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struction of so many valuable memorials of the classical ages, it still remains to be considered, how it comes to pass, that of the authors, who have survived the general wreck, so few manuscripts are extant of considerable antiquity. With a few exceptions, they are rarely to be found of a date so remote as the ninth century. Besides the circumstances which have been already noticed, another remains to be mentioned, which has perhaps wrought a more extensive destruction than the bigotry of the Byzantine priests, or the hostility of the popes.
The monks in the middle ages were the only transcribers of ancient books. They had plenty of leisure for the employment, and the Calligraphi, or those who by practice had acquired a beautiful style ofpenmanship, were handsomely paid for their labour. When, from the causes above stated, the poets and philosophers of the classical ages fell into disesteem, the manuscript copies of their works which existed in conventual libraries became of little value to their ignorant possessors, who were called upon to transcribe fifty copies of Gregory Nazianzen or of Sedulius, to one of Euripides or Virgil. The natural consequence was, that as parchment was an expensive article, they bethought themselves of turning to some account the manuscripts of ancient authors, which only loaded their shelves, and brought them no profit. Accordingly they devised two methods of obliterating the ancient writing, in order that the parchment might be fitted to receive the works of some writers more in request. They either effaced it by means of some chemical preparation, applied with a sponge; or they erased it with a sharp instrument. This last method could be adopted only when the parchment was of considerable thickness. We may here remark, for the benefit of those of our readers who have never studied palæography, that the ancient MSS. are written on parchment, (membranacei,) on a soft paper made from silk, (bombycini,) or on paper made from rags, (chartacei.) The parchment MSS. are either purple, or of the natural colour of the material, which is either thick or thin; and they generally are more ancient than the paper copies, of which the chartacei are the most recent. Many, indeed most of the old codices membranacei which we have seen, are of thick parchment. Yet it appears that in the time of Chrysostom the thinness of the material enhanced the value of the copy; for he talks of the care which was had περὶ τὴν τῶν ὑμένων λεπτότητα καὶ Tò twv ypaμμázwv. Of this sort is the Clermont MS. of the New Testament, described by Wetstein (Prolegom. in N. T. p. 27.)
Manuscripts, which had been submitted to the operations above mentioned, are called Codices palimpsesti, or rescripti. The Clermont MS. is of this sort, having been originally a copy of the
* The practice is as old as the time of Catullus.
works, or of some portion of the works of a Greek tragedian; and some fragments of a chorus and of some iambic verses were traced by Wetstein through the more modern writing. He supposes that Sophocles was the author. We think that some reasons might be stated for assigning it to Euripides. Professor Knittel discovered in the Wolfenbuttel Library a palimpsestus of the N. T. in which some of Galen's works had been written, in capital letters; a sure proof of great antiquity. Many other instances are given by Montfaucon in his 'Palæographia,' and in his 'Diarium Italicum.'
It is obvious, therefore, that no inconsiderable part of the havoc, which has been made in the writings of antiquity, must be attributed to the mercenary ignorance of transcribers. We have now positive proof, that some portion of the Greek drama, many orations of Cicero, and some plays of Plautus, have been thus lost to the world; and we may reasonably conclude, that the mischief done in this way was far more extensive than we have now any means of ascertaining.
We have thought it not unadviseable to prepare the way, by the foregoing observations, for our notice of the interesting discoveries recently made by Mr. Angiolo Mai, Professor of the oriental languages in the Ambrosian Library at Milan; who has detected in that collection several of these re-written manuscripts, from which he has, with considerable difficulty and labour, extracted the fragments, of which the titles stand at the head of this article.
The history of these MSS. is somewhat curious. The following account is extracted from a Dissertation of Mr. Mai. In the year 612, Columbanus founded a convent of Benedictines at Bobbio, anciently Bobium, a town situated amongst the northernmost Ap pennines. This religious society, as Tiraboschi informs us, was remarkable not only for the sanctity of its manners, but for the cultivation of literature, of course it possessed a considerable collection of manuscripts; and Muratori has published a catalogue of that collection, written in the tenth century, in which are the names of several grammarians, historians, orators, and poets. The Ambrosian Library, being founded at the beginning of the seventeenth century by the Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, was enriched by him with a great number of manuscripts, collected at a vast expense from various quarters, especially from Thessaly, Chios, Corcyra, and Magna Græcia.* In addition to these, he gained possession, by means of large presents, of the most valuable books of the Bobian collection, which are still distinguished in the Ambrosian Library by the title of Codices Bobiani. It is obvious, that amongst these, all which are mentioned in the catalogue published by Muratori, must be of very considerable antiquity; and those
Montfaucon. Diarium Ital.-p. 11.
