio first appears in a manuscript now at Perugia, written in 1417, in which it bears the note 'noviter repertum'. In later manuscripts the lacunae in the speech were filled up from the new source, and various readings were extracted in the case of the pro Caelio and pro Milone.

Poggio, in one of his letters, says of this manuscript, 'liber quem detuli ex monasterio Cluniacensi,' and it has been generally supposed that he himself went to Cluny and bore off his prize. There are, however, difficulties in the way of this view. No such journey is recorded elsewhere, and, as the business of the Council was in full swing, it is not easy to see how he could have found time for so long a journey. Also, the Cluny library contained other treasures which could hardly have escaped his notice. In an old catalogue |p27 written in the twelfth century, Poggio's MS. is no. 496, while no. 498 contained the Verrines together with some other speeches, and no. 492 the Letters to Atticus. No. 498 is a manuscript written in the ninth century, recently rediscovered in the Holkham library by Sir W. Peterson, and no. 492 was a famous manuscript of the Letters to Atticus, which was used by French scholars in the sixteenth century, and by them termed Tornaesianus. Since all three manuscripts were, at any rate in the twelfth century, on the same shelf, it would seem strange that they should escape the notice of Poggio.

There is another possibility, viz. that the manuscript was sent to Constance from Cluny. Brower, who wrote a history of Fulda in 1677, composed at Fulda in the Jesuit College, records that 'Johannes de Merlaw (Abbot, 1395-1440), 'when he went to Constance in 1414, followed by a fair 'troop of 48 horsemen, in order to root out the heresy of 'the Hussites, ordered the choicest volumes from his library 'to be taken to Constance, and that many of them were not 'returned'.  One of the authors which passed through the hands of Poggio at this time, though he does not claim the discovery for himself, was Ammianus Marcellinus, our knowledge of whom rests, apart from a few leaves of a Hersfeld MS., on a single MS. (Vat. 1873), which bears in three places the inscription 'Monasterii Fuldensis est liber iste'. It is, therefore, quite likely that the Abbot of Cluny also sent a contribution. Recent investigation has shown that a manuscript, now in the Paris library, no. 14749, written early in  the fifteenth century, was copied from the Cluniacensis in the pro Sex. Roscio and pro Murena, while supplements from it were entered in the other speeches. The Abbot, therefore, may have decided to part with the illegible manuscript, of which a clean copy had been made, while he did not disclose the existence of the other two.

|p28 In July 1416, during the vacancy in the Papacy caused by the deposition of John XXIII, Poggio went to the Irish foundation of St. Gall, fifteen miles from Constance, together with Bartolomeo, the poet, Cencio, and other friends, to look for manuscripts. There they found a complete Quintilian, the Italian copies being defective, Asconius, and part of Valerius Flaccus. Cencio says that.these manuscripts were found in the library, and goes on to speak of a tower. hard by where countless manuscripts were imprisoned like captives. 'When we looked narrowly at it, and beheld this library stained and defiled with dust, moths, soot, and everything which causes the destruction of books, we wept, thinking that the Latin tongue had thus lost its proudest jewels.  This library, could it but speak, would call out loudly, " Ye, that truly love the Latin tongue, suffer me not to be utterly destroyed by this neglect ; snatch me from the dungeon where the splendour of these books cannot be seen". The Abbot of the monastery and the monks were wholly ignorant of literature.' Poggio himself wrote a letter, sent with minute variations to several friends, in which he says that the books were not in the library, but in a 'filthy and dark prison, namely, in the basement of a tower, not fit to receive criminals convicted of a capital charge '. The account of Cencio sounds more authentic.

