contributor.author: James W. Halporn

title.none: Gibson, The Bible in the Latin West

identifier.other: baj9928.9505.006 95.05.06

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: James W. Halporn, Indiana University/Harvard University

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1995

identifier.citation: Gibson, Margaret T. The Bible in the Latin West. Series: The Medieval Book, I. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993. $26.95. ISBN: ISBN 0-268-00693-8.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 95.05.06

Gibson, Margaret T. The Bible in the Latin West. Series: The Medieval Book, I. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993. $26.95. ISBN: ISBN 0-268-00693-8.

Reviewed by:

James W. Halporn
Indiana University/Harvard University

This volume, by the late Margaret T. Gibson, Senior Research Fellow (St. Peter's, Oxford), inaugurates a series concerned with the codicology of medieval texts. Gibson defines codicology as a consideration of the reasons for and process of changes in the physical appearance of manuscripts and early printed books over the course of a period from late antiquity to the sixteenth century. She suggests that provenance and the study of illustration also fall within the field of codicology.

Her survey of the Bible in the Latin West (though she speaks in her preface of the Latin Bible tout court, she includes in her discussions examples of vernacular texts in English and German as well) is both fascinating and idiosyncratic. It is clear, as we shall see later, that this volume did not receive the final editing that one is sure that Gibson would have wanted. In this respect, the American editors of this series have not served Gibson well. As a result, both in the descriptions of the plates, the choice of examples, and the entries in the brief glossary, we are often in the dark about the reasons that lay behind her decisions. There are some errors and corrections that I have listed at the end of this review. The greatest omission is that Gibson does not offer a major transcription of any of the plates. This would have been a great help in elucidating the structure of these texts and their presentation.

She takes as her beginning what she calls "the great senatorial libraries of the later fourth century [from which] none of these books has survived." Presumably she means that no Bibles have survived from Italy of this early period, but surely items like the Vercelli Gospels (Vercelli, Bib. cap. S.N., fourth century; CLA IV.467) which Lowe believed was written in Italy deserved to be mentioned. Admittedly, it is an Old Latin version, and Gibson decided to stick to what she terms "the 'straight' text of the Vulgate." As she herself indicates, Jerome's version did not come into general use until the sixth century at the earliest, but it is misleading to state that no earlier Bibles have survived.

The study begins with an important introduction, in which Gibson first discusses clearly and briefly the origins of Jerome's undertaking in translating the Old Testament, having at his disposal the Septuagint, the Hebrew, and what she calls the Vetus Latina Old Testament. There is, of course, no such Bible as the last, since the Old Latin existed in versions, not in a canonical and set text (see Augustine, De doct. christ. 2.16: "Qui enim scripturas ex hebraea in graecam verterunt, numerari possunt, latini autem interpretes nullo modo," cited by Gibson, p. 2, fn. 11). She quickly disentangles the problems of the New Testament, stating that Jerome translated from the Greek only the Gospels, using as his model for the rest some earlier Latin versions, and adumbrates the problems that arose from the prior use of these texts in liturgy. More importantly, looking at Jerome's prefaces, directed to what she calls "the Christian intelligentsia," she emphasizes the important fact that Jerome was as much an editor of his texts as a translator and adapter.