which are palimpsesti must be of great antiquity; because they were obsolete and disused at the time of their being re-written; which must have been before the tenth century. The account which Mr. Mai gives us of his first discovery of a palimpsestus, is so truly in the style of a virtuoso, that we must give it in his own words:
Amongst the Bobian MSS. I found one, which contains the works of the Christian poet Sedulius; and while I was examining it very closely; "O immortal God." on a sudden I exclaimed, "what is it that I see? Behold Cicero! behold the light of Roman eloquence buried in unmerited obscurity! I recognise the lost orations of Tully, I perceive his eloquence flowing with godlike force from these fountains, abounding with sonorous words and noble sentiments." By degrees the titles also of the works disclosed themselves in the margin of the MS. Judge with what rapture I was filled, when I detected large unpublished fragments of three orations of Cicero, to wit, pro Scauro, pro Tullio, and pra Flacco. They are written in large and beautiful characters, each page being divided into three columns. The oration pro Scauro is surrounded with elegant scholia, of which some are written in very ancient, though minute, capital letters; others in a ruder hand, but still ancient, and, as it appears, from the same author. The writer of these scholia I suspect to have been Asconius Pædianus. For the style and complexion, and kind of writing, seem to point him out. The MS. is in octavo, because the monkish transcribers of Sedulius doubled the quarto leaves. The character of the Sedulius is of a very ancient form, but very different from that of the Cicero. It is the opinion of several antiquaries, that the former may be referred to the eighth century of the Christian era, and the latter to the second or third. The four books of Sedulius are mentioned in the ancient catalogue published by Muratori, and this Codex continues them, though in a mutilated state.'
Mr. Mai describes the great labour and difficulty of following the almost evanescent traces of the old writing, and of putting into their proper order the leaves which had been transposed by the copyist. In the editions of the Roman orator we have only a few short fragments of the oration pro Scauro. Mr. Mai has extracted a part of the exordium, the division of the subject, and two sections of the speech. These, together with the scholia, and the remarks of the editor, fill about seventeen pages. The following passages are very spirited, and are good specimens of that impetuous expression of contempt which Cicero often employed with so striking an effect:
Quæ potest eloquentia disputando ignoti bominis impudentiam confutare? Non agam igitur cum ista Sardorum conspiratione, et cum expresso et coacto sollicitatoque perjurio, subtiliter, nec acu quædam enucleata argumenta conquiram; sed contra impetum istum illorum impetu ego nostra concurram atque confligam. Non est unus quisque mihi ex illorum acie protrahendus, neque cum singulis decertandum atque pugnandum. Tota est acies illa uno impetu prosternenda.-p. 3.
• Venio nunc ad testes; in quibus docebo non modo nullam fidem et auctoritatem, sed ne speciem quidem esse aut imaginem testium.~ Etenim fidem primum ipsa tollit consensio, quæ late facta est compromisso Sardorum et conjuratione rogitata. Deinde illa cupiditas quæ suscepta est spe et promissione præmiorum. Postremo ipsa Natio, cujus tanta vanitas est, ut libertatem a servitute nulla re alia, nisi mentiendi licentia distinguendam putet. Neque ego Sardorum querellis moveri nos nunquam oportere aio. Non sum aut tam inhumanus, aut tam alienus a Sardis, præsertim cum frater meus nuper ab his decesserit, cum rei frumentaria Cn. Pompeii missu præfuisset. Qui et ipse illis pro sua fide et humanitate consuluit, et eis vicissim percarus et jucundus fuit. Pateat vero hoc perfugium dolori, pateat justis querellis: conjuratio vi intercludatur, obsidietur insidiis. Neque hoc in Sardis magis quam in Gallis, in Afris, in Hispanis. Damnatus est L. Albucius, et C. Megaboccus ex Sardinia, nonnullis etiam laudantibus Sardis. Ita fidem majorem varietas ipsa faciebat. Testibus enim æquis, tabulis incorruptis tenebantur. Nunc est una vox, una mens non expressa dolore sed simulata, neque hujus injuriis, sed promissis aliorum et premiis excitata. At creditum est aliquando Sardis; et fortasse credetur aliquando; si integri venerint, si incorrupti, si sua sponte, si non alicujus impulsu, si soluti, si liberi. Quæ si erunt, tamen sibi credi gaudeant et mirentur. Cum vero omnia absint, tamen se non respicient, non gentis suæ famam perhorrescent ?'-p. 11.
