London, British Library, Harley MS 647


Astronomical miscellany

Aratea text: Cicero, Aratea; Hyginus, De astronomia

Parchment — i (modern paper) + ii (parchment) + 21 fols. + ii (parchment) — 320 × 285 mm — Lotharingia / Aachen — s.IX2/4

Support: According to Blume (Sternbilder des Mittelalters, p. 322) the poem is written on four today imperfect binions (ff. 2-15), the continuation of the poem together with the astronomical excerpts occupy another binion and a double leaf (ff. 16-21). Blume suggested that the first leaf was added later. Bishop on the otherhand noted that the binding is too tight to see if f.1 is conjoint with a leaf from the first quire (see Bishop, Notes). It remains uncertain if it was originally left blank and written on later. The first folium is foliated"162" (?) and "1". The rest are foliated 2-21, a crossed-over foliation in pencil, starting from today f. 3: 2-20. The manuscript lost early at least two folios at the beginning. Probably both were replaced in the turn of the eleventh century, but consequently only the second survived (today as f.1). The manuscript lost also a leaf after f.5 and f.15. Folium 17 is of a significantly lower quality. The ink on ff. 6r-7r (vv. 72-90) has almost completely disappeared. A ridge passing vertically in the middle of all folia except f.1 suggests that the manuscript was folded in two probably for transporting.

Layout: Written in one column, between 33 and 36 lines. Written-space: Written space: 22 × 18. On ff. 2v-13v the text of Cicero's poem are placed below the corresponding illustrations. Most of the pages have titles in Capitalis rustica at the bottom naming the constellation. The verses begin with rubricated initials in Capitalis rustica (corroded). The scribe on ff. 16r-17v placed them ahead of the verses (versals). The astronomical texts on ff. 17v-20r have rubricated titles in Capitalis rustica. The red pigment has corroded. In the second part of the poem (ff. 14r-17v) whole verses are written in red pigment to mark text divisions.

Script: The text on f. 1r-v is written in round English minuscule. The text of the poem and the astronomical texts following it are written in Carolingian minuscule. The text of the scholia within the images (ff.2v-13v) is written in Capitalis rustica

Hands: The poem is written by one main hand (ff.2v-15v) with characteristics: open g, x with a thine long schaft from right to left; a second hand (ff. 16r-17v) with a characteristic ra-ligature and all together tighter ductus. The astronomical texts on ff.17v-20r are written by a younger hand (s.IX2?) using e-caudata with a long cauda slanted to the left, -tur abbreviation in the form of 2, and a horizontal stroke with an elevated right side for final nasal abbreviation. A similar wrote the excerpt from Pliny on f. 16r-v. The text on f.2r was written by a continental (french?) hand in s.IX2. On the Anglo-Saxon hand on f.1 see the article by T.A.M. Bishop, who identified it in three other Cambridge manuscripts coming from the library of St. Augustine's: Trinity College B.11.2 - James 241 (Amalarius), O.2.30 - James 1134 (Regula S. Benedicti), and O.4.10 - James 1241 (Juvenalis and Persius).

The text of the poem was corrected by two hands. The first labeled H2 by Buescu and dated by him to s.X, belong to a scholar who corrected by deleting false readings and adding his correction over or above the line. Comparing these corrections with the other witnesses, Buescu concluded that this editor did not collate the readings with a second manuscript. The second hand labeled H3 made correction after h - the exemplar for the other manuscripts of the branch - was copied from our manuscript. Marginal annotation on f.17v-20r by a later (s. XV?) hand copying the rubricated title, showing that the Capitalis rustica written in scriptio continua was at the time causing difficulties for the readers.

Binding: Seventeen-century binding in green leather with blind tooling.