The manuscripts were sent to Constance, and there copied. The monks of St. Gall were jealous guardians of their books, and P. Pithoeus states that he saw at St. Gall a receipt which Poggio had to sign for the Asconius. Poggio made a copy, now lost, of Quintilian in 54 days. His autograph copy of Asconius and Valerius Flaccus is now in the Madrid library. Asconius greatly interested the Italians.  Two other copies were made, viz. by Bartolomeo, a transcript of which, together with excerpts made by him from the Cluniacensis, is now in the Laurentian library, and by Sozomenus of |p29 Pistoia, whose autograph copy is now at Pistoia. We have thus three transcripts from which to reconstruct the readings of the lost Sangallensis.

In 1417 Poggio went on an expedition by himself, Bartolomeo being invalided. In the course of this he got as far as Langres in Burgundy, where he discovered Cicero's speech, pro Caecina, then unknown, though other manuscripts have since come to light. He also examined a number of other libraries in 'Gaul and Germany', and discovered the speeches against Rullus and Piso, and those pro Roscio Comoedo, pro Rabirio perduellionis reo and pro Rabirio Postumo. Other manuscripts of the speeches against Rullus and Piso subsequently emerged, but the other three are only known from copies of Poggio's transcript. The traditional story of their discovery is that Poggio found them under a heap of rubbish and this would account for their mutilated condition and corruption. Recently, however, fresh evidence has come to light which shows that he found the manuscript in the 'small library' at Cologne Cathedral : also, that he was denied access to the larger library in the same building.

Other important discoveries made at this time were manu- scripts of Lucretius, Silius Italicus, Manilius, and the Silvae of Statius. Our chief information comes from a letter of Poggio to F. Barbaro, written after the election of Martin V (on 11 November 1417). Poggio was not in favour with the new Pope, and thought of going to England in the service of Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester. . He first bewails his misfortunes and threatens vengeance, saying that one day he will assert his liberty and will not fear the thunder and lightning of Jove himself (i. e. the Pope) ; then be goes on: 'I thank you for the twenty florins which you gave to Matthew, for I am now free from debt. In order to make you some return, I send to you through a priest, Brandinus of Pisa, who belongs to the household of the Cardinal of Pisa, |p30 Silius Italicus, five books of the Silvae of Statius and the Astronomicon of Manilius. The person who copied the books was the most ignorant of living beings, you have to guess, not read : so it is necessary that they should be copied by a learned man. I have read as far as the thirteenth book of Silius and have made many emendations, so it will be easy for a good writer to detect similar errors and to correct them in the other books. See therefore that they are copied and then send them to Niccolò at Florence. I wish my MS. of the speeches to remain here. I will afterwards bring them myself, or send them to you by another, and that as soon as possible. Lucretius has not yet been delivered to me, though a copy has been made. The place 's far distant and there are not many who come from it, but; if no one comes, I will not sacrifice my private interests to official business. With regard to Ammianus Marcellinus, I do not find any one to contribute anything. The priests here speak well of my work; they sit still and daily ask to see the speeches. But they say not a word about payment. What a lot of monsters and wild beasts.'

Poggio in a later letter says that he hired a scribe to go about with him in 'Germany' (i. e. Switzerland). This scribe appears to be the 'ignorantissimus omnium viventium ' here referred to. The copy of Manilius and the Silvae which he made, full of ignorant blunders, with some corrections of Poggio in the margin, is now at Madrid,2 where it was once bound up with Poggio's autograph of Asconius and Valerius Flaccus. The speeches are, of course, those of Cicero, recently discovered at Langres, Cologne, and elsewhere. Poggio does not state the source from which he derived his copy of Lucretius. The chief manuscripts now known are the Quadratus and the Oblongus, both belonging to the ninth century. |p31 The Quadratus came from St. Bertin and the Oblongus from Mainz. The Italian copies drawn from the transcript made for Poggio represent the same tradition. It may be that Mainz was the 'locus satis longinquus' to which Poggio alludes. The MS. of Ammianus was taken to Italy by Cardinal Colonna, a relative of the new Pope. It is now in the Vatican library.

