Monday, April 27, 2015

Catalogs of Latin Manuscripts

It can be a bit frustrating, looking for manuscripts. In this instance I'm not talking about undiscovered manuscripts, but manuscripts in libraries which are considered to belong to the public, which are available for examination by scholars, which increasingly are digitalized, with high-resolution photographs of them freely available on the Internet.

But how do you find them? Ugh. There surely must be better ways than what I've been going through. I started off today looking for some list of all known manuscripts of Livy. Professor Michael Reeve very helpfully counted up 154 manuscripts of the Third Decade. Then there's that manuscript of books 41-45, that palimpsest of a passage from book 91, and that scrap of papyrus found with several dozen words from book 11. Great. Now, besides those 157 MSS, where's a list of the MSS of the First Decade and the Fourth Decade? I don't know. Maybe there's some really simple way to find such a list, but I don't know that simple way either. If it exists. Editions of Livy list all of the manuscripts used by the editors, but that's only a few dozen MSS all together, and presumably there are hundreds more MSS of which I am unaware. Presumably. I'm presuming. Because I don't know.

Seems to me that a list of all known manuscripts of Livy would be a very handy thing, which a lot of Classical scholars would like to have on hand. And maybe a lot of them do. I need to ask some of them about such things.

I know that some MSS of Vergil and Terrence and Plautus are in the Vatican Palatine collection. I know this because editors of those authors listed those MSS. "Vaticanus Palatinus latine," or "Vat. Pal. lat.," lets me know that those manuscripts are in that particular collection.

How did those editors know? I don't know how they knew.

Here's volume 1 of a catalog of the Palatine collection, listing MSS 1 through 921. The entire Latin section of the Palatine collection goes into the thousands. How many thousands? Search me. MSS 872 through 880 in this volume are MSS of Livy. You know how I know that? Because just now, paging through the online Google book I've linked for you there, I just plain stumbled upon MSS 872 through 880. Does the Palatine collection contain more MSS of Livy besides just those 9? I sure wish I knew. Do the other manuscript collections in the Vatican Library contain more MSS of Livy? I'm almost completely certain they do. How many more? I don't have any faint idea. I don't even know how many more collections of Latin manuscripts there are in the Vatican Library besides the Palatine collection.

All I know is that this is no damn way to run a railroad! You call this a martini?! Get off my lawn! You're darn tootin I'm climbing the walls over this! BARKBARKBARKBARKBARK!!! (That was the sound of me going stark barking mad.)

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