The Benedictine Monastery of St.Peter at Corbie in Northern France is an important nexus in the transmission of texts from antiquity. It was founded in Merovingian times between 659 and 661 as a Royal foundation by Balthild and her son Chlothar III. Its monks came from Luxeuil, itself founded by St. Columbanus in 590. The rule of the founders was a regula mixta based on that of Benedict as modified by Columbanus, although no copy of that rule now exists5.
From an early date, the library contained some important manuscripts of the works of Tertullian; an Apologeticum, now in St. Petersburg, although another copy written at Corbie does exist, Paris, B.N.Lat.1623; a copy of the so-called Corbie collection of Tertullian's Montanist works, together with some of Novatian; and a copy of Novatian's De cibis Judaicis under Tertullian's name. The MS of the Corbie collection seems to have drifted out of the abbey at some period.
The bulk of Corbie's MSS remained at the abbey until 1636. However some volumes were acquired by humanists before that date, and the lawyer and collector Claude Dupuy owned - stole - many MSS written at Corbie.7
The Benedictine order in France had regrouped after the renaissance as the Congregation of St. Maur, with its headquarters at St. Germain-des-Prés, and the Maurists gathered many important MSS there, including many from Corbie. 400 MSS were transferred there in 1638, and were catalogued in 1677 and 1740 (Delisle p.138, de Mérindol pp.79-84). At the end of the eighteenth century, the Corbie historian Dom Grenier noted the contents of Corbie MSS on scraps of paper, some of which relate to MSS now lost.
At the French Revolution, the property of the clergy was nationalised, but not always safeguarded. A Russian agent, Peter Dubrovsky, was able to acquire many of the Maurists' MSS and send them to the library of the Tsars in Russia. They are now in St. Petersburg in the Public Library. Others went to the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.
Study of the library began with the Maurist father, Jean de Mabillon, the father of paleography who had been a monk at Corbie in 1658. He used engravings of the hand in Corbie MSS to illustrate his great work De re diplomatica.
Here is what we know about the contents of the library at Corbie in the middle ages, as it relates to the transmission of the works of Tertullian. There are three medieval catalogues, plus another from 1621, and some scraps from ca.1780. This information is taken from Ganz5, Becker1 and Delisle2.
From Ganz,5 p.40:
A further group of books was brought to the Corbie library by c. 700. The
common feature they share is the presence of annotations by a single reader. These
are written in a distinctive cursive minuscule, in greenish ink, set off by S-shaped
flourishes. They occur in MSS of Italian and French origina written in uncial and
halfuncial, all but one of which was at Corbie by c. 700. Masai disagreed with
Lowe's attribution of these annotations to a French scribe, and suggested that they
were made in Italy, but such an attribution would involve French manuscripts
crossing and recrossing the Alps.23 The scribe may of course have been trained in
Italy. Many of the ligatures used in the annotations, as well as the flat-topped g and
the hooks at the base of the descenders can be found in the cursive of Paris, B.N. Lat.
12161 and in less elegant and distinctive Corbie marginalia in Merovingian cursive.
I see no reason why they could not be the work of an expert Corbie scribe, as their
presence in a group of disparate volumes of known Corbie provenance implies.
23 H. Vanderhoeven, F. Masai, P. Corbett, La Règle du Maître édition diplomatique (Brussels, Paris 1953),
Among these volumes is Paris, B.N. Lat. 13047, written at Tours, which contains an unusual text of Tertullian's Adversus Iudaeos.
Catalogue 1. XIth century. (Becker §55)
Vat. Reg. Lat. 520 (fol. 1v)
This is a list of titles, headed Hi libri sunt in armario sancti Petri.5 It is preserved as a fly-leaf in MS. Vatican Reginensis Lat. 520, as folio 1v.5 There is some disparity in the number of volumes: Ganz says it contains '47 titles'; Delisle says '49'; while Becker lists 60.
Becker's catalogue in full (as it isn't too long):
The entry of interest to us is:
31. Tertullianus de resurrectione carnis, de trinitate, de spectaculis, de munere, de prescriptionibus ereticorum, de ieiuniis adversus fisicos, de monogamia, de pudicitia.
I've given Becker in full as it's not too long. It would seem that this is a one page catalogue; in which case it would be nice to get an image of it online, somehow, rather than Becker's (evidently faulty - even the title is inaccurate) transcription of Mai.
The De Trinitate is no doubt the work by Novatian in the printed editions. De munere is the title of chapter 12 of De Spectaculis in both the Codex Agobardinus and the editio Princeps of Mesnart.
'Mai' is; Cardinal Angelo Mai, Spicilegium Romanum, vol. V, pp.202-12. Mai was the first to publish the two catalogues (1 and 3) held in the Vatican, in Nouveau Traité de Diplomatique VI, Paris (1765), p. 230. (From Ganz, p.36 n.5).