The Council broke up on 16 May 1418, and Poggio went back with the papal Curia as far as Mantua, which he reached in October. He then disappeared without taking leave of his friends and went to England, where he joined Cardinal Beaufort. The letters written by Poggio during the four years which he spent in this country remind one of those written by Cicero in his exile. He suffered from black depression, and disliked the English, whom he accused of gluttony and other vices. He had no energy for research, and when Niccolò sent him lists of books with indications where they might be found, he said that there were no manuscripts in England since the country had been wasted during the incessant wars. The only literature, he says, in which the English take any interest, is that to be found in books on cookery. Among the places which he visited at the request of Niccolò was Salisbury, where he looked, but without success, for a treatise of Origen, seen there by Chrysoloras during a visit to England. His letters written in 1420-1 contain several references to a projected journey to Oxford. He says, 'I have not seen Oxford, since travel requires something besides the mere wish to do so ' ; so again 'I have not seen Oxford and do not expect to see it . . . so you must not expect to get books from Britain. People do not care much for them here.' The last entry is 'I will go to Oxford as soon as I can, and if any good results, I will let you know'. The only discovery of any moment which he made was a fragment ('particula ') of Petronius, which he sent to Niccolò. More will be said of this shortly:

|p32 Cardinal Beaufort proved to be a stingy patron. Poggio, although only in minor orders, expected Church preferment, but all he obtained was an appointment as Rector of Drokenesford in the diocese of Winchester. He never pardoned the Cardinal for his meanness, and after his death he remarks drily, 'nunc sedet cum divitibus huius saeculi'.  At last he received an invitation to rejoin the papal Curia, and hurried home. On his way he found a manuscript of Petronius at Cologne, containing the usual extracts with a colophon, attesting that they came from the fifteenth book of that author. By the time that he reached Italy his spirits had revived, together with his zest for life and his interest in research. His letters to Niccolò are full of references to the manuscripts which he had discovered. Most of these were in the possession of Niccolò, who was loth to part with them. In one letter, written in 1429, Poggio says, 'You have kept Lucretius for 14 years, so also Asconius Pedianus, Petronius Arbiter, the Silvae of Statius, and those speeches discovered by me which you have'. Here he refers to the Cluni MS.; his transcript of the speeches discovered by him at Langres, Cologne, and elsewhere was in the hands of F. Barbaro at Venice, who did not return it until 1436.

During Poggio's absence from Italy an important discovery was made at Lodi by Cardinal Landriani. This was a manuscript containing the de Oratore (complete, previously known only from mutilated manuscripts), the Orator, and Brutus. The Brutus was entirely new, and no subsequent manuscript has come to light. Copies of the Brutus, some of them dated, were written by various scholars, including Poggio. One, now lost, which was made by Lamola, had an interesting entry 'I did my best to note in the margin the readings of these dealers in strange words and most barbarous beasts: I also tried to reproduce the minutest details in the ancient archetype, even in the case of silly errors due to antiquity, |p33 for I preferred to be foolish with the ancient writers than to be wise with precise critics.'

A copy of Lamola's transcript is now in the possession of an American scholar, Prof. Durham of Cornell, but he does not appear to have yet published a collation. More extensive discoveries were made by Nicholas Krebs of Cusa, generally called Cardinal Cusa by modern writers. Poggio speaks of him as ' Nicholaus Trevirensis ' or 'Cusanus '. He was a learned theologian and a statesman, to whom the credit belongs of having been the first person to attack the authenticity of Constantine's Donation. His chief discoveries were made in Cologne, where he made his way into the larger library which was closed to Poggio. This library, which still contains ecclesiastical manuscripts of the sixth and Seventh centuries, was founded by Hildebald, minister of Charlemagne. The great treasure which Nicholas found there was the celebrated Orsini MS. of Plautus, containing twelve new plays. He formed a large collection of manuscripts, many of which are still in the Hospital at Cues. The British Museum possesses several manuscripts which have come from Cues, including a famous Graeco-Latin glossary, written in the seventh century.