Gibson then divides her study into seven major sections (a division that is mirrored in the organization of the plates): A. Late Antiquity, B. The Carolingians, C. Vernacular Bibles, D. Monastic Bibles, E. The University Text, F. The New Literacy, G. The Bible in Print. The first section moves from the period of Justinian (mid fifth century) to Bede and Cuthbert (end of the seventh century). In dealing with pre-Carolingian MSS, Gibson either refers to them only by CLA number, without giving the relevant volume as well, or omits the CLA number, which can cause some problems for the reader who wants to check out the entries. She made an odd choice for her earliest plate in this group, a MS she calls the "Tours Pentateuch," which is generally known as the "Ashburnham Pentateuch."1 This book, according to many authorities may not even have been written in a senatorial setting in Italy (Gibson herself mentions North Africa or Spain as possible origins; Lowe does offer North Italy or Illyria as likely locations; Nordenfalk and Weitzmann also offer Spain or North Africa as possibilities).2 Gibson seems to have chosen the Ashburnham Pentateuch, as she indicates in her discussion of the Theodulf Bible (plate 6) because Theodulf, she suggests, may have brought the this late antique book to the Loire valley and adds that a comparison of the texts of the Pentateuch with that of Theodulf might be useful for a general study of his sources. A more suitable example here would be London, BL Harley 1775, a sixth century Italian codex containing the Gospels,3 a much more likely choice for the Italy of Justinian's time. The palaeography and contents of this plate are given short shrift: the latter is tucked away in the third paragraph of the description, and that the codex is written in uncial is never mentioned at all. Indeed, the only mention of a specific point in the text fails to inform the reader that it appears in the first of the two columns (in her general description of the physical characteristics of the codex, Gibson neglects this important fact as well, offering no measurement of the individual columns).

For her second plate, Gibson chose Oxford, Bodleian Laud Graec. 35 (CLA 2.251), the bilingual "Laudian Acts," rather than the usual choice, the Codex Bezae (Cambridge CUL Nn.II.41, CLA 2.140), because of the connection of this codex with Bede. Neither the Latin hand (what Lowe calls "b-uncial") nor the contents of the illustrated plate (Acts 9:24-27) are mentioned in the description.

Her discussion turns next to Cassiodorus, and offers a useful summary of his work, though it is unclear how she can interpret Inst. 1.11.3 (p. 36 Mynors) to mean that Cassiodorus specified that the Bible is "normally in nine volumes." What Cassiodorus actually says is "but now that we have collected the sacred documents, as given with the Lord's help in nine codices with the introductory writers and with almost all Latin commentators, let us see (with the Lord's aid) how holy law has been divided in three different ways by the different Fathers."

Bede follows next, and this brings up the coming of Cassiodorus' pandect (the "codex grandior") to England, which led to Ceolfrid's decision to make three copies of a pandect (not copies of the "codex grandior," as Gibson implies, because the copies are Vulgate Bibles, while Cassiodorus' pandect was an Old Latin translation ("in quo septuaginta interpretum translatio veteris Testamenti...continetur Inst. 1.14.2 (p. 40.8-9 Mynors). The surprise in the plates is that Gibson has chosen to offer not a page from the Amiatinus, already available in E.A. Lowe, English Uncial, Oxford, 1960, pls. VIII and IX and elsewhere or from London BL Add. 37777 + Add. 45025 (CLA 2.177), plate in Lowe, op. cit., pl. X, but rather the so called "Bankes Leaf" (London BL Loan 81, discovered in 1982 at Kingston Lacey, Dorset,4 which may be a witness to the third pandect, a facsimile of which was only available up to this time in a British Museum exhibition catalogue of 1991.

Gibson has offered in plate 4 a combination of two MSS: the Lindisfarne (CLA 2.187) and Stonyhurst (CLA 2.260) Gospels on the same page, so that one can see how the same text appears in a large liturgical book in Insular half-uncial and in a small book intended for personal use (Gibson unfortunately refers to it as a "minuscule pocket gospelbook," which could cause some confusion, since the hand is in the form of uncial such as is found in the capitula of the Amiatinus). She presents a careful summary of the fates of both manuscripts from the time of Cuthbert at the end of the seventh century to the sixteenth century, although she neglects to mention how the Lindisfarne Gospels came to Sir Robert Cotton in the seventeenth century.

Section B, the Carolingians, surveys Fulda, largely because it is an English foundation (the book is carefully oriented to English MSS and English contributions to medieval Biblical studies). It turns then to the use of canon tables (much earlier in fact than the Carolingian period), Theodulf of Orleans, Alcuin, and Rabanus Maurus. Since Gibson gives no dates for these scholars, and the order in which they are presented might lead a reader to believe that Theodulf was older than Alcuin; even worse, that the twelfth century codex (plate 8) of the Biblical commentary of Rabanus was contemporary with him.