History: The manuscript seems to be the product of several writing phases: 1) the poem with illustrations written by the two hands (s.IX2/4 according to Bischoff); 2) the additional astronomical texts after the poem and by a different by contemporary hand the Christian introduction to the myths on f.2r (s. IX2); 3) the Pliny's excerpt on the margin of ff.16r-v is another later (s.X?) addition; and finally 4) the substitution for the missing first folium was added in England around the year 1000.Bischoff and Borst place the origin of the manuscript in Lorraine (Borst pointing also Fleury as a possibility); based on iconography features Mütherich (1990) and Blume (Sternbilder des Mittelalters, p. 323) supposed it was a product of the court scriptorium ofLouis the Pious. Van de Vyver suggested that it was Abbo of Fleury who brought the manuscript to England. Due to lack of evidence this remains a hypothesis. Before it left the continent in the second half of the ninth century, whether in Fleury or elsewhere a scribe added the astronomical texts after the poem and the pro-christian opening at the front. — Many scholars placed the manuscript in Fleury in the tenth century, whereHarley 2506 was most probably produced. Soubiran (p.130-32), however, demonstrated that the latter manusript is not a direct copy of Harley 647, hence there is no prove for a Fleury provenance. Similarly hypothetical remains the suggestion that the mansucript was the possession of Lupus of Ferrières. The later additions of f.1 and the text added to the planisphere on f.21v prove that the manuscript was in England around the year 1000. Ins. XII1 the manuscript was at Peterborough, where it served as an exemplar for London, BL, MS Cotton Tib. C. I. By thelate 15th century the manuscript was at the Benedictine abbey of St Augustine, Canterbury as it was included in the catalogue (see Medieval Libraries of Great Britain: A List of Surviving Books, ed. by N. R. Ker, London: Royal Historical Society, 1964, p. 44). It belonged further toFrancis Babington (academic administrator at the University of Oxford, d. 1569): see inscription on f. 2v "Francis Babyngton". The manuscript became part of the collection owned byRober Harley (d. 1724), later by his daughter, the duchess of Portland, who sold it to the British nation.

Selected Bibliography:Sternbilder des Mittelalters, pp. 321-26. — Munk Olsen, Catalogue 1, p. 333. — Leonardi, pp. 72-73. — Bischoff, Bernhard. Manuscripts and Libraries in the Age of Charlemagne. Translated by Michael Gorman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 87. — Vyver, André van de. “Les oeuvres inédites d’Abbon de Fleury.” Revue Bénédictine 47 (1935): 125–69. — Helmut Gneuss,Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts: A List of Manuscripts and Manuscript Fragments Written or Owned in England up to 1100. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2001, no. 423. — B. Bischoff in Karl der Grosse: Werk und Wirkung, ed. by W. Braunfels Aachen, 1965, p. 307 — Medieval Libraries of Great Britain: A List of Surviving Books, ed. by N. R. Ker, 2nd edn, Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks, 3 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1964), p. 44. — Buescu (1942), esp. 138-151. — Dekker esp. pp. 145-148. — Euw, Anton von. “Astronomie und Zeitrechnung im Karolingerreich.” InMittelalterliche Handschriften der Kölner Dombibliothek. Erste Symposion der Diözesan- Und Dombibliothek Köln zu den Dom-Manusckripten, ed. by Heinz Finger, pp. 21–64. Köln: Ezbischöfliche Diözesan- und Dombibliothek, 2005. — Kauffmann, Georg.De Hygini memoria scholiis in Ciceronis Aratum Harleianis servata. Breslau, 1888. — Köhler, Wilhelm, and Florentine Mütherich.Die karolingischen Miniaturen. Die Hofschule Kaiser Lothars. Einzelhandschriften aus Lotharingien. Berlin: Deutscher Verlag für Kunstwissenschaft, 1971, pp. 77-79. — Soubiran (1972), pp. 106-109. — Montgomery, Scott L. Science in Translation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. — Mostert (1989). — Mütherich, Florentine. “Book Illumination at the Court of Louis the Pious.” In Charlemagne’s Heir. New Perspectives on the Reign of Louis the Pious (814-840), edited by Peter Godman, 593–604. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990, pp.597-600. — Ottley, William Y. On a Ms. of Cicero’s Translation of Aratus Believed to Be from the Second or Third Century. London, 1835. — Reeve, Michael D. “Some Astronomical Manuscripts.” Classical Quarterly, 1980, 508–22. — Saxl, Fritz, and Peter Georg Hans Meier. Verzeichnis astrologischer und mythologischer illustrierter Handschriften des lateinischen Mittelalters. Vol 3: Handschriften in englischen Bibliotheken. Edited by Harry Bober. London: Warburg institute, 1953. — T. A. M. Bishop. “Notes on Cambridge Manuscripts. Part II.” Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 2, no. 2 (1955): 185–99. — Thiele, Georg. Antike Himmelsbilder: mit Forschungen zu Hipparchos, Aratos und seinen Fortsetzern und Beiträgen zur Kunstgeschichte des Sternhimmels. Berlin: Weidmann, 1898. — Vogels, J.Scholia in Ciceronis Aratea aliaque ad astronomiam pertinentia e codice Musei Britannici Harleiano 647. Wissenschaftliche Beilage zum Programm des Gymnasiums zu Crefeld, Ostern 1884. Pt. 1. Crefeld, 1884.