Cicero's speech pro Fonteio first came to light at this period. It was preserved in a single manuscript, together with part of the pro Flacco, in Pisonem, and the Philippics, which is now in the Chapter House of St. Peter's. Poggio used the manuscript in 1428, to correct and supplement a copy of the Philippics which he had himself written in earlier days. He says : 'I have corrected the Philippics of Cicero with the help of this ancient MS., which is written in so childish a manner and is so full of blunders that I had to practise divination rather than conjecture in what I wrote. No old woman, however ignorant or silly, would not have written more correctly, but you know that I am fairly sharp in such matters.'

|p34 Poggio's letters contain several references to a manuscript of Frontinus which was at Monte Cassino. He could not get it until 1429, when he himself visited the library, and he was forced before long to return it to Monte Cassino, where it still is.

Niccolò Niccoli continued to organize research. A very interesting document, which first came to light in 1913, contains instructions for the use of explorers in northern libraries. It was drawn up in 1431, when Cardinal Cesarini went to Germany to organize a crusade against the Hussites. He gives a list of books to be found in Reichenau (1), Hersfeld (6), Fulda (14). He says of Cologne Cathedral that 'there are two libraries, one which is more public; in which Poggio found certain speeches of Cicero, and another which is hidden away,: this he could not see because the custodian was absent. He heard many wonderful tales about this.' The last item is, that 'there is a Cistercian monastery in Dacia (=Denmark) in which, according to many there are ten decads of Livy in five very ancient manuscripts written in Lombard script'.

The Monte Cassino MS. of Tacitus, Annals xi-xvi, Hist. i-v, was at this time in the possession of Niccolò.  Poggio, writing to him on 27 September 1427, says : 'When the MS. of Tacitus comes, I will keep it in a secret place. I know where it came from, and through whom, and who claims it: but have no doubts, not a word about it will go forth from me.' These words can only mean that the manuscript had been stolen. Some think it was stolen from the heirs of Boccaccio. It may have been stolen from the church of S. Spirito. There remains a third possibility, viz. that Boccaccio only had a copy of, the manuscript, and that it was stolen from Monte Cassino by agents of Niccolò. There was some mystery about this manuscript, and knowledge of it was confined to a small circle.

|p35 In the memorandum of Niccolò, already mentioned, there occurs the following series of entries in the list of manuscripts at Hersfeld :   

   'Cornelius Tacitus de origine et situ Germanorum, xi fol. 
        "              "     de vita Iulii Agricolae, xv fol.
    Dialogus de oratoribus xviii folia' (not ascribed to Tacitus).

The first mention of this manuscript occurs in a letter of Poggio to Niccolò, written in 1425. Poggio made several attempts to get it through a monk of Hersfeld, who was willing to exchange it and other classical manuscripts for works on legal subjects. The monk came to Rome for a second time in 1427 with his catalogue, and promised to bring the Tacitus to Rome and to send the other books to Nuremberg. The promise, however, was not fulfilled. In September 1427 Poggio says 'I have no news about Cornelius Tacitus, who is in Germany', and in September 1428 'Comelius Tacitus is silent among the Germans'. In February 1429 the monk came for a third time, but without the book, and Poggio gave up the quest. Where Poggio failed, a younger researcher, Enoch of Ascoli, was successful, in 1455, four years before the death of Poggio. Enoch was sent to 'Dacia' (Denmark) on a mission of discovery by Nicholas V, and in the course of his journey got possession of the precious manuscript. Some eight leaves of this manuscript, written in a tenth-century hand, were in 1902 discovered in the library of Count Balleani at Jesi near Ancona.

