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23.01.02 Casavecchia et al. (eds.), La Bibbia a Montecassino

23.01.02 Casavecchia et al. (eds.), La Bibbia a Montecassino

This co-authored book is a significant undertaking, which will be reviewed under three headings: the origin of the project and its collaborators; the contents of the study; and the merits of the presentation. A team of researchers working with the archivist of Montecassino, Dom Mariano Dell’Omo, began to inventory the extant Bibles at the Abbey in 2014. About the same time, Marilena Maniaci, one of the editors of the present work, co-authored with Patrick Andrist and Paul Canart (d. 2017) a groundbreaking study, La syntaxe du codex: Essai de codicologie structurale (2013), that offered a new method of codicology. The present book is a happy coming together of these two events. The editors are faculty members at the University of Cassino, who worked with a multidisciplinary team of seven other scholars responsible for the cataloguing. Ninety-four volumes with another fourteen fragmentary ones came under the purview of the group. A census of the workload, including complete and summary cataloguing (see below), shows the following: Leda Ruggiero (24), Angela Cipriani (21), Elisabetta Unfer Verre (18), Richard Gyug (14), Erica Orezzi (12), Laura Albiero (10), Roberta Casavecchia (7), and Mariano Dell’Omo (2). Leading the project were three members (Casavecchia, Maniaci, and Orofino) of the University of Cassino’s research program, LIBeR (Libro e Ricerca), which is part of the Department of Humane Letters and Philosophy.

The total number of catalogued books is ninety-five with eight additional books in fragments gathered in folders called compactiones. Breviaries, evangeliaries, and other lectionaries are excluded. The books catalogued here were lectern books for display or texts for communal reading or for study. The new method of codicology developed by Maniaci and her collaborators is a significant feature of this work. Central to the method is the care in reporting the discrete units of composition of a codex. In the cataloguing of any one bound work, discontinuities of production units are separately noted. The editors define “production units” in their description of a composite manuscript, which is one “composed of two or more production units, that is to say one made up of physically autonomous sections that were conceived of, and realized, with a given timeframe, with a specific objective in mind” (71). The point here is that a medieval codex may contain within it pieces of disparate codices capturing and reflecting different times and circumstances, which at some point are brought together in a meaningful way for use by a subsequent generation. The careful attention to composition units enlarges our understanding of the history and traditions of book production. The ninety-five bound codices contain 125 units.

A further distinction in the arrangement of the cataloguing is the full consideration of the thirty-nine books, which are “bare,” that is, which carry the words of Scripture without added comments. The other fifty-six glossed Bibles are catalogued in summary fashion compared to the detailed attention given to the bare Bibles. Eleven of the former and thirteen of the latter are composite books. Some of the books have paratexts (non-Biblical texts), all of which are fully described.

Montecassino’s history without interruption from the tenth-century restoration to the end of the Middle Ages, save for the devastating earthquake of 1349, gave a stability which accounts for the considerable number of Bibles, which would have been even greater if not for the raids by humanist book-hunters of the fifteenth century. As the editors point out, the Bible is an integral part of the daily practice of monastic life and so it is not surprising to find a sizable collection of manuscripts.

Of the 109 Bible manuscripts, there is an inner core of twenty-one mostly eleventh-century copies written in Beneventan minuscule. The twenty-one Bibles in Beneventan minuscule have twenty-seven units, twenty-three of which come from the eleventh century. This native collection of Bibles was supplemented over the centuries, beginning with the second half of the twelfth century. Non-Beneventan Bibles, written in Caroline minuscule and transitional scripts, are seventeen in number with twenty-four units. Two complete Bibles pre-date the thirteenth century. One of them is an Atlantic Bible (507x338 mm) from the second half of the eleventh century, which the authors associate with the Gregorian Reform. This is Casin. 515. It is comparable to the Bible of Santa Cecilia (Barb. Lat. 587). The other is a smaller (272x202 mm), Casin 557, third quarter of the twelfth century, initiated by the chief scribe, Ferro, in a transitional Caroline script. Later complete miniature Bibles were produced in the university milieu. All of the Bibles are of parchment except the fifteenth-century Casin. 797, which is a mix of parchment and paper. The parchment quaternions are ruled according to “Gregory’s rule” (hair side facing hair side and flesh side facing flesh side).

The editors give a good overview of the groupings of the books of the Bible. The earlier copies follow the needs of the liturgical year. The following Bible groupings are laid out in a table (#6), in both Italian and English, with corresponding shelfmarks: Octateuch; Prophets; Historical and Wisdom books; Pauline epistles; and Acts, Catholic epistles, and Revelation. In their description of the contents, the editors refer the readers to Virginia Brown’s essay in 2005 on the use of the Bible in the Beneventan area. Similarly, the examination of the decorative elements, especially of the earlier books, builds on the work of Giulia Orofino. They find a consistent use of a geometric repertoire ((compartments filled with intertwined zoomorphic and botanically inspired devices) in the eleventh century, which was transformed by the external transplants in the Desiderian era of the later part of the same century. The color plates (fifty-nine in number) help immensely in making the patterns and decorative schemes understandable.

The cataloguing protocol used for the thirty-eight bare Bibles is laid out in great detail over eleven pages in the introduction. Each catalogue entry has five sections, with the first section (physical layout, measurements, and annotations) divided into three blocks. Care is given to give a separate treatment to individual composition units. In summary, the cataloguing of each bare Bible has the following: shelfmark; brief description; overview of units and foliation, with dates, contents according to units, foliation/pagination, flyleaf annotations, binding history, ink and colors; individual unit descriptions with pricking and ruling; folio and written space measurements (using Muzerelle’s classifications); script; incipit; title page description with initials, capitals, titles, and rubrics; page numbers grouped by books of the Bible; decorative elements with initials, capitals, hierarchy of dimensions, colors, and illumination with gold leaf; dating; version of the Bible (Vetus Latina or vulgate); origin based on text, paratext, and decorations; and bibliography through 2019. For the fifty-six glossed Bibles, an inventorial protocol is observed, which draws from Mauro Inguanez’s three-volume catalogue (1915-1941) and includes an abbreviated analysis of writing support, number of leaves/pages, dimensions, layout, placement of glosses, decorations, and bibliography.

Special mention is in order for Richard Gyug’s description and cataloguing of the Bibles preserved in fragmentary form collected in folders calledcompactiones. Gyug describes fourteen fragmentary Bibles, one with 248 fragments and seven with a single leaf. Twelve are in Beneventan minuscule and two in textualis hand. His work with a Bible preserved in 248 fragments is a tour de force. This was an early eleventh-century Bible in Beneventan minuscule with remaining pieces from the prophets, the Pauline epistles, Hebrews, and Saint Jerome’s epistle 119. Gyug’s painstaking identification of the pieces recovered from binding materials, guard leaves and pastedowns are laid out in a table covering twelve pages.

The merits of this volume are numerous. All of the manuscript Bibles preserved at Montecassino are considered in their entirety for the first time, with an exhaustive cataloguing protocol for the bare Bibles, summary cataloguing for the glossed Bibles and photographic images for all of the Bibles. The cataloguers give careful attention to the units comprising each manuscript. An ample and informative introduction of eighty-one pages precedes the cataloguing, with a bird’s-eye view of the contents and structure of the Bibles laid out in tables given in both Italian and English. The editors have provided a thorough bibliography and an index of manuscripts cited within the work. In short, this is an important addition to the Brepols series, Bibliologia, which can stand as a valuable record of the Cassinese Bible collection and a most useful model for manuscript cataloguing.