Geoffrey of Vinsauf’s Poetria Nova by Elana Aurise and Alex Borkowski

The Poetria Nova by Geoffrey of Vinsauf

Biblioteca de Universita Bologna

Manuscript 2637

The first leaf of the manuscript. This leaf contains the greatest amount of commentary.

Biblioteca de Universita Bologna, m. 2637, 13th c., 1 recto. The first leaf of the manuscript. This leaf contains the greatest amount of commentary.


A closer look at the first leaf. On the lower right-hand side there are two stamps. One belongs to the Biblioteca de Universita Bologna, and the other is from the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which previously held the manuscript.

Bibliographic description: The Poetria Nova or “Book of New Poetry” manuscript written by Gaulfredus Anglicus, or “Geoffrey of Vinsauf” is written on parchment, the cover is also made of parchment with paper on the inside. Deduced from other sources, the manuscript has been dated to the thirteenth century. The origin of the manuscript is unknown. Because the manuscript is written on parchment, there are no watermarks. Poetria Nova has nineteen leaves and includes pagination on pages one, two, three, four, and five. The measurements of the manuscript are 220X140 with a gathering of three quires, all without any sign of signatures. There is no evidence of any restoration or pricking.

The manuscript is in ruled mirror because it has horizontal and vertical lines, written in crayon that is a reddish-brown color. It is a “unique” layout because it leaves space for commentary and consists of only one column with long lines. There are no catchwords in the manuscript. The type of script is Gothic Bononesis; it is not square but rounded. The writing hands of the document are hard to tell. It is possibly the same hand in two different inks; the annotation is in a different ink color indicating it could have been another hand or that simply the ink just ran out. The ink of the manuscript includes black, red, and light brown ink. There is no decoration; just text and annotation including a few pictures of hands pointing out important excerpts in the main text. We are unsure if the rubrication was added later but all of the poems are numbered in roman numerals.

In this photograph, we can truly see the Gothic Bononesis script, the roman numeral of the poem, and the interlinear annotations. The inks are all also very different from each other, the main text is very heavy black and the annotations are a light brown.

In this photograph, we can truly see the Gothic Bononesis script, the roman numeral of the poem, and the interlinear annotations. The inks are all also very different from each other, the main text is very heavy black and the annotations are a light brown.

The annotations are the glosses of the text and the marginalia is evident in the ruled mirror, as you can see in the picture, some notes are taken on the side. There are two stamps, one rectangular and one circular in the manuscript. The circular stamp is in red ink and the rectangular stamp is in black ink from the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The stamp on the first few pages of the manuscript, the rectangular stamp, is from the Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna.

We are unsure if there are ornaments; the only possibilities of any ornament are red lines on the front and back cover of the manuscript that seem to be carved. There is also a signature or a word written in red ink, similar to letters, on the back cover in between the horizontal, red carved lines. There are no fragments from other documents. There are some damages that include small holes from insects, ink running and blotting into other pages, as well as water or acid damage that results in a yellow color. Some pages are torn on the bottom of the leaves and some of the ink is faded. The annotations are interlinear in between the main text. The dates of the annotations are unknown.

This picture of our manuscript is a good example of the unique, one columned layout. We can see the interlinear annotations as well as the marginalia. We can also see the ruled mirror written in the reddish brown crayon. There is a drawing of a hand in the bottom left corner pointing out an excerpt in the main text.

This picture of our manuscript is a good example of the unique, one columned layout. We can see the interlinear annotations as well as the marginalia. We can also see the ruled mirror written in the reddish brown crayon. There is a drawing of a hand in the bottom left corner pointing out an excerpt in the main text.

     Significance of the manuscript: The Poetria nova by Geoffrey of Vinsauf was a popular rhetorical text during the Middle Ages, and is preserved in almost two hundred copies, one of which can be found at the Biblioteca de Universita Bologna. In order to comprehend the significance of Geoffrey’s work, it is first necessary to summarize the general contents of his book. Geoffrey begins his work with a dedication to Pope Innocent III, and he comments on the art of poetry before examining the arrangement of poetic material and the ways of beginning a work. Geoffrey also discusses methods of amplification, using an example of his own in the form of a lament to King Richard I of England. He also instructs his readers in methods of abbreviation before discussing different kinds of stylistic ornaments. Among other topics, Geoffrey discusses his ideas regarding correction and memorization. He closes the Poetria nova with a final dedication to an archbishop named William.

The Poetria nova was an important textbook on rhetoric and poetry during the Middle Ages, and it was used on various levels of education and for different purposes because of the diversity of the text and the array of rhetorical topics it covers (Woods 56). Even though schools and universities both used this text, differing pedagogical approaches determined what parts of the text were emphasized to students, as indicated by the commentaries in different copies of the manuscript (Woods 55). What is unique about this text is that Geoffrey composed it in verse. Thus, it is a text about the proper ways to write poetry written in poetic form, which demonstrates Geoffrey’s commitment to practicing what he taught, as well as facilitating the learning process by showing students examples of his poetic and rhetorical ideas in practice.