1r-2r De duodecim signis Octauam nominauerunt scorpionem, quia scorpius arcuatam habet caudam et uariatam … — … sed Christus Dominus saluator mundi euertit. The first folio is a later (s. Xex/s. XI?) substitution. The original first folio was lost (see history).

2r Prayer Domine Deus omnipotens sancta trinitas … — … In unitate eiusdem spiritus sancti per omnia secula seculorum AMEN.

2r On the creation of the luminaries according to the bible "Sancta scriptura nobis a deo per beatum moysen tradita docet[…] in quarto die luminaria duo solem uidelicet lunamque per uerbum sicut omnia creauit fecisse luminare maius ut preesset et diei et luminare minus nocti ut preesset nocti."

2v-17v Cicero: Aratea Ex opere Ciceronis de astronomia E quibus hinc subter possis cognoscere fultum … — … Hanc autem totam properant depellere pisces. The text is lacking vv. 55-71 (section on Equus and Capricornus) and vv. 341-371 in the two missing folios after f. 5 and 15 (see condition). The scribe left the lower half of f. 15 blank finishing the section on the zodiac. This suggest that on the next page there was a drawing thereof, later cut out. This would explain why there are only 30 verses missing, probably occupying once the verso of the folium.

22 drawings of the constellations in colours, filled with text from the scholia within the shapes (scholia figurata). For description see Sternbilder des Mittelalters, pp. 325-26 and K. Lippincott's description in the Saxl Project.

16r-v Excerpt from Pliny 's Naturalis historia, Lib. XVIII, 80-89 (§§ 351-365) placed in the margin of the Aratea […] splendidum articuli temporum quos proposuimus autumnum serenum … — … relinquentia diras tempestates praenuntiant. The excerpt began probably on the now lost folium preceding f. 16 with chapters 78-80 (§§ 340-351).

17v-18r Excerpt from Libri computi, Lib. VI, 4 Ambrosii Macrobii Theodosii de mensura et magnitudine terrae et circuli per quem solis iter est In omni orbe uel sphera medietas centrum uocatur … — … et insuper centum septuaginta milia.

18r Excerpt from Libri computi, Lib. VI, 5 Item eiusdem de mensura et magnitudine solis His dictis quibus mensura quam terrae uel ambitus … — … Ergo ex his dicendum solem octies terra esse maiorem.

18r Excerpt from Libri computi, Lib. VI, 6 Felicis Capellae de mensura lunae Luna item circuli sui sex centesimam optinet portionem … — … circulum centies maiorem esse tellure.

18r Excerpt from Libri computi, Lib. VI, 7 Eiusdem argumentum quo magnitudo terrae depraehensa est Erathostenes philosophus idemque geometra subtilissimus … — … humanę coniecturae dimensionem admittit.

