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. .


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