Informing Geoffrey’s work were a variety of classical sources on rhetoric and poetry. These include Horace’s Ars Poetica, Cicero’s De Inventione, and the Rhetorica ad Herennium, which was attributed to Cicero during the medieval period (Gallo 133). As suggested by the title of his work, Geoffrey was heavily influenced by Horace’s Ars Poetica. It can be argued that the Poetria nova was Geoffrey’s effort to adapt Horace’s teachings in the Ars Poetica to the needs of students in his own day (Camargo 167). Geoffrey’s use of classical sources was of great interest to some of the commentators of his work. Many of these commentators attempted to contextualize Geoffrey’s ideas with older rhetorical works, making up a particular kind of commentary that historian Marjorie Curry Woods classifies as “theoretical” (58). Thus, these commentaries not only clarified certain concepts, but they actually built upon Geoffrey’s ideas. Theoretical commentaries are different from literary commentaries, which focus on the Poetria nova as a work of poetry and praise Geoffrey’s talents as a poet. Woods finds that the development of theoretical commentaries coincided with changes in curriculum occurring in medieval universities at this time (60).

The extent of the Poetria nova’s influence can be seen by looking at the Nun’s Priest’s Tale by Chaucer. In this story, Chaucer references Geoffrey’s lament to King Richard I. The lament to Richard I is the longest of Geoffrey’s literary examples in the Poetria nova, and in some copies of the text commentators added glosses to emphasize certain parts of Geoffrey’s lament that were seen as particularly valuable examples of his poetic and rhetorical teachings (Young 172). While scholars debate the nature of Chaucer’s intention by referencing Geoffrey’s lament in The Canterbury Tales, it is apparent that at least this part of the Poetria nova was well known long after Geoffrey’s death.

Secondary Sources:

Camargo, Martin. “Towards a Comprehensive Art of Written Discourse: Geoffrey of Vinsauf and the Ars Dictaminis.” Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric 6.2 (1988).

Gallo, Ernest. The Poetria Nova and its Sources in Early Rhetorical Doctrine. The Hague: Mouton, 1971.

Geoffrey of Vinsauf. Poetria Nova. Trans. Margaret F. Nims. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1967. Web.

Woods, Marjorie Curry. “A Medieval Rhetoric goes to School-and to the University: The Commentaries on the Poetria Nova.” Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric 9.1 (1991).

Young, Karl. “Chaucer and Geoffrey of Vinsauf.” Modern Philology  41.3 (1944).

Rhetorica ad Herennium

Rhetorica ad Herennium
1) 1-75 M. Tullii Ciceronis Rhetorica ad Herennium cum notis marginalibus (M. Tulius Cicero’s Rhetoric for Herennius with marginal notes) (90s B.C.). 2) 76-88 Buonandrea, Giovanni di. Brevis introduction ad dictamin cum notis marginalibus (Brief introduction to letter writing with marginal notes) (mid 13th c. – 1321).
Early 14th c. MS. University of Bologna Library (BUB). Bologna. 88 pages. 280 x 210 mm in 2 columns. BUB MS. 1256 (2461).

Rhet 1

The first page (1 recto) of Rhetorica ad Herennium shows a great illumination and the text says that the writer, original thought to be Cicero, is directly addressing Gaius Herennius, a consul from 93 B.C.

rhet 2

The first page (76 recto) of Buonandrea’s introduction to letter writing illustrates how several types of letters were studied, alongside the previous pseudo-Ciceronian text.


i + 88 + i all on parchment, modern foliation in pencil in the top right-hand corner recto, each page is 280 mm x 210 mm, there are 10 quires total, quires 1-7 contain 10 leaves, quire 8^9, quire 9^9, and 10^1, no page restoration can be found, no signatures can be found, there is pricking on all leafs except for 1, there is dry-point ruling on each page, it is mirrored so that each page is broken into two columns, there are catchwords at the end of each quire in the bottom right-hand corner in black ink with red flourishes, all writing is in a Gothic Script (littera Bononiensia), 1 hand has done the main text of both the ad Herennium and Buonandrea’s introduction, the commentary for both texts is done in several hands, most text is in black, red and blue appear in the capitals for each sentence in the main text and most of the commentary, however there is one hand in the commentary that only uses black ink, there are many decorations throughout books 1-3 of the ad Herennium, the illuminations depict images of writing and contain the first letter for their corresponding section, the glosses are extensive and often fill the entire pages, maniculae and nota marks can be found throughout the text, the first page bears stamps from the BUB and note the text number: 2461, the leaves are gathered in an odd way, it is clear that the book has been rebound with this newer leather cover, it is unclear when the book was rebound, there are no ornaments on the cover, no fragments can be found, there are no signatures or any considerations for the text being owned by another person or library, the text is dated to the early 14th c. from the BUB catalogue

It should be noted that the ad Herennium appears in 3 books here: on Arrangement, Delivery, and Memory. There were originally 4 written, but the 4th does not appear in this text. It was supposed that Cicero wrote this rhetorical book in order to address Gaius Herennius, but we cannot definitively say that Cicero wrote the books.