18v De positione et cursu septem planetarum (Excerpt from Libri computi, Lib. V, 3) De positione et cursu septem planetarum Inter caelum et terram certis discreta spatiis septem sidera pendent … — … cum tardissime a trigesima luce ad easdem uices exit.

18v De intervallis earum (Excerpt from Libri computi, Lib. V, 4) De intervallis earum Interualla eorum a terra multi indagare temptarunt … — … ita septem tonis effici quam diapason armoniam uocant. On f.19r a diagram of planetary intervals (Eastwood, Diagrams, p. 26).

19r-v De absidibus earum (Excerpt from Libri computi, Lib. V, 5) De absidibus earum Tres autem quas supra solem diximus sitas occultantur … — … sicut in rotis radios ut subiecta figura demonstrat. No accompanying drawing.

19v-20r De cursu earum per zodiacum circulum (Excerpt from Libri computi, Lib. V, 6) De cursu earum per zodiacum circulum Cur autem magnitudines suas et colores mutent … — … sidera martis maxime inobseruabilis est cursus.

20r Excerpt from Libri computi, Lib. V, 11 Dimensio celestium spaciorum secundum quosdam A terra ad lunam tonum esse adnuntiant quod C¯X¯X¯V¯ stadiorum … — … sunt in summa quę continentur in his septem tonis stadia DCCCLXXV. Id est miliaria C¯V¯I¯I¯I¯I¯ et CCCLXXV.

20r Macrobius. Excerpt fromCommentarium in Ciceronis somnium Scipionis, Lib. II, 11, 5-17. De mundano anno qui quindecim milibus solarium conficitur annorum Tullii Ciceronis somnium scipionis dictantis et Macrobii idem exponentis ac Senecae philosophorum auctoritas Annus non is solus quem nunc communis omnium usus apellat … — … septuaginta tres quisquis in digitos mittit inueniet.

20v-21r blank.

21v Drawing of a planisphere of the norther and souther hemispheres. The names of the constellations were added later (s. XI?) by a certain Gervvigus:"Ista propria sudore nomina unoquoque propria ego indignus sacerdos et monachus nomine Gervvigus repperi ac scripsi. Pax legentibus".

Abreviated Literature:

Buescu (1942)Buescu, Victor. “La tradition manuscrite des Aratea de Cicéron; Nouvelles découvertes.” In Problèmes de critique et d’histoire textuelle, 133–209. Bucharest and Paris, 1942.
DekkerDekker, Elly. Illustrating the Phaenomena: Celestial Cartography in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Oxford: OUP, 2012.
Eastwood, DiagramsEastwood, Bruce Stansfield, and Gerd Grasshoff. Planetary Diagrams for Roman Astronomy in Medieval Europe: Ca. 800 - 1500. Vol. 94,3. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. Philadelphia, Pa., 2004.
LeonardiLeonardi, Claudio. "I codici di Marziano Capella," Aevum 34 (1960): 1-99 and 411-524.
Mostert (1989)Mostert, Marco. The Library of Fleury. A Provisional List of Manuscripts. Hilversum: Verloren, 1989.
Munk Olsen, Catalogue 1Munk Olsen, Birger. L’ étude Des Auteurs Classiques Latins Aux XIe et XIIe Siècles. Vol. I. Catalogue des manuscrits classiques latins copiés du IXe. au XIIe siècle: Apicius - Juvénal. Paris: CNRS, 1982.
Soubiran (1972)Marcus Tullius Cicero. Aratea. Fragments Poétiques. Edited by Jean Soubiran. Les belles lettres, 1972.
Sternbilder des MittelaltersBlume, Dieter, Mechthild Haffner, and Wolfgang Metzger. Sternbilder des Mittelalters: der gemalte Himmel zwischen Wissenschaft und Phantasie. Vol. I, 1: Text und Katalog der Handschriften. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2012.

(last change: 2018-06-01)
How to quote: Ivana Dobcheva, 'London, British Library, Harley MS 647 - Aratea Digital ' ( last update: 2018-06-01).