The first plate of this group shows a canon table. Gibson offers a useful description of how these tables operate using as her example a modest MS (London BL Harley 2795, a French MS of the first third of the ninth century).

Plate 6 shows a page from a Theodulf Bible (London BL Add. 24142 of the same period as the previous MS, also from France). The manuscript is incorrectly described: it lacks Hosea 6:8-Malachi and in the New Testament, Acts and Apocalypse. The page shown contains some of the "tituli" to III Reges and the text offers III Reg. 1:1-37. Although Gibson seems to suggest that Theodulf used the Cassiodorian word "breves" for the "tituli" that precede the historical books, clearly on the plate we can read in a capital script "Expl(iciu)nt Tituli." The discussion of the system of reference in the Epistles of Paul would have been useful had the plate exhibited a text from one of them, but here it seems out of place, as does the mention of Fulda Landesbibliothek Bonifatianus 1. Much more to the point would have been a discussion of the use of small uncial (i.e. capital) letters in the text to separate sentences, and some observations about the careful punctuation as well. The size and organization of the codex suggests that it was a volume useful for study.

Plate 7, London BL Harley 2805, from the early years of the ninth century, is a fine example of part of a two volume pandect, containing much of the Old Testament. Written in a careful Carolingian script, it would have been useful as a reference Bible in a monastery. Gibson suggests that it might have been produced for a community that possessed only one Bible. What is especially interesting about the page reproduced (fol. 30) is that it clearly shows a careful repair made to the second column in the eleventh century. Later marginalia and other additions show that the book was still in use in the fifteenth century, some six hundred years after its production.

Plate 8, the commentary on Joshua of Rabanus (London BL Add. 38697) comes from the Cistercian abbey of Pontigny in Auxerre. Gibson, who did major work on medieval Biblical commentaries,5 presents a clear summary of the current locations of the Pontigny MSS of this commentary, and tells us something of the value and importance of Rabanus' undertaking. Some discussion of the special Cistercian script would have been welcome.

The third section deals with vernacular Bibles, interlinear scholia, and Christian epic. The point that early societies in the barbarian West had oral traditions which could adopt the epic qualities of the Bible, leads Gibson to cite a passage from Caedmon. It remains a mystery why she offers us the text in Old English, since the original text is of no relevance to her argument. The plates to this section include a page (plate 9) from Otfrid of Weissenburg, Evangelienbuch, written in German verse set out with central diaeresis and with the even lines indented two letters (like Latin elegiacs), with Latin headings to the sections and a Latin argument to the passages in the left margin. The same kind of Carolingian script is used both for the Latin and German. Stress marks which are a feature of the German suggest that the text was intended for recitation. Plate 10 offers the Old English translation of Deuteronomy 32:34-47 in the eleventh century illustrated Anglo Saxon Hexateuch (London BL Cotton Claudius B.IV). Plate 11 is of a Psalter with Latin and Old English texts in an unusual format, for the book is both tall and narrow. The picture shows Psalms 2:1-3:4 with the Latin in the place of honor (to the left of the Old English). In addition to Latin Psalm headings preceded by longer Old English summaries, there are small outline illustrations inserted at the proper points of the text. The last plate of this group (12) offers the Canticum Canticorum with the German commentary of Williram of Ebersberg. The page shows the opening of the book, with decorated initials for each of the three columns: to the left a commentary on the text in Latin leonine hexameters, to the right a German translation and commentary.