For the purpose of this digital exhibition, we will focus more deeply on the text itself as well as the unique attributes of our particular copy of the text. We will start by explaining the significance of the copy that we studied at the BUB. Our copy was likely a private one, commissioned and owned by a person of some wealth. We are able to assume this because of the ornate gilded illuminations and the multiple ink colors. Another way we can assume this is because there are few writing hands. One of the most unique features of this copy is the writing of Giovanni di Buonandrea, which is bound together with the Ad Herennium. The Ad Herennium is basically a “how-to” guide to the “do’s and don’ts” of rhetoric. According to Gideon Burton, who lists the headings and subheadings for each book in the Ad Herennium, it is extremely detailed. Book I, for example, contains the “five canons of rhetoric”, and the “parts of an oration.” Book II covers the “judicial oratory” and issues like “statute law”, which we are familiar with in the United States judicial system. It also outlines the development and five parts of a proper argument. Book III covers epideictic oratory and the aspects of the individual, like “external circumstances…physical attributes [and] qualities of character.” The fourth book, which was not included in this copy, is about the style of rhetoric. Burton shows that one section, on “defective styles”, includes a subsection for “swollen”, “slack or drifting”, and “meagre.” We can easily see why this text was so well-respected and referenced throughout the centuries. Yet, we must admit that the attention the text received was also because of its supposed authorship.
The Rhetorica ad Herennium, written in approximately 93 BCE, was known until the fifteenth century as a text authored by Cicero. Cicero, as we learned from Professor Mueller, had a “fandom” of sorts. An authoritative text like this one, which spells out the ways to successfully communicate one’s ideas, was given much respect. We now refer to this text as “pseudo-Ciceronian.” The first formal questioning of the authorship was through Rafaelle Regio’s Quaestio in the early 1490’s. Since then, there have been several theories put forward as to the true author. One possible author was the rhetorician named Cornificius. Yet, based on the writing of Cornificius, Harry Caplan determined that the time period in which he was writing was not the same as when the Ad Herennium was written. Caplan asserts that even though in his time of writing (1954) the text was disregarded because of its wrongful attribution to Cicero, it is still of “literary importance because it is our only complete representative of the system it teaches” (Caplan xxxiv).
To summarize, the significance of the text in general terms is due to the unknown authorship. For this specific copy of the text, the most important aspects are the illuminations and the Brevis introductio by Giovanni di Buonandrea. Even though we remain unsure of the author, we see how important this document is, as one of the oldest of its kind.


1. “Rhetorica Ad Herennium • “Harry Caplan’s Introduction.” Rhetorica Ad Herennium • Harry Caplan’s Introduction. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 July 2014.
2. Burton, Gideon O. “Rhetorica Ad Herennium (1st Cent. B.C.).” Silva Rhetoricae. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July 2014. .
3. Caplan, Harry. Ad C. Herennium De Ratione Dicendi (Rhetorica Ad Herennium):. London: Heinemann, n.d. N. pag. Internet Archive. Kelly-University of Toronto Libraries, Andrew J. Mellon Foundation. Web. 07 July 2014. .
4. Murphy, James J., and Michael Winterbottom. “Raffaele Regio’s 1492 Quaestio Doubting Cicero’s Authorship of the Rhetorica Ad Herennium: Introduction and Text.” Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Winter 1999), Pp. 77-87 (n.d.): n. pag. University of California Press on Behalf of the International Society for the History of Rhetoric. Web. 06 July 2014. .
5. Winkel, L. C. “Some Remarks on the Date of the ‘Rhetorica Ad Herennium’” JSTOR. BRILL, n.d. Web. 08 July 2014. .

Justinian Digestum Vetus

Manuscript Vellum
Bologna, Biblioteca Universitaria (BUB)
MS. 4308
13th century
(Researched and Posted By Casandra Sullivan and Renata Tutko)




This 13th century document is written in Literae Bononeisis font;

The content, 36 quires (faccicolo), 8 sheets (folios) each, (for a total of 292 leafs, and 584 pages, with the last 4 leaves/8 pages at end of draft writings and blank white space) of bound parchment (vellum), contained within mixed-material (wood and leather) covers, measures at 42cm high, 5×26 width pages. It is heavy!
There is no watermark, no pricking.
The layout is centered text in the middle, surrounded by glossing. Filled with various spacing and hands.

Decoration information includes:
Innitial letters in red/rossa and blue/azure;
Small font decoration at beginnings of paragraphs etc.
No major pictures/images, though marginal/glossing-area images are present in various hands. Doodles, mostly, in addition to maniscula and underscoring of particular passages.
Chapter headings in rossa, and spreading as such into the entire first sentence.
The black and dark gray [main] contents are written in what appears to be [at least] two hands;
Glossing/commentary in an additional series of hands (quantity unknown, but definitely at least 5 distinct ones, plus doodles).


Brief Introductory Commentary
Historical Chronology:

This document’s content is incredibly historically significant, and universally accepted as the fundamental root of what modern civil law has become in the region. It is the basis of what became all of European law documentation models itself after, and is deeply rooted in the many centuries of attempts to centralize both rights and power of the citizen. It is also a document veiled in great mystery, as the history behind it has many gaps in records. This particular incarnation’s creator, Irnerius, is equally as complicated, from a historical standpoint; a scribe that took it upon himself to transmute information that was centuries old, and update it while preserving it, with no certitude as to how he obtained the documents/ materials with the basis of the knowledge herein; then, the various manifestations of this document have continued to crop up, etc., with no real explanation where variations came from, or who was behind the writing now captured and moved through history. Many questions remain unanswered about the Justinian Digestum and its documentational offspring, such as the Vetus of the 13th century.