Mr. Mai detected also, in another of the Bobian MSS. which contained the acts of the council of Chalcedon in Latin, some short unpublished fragments of three other orations of Cicero, viz. in P. Clodium et Curionem, de ære alieno Milonis, et de rege Alexandrino, with ancient commentaries upon them, and upon the orations pro Archia, pro Sylla, pro Planco, in Vatinium. It not having been known before, that Cicero had ever composed an oration de ære alieno Milonis, the learned editor exclaims with pardonable, but perhaps ludicrous enthusiasm, that this one discovery affords a sufficient ground for extolling the singular felicity of our age. The author of the commentary he supposes to be Asconius Pædianus. But there are some expressions scattered here and there, which seem to bespeak the Latinity of an age more recent than that of Asconius.
From the same palimpsestus are published parts of eight speeches of Q. Aurelius Symmachus, a Roman orator very celebrated in his day, but hitherto known to the moderns only by his Epistles. He is said by Macrobius to have been nullo veterum minor,' and is highly extolled for his eloquence by St. Ambrose,and by the Christian poet Prudentius. These fragments of his panegyrical orations, which seems to have been the only style of speaking much practised in the latter ages of the Roman empire, are considerable, and certainly curious. They manifest a luxuriant imagination and great command of words; but these are accompanied with the defects incidental to the state of literature and
liberty in which he lived, viz. a redundance of puerile conceits, and a tone of base and abject adulation. We think that it is easy to perceive in the orations of Symmachus the rudiments of the artificial and exaggerated eloquence of modern Italy.
Next in the list stand the works of M. Cornelius Fronto, tutor to the emperors M. Aurelius and L. Verus, extracted from the same copy of the acts of the council of Chalcedon. Of Fronto, who was a very celebrated author in his day, we had scarcely any thing before this discovery, which has brought to light ninety-six Latin Epistles to and from Fronto, two books de Orationibus,' fragments of some orations of his treatise ad M. Antonium de Bello Parthico,' of his Principia Historia,' of his 'Laudes Fumi et Pulveris,' and 'Laudes Negligentiæ,' and lastly, seven Epistles written in Greek. To these the editor has subjoined a collection of those Fragments of Fronto which are extant in more recent writers. Amongst the epistles are several from the Emperors Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, and Lucius Verus, which will be read with great interest, and which are highly honourable both to Fronto and to his royal pupils. Several fragments of ancient Latin poets, now lost, are interspersed.
At the end of the second volume, the editor has added the Exempla Elocutionum, which have been hitherto usually attributed to Arusianus Messus; but which, in a MS. of the Ambrosian Library, are ascribed to Cornelius Fronto. The MS. however, is very modern, and not one of the Codices Bobiani. Our opinion is, that it is not the work of Fronto. It is scarcely credible that a philosopher in the time of Antoninus Pius should have employ ed himself in noting down the common idioms of his native tongue, e. g. Plenus hac re. Virg. Georg. ii. 4. tuis hic omnia plena muneribus.' Post. interposita fit casus alterius. Id. vi. 409. Longo post tempore venit.'
We come next to some fragments of Plautus, and some commentaries on Terence. The former are taken from a palimpsestus which Mr. Mai considers to be as ancient as the time of the Antonines. It contains all the published comedies of Plautus, except the Amphitryo, Asinaria, Aulularia, and Curculio, but in a mutilated state; and, besides these, some fragments of the Vidularia, one of those plays which Varro considered to be the undoubted work of Plautus. The MS. from which the scholia on Terence and some pictorial illustrations are taken, is of the ninth century.
In the same volume, we have the complete oration of Isus, de hæreditate Cleonymi, of which before we possessed about onethird. This, however, is not taken from a palimpsestus, but from a MS. of the fourteenth century. And here we cannot refrain from expostulating with Mr. Mai, for indulging in that