Monday, February 1, 2016

Ancient Manuscripts Of Livy

The Wikipedia articles on Livy and on ab urbe condita (the Latin title of Livy's history) are both, just -- horrible messes. It would be better if they had neither article in any form. They very well illustrate what can go wrong on Wiki, or any reference work where no-one is in charge.

It's possible -- although not bloody likely in my opinion -- that both articles could be completely transformed and in exemplary shape by the time I finished writing this paragraph. And then a half hour later than that they could be worse than ever. Because no-one is in charge.

Just now I googled ancient manuscripts of livy and the search yielded hundreds of thousands of results and no useful ones on the first page. So I googled "ancient manuscripts of livy," which yielded 4 results, 2 from the same book which was written so long ago that the s's look like f's, and was not primarily about Livy and which didn't look particularly interesting. One of the other results was from another pseudo-authority, another one of these Internet sites which claims to have answers but where no one is in charge. I think it may have been About.com.

I remember distinctly reading in the Google result for that page: "There are, I believe, no ancient manuscripts of Livy[...]"

And that's why I'm here. I have no idea how someone who felt justified in answering a question on the topic in a public place could have gotten the idea that there are no ancient manuscripts of Livy.

First of all, let's define the term "ancient." When it comes to manuscripts of Latin literature, anything copied out before AD 500 is considered ancient. 5th century or earlier. And "manuscript" refers to a copy of a text of any length, from a few words to a huge volume of small print.

I am aware of 7 manuscripts of Livy from the 5th century or earlier. I believe that is more than for any other Latin author except Cicero and Vergil -- but I could be wrong. If you need to know for sure, ask an expert -- and that ain't me, and it sure as Hell ain't Wiki or Ask.com. 7 is definitely more ancient manuscripts than there are of Jerome's Vulgate -- and many less than we have either of the Greek New Testament or the Hebrew Old Testament.

These 7 ancient manuscripts of Livy are:

Pap Ox xi 1379, a 4th-century papyrus discovered at Oxyrhynchus containing several dozen words from book 1 of ab urbe condita.

The manuscript called V for short when discussing manuscripts of Livy: Bibliothecae capitularis Veronensis xl (38), 5th century, containing parts of books 3 and 4.

A 5th-century fragment (for which at the moment I cannot find a standard abbreviation or library catalogue listing) containing about 40 words from book 11, on parchment, not papyrus, found in 1986, in Naqlun, near Fayum, Egypt. The text reads: [------ .e(m) [----- ing]ens [ei era]nt ha[u]t pro[cul G]abiis [u]rbe. cu[m] [Ga]uios nouos exer[cit]us indictus [e]sset ibique centuriati milites essent, cum duob(us)milib(us) pe[ {.} ]ditum profect[u]s in agru(m) suom cons[ul?] and g[-------] ar[------] se[d] reaps[a nega]tam eo [[e]]dicto f[acturum] quoa[d inuissu suo in pr[ovi(n)-] cia maneat, et [si] pergat dicto non parar[e], \[s]e/ [i]n praese(n)tem habiturum imper[i]um. Fabius, [acc]eptus mandatis-----] That is all that we currently have of text of books 11-20.

P, also called Codex Puteanus, or Bibliothecae Nationalis Parisiensis, Lat 5730, 5th century, containing books 21-30 with a few passages missing.

F, also called Fragmenta Placentina, or Bibl Pub Bamb, Class 35a, 5th century, containing parts of books 33-36 and 39.

V, or Codex Vindobonensis, or Bibl Nat Lat 15, 5th century, containing books 41-45 except for a few missing passages. This is currently our only source for books 41-15.

A 5th-century fragment containing about 1000 words from book 91. Currently our only known manuscript of Livy past book 45. I can't find a standard abbreviation or library catalogue info for this fragment. The only place I know where you can read this passage is in Weissenborn's edition of books 41-45 published by Teubner a long time ago. My copy is updated by Mueller and published in 1930. The later Teubner edition of books 41-45 by Briscoe does not contain any fragments of other books.

Some further information: "Codex Vindobonensis" just means "volume from Vienna." Many manuscripts are called Codex Vindobonensis, the one on the list above is meant only when the conversation is about Livy's manuscripts. Same with "Codex Puteanus," which means "volume from Dupuy." Claude Dupuy was a 16th-century Parisian lawyer who assembled a great collection of books, most or all of which are now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, each one called Codex Puteanus, a phrase which distinguishes this Livy manuscript from other Livy manuscripts but is no help in distinguishing the books which once were Claude Dupuy's from one another.

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