Section D, on monastic Bibles, considers the revival in the eleventh century of the large pandect Bible in two volumes, but focuses on the developments in glossed Bibles, the Glossa Ordinaria in nine or ten volumes, and the attempts at a study of the literal meaning of Scripture, as in the Postillae litterales of Nicholas of Lyra. Plate 13 offers a page of the magnificent Stavelot Bible (London BL Add. 28106/7) of 1097, written, painted, and bound by Goderann and Ernesto, monks of Stavelot. The text shown is the opening of the Gospel of Luke (1:1-29) in a careful late Carolingian script, preceded by a capitular list in a smaller minuscule. The explicit to the capitula are in capitalis, the incipit of the Gospel proper in square capitals, and the opening words of the Gospel (Quoniam quidem) in uncial, a hierarchy of scripts known since the time of the early Carolingian Bibles of Alcuin (though in them the prefatory material is written in half-uncial).6 Plate 14 (Oxford Bodleian Auct. D.1.13) offers the opening of the Pauline Epistles (Romans 1:1-9) with the Glossa ordinaria, an extraordinary product of mid-twelfth century scriptorium, including a large historiated initial P with scenes from the life of St. Paul, and marginal and interlinear glosses. Gibson's discussion is not entirely clear, especially in her treatment of the interlinear gloss. The marginal gloss shows the abbreviation of the commentator St. Ambrose as A(M)BR, not as AMBR as she indicates. But it is helpful that she mentions the use of paraph marks with various numbers of horizontal strokes which serve to identify the commentator. Plate 15 is from Oxford Bodleian Bodley 251 of the last quarter of the fourteenth century, showing the commentary of Nicholas of Lyra on Ruth 1:6ff. Especially noteworthy here is that the Biblical lemmata are embedded in the text of the commentary which necessitates using underlining in red ink to separate them from the commentary itself. Plate 16 is a printed book (Pagianinus de Pagninis, Venice 1495), exhibiting the Biblical text of much the same passage of Ruth as in the previous plate (actually Ruth 1:11-2:5), this time surrounded by the Glossa ordinaria and the commentary of Nicholas. This book maintains many of the conventions of the manuscripts, and is a fine example of the art of typography in the incunable period.

Section E deals with the use of books in the teaching and lecturing on the Bible in the late medieval university. Peter Lombard, the Dominican and Franciscan friars, the Paris Bibles, and a bilingual Hebrew-Latin MS of the Old Testament are treated here. The plates offer Peter Lombard Magna Glosatura on the Pauline Epistles (Oxford Bodleian Bodley 725 of the end of the twelfth century), Stephen Langton's Commentary on Ruth (Oxford Bodleian Rawl. C.427 of the last quarter of the thirteenth century), a Paris Bible of the thirteenth century (Princeton UL Scheide 7), and a mid-twelfth century Hebrew-Latin Psalter (Leiden Bibl. der Rijksuniv. Scaliger Hebr. 8). Gibson notes that the illumination used here to separate the Hebrew Psalms is entirely Western in style, and may at some point help in locating the scriptorium in which it was written. This Psalter contains in the inside margin a line-by-line Latin translation, while the outer margin contains a yet unidentified spiritual commentary, though neither translation or commentary continues to the end of the Psalms.

Section F, entitled "The New Literacy," considers Bibles in French and English, the more common Books of Hours, and a block book Apocalypse from Germany. The Book of Hours is a fairly simple one (Notre Dame UL 4 of the third quarter of the fifteenth century), and set out here are folios 135v-137 showing Ps. 31:1-5 with an illustration of the penitent David praying to God.8 Gibson's discussion of the fifteenth century block book is exemplary, and raises several important and as yet unanswered questions about the audience and intention of these texts and illustrations.

The final section, G, deals with the printed book, beginning with a Gutenberg Bible (1453/55, a copy in the Bodleian, Oxford Bodl. Arch. B.b.11, vol. II), exhibiting the text of Luke 1:1 with prefatory material. As Gibson indicates there are still questions to be answered about the place of this text and layout in the late medieval period. This is followed by three sixteenth century books (which seems to stretch the medieval period further than many would accept): John Colet's printing of Erasmus' translation of Luke and John, parallel to the Vulgate, the Complutensian Polyglot in a copy from Princeton (Princeton UL Sheide 8.2.9), containing the Old Testament (shown here is Exodus 31:14-32:4) in its columns from left to right the Septuagint text with an interlinear Latin translation, the Vulgate, the Hebrew, and Hebrew roots; below the Aramaic version with a Latin translation and the Aramaic roots in the margin. Gibson rightly describes this as a "typographical tour de force." The final plate shows a page from Luther's translation of the New Testament from the Greek, published in 1522.