The last item in Niccolò's memorandum concerning the complete Livy in 'Dacia' refers to an old story which appears in different forms. Coluccio was informed by the Chancellor to the Markgraf of Moravia that a monastery in the diocese of Lubeck possessed a complete Livy, written in such ancient characters that no one could read it. In 1424 Poggio was told by a Dane, named Nicholas, 'of doubtful veracity, but very learned; that he had seen in the Cistercian monastery |p36 of Soröe, in Seeland', (ten miles from Copenhagen,) 'three very large volumes written in Lombardic characters with a mixture of Gothic, containing ten decads of Livy, the titles of which he had himself read'. He wrote to Niccolò, pointing out that Soröe is not much more than a day's journey from Lübeck, and asking him to urge Cosimo de' Medici to get his Lübeck agent to go to Soröe at once, 'for, if it is true, we shall have cause to triumph over the Dacians'. Thirty years later he refers to the ancient legend about the complete Livy in 'Dacia', or Norway, and says that several persons went to Soröe at his request, but could not find any manuscript of Livy there. He did not, however, give up all hope. Shortly before his death, when the oft-repeated Story was revived, he recovered the energy of youth. He wrote to Cardinal di Colonna the need of instant action. The treasure must be brought to Bruges : there he will arrange for its transport to Geneva and subsequent carriage to Italy. He says 'this is not the time for slumber or dreaming, but for rapid action. I would that I had wings, so as to be with you.'

The catalogue of books in Poggio's library at the time of his death, made by his executors, has recently been published by Walser. It is a document of capital importance for the transmission of classical texts.

Throughout the early part of the fifteenth century Greek manuscripts flowed into Italy. The most successful collector, so much so that his name overshadows those of others, was the Sicilian, Aurispa. He made a journey to the East some time between 1405 and 1413 and brought back a number of Greek manuscripts. In 1417 he sold an old MS. of Thucydides to Niccolò. In 1421 among other Greek manuscripts the famous Venetus A of Homer was in his possession.. In the same year he went back to Constantinople and remained there until December 1423. He says that during |p37 the time not only did he spend all his money on buying books, but sold his clothes for the same purpose. A legate from Constantinople called him a rogue, and he was said to be robbing the town of its sacred books. While he was there he sent to Niccolò the famous Laurentian MS. of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Apollonius Rhodius. When he returned to Italy, he brought with him 238 manuscripts of the Greek classical authors. Never was such a treasure brought to light by a single scholar. A number of manuscripts were collected by other scholars, notably Guarino and Filelfo. Most of the Greek classics were brought to Italy by 1430, some twenty-three years before the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks (1453). The oft-repeated Statement. that the diffusion of Greek literature in the West was due to the flight from Constantinople of Greeks, who brought their manuscripts with them, is not founded on facts.

It was a curious accident that, while the Italian researchers ransacked the libraries of distant countries, they neglected until the end of the fifteenth century one in their own land which possessed great riches. This was the monastery of Bobbio, founded by Irish monks under St. Columban in 613. Bobbio is situated among the mountains beside the river Trebia, half way between Genoa and Piacenza. The roads were very bad, and it has been described as cut off from the rest of Italy. Whether the monks brought books with them from Ireland, or whether all were acquired in Italy is a matter of dispute. The development of the Irish script at Bobbio and the system of abbreviations which arose there have been the subject of special treatises. In the tenth century the library possessed 666 manuscripts. The first person to explore its riches at this time was Galbiate, who went there in 1494 at the instance of his employer, Merula. The most interesting of the new works which he discovered there was the satire of Sulpicia. He also brought back a number |p38 of works by grammarians hitherto unknown. Subsequently, in 1504, Parrhasius made a visit to Bobbio and discovered other grammatical manuscripts, the chief of which is the MS. of Charisius, now at Naples. Various manuscripts of authors previously. known came from this source, e.g. the Medicean Virgil (fifth century). Most of the Bobbio MSS., however, were ecclesiastical, and as such neglected by the earlier explorers. Many of these early in the ninteenth century were found to be palimpsests, and the under-writing was deciphered, chiefly by. Cardinal Mai. The true worth of the Bobbio MSS. now became evident. New works were discovered such as Cicero, de re publica, pro Scauro, pro Tullio, the letters of Fronto, the Scholiasta Bobiensis, while the criticism of the Verrines was advanced by one palimpsest, and.that of Plautus revolutionized by another. Leaves of Lucan, Juvenal, and Greek medical writers have also been recovered. The scribes of Bobbio appear to have been very short of writing-material, and supplied their wants by tearing up old manuscripts and endeavouring to efface the old writing. The leaves were put into a waste-paper basket, from which the writers drew leaves at random to receive the fresh text.