A short chronology of legal documentation during the formative years of the content of this manuscript’s 13th-century incarnation, after resurrection by Irnerius transpired:

Corpus Juris Civilis, the collection and revision of legal texts drawn up by the order of the Emperor Justinian
529: Codex (first edition), a codification of laws (leges) promulgated by the emperors from Hadrian to that date

533: Istitutiones, a manual for teaching law in 4 books

533: Digestorumseu Pandectarumlibri L, or Digestum, a systematic collection of opinions and comments taken from the jurists’ works of the republican and imperial Roman ages, basically the iura of the Roman law

534: Codex repetitae praelectionis (second edition)

534-565: Novellae Constitutiones, Latin and Greek Justinian’s new constitutions


Timeline Summary:

5th century — Justinian released
5th – 11th century — disappeared
11th century — Irnerius wrote it; named it, (not this copy/manuscript, but of which this is a copy)
12th century — Accursus made the glosses
12th – 13th century — Other glosses on it, and these glossers wrote the manuscript.
There were other unknown glossers who wrote on this one, and wrote on doodles.

First, to begin with two images of this legal document from the 13th century, which is a revised version of the material originally gathered and recorded in the 6th century.
Immediately please note the structured layout of the content: central information in two columns in center; scribes’ glossings on the periphery.

Bologna, Biblioteca Universitaria (BUB), ms. 4308, 13th c., Digestum vetus with Accursius’ apparatus, l. 10v

ENGL607px(Image re-shared from Lorenza Iannacci’s powerpoint presentation on The Legal Book)

Note the general shape created here on the page; this format was “perfected” in the 13th century, as the proper layout for documents of its kind. Also, note the various ongoings — multiple hands, several examples of the scribes’ presence in the immediate periphery of the main text, commenting [in the marginalia]…. and so, the dialogue between text and subsequent generations of its readers is recorded here, as a prime example of live interaction with the content of the written law.

Bologna, Biblioteca Universitaria (BUB), ms. 4308, 13th c., Digestum vetus with Accursius’ apparatus, l. 105r

pic2(Image re-shared from Lorenza Iannacci’s powerpoint presentation on The Legal Book)


Significance, according to Literature Sources,  and our Subsequent Notes in Response–
(Commentary and insight on this manuscript from various sources (books and online resources) and our remarks to various topics on this document):

(1) Law and Religion in the Roman Republic
Editor:  Olga Tellegen Couperous

In the intro to this text:
“Roman law is generally regarded as basically differing from other legal systems in Antiquity in that it reached, at an early stage in its development, a very high level of securalisation.  However, as late at the first century B.C., the Romans were regarded (and regarded themselves) as the most religious people in the world”.  (page 1)

Our notes:
There is a belief that when inspecting this document, that we should see a connection between Roman law and religion…
As is the nature of such documents, let’s refer to it as a classic case of “separation of church and state”; the struggle to classify the document’s relevance as cannonical law or civic law.
Irnerius — when he worked to revive this information — made it possible that these [originally-Justinian]-based “laws” spread across all of Europe; however, they were originally bound to religiosity and religious beliefs. It is the nature of such a fundamental and central document such as this one to straddle the line and be historically significant in both arenas.

Also: “Legal experts, and these were no longer necessarily pontiffs, began to publish their responses, turning Roman law into a fixed set of concepts that for centuries to come could (and would) be applied to a large variety of legal problems.  The fact that this did not happen for sacred law does not mean that religion lost most or even some of its relevance to Roman law and society”. (page 8)

Our notes:
This is interesting because of the “responses” used by people corresponding with the texts, i.e. the glossers, or commentators on the manuscripts; it also connects with what we discussed in class about people responding via dialogue to the written word.  Additionally, it is good to keep in mind for future study if we see a connection between law and religion in the material context of the text, and how we can learn about their society through the content of the material.

(2) The Digest of Justinian, vol. 4, Chapter “Ownership of things”
By:  Alan Watson

Law 34:  “Ulpian, census, book 4:  For the inheritance sustains the personality of the deceased, not that of the heir, as has been established by many instances taken from the civil law”. (page 10)

Law  66:  “Venuleius, Interdicts, book 6:  If a pregnant woman be bequeathed or usucpated or alienated in some other manner and then gives birth, her issue will belong to her owner at the time of the birth, not to him who then owned her when she conceived.” (page 10)

(3) Justinian’s Digest
By:  Tony Honore

“This work aims to assess the character of Justinian’s Digest and to provide up-to-date info about its compilation.” (5-6)

“The emperor and his minister claim that the Digest was com
piled in three years from 530-533 A.D. by a commission that read and edited some 2,000 libri (chapters) composed by legal authorities many years previously”. (5-6)

“In my view Justinian’s Digest related in a similar way to the works of Ulpian.  Over 40 per cent of the Digest text are expressly attributed by inscription to Ulpian”. (5-6)

Our notes:
(for “a” through “c”): 
These quotes are significant because they provide a historical frame of reference for the initial origins of the text.  They also refer to Ulpian, whom we quoted earlier, establishing a law.

(4) A Summary of the Roman Civil Law
By Patrick Colquhoun

Number 64, (Page 67):  “The only sources of Roman Law known in the Middle Age were the Pandects (Digestum), the Codex, the Institutes, the old Latin text of the Novels (Authenticum) and Julian’s edition of the Novels (Novella):  the rest used in later ages were as good as unknown.”