The 'Reginensis' collection in the Vatican library is the MSS of Queen Christina of Sweden.
|Delisle||Cat 1, p.427ff. From MS 520 of the MSS de la reine de Suede: Printed by Cardinal Mai, S.R. V. p. 202 2|
Catalogue 2. XIIth century. (Becker §79)
Berlin, MS Phillips 1865
This catalogue was owned by the famous bibliophile, Sir Thomas Phillips, and is still with the remains of his collection in Berlin. It lists 312 volumes, sharing 170 titles with the third. The catalogue has been published by Haenel and Edwards (references given below by Becker), and is of course in Becker and Delisle.5 Interestingly it is in alphabetical order by author, except that Augustine is placed first.
Becker's entry (extract):
In bibliotheca Corbeiensi insitus hic habetur intitulatus.
Imprimis codices santic Augustini, deinde aliorum doctorum.
p. 191 (p. 4322):
294. Tertulliani apollogeticum de ignorantia.
295. Tertullianus de resurrectione carnis. 
The number in brackets relates to Delisle.
Two Corbie copies of the Apologeticum are extant - at St. Petersburg, and Paris, B.N.Lat.1623.
|Becker||§79. Footnote is:
Nouveau traite de diplomatie. tome VI (Paris 1765) p.230-233. ex tribus foliis libri, qui postquam Thuanus et Dupuy et collegium Ludovici Magni Parisiense possederunt, anno 1765 in bibliothecam Meermannianam et anno 1825 in bibliothecam Thomae Phillipps in castellum Middlehill pervenit (vide Delisle p.395) ubi numero 1865 signatus est. Apographum extat in volumine 1429 bibliothecae 'Résidue Saint-Germain'; ex utroque apographo excerpta, quae hac nota 'o' signavi, composuit Delisle in Bibliothèque de l'ecole des chartes Ser.V. tom. I p.512-514 vel in Mém. de l'institut de France. Académie des inscript. et belles-lettres t.34 p.339. Haenel in Serapei II 107-111. Edwards. Memoirs of libraries I p.239-246. cf. Anzeiger der Bibliothekwissenschaft 1840, 25. De fatis bibliothecae Middlehillensis vide R. Pauli. Einige Bemerkungen über die Bibliothek des verstorbenen Sir T. Phillips in N. Archiv f. ä. deutsche Geschichtskünde II (1876) 429-32. Numeri uncinis inclusi spectant ad tertium catalogum bibliothecae Corbeiensis, quem Delisle 1. 1. p.499-511 edidit et ego in fine catalogorum saeculi XII vulgabo.
|Delisle||Cat 2, p.428ff. From MS 1865 of Sir Thomas Phillips MSS. Also a copy by the Benedictines in BN. Lat. 13071, fol.22. 2|
Catalogue 3. ca. 1200 (Becker §136)
Vat. Reg. Lat. 520
Like catalogue 1 this is in the Vatican Latin MS Reginensis 520.5
139. Seduli et Fortunati versus. -
140. Tertullianus de ignorantia. -
141. collationes. -
239. Salvianus de gubernatione Dei.  --
240. Filaster de heresibus. Tertullianus de cibis Iudaicis. epistola Barnabe. epistola Iacobi.  --
241. Algeri de corpore et sanguine Domini cum quibusdam opusculis.  --
The numbers in brackets are those of the catalogue at St. Germains-des-Pres, to which much Corbie material was removed, and from which it was dispersed at the revolution.
Item 140: Two Corbie copies of the Apologeticum are extant - at St. Petersburg, and Paris, B.N.Lat.1623.
Item 240 contains the De cibis Iudaicis of Novatian under the name of Tertullian, just as it appears in the Mesnart edition. This volume is also now in St.Petersburg, split into two volumes, under the shelfmarks: Saint Petersburg Public Library Q.v.I.N.38 and 39.3 Ganz adds the following description:
Leningrad, Lat. Q v I 38-39, ff. 69, 178 x 138, 21 lines. Philastrius, de Haeresibus.
Quires signed Roman Q A-I Novatianus (here attributed to Tertullianus) de Cibis
Judaicis Epistola Barnabae, Epistola Jacobi folia numbered 70-94, 1-24. Novatianus,
ed. CC IV; J.M.Heer, Die Versio Latina des Barnabasbriefes und ihr Verhältnis zur
altlateinschen Bibel (Freiburg 1908), with plate of fol. 8r; Staerk I, pp. 132, 223; II,
pl. LIX, LXXII; Dobias-Rozdestvenskaia, p. 155; de Mérindol, pp. 1076-80.