It is a curious fact that most of our palimpsests come from Bobbio. Recently R. Beer has pointed out the singular coincidence between these palimpsests and the library formed by Cassiodorus in the sixth century. Among rarer books mentioned by Cassiodorus, which also existed at Bobbio, are those of Greek medical writers, a Latin Josephus and a Latin Euclid, while a work of Gargilius Martialis and a grammatical treatise by Claudius Sacerdos, the last of which he used for a work of his own, are only known from Bobbio palimpsests. Beer makes the fascinating suggestion that the books of Cassiodorus formed the nucleus of the Bobbio library.

The heroic age of discovery now closes, but in the early part of the sixteenth century five isolated discoveries of |p39 a striking character were made. In 1500 the letters of Pliny to Trajan were found near Paris by Fra Giocondo. The manuscript is now lost, and the most authentic information for the text is given in a printed book now in the Bodleian. This is a copy of the edition by Beroaldus (1503), into which Aldus has entered the new letters for his edition of 1508, the first in which these letters appear. About the same time (1501-4) the poet Sannazaro discovered in France the Halieutica of Ovid and the Cynegeticon of Gratius. In 1508 the early books of the Annals (i-vi) were brought to Rome from Corvei. Previously they were unknown. Until a few years ago their provenance was a matter of dispute, but a document published by Philippi (Philol. xlv, p. 378) closes the question. This is a letter written by Pope Leo X to the Archbishop of Mainz on 1 December 1517, in which he says that his 'beloved brethren' the Abbot and monks of Corvei had lost by theft the first five books of Tacitus, which were previously desiderata, and that after passing through many hands they had come into his own. He had put them into the hands of scholars, who had corrected them and joined them to the other works of Tacitus in a printed edition, a copy of which, neatly bound, he now sent to Corvei to be put in the library in place of the manuscript. He then adds, 'in order to show them that their loss has really been their 'gain we send them a perpetual indulgence'. The reference here is to the edition of Beroaldus printed in 1515.

In 1515 Velleius Paterculus was discovered at Murbach by Beatus Rhenanus. The manuscript is now lost, and its readings are known from the editio princeps of Rhenanus, which also contains a co]Iation made by his pupil A. Burer, and from a transcript made by Amerbach in 1516. 

In 1527 Livy xli-v was discovered at Lorsch by Simon Grynaeus. This manuscript, which was written in the fifth century, is now in the Vienna library. It is one of the |p40 oldest manuscripts which we possess of a classical prose author.

In 1528 Critander, a printer of Bâle, produced an edition of Cicero, in which there appeared for the first time a 'second book' of letters to (and from) Brutus. He obtained them from J. Sichardus, who found them in a manuscript, which has now perished, at Lorsch.

The final discovery was that of the Cena Trimalchionis, part of Petronius, one of the most interesting relics of antiquity. The manuscript, which is now in the Paris library, was found at Trau in Dalmatia, about 1650. There is a singular puzzle in connexion with it. In addition to the Cena, which follows the ordinary parts of Petronius with a colophon to the effect that they are taken from the fifteenth and sixteenth books of the Satire, beginning on a fresh page and without a title, the manuscript contains a number of other works, including the poems of Catullus. At the end of the Catullus there is a date, 20 November 1423. It therefore appears that the Cena, which was hailed as a fresh discovery in 1650, first came to light in 1423, but vanished immediately afterwards so completely that its existence remained unknown until the discovery at Trau.