Number 63, (Page 67):  “The Division of the Pandects into the Digestum Vestus, Digestum Novum,and the Infortiatum, belong to the 15th and 16th centuries.”

Number 63, (Page 68):  “In order to prevent incorrect editions getting into circulation, three Ultra, and three Citra montan scholars were chosen every year in the University of Bologna, and termed PECIARII, thee were excused from all other munera publica, and held their sessions once a week for the purpose of correcting imperfect copies in possession of circulating libraries…Books thus corrected were advertised by the Bedel.”

Number 64, (Page 68-69):  “It now only remains to add a few observations
on the forms in which the Digest or Pandects are quoted by the glossaters and civilians; and it must be premised that the words Digestum or Digesta is not a synonym of Pandectae: the former signifying an abstract of the opinions of lawyers upon certain points of law, while Pandectae, from (two Greek words), implies a compendium of the law; hence, we find this book variously quoted by the letter D.D. or (the pie sign) and ff, which the latter is supposed to be a corruption of the D with a stroke through the middle; why not a corruption of the Greek (pie sign)?”

Our notes:
We feel this quote to be significant because it discussed what we learned about the name of the Digestum and its evolution/creation of its sign.

Number 66, (Page 73):  “Besides this Distribution of the Digest into Fifty books, it was divided into seven parts, but the reason that induced the Emperor to make his division is not known…(some attribute it to the number being perfect).”

Number 69, (Page 75):  “The unhappy wars and incursions of the Goths into Italy and Greece, occasioned, as we have already seen, the utter loss of Justinian’s law; but it is only on its recovery at Amalfi, Innerius, by the authority of Lotharius II, A.D. 1130 restored the Digest, code, and Latin versions of the novels.”



stamp -- RTBologna, Biblioteca Universitaria (BUB), ms. 4308, 13th c., Digestum vetus with Accursius’ apparatus, l. 293r
Digestum Vetus — seal and logo stamp for archives in BUB.
This document had remarkably complex dating data. It was labeled at 1270 a.C. on the spine of the box it is stored in, which turned out to be an assumption by the third-party folks that stored it prior to turning it over to the BUB. The handwritten note on the inside front cover said “14th century”, which was trumped upon further inquiry with the BUB librarians. This document is known to be from the 13th century. I included this image of the stamp/seal, to show how complicated the process can be, despite fail-safes and systems of coding and recording this information.
The issues exemplified in this matter are a microcosmic glimpse at the overarching matters related to this text.
(Leaf number, recto/verso etc. information unavailable, as I took the photo before I knew how to properly cite the information (therefore did not gather it); it is, however, I believe on the last page (inside back cover) of the entire manuscript.)

RenataT -- many glossings communicatingBologna, Biblioteca Universitaria (BUB), ms. 4308, 13th c., Digestum vetus  l. [unknown] v.
The presence of many personalities interacting with this text in history.

closeup text RenataTBologna, Biblioteca Universitaria (BUB), ms. 4308, 13th c., Digestum vetus  l. [unknown]r
Close-up of the font and type of decorative writing.

The various handwritings of scribes and students etc. sharing this document; this is the final quire of the manuscript, all with drafts of handwriting.

The various handwritings of scribes and students etc. sharing this document over time; this is the final quire of the manuscript, all with rough drafts of handwriting and signature logos etc…  Bologna, Biblioteca Universitaria (BUB), ms. 4308, 13th c., Digestum vetus  l. 291v, 292r

Extensive evidence of the many hands this manuscript had met; personality and dialogue between students, scribes, etc. present in these types of marginal comments and glosses.

Extensive evidence of the many hands this manuscript had met; personality and dialogue are definitely present here, between students, scribes, etc. as evident in these types of marginal comments and glosses. Bologna, Biblioteca Universitaria (BUB), ms. 4308, 13th c. Digestum vetus l. [unknown]r 

Source Summary:

Document/Manuscript itself at BUB:
Bologna, Biblioteca Universitaria (BUB), ms. 4308, 13th c., Digestum Vetus

Slides/presentations/notes of Lorenza Iannacci, Maddalena Modesti, Flavia Manservigi

— (1) Law and Religion in the Roman Republic
Editor:  Olga Tellegen Couperous

— (2) The Digest of Justinian, vol. 4, Chapter “Ownership of things”
By:  Alan Watson

— (3) Justinian’s Digest
By:  Tony Honore

 (4) A Summary of the Roman Civil Law
By Patrick Colquhoun

— (5) The Corpus Iuris Civilis in the Middle Ages:
Manuscripts & Transmissions
Edited by Charles M. Radding, Antonio Ciarelli