The book concludes with a glossary of terms, some odd in a work of this sort (e.g., a definition of Adoptionism), some careless (e.g. the definition of ductus refers us to that of James John in another volume, which is so brief that she could have quoted it directly), some vague (e.g. Hexapla, and Rustic Capitals), and one incorrect (Jerome's earliest revision of the Psalter was not the Romanum, but the Gallicanum). There are several indices (names and persons, manuscripts by name and by location, printed book locations).

My negative observations and comments above should not be taken to detract the immense value and usefulness of this study. The major regret is that Gibson decided that the scripts and all that is related to them belonged to the separate discipline of palaeography and did not constitute part of the physical description of the books. Nevertheless, she went beyond the mere physical characteristics of the books to discuss their vicissitudes, which is a most welcome addition. There is much to be learned by contemplation and reading of these plates carefully, and in tracking down the excellent references that Gibson gives for her introductory discussions.

Some addenda and corrigenda:

The reference to Fischer, Lateinische Bibelhandschriften on page ix should be corrected. It is not Vetus Latina 11, but Vetus Latina: Aus der Geschichte der lateinischen Bibel, 11, that is, to the supplement volume.

In her preface Gibson seems to indicate that the stages in the history of the book ("habent sua fata libelli") will end up with the book in the Bodleian. Obviously at some point she drew her examples entirely from this library. The final volume includes items from British, American, and Continental libraries.

In the transcription give for plate 12, there are several minor errors: In line 17 f.t., for "OLEVM" read "OLEUM." In the next-to-last line of the German transcription read "gemisket" for "gemischet"; in the last line, for "machst" read "machost." There are also some errors in the renderings of the diacritics.

Plate 14: Gibson in her discussion refers to J. J. G. Alexander, The Decorated Letter, NY 1978, but neither the scribes nor this MS are mentioned in that book.

1 Why she has chosen this name is unclear. At first glance, one might assume that she wants to connect this MS with the work of Alcuin on the Bible, yet she cites B. Fischer, who specifically denies that Alcuin used the volume in preparation of his Bible (Lateinische Bibelhandschriften im frühen Mittelalter, Freiburg, 1985, 355). Or perhaps she does not want to memorialize in the name its unsavory origins. She does mention how Ashburnham purchased the book from the notorious thief, Libri, who had stolen it from Tours, and how Delisle had it returned to France. She sets this return to 1885: both Lowe (CLA 5.693b) and Hall (A Companion to Classical Texts, Oxford, 1913, 324) set the date as 1888.
2 K. Weitzmann, Late Antique and Early Christian Book Illumination, NY 1977, 23-24, 118 and 121; A. Grabar and C. Nordenfalk, Early Medieval Painting, Lausanne, 1957, 101ff.
3 See CLA 2.197 and Michelle P. Brown, A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600, Toronto, 1990, 24 with plate 5.
4 B. Bischoff and V. Brown, "Addenda to Codices Latini Antiquiores," Medieval Studies 47 (1985): 351f.
5 Preface, "The Glossed Bible," to the reprint of the Glossa ordinaria, Turnhout, 1992, VII-XI, inter alia.
6 See F. Steffens, Lateinische Paläaographie, Berlin: 1929, pls. 46 and 47 [Zurich C1].
7 It would have been helpful had Gibson indicated in footnote 3 that the text "Videns e(rgo) Noemi" appears in column 1, line 27 of the Biblical text.
8 This illustration is common as an introduction to the penitential psalms. For other examples see J.J.G. Alexander, Medieval Illuminators and their Methods of Work, New Haven, 1992, 130-131 and pls. 222-223.
9 It is to be hoped is that future volumes in this series will take into account the ideas and methodology suggested by such essays as that of J.F. Gumbert, "'Typography' in the Manuscript Book," Journal of the Printing Historical Society 22 (1993): 5-28.