Lot Number 15
Year Published
Printed By
Description MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM LINED WITH FRAGMENTS OF A PAPYRUS SCROLL IN GREEK [ST. MARTIN'S ABBEY, TOURS, SECOND HALF OF THE SEVENTH CENTURY OR C.700, AND EGYPT, SIXTH OR SEVENTH CENTURY] a single vellum sheet, 225mm. by 195mm., with two columns on flesh-side of leaf with 22 and 24 entries in brown ink in an elegant rounded Merovingian administrative cursive minuscule with distinctively open 'd', 'o's sharpened to a point at their apex and 'g's with tails that fold back on themselves to form a double line closed at their bottom, columns separated by a single line of ink, lined on the hair-side with inward facing sheets of papyrus with remains of uncials of the sixth or seventh century (most probably to stabilise the vellum and reduce its curling, as the leaves of this manuscript were clearly kept loose in polyptych form, rather than as a codex or roll: Sati, 'Merovingian Accounting Documents', pp.147-51), single strip of same papyrus adhered to outer edge of flesh-side (perhaps as offset from previous leaf in sequence), a natural flaw in vellum and two small cuts with no damage to text, slightly trimmed with losses from inner and lower edges, traces of paper down one edge of verso from re-use in later binding, else in outstanding condition, with an early nineteenth-century description (this edited and discussed by Gasnault, 'Deux nouveaux feuillets', p.308), both the leaf and the early description with the number '3' in early nineteenth-century hand in their uppermost corners, the leaf now between glass, in a fitted cloth case
Comments A leaf from a major Merovingian manuscript from the greatest centre of seventh-century culture, preserving part of the only papyrus witness to a classical text to survive north of the Alps Provenance (1) Written at the great Abbey of St. Martin, Tours, founded in the fifth century by St. Brice, becoming Benedictine in the seventh century and a secular cathedral under Charlemagne in 806. Several fragments now in Paris (see below) mention Abbot Agrycus of St. Martin's, and the leaves were certainly written there. This is one of the earliest securely localisable manuscripts of Western Europe. These sheets were reused as part of the binding of an eighth-century copy of Philippus on Job in the library of St. Martin's (MS 56 in the eighteenth-century catalogue of Tours Cathedral: L. Delisle, 'Notice sur les manuscrits disparus de la bibliothèque de Tours', Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la Bibl.Nationale, 31, 1884, p.215). They were seen there in the early eighteenth century in situ by the great proto-palaeographer Bernard de Montfaucon (1665-1741). He published a description of them, with an engraving of the papyrus script in his Palaeographica Graeca, 1708, pp.214- 15, quoting a letter by Dom Léon Chevalier, c.1706, on these "Nobilia fragmenta inter membranas varias conglutinae". These were the only papyrus manuscripts Montfaucon had ever seen. (2) At the Revolution, the manuscripts from the cathedral were transferred to the Bibliothèque Municipale de Tours, and this volume was discarded c.1830. The binding was dismembered and the main body of the volume was sold at auction in Paris in February 1832 (now The Hague, Meerman-Westreenen Museum, MS 10.A.1: Lowe, Codices Latini Antiquiores, X, no.1571). Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872) collected together 31 pieces from this binding (27 with traces of writing), which were sold in our rooms, 28 November 1967, lot 84, to H.P. Kraus, who presented them the following year to the Bibliothèque Nationale (Rare Book Saga, p.291; In Retrospect, no.3), where they are now BnF., ms (3) The present leaf emerged (with another) in north Germany in 1988. Pierre Gasnault concluded that these leaves were given by the nineteenth-century bookseller who sold the remainder to Phillipps, to Amans-Alexis Monteil (1769-1850) for services involved in the preparation of the catalogue: the note which accompanies this leaf, like that which accompanied the others in 1967, is in Monteil's hand ('Deux nouveaux