Manuscript 313

Manuscript 313 is a fifteenth century manuscript from Bologna, Emilia Romagna, Italy.  It is preserved in the Biblioteca de Universita Bologna. On the first leaf of the manuscript, there is a drawing of a man riding a bird. Drawn in red ink, the bird seems to be pecking at his own chest.  The manuscript is made of mixed material, the first folio being made of parchment and dating from the fifteenth century, while the remaining folios are made of paper, and were added in the sixteenth century.  There is a watermark in the last four folios.  The watermark is an image of a dragon, split in the seam of the pages.  There are 97 leaves that make up the manuscript and five folios.  The measurements are 200 mm by 150 mm.  Because of the dating of the manuscript there are no quires, and therefore no catchwords.  There are no signs of pricking, indicating that a board must have been used for ruling, which was done with a plummet.  There are fifteen rules per leaf.  The layout of the page is unique, and there is one hand that wrote each text, while marginalia and notes seem to have been written in another hand.  The writing was done using either a red or black dry point stylus.  In terms of the Rubrication and Decoration of this manuscript, the paragraphs in the first text are marked by englarged letters colored in red and black ink. Throughout the rest of the manuscript there are sporadic drawings in black and red ink, and there is a blue ink colored drawing in Boccatii’s text.  The degrees of marginalia vary throughout the five texts.  In the first text there are many marginal notes, written in at least two different hands.  The second text has no marginal notes, while the third text has very few marginal notes all written in the same hand.  The fourth text has small hands drawn in the margin, pointing at important information in the text.  In terms of the binding and the covers of the manuscript, it is made of “mezza pelle” or half leather.  The manuscript has been well preserved; however, there are some bites in the paper, possibly from insects, the edges are somewhat frayed, and fragments from other documents have been added to restore the leaves.  At the beginning of the text there are two full pages dedicated to notes.  The manuscript originally belonged to the Bibiotheca of Io. Garzoni Bonon.  Manuscript 313 is a manuscript consisting of five different texts: Giovanni De Bonandrea’s “Brevis Introducto ad Dictamen”, ‘M.T Ciceronis de Amicitia libellus’, ‘Fabula Boccatii de Tancredo principe Salernitano et Gismonda eius filia traducta de vulgari in Latinum per D. Leonardum Aretinum’, ‘Epistola Saphos ad Phaonem Siculum eius amatorem foeliciter incipt’, and ‘Oratio in Laudem Matrimonii’.

The significance of these five texts cannot be overstated.  What I find most interesting is the fact that these five texts have all been bound together in one manuscript.  My thought is that these texts have been bound together due to the nature of what they discuss.  Giovanni de Bonandrea’s text, the “Brevis Introducto ad Dictamen” changes the ways that salutations could be written by creating a category of salutation for those people of “quality” who are being written to, officially titled “On the salutation of persons distinguished by habit”.  This includes notaries, which is interesting as Bonandrea himself was a notary.  The text also comments on the difference and importance between an “open exordium” and “closed exordium” in the captatio, where he discusses the importance of being positive when you will relay bad news later in the letter.  In 1292, Bonandrea was appointed to the chair of rhetoric at the university in Bologna.  He initially lectured on the Rhetorica ad Herrenium, and beginning in 1304 also offered instruction in the ars dictaminis and ars oratoria to the notaries.  After Bonandrea wrote the ad Dictamen, it was used by the professors of rhetoric that followed him, showing the great importance of the text.  The second text in the manuscript, Cicero’s “Little Book of Friendship”, discusses what qualities make a good friend versus those that make a bad friend, the importance of virtue in friendship and how to grieve in the case of lost friends.  The form is that of a “dialogue” between friends, that Cicero has transcribed and commented on.  The name of the third text in the manuscript, when translated from Latin, is “The Story of the Fame of Tancred, Prince of Salerno and Gismonda his Daughter, brought over from common Latin by D. Leonard Arezzo.” This is a story from Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, in which Tancredi the Prince of Salerno slays his daughter’s lover and sends her his heart in a golden cup.  Gismonda then commits suicide by drinking poison from the cup. Ovid’s “Epistle From Sapho to Phaon” is a love letter written from Sapho to Phaon; what is most interesting about this text is that Sapho was a lesbian poet, who is proclaiming her love for Phaon who is a man. The final text is the “Oratio in Laudem Matrimonii”, or the “Oration in Praise of Marriage.”  Knowing the context of these texts, it seems important to note that all of them address many different types of relationships and how to act when you are in them.  While we know that Bonandrea made special attempts to connect Ciceronian rhetoric and the ars dictamen, it is interesting that all of these texts have been bound into one manuscript.


The index that shows which texts can be found in the manuscript. Note that Bonandrea’s text was written in the 14th century, while the rest of the texts were written in the 15th.


The opening leaf of the manuscript.


The first leaf of the Bonandrea text. The drawing depicting a man riding a large bird can be seen at the top of the page.

Leach, Eleanor Winsor. “Absence and Desire in Cicero’s “De Amicitia”” The Classical World 87.2 (1993): 3-20. JSTOR. Web.

Levenstein, Jessica. “Out of Bounds: Passion and the Plague in Boccaccio’s Decameron.” Italica 73.3 (1996): 313-35. JSTOR. Web.

Baca, Albert R. “Ovid’s Epistle from Sappho to Phaon (Heroides 15).” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 102 (1971): 29-38. JSTOR. Web

Camargo, Martin. Ars dictaminis/ ars dictandi. “Between Grammar and Rhetoric: Composition teaching at Oxford and Bologna in the Middle Ages”. Typologie des Sources du Moyen Age Occidental. Turnhout: Brepols 1991

A wonderful adventure

Today, at the end of this adventure, we can’t avoid thinking about the days before the Summer School started. And there is just one word that comes in our mind: challenge. It was a challenge, for us, because we had never done anything similar to this. It was a challenge because our research group, which was born only three years ago, had never worked with a foreign University; it was a challenge because we had never had to take lessons in English. And, above all, it was a challenge because we did not know how the people that we would have met were like. This is a problem that exists also when we take lesson to Italian students, of course. But in this case it was different. Everything was new. And, as a consequence, it was frightful.

The greatest difficulties were the bureaucratic and the administrative ones: Italian offices to all what is in their power to make life less easy as possible. But we tried to go through all those difficulties, and at the end we were successful, also thanks to your help.

Then the first day of the Summer School arrived. As soon as we saw you, we understood, at a glance, how big were your enthusiasm and your desire to learn new things. We understood that you were the ideal student that every teacher would like to have in his classroom. And so this adventure started. And finally fear disappeared.

The first day we followed with great interest Alex’s lesson; and we understood in a better way how many connections can be found among worlds that seem so distant: the world of the Literature and the Arts of the Middle Ages and the one of our new, technological era. We saw how interesting and stimulating can be a real interactive lesson, where students can intervene at any time to discuss matters and issues. In Italy it is very different; we always have lectures, and usually only the professor speaks. Students sometimes do questions, but always timidly. In your class it was very different: we appreciated a lot your way of actively taking part to lessons.

Then our own lectures started: we tried to explain to you something about the development of the history of our city, which in the Middle Ages had been the cradle of the oldest University of the world (which was the universal model of a way of teaching that is still used today). And we also tried to tell you how this University developed during the centuries, through the continuous sharing of knowledge among students and teachers, through anniversaries and celebrations and through the always developing (but not always easy) relationship between the Studium and the city of Bologna.

And then we tried to explain you something about our subject: Paleography. We tried to tell you when and how this discipline was born, and which are its main features. We tried to tell you who were those obscure people who, according to some scholars, created the first University, like our dear Irnerius; we tried to explain you the reason why we use the apostrophe in the world “don’t”; and we told you something about Justinian’s Code and about the reason why it is so difficult to read it on codes which are full of strange strokes. We tried to explain how the concept of author is fluid today as well as during the Middle Ages and we tried to make you understand why the Caroline minuscule is called like this, although it has not been invented by Charlemagne. And we tried to make friends with people like Carducci, Dante and Petrarca. We tried, above all, to convey an idea of the great difficulty, but also the great fascination of studying ancient writing systems.

We always use the expression “tried”: we use it because the task of teaching our subjects is not an easy one; neither when you speak the same language of your students. But we really hope, with our hearts, to have succeeded in this task.

Then we showed you something about Bologna: and in this case, everything was easier, because the beauty of the city does not need any further words. We went and see the place where the first Centenary of the University was celebrated – the Archiginnasio palace- and we went to visit the most important sacred placed of our memory, from the great Cathedral of St. Peter to the wonderful church of St. Mary of the Life. Then we went and see closely the most important documents which made the history of the city and of the Studium. We had to fight, sometimes, to take also the smaller picture. But, at the end, we won.

It would be too long now to recall all those things. But the memory of those two weeks will never get off our minds and our hearts.

Probably you may think that the work that preceded this Summer School was just an ordinary one, a part of our tasks. But we can assure you that it has not been like this. This Summer School has been the best thing for us, in a year that was really hard for all of us, both from a human both from the University point of view. For this reason, we will never get tired to thank you:

–          First of all, thank you Alex:  without you this project would have never started. Thank you for your kindness, for your courteousness and also for your wonderful English, which is always understandable.

–          Thank you Alexandra, for your vitality, and for your deep interest in the Middle Ages (you wanted to visit the Medieval Museum for two times…THIS is true love!) and for your stain remover pen.

–          Thank you Anna, for your gracefulness and your elegance; thank you also for your Italian origins (good blood doesn’t lie!).

–          Thank you Brian, for your irony, your sarcasm and your patience (you and Alex were the only man among 7 women: it must have been hard!).

–          Thank you Casandra, for your questions and your interest for our disciplines; and thank you also for your bath in the Venice lagoon!!!

–          Thank you Elana for your sweetness, and also for the care you put in your own look (it was amazing when, at the BUB, you chose only two objects to take with you in the Library: your compact mirror and your lipstick).

–          Thank you Elisabeth, for your niceness and also for your surname (Gilmore Girls was one of the nicest TV series of all the times!!!)

–          Thank you Jennifer for all the work you did before we started this Summer School, and also because we envy you a bit because next week you will be in the wonderful city of Siena.

–          Thank you Renata, for your enthusiasm and your diligence, but also for your WOWs, for the pictures taken everywhere and for your umbrella-pen.


So here we are, at the end of our adventure. We can say that work done for all this was sometimes hard and difficult. But we can also say that all this worth it. Totally.

And finally we would like to tell you how huge is our admiration for you, for many reasons: for your attention, because it never decreased; for your enthusiasm, because it really made us happy; for your patience, because sometimes our English was not that good.

Thank you to all of you for having been here, and for having given us the possibility of sharing some small drops of Science with you. We know, for sure, that they will not get lost.