The only other MS of De cibis Iudaicis is in Paris, codex 1351 of the Bibliothèque St. Geneiviève, s.XV, and also contains the works of Lucifer of Cagliari. It was discovered by Dom André Wilmart (who also discovered the Trecensis). Wilmart published an analysis of the text of both MSS and the editions of Mesnart and Gelenius, and showed that the Paris MS is a copy of the St. Petersburg. He also demonstrated:
Note that the MS of the Corbie collection is no longer listed. It has been suggested (by Dr. R. M. Thomson, Malmesbury) that the MS may have travelled to Britain at the time of William of Malmesbury.
|Delisle||Cat 3, p.436 Also in MS 520 of Q of Sweden, and in Mai.2|
Catalogue 4. 1621
This is contained in MS. Paris B.N. Lat. 13071, ff. 43-50. It was printed by Coyecque in his catalogue of the library in Amiens: Catalogue générale des bibliothèques de France, Départments XIX (Amiens 1894), pp. XXXI-XLVII.5
Catalogue 5. ca. 1780?
Just before the revolution, the Corbie historian, Dom Grenier, made notes on scraps of paper about the contents of various Corbie MSS. These are now mounted in MS Paris, B.N. Lat. 9368. It partly agrees with the 1621 catalogue, but indicates that some volumes had changed their shelfmarks. De Mérindol evaluated these, and concluded that some of them preserved the contents of now lost MSS.5
See the bibliography for more detail on some of the works referenced.
1. G.Becker, Catalogi bibliothecarum antiqui, Bonnae 1885, Section 55 (pp.139), 79, 136. Checked.
2. L.Delisle, Cabinet de manuscrits, vol. II. Checked. A further set of references from Thomson, Malmesbury, n.75:
"L. Delisle, Le Cabinet des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Imperiale, 3 vols. (Paris, 1858-81) II, 428 (first catalogue), 428-32 (second) and 432-40 (third). On their dates see C. de Merindol, La Production des livres peints a lAbbaye de Corbie, 3 vols. (Lille, 1976) 1, 70-1. Dr D. Ganz informs me that the titles of works in the second catalogue were taken from tables of contents apparently written in the ninth century".
3. For further details see a recent study, E. Ann Matter, Barnabas Redux: the Medieval Fortunes of a Latin Apocryphon, pp.263-74 in "A Multiform Heritage: Studies on Early Judaism and Christianity in Honor of Robert A. Kraft", ed. Benjamin G. Wright (Scholars Press [now handled by Duke Univ. Press], Homage Series, 1999) Not checked. The codex contains Filaster (in what is now the first volume = Q.v.I.N.38), "Tertullian" - i.e. Novatian's De cibis Iudaicis, the only MS of the Latin version of the Epistle of Barnabas, and the NT Epistle of James. (I owe these details to the kindness of Prof. Robert A. Kraft - thank you).
4. Dom André Wilmart, Un manuscrit du De cibis et des oeuvres de Lucifer, Revue Bénédictine 32 (1920), pp.124-135. Checked.
5. David Ganz has written a fine monograph on the abbey and library to 900AD: Ganz, David, Corbie in the Carolingian Renaissance, Beihefte der Francia vol. 20, Sigmaringen (1990), ISBN: 3-7995-7320-8. Checked.
6. C. de Mérindol, La production des livres peints à l'abbaye de Corbie au XIIe siècle. Etude historique et archéologique, Lille (1976). Not checked.
7. Ganz, p.59 n.52:
S. Solente, Les manuscrits des Dupuy à la Bibliothèque Nationale, BECh 88 (1927), pp.177-250. For the thefts, cf. Deslisle, p.137, and Bonnefons manuscript history of Corbie, Paris B.N. Lat. 17142 fol.83v:
in iis non ultime fuere clarissimi viri Massonius Pithoeus, Bissonius in suprema praeses, Rozois an ille Sylvancetensis Episcopus sed prae ceteris ... Jacobo Sirmondus, Andreas Duchesne et Thuanus, quem addiscimus vel una vice quinque aut sex ingentia volumina a se selectorum dolia stratagente abstulisse.
A similar account is found on ff. 54-55 of Paris, B.N.Lat. 18370, cf. Delisle, pp.133-6; de Mérindol, pp.73-8. Petau owned Reg. Lat. 1674 (Servius). Dupuy owned Paris, B.N.Lat.1662, 4950, 6503, 7494, 7499, 7501, 7539, 7714, 7886, 8051 and Berlin, Phillips 1865, de Thou owned Paris B.N.Lat. 1623 (Tertullian), 6796 (Pliny). I have examined Sirmond's papers in Paris, and can find no evidence that he purloined Corbie volumes, although he edited Ennodius and the church councils.
(NB: This record does not agree with the statement of Hoppe that 1623 has Dupuy's name on it - see here. Also if 1623 also came from Corbie, it is odd that the catalogues only record a single Apologeticum).
Original 11th December 1999.
Updated 14th April 2001.
Updated 28th April 2001.
Updated 25th January 2002 with Becker §136.
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