feuillets', pp.308-09). In 1833, Monteil sold his collection of paleographical specimens, and the present leaf was doubtless among them. Overall this portion of the text is in finer condition than that acquired by Phillipps, with the present leaf exhibiting the boldest hand of the whole cache. (4) Sold in our rooms, 29 June 1989, lot 26 (the other leaf subsequently reappearing as Fogg, cat.16, 1995, no.14); Schøyen MS 570. text The vellum leaf lists the names of forty-six tenants of the abbey, arranged by districts or coloniae, with the amounts they owed in produce to the community. The text has been published by Gasnault (pp.310-14). The names here, such as Childoberthus (col.2, l.3), Domoramnus (col.2, l.5), Dignon (col.2, l.6), Flanoberthus (col.2, l.7), Lupogisel (col.2, l.9), Genoaldus (col.2, l.13) and Theuderamnus (col.2, l.21), are among the earliest recorded Gallic names. the papyrus The Vatican librarian and scholar, Cardinal Giovanni Mercati (1866-1957), identified the text from Montfaucon's transcriptions some two centuries later, not knowing that the original survived, as part of a Greek poem on the life of St. Joseph by the Syriac theologian, Ephraim the Syrian (c.306-73). It is in a fine uncial of Coptic type of the sixth or seventh century, and by far the earliest and most accurate manuscript of the text. We might ask what a papyrus scroll of this text was doing in early medieval Tours. Competent Greek readers in the West were rare in the eighth or ninth century (Laistner observing that they "can be counted on one hand", Thought & Letters in Western Europe, 1931, p. 238), and those of the seventh century are even fewer. Augustine by his own admission never mastered Greek, Isidore of Seville clearly relied on translations, and there is no trace of any Greek text in either the survey of Defensor of Ligugé (see the copy sold in our rooms 5 July 2011, lot 32) or the booklist of Abbot Wando (747-54) preserved within the Gesta abbatum Fontanellensium (Becker, Catalogi bibliothecum antiqui, 1885, no.1). Where the work of Theodore of Mopsuestia survived in Corbie (see lot 17), it did so in Latin translation. However, the scroll may have been more precious in the West for its material rather than its text. Gregory of Tours records that there was a substantial trade in the sixth century of papyrus into Europe through Marseilles, and clearly it was the material of choice over vellum, perhaps up until the Carolingian Renaissance (cf. Augustine's apology in one of his letters for sending his message on vellum rather than papyrus: Ep.XV). E.A. Lowe surveys the handful of extant papyrus codices and fragments from northern Europe in this period, including a copy of the works of Augustine in Luxeuil minuscule of the seventh or eighth centuries (Codices Latini Antiquiores, VII, no.614); leaves from the Homilies of St. Avitus of the sixth century from Burgundy (ibid., V, no.573); remnants of an uncial copy of Isidore's Synonyma of the seventh century of southern French origin (ibid., VII, no.929); six leaves of a Brevarium Alarici with excerpts from the Latin Old Testament in half-uncial of the sixth or seventh century from southern France (ibid., V, no.703A-B); and a small fragment of an unknown Latin text in half-uncial of the same date, perhaps written in France ( ibid., II, no.192). None of these has ever been offered for public sale, and the present fragments are unique in suggesting the origin of the papyrus in Coptic Egypt. literature P. Gasnault, 'Deux nouveaux feuillets de la comptabilité domaniale de l'abbaye Saint-Martin de Tours à l'époque mérovingienne', Journal des savants 1995, pp.307-21; S. Sati 'The Merovingian Accounting Documents of Tours: form and function', Early Medieval Europe, 9 (2000), pp.143-61
Estimated Price GBP 150,000.00 - 200,000.00
( USD 252,000.00 - 336,000.00 )
Actual Price GBP 157,250.00 ( USD 242,165.00 )



Auction House Sothebys
Auction Name The History of Script: Sixty Important Manuscript Leaves from the Schøyen Collection
Sale Number #L12242
Auction Date July 10, 2012 - July 10, 2012
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