Obrazy na stronie

rope, at the reformation. The huge volumes which contained the ancient services, and abounded in all the churches and monasteries, were destroyed without mercy, ardently and enthusiastically. Many of these had been brought directly from Rome, where a great manufactory of such works had always subsisted. In the days when these books were transcribed, it must have been considered an act of piety to erase almost any writings whatever, and to substitute these sacred offices. The very nature of these books, too, induces us to believe, that much ancient parchment must have entered into their formation. An immense volume was laid upon the lutrin,' or reading desk, in the middle of the choir, and the letters and musical notes, which accompanied the words, were of such an enormous magnitude, and so black, that they could be read by the canons, as they sat in their stalls, at as great a distance, and with as much ease, as an inscription on a monument. The letters in ancient manuscripts being of moderate dimensions, would therefore interfere but little, even if the erasure was imperfect, with the colossal characters that were placed over them. These ponderous volumes lay unmolested on the desk, or at the utmost were only carried to the adjoining sacristy, and were a part of the furniture, and almost of the fixtures, of the churches; they were exempt from injury and accident, and were frequently therefore of great antiquity, and had been constructed in very remote times, when manuscripts of value were plentiful.

The heart of the scholar who considers these things, must sink within him as he reads some of the enactments of statutes which enjoin the destruction of Popish books, and mourns over the chances of discovery, that we have lost by such indiscriminate destruction. But similar volumes still exist in many countries of Europe, and deserve to be investigated with critical scrutiny. It has been suggested, that it may perchance prove eventually, that we owe the preservation of many a classical work to the practice we are disposed to execrate, of erasing the ancient characters, and substituting newer compositions. In the dark ages of bigotry it is possible, that the productions of heathen writers might have been destroyed through intemperate zeal ; and it is at all events most probable that they would have been suffered to perish, because they were neither used, nor valued : But the parchment, being converted, or at least convertible, into breviaries and lives of the saints, and other similar works that were in vogue, was on that account alone carefully preserved. Many temples have in like manner been saved from ruin by having been consecrated as churches; and various works of art have been rescued from the hands of barbarians by being placed in them, and having as it were enjoyed the benefit of sanctuary. It is notorious, that an ancient and much-visited statue of bronze was preserved, by the conversion of Jupiter himself to Christianity; by taking the thunderbolt out of his hand and forging it into keys, and by baptizing the convert by the name of Peter. We shall have reason to rejoice in the protection that religion may thus have afforded to learning, if the industry and success of a new race of editors are equal to the anticipations which it is not unreasonable to form, on considering the evidence to which we have now been referring.


2 ¢

Before we terminate this branch of the subject, we will briefly enumerate some other additions, that Angelo Maio has made to our possessions; it is not pretended to give a full and exact catalogue, but merely a general summary, and principally in order to show how much may be done when a librarian can bring himself to believe, that he has other duties to perform besides locking up his books. Most of the publications we are about to mention are from manuscripts of the ordinary kind, but which had never before been published, and therefore ought properly to have been noticed where we spoke of the advantages which we may still hope to derive from the first source; but for the sake of convenience we name them here. He has published a splendid work containing 58 very ancient pictures, or illuminations, with the passages from the Iliad, which they illustrate; it is, however, chiefly attractive to the scholar from the long and interesting proemium, and a large collection of unpublished scholia on the Odyssey. Orations of Isæus, Themistius, Isocrates, and Symmachus; works of Porphyry, Philo, Eusebius, and others, have been either greatly augmented, or are entirely new, and have first appeared in consequence of his researches; besides many smaller, but curious fragments; and he has published, from Palimpsests, commentaries on Virgil and the Gothic Ulphilas. He has also made a valuable volume of unpublished fragments of the lost books of the Roman antiquities of Dionysius Halicarnassus : And, finally, he has published from a Palimpsest a fragment of a Jurisconsult, who is supposed to have lived before the days of Justinian, in company with some unpublished rhetorical and grammatical works; and more recently several other unpublished manuscripts consisting principally of ecclesiastical matters.

There is a pleasant vivacity, a certain ingenuous simplicity, and an absence of much that is offensive in affectation, in the Latinity of Angelo Maio, which would compensate for many more inaccuracies than the most fastidious critic can find in it. His style is somewhat ambitious; but that is a common vice in modern times. If we compare him with the few of the clergy of England, who descend into the arena of letters, his attainments will appear truly respectable, and will lead us to suspect, that education is on a better footing in Italy, and more efficient, as perhaps in truth it is in every country of Europe, than in Engsand. But it is time to hasten to the Institutions of Gaius: The learned editors, in seventy pages of prefatory matter, give an ample narrative of the discovery of this very extraordinary Palimpsest. We will abridge it so far as it is intelligible ; for a great desire to make every thing more than clear has induced some obscurity:-an error not uncommon with persons who use the same language with these very learned and most laborious editors.