From Detective Work to the Top of Bologna: The course’s adventures on July 2nd

Today we got to work on one of my favorite context-specific projects in class, which focused on the aspects of paleography’s major tools, practices, and elements of engaging with the text. Although arguably we have been doing nothing but learning this from day one of this course, on the other hand, it was the first time we have isolated the focus to fonts and scripts, and then followed up the lesson in class about the history of notary fonts’ development over time by being given example texts and then trying our own hand at it, (pun very much intended, for better or worse). During Professor Annafelicia Zaffrano’s excellent presentation today on the Graphical Panorama that covered the 9th century to University era fonts and styles, the below slide was projected for our class to see. It is a really great summation of just how simple and exactly therein how incredibly difficult is the work of a paleographer, when working with textual documentation and trying to piece together the story of what it is, where it came from, and just how impactful its existence historically. Renataslidesher714

It was shortly after this that we took on the group assignment in class of working with groups, and were handed out two different text/manuscript examples to ourselves begin really trying it with the process like a paleographer/ detective. The very funny and yet fascinating reminder we got helped: although we have a lot of information we’ve already been working with and have been presented in classes and in research before today, it is in no way something that you should expect to be good at with any ease right away; the example we worked on in class is meant precisely to show us the intricacies and complications that paleographers work though all the time to “solve” the case of any document with which they are working. We simply took a stab at it, simulating the experiences of paleographers such as Gorgio Cencetti, Armando Petrucci, and Bernhardt Bischoff, just to name several of the most influential and famous/a few. Renatbooksource714 This is one of the the tools we used today in our class exercise, only one of many like it utilized by paleographers when doing research. It is just one of hundreds of such tools that help scholars build up their own personal “paleographical lexicon”, so to speak.


Later on in the day, on the way back to the dorms, this weird thing happened: Renatabees714 This was just along the street, on a parked car; some if us saw it on our typically Italian-style leisurely stroll on the way to the dorms after class. I am posting this along with the other contents of today, since we are on the subject of cracking cased and solving mysteries.

Later, for the second half of our day, our dear professors and hosts here in beautiful medieval Bologna had prepared for us a visit to the Medieval Museum, as we called it, or the Musei Civici D’arte Antica. I took many photos there today, but on my smaller camera; so for now, I borrow an image from our program’s Facebook group page Scriptorium, taken and posted by Professor Mueller. I accredit him this work, as not only is a photo-credit the respectful and appropriate thing to do, but also I jump on the opportunity to reference the last part of the conversation for his presentation yesterday in class, regarding the debates of “ownership” issues on internet-stored sources of information when doing research. So, a joke, and a thanks for the handy pic while my little camera sits waiting for a memory stick relocation project.

Musei civic I d'arte antic

Musei Civic D’Arte Antica

Thereafter, we immediately hopped a bus and rode up to the entrance of the famous long climb up to the mountaintop San Luca’s Shrine to Saint Mary, contained within a church high above all of  Bologna’s beautiful medieval streets. The climb was basically grueling, but an amazing experience within itself, and of course not to mention with an incredible payoff awaiting you at the top. Not only was there a spiritual experience seated on the top of the hill, but the view alone was breathtaking. And lastly, the finishing of the seriously impressive feat a worthy prize, too.

The church atop the hill did not allow cameras inside, so here are a couple of shots of the remarkable perspective from there over all of Bologna.

RenataSmds714     RenataviewTvm7141     Renatavm7142



Here’s to another magical day in an ancient city; I feel like every day is outdoing every our day on this incredible trip in this wonderful place, but today’s theme was undeniably sentimentally one of a focus on antiquity. Starting the day out with the study of how ancient language is traced back and how it grew towards the modern era, then us giving it a go today; then a trip to the museum storing the art from a time we have daily referred to here as “antiquity”, to then climbing up the staircase up to the heavens above this ancient place.

Not bad at all.

Still haven’t figured out the mystery of the bees, yet, though.



Bright and Early at the BUB

Today we switched up our schedule, going to the BUB in the morning and to class in the afternoon. This was our second opportunity to look at the manuscripts. Although we tried our best to catalog the manuscripts, we were grateful to have the experts to help us. Our teachers from the University of Bologna are so knowledgeable. It’s amazing that they are able to answer our questions with a quick glance at the text. We learned from Maddalena today that there are only around 70 university-based paleographers (hope I got that right!) in Italy. Our teachers showed us a beautiful book of Aesop’s Fables and its facsimile or copy. The illustrations or illuminations were astounding with their bold colors. Brian and I worked on a text by Guido Fava.
We discovered a watermark that was in the form of a pair of scissors or shears. In the afternoon, Professor Mueller gave a presentation about “Rhetorical Intimacy.”

Professor Mueller's presentation.

Part of Professor Mueller’s presentation.

He argued against the idea that the Ars Dictaminis destroyed the “personal” letter. He spoke about the “myth of progress” and that even though the Ars Dictaminis was a major influence, people continued to write personal letters. We were cautioned against sticking to categories like “humanist” because these categories are fluid. Professor Mueller used the example of Petrarch and Valla, who are dissimilar even though they can be categorized as humanists. We learned about the “fandom” that Cicero had. Professor Mueller showed us how Johannes had been chosen as the only printer in Venice for five years. The document stated that no one else should have “the desire, possibility, strength, or daring” to print. We talked about the regulation of desire. The last sentence of this decree also prohibits the import of books from elsewhere for the “purpose of commerce.” A discussion began about today’s issue of intellectual property rights and the difficulty of talking about someone else’s work or a work in their possession without infringing upon those rights.
Until Friday, BUB!

Until Friday, BUB!