The key to the mystery is contained in the correspondence of Poggio. In England he found a 'particula Petronii ', and in Cologne, in the course of his return, a manuscript with the usual excerpts from the author. In May 1423 he wrote to Niccolò asking for the return to him of both manuscripts. We have already seen that the Catullus in the Trau MS. bears the date 20 November 1423. I ventured to suggest (in 1907) that the 'particula' in question was the Cena, and that this was combined with Poggio's other manuscripts in 1423 by a scribe working under his direction. This conjecture receives support from the fact that the only mediaeval writer who seems to have had a manuscript of the Cena was |p41 an Englishman, John of Salisbury. It is now accepted by Sabbadini, who originally had some doubts, founded on the character of the writing. The only clue which we possess as to its vicissitudes between 1423 and 1650 is furnished by some verses on the last page addressed to a person named Leo, who seems to have been a pawnbroker, and if we may judge from his name, a Jew.

        'omnia deposui, superest hec sola lacerna
            Quae rogo sit curae nunc tibi, blande Leo.
         Non ut conserves caries ne devoret illam, 
           Sed potius pestis ne tua fenus edat.'

The last line appears to mean, 'but rather that your plaguey interest will eat it up '.

It may be useful to give a list of classical works which have come to us from a single manuscript, with their provenance and the name of the discoverer.

Ammianus Marcellinus, Fulda (Poggio).
Apuleius, Monte Cassino (Boccaccio).
Asconius, St. Gall (Poggio).
Catullus, Verona (known to the author of Flores Morales in
    1329).
Cicero, Brutus, Lodi (Landriani).
    Sex. Rosc., Murena, Cluni (Poggio). 
    Rosc. Com., Rab. perd., Rab. Post., Cologne (Poggio).
    Cluent. §§ 102-7, 127-32, 149-54, 170-82, 192-end, Cluni
         (Poggio). Font. in Vat. H. 25, used by Poggio about
        1425.
    Flacc. §§ 75-83 (Rorarius of Friuli).
    De re publica, Bobbio (Mai). Other fragments of Cicero
        come from the same source, e. g. portions of the speeches
        pro Tullio and pro Scauro come from two Bobbio
        palimpsests, some of them being preserved by one only.
    Epp. ad Brutum ii, Lorsch (Sichardus).
Gratius, Cynegeticon, France (Sannazaro).
|p42 
Livy xli-xlv, Lorsch (Grynaeus).
Ovid, Halieutica, France (Sannazaro).
Petronius, Cena Trimalchionis, England (Poggio).
Pliny, Epp. ad Traianum, France (Jocundus).
Statius, Silvae, Switzerland (Poggio).
Suetonius, de grammaticis et rhetoribus, Hersfeld (Enoch).
Sulpicia, Bobbio (Galbiate).
Tacitus, Annals i-vi, Corvei ; Annals xi-xvi and Hist., Monte
      Cassino
(Boccaccio) ; Agricola, Germania, Dialogus,
      Hersfeld (Enoch).
Varro, de re rustica, Monte Cassino (Boccaccio).
Velleius Paterculus, Murbach (Rhenanus).

To these may be added Valerius Flaccus, since the manuscript discovered by Poggio at St. Gall can be shown to be itself descended from the ninth-century manuscript at Rome (Vat. 3277). I have not included the grammatical works discovered by Galbiate and Parrhasius at Bobbio, e. g. Arusianus Messius, Charisius, Claudius Sacerdos, Terentianus Maurus, Velius Longus.

There is no manuscript of Velleius in existence except a sixteenth-century transcript of the lost Murbach MS.. The second book of Cic. ad Brutum, the letters of Pliny to Trajan, the satire of Sulpicia, and Terentianus Maurus are not found in any extant manuscript.

1 Read before the Bibliographical Society, 21 February 1921. [p.13 n.1]

2 At the end of the manuscript is written 'Finis adest vere, precium vult scriptor habere'. This colophon may have been copied from the model. [p.30 n.1]


Transcribed by Roger Pearse, 5th May 2001. Greek text in unicode.


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