It is generally known, that the library of the Chapter of Verona has long been famous for the number and excellence of the manuscripts which it contains; it is remarkably rich in those that relate to jurisprudence. The celebrated Scipio Maffei, in his work, entitled," Verona Illustrata,' which was published in the year 1732, gives an index of all the manuscripts, and speaks of one leaf of parchment, treating de Præscriptionibus et Interdictis,' and of two other leaves of parchment, briefly in these words: Piu carte lacere e sciolte d'antico majuscolo, una delle • quali par fosse d'un codice delle Pandette, ed altra d’un'opera • d'antico Giurisconsulto; quai codici, se si fossero conservati, • niente si ha in tal genere, che lor si potesse paragonare. These three leaves were afterwards bound in a small volume, that was composed of fragments of different manuscripts. The same Maffei, in his Istoria Teologica,' treats more fully of these fragments, and gives extracts from both the treatises, and also a fac-simile of the characters; a part of this specimen was republished in the Nouveau Traité de Diplomatique,' of which, however, with the common courtesy that the Germans use towards the French, the editors say minus accurate.' Of the many weaknesses we find in the Germans, perhaps the most striking is the opinion that seems to prevail throughout their land, that the quarrels of the Kings and Emperors of France, with the Kings and Emperors of Germany, are of sufficient importance to disturb the tranquillity of men of letters. These three leaves of parchment, as they well might be, were soon almost forgotten, even in Germany, where all out-of-the way things are remembered, and those matters only, which are obvious, are consigned to oblivion! The editors, however, phrase this differently. They were forgotten, say they very modestly, 'in Germania saltem,' as if it were certain that the British, the Laplanders, and the Turks, and all the people on the outskirts of Europe, could talk and think of nothing, day and night, but the three scraps of parchment at Verona; which, by some strange chance, were forgotten in the interior. In the year 1816, however, the illustrious Haubold revived the recollection of them, even in Germany, by printing at Leipsic a treatise, entitled, Notitia Fragmenti Veronensis de Interdictis. In the same year, Niebuhr, in passing through Verona on his way to Rome, charged to represent the successor of the great Frederic of Prussia at the court of the successor, as many will warmly maintain, of St Peter, visited the library of the Chapter. It seems probable, that the learned editors intended to have said, that his excellency was moved by the tract of Haubold, or, perhaps, was even induced, by his express instance, to examine these fragments; but if they meant to have said this, they have omitted to say it. It is related, however, that in the two days wbich Niebuhr passed in Verona, he took a more complete and accurate copy of the fragment de Præscriptionibus et Interdictis,' and transcribed also the other, treating de Jure Fisci.' If this had been all, the labours of the two days, however meritorious, would, perhaps, have been soon forgotten also, even in Germany; but he fortunately examined a manuscript, which had formerly been numbered xv, but then bore the No. xii, and which contained some of the epistles of St Jerome. Maffei had remarked, that this manuscript was a Palimpsest; but neither he nor Masotti had published that fact to the world in any printed work, nor did they know the subject of which the former writing treated, nor does it appear that they had attempted to decipher it.

There is in this library a written catalogue of the manuscripts, which was composed by Maffei, and was corrected and completed, in the year 1788, after his death, by Antonio Masotti. This catalogue, amongst other observations concerning the manuscript, No. Xul, has these very remarkable and important words: • Multæ ex chartis codicem alium constituerant. Dilutis siqui• dem anterioribus literis ac deletis, quæ nunc cernuntur super• inductæ sunt; quod et in aliis codicibus animadverti pluries, pri

mæ scripturæ satis se prodente vestigio, ac si antiquitus adeo • infrequentes occurrerent ovinæ pelles, ut nisi alterius interitu • novus liber oriri non posset.' We should suppose, that every scholar who reads these words would instantly break out with the exclamations, • Who observed this often ? Maffei or Masot

ti? Did he commit his observations to writing? Where are . they to be found? Where were the manuscripts in which the • vestiges of the former writing appear, and where are they now • to be met with ?' If a stranger were to assert, in any company

of learned men, that he had seen many manuscripts in Latin and in Greek, of very great antiquity, of which the contents were unknown, he would be, as it were, mobbed and hustled, until he disclosed the place where he had seen these trea


sures ! But we do not take an equal interest in Palimpsests; although they are nearly as precious as untouched manuscripts; perhaps because the subject is new, and it takes some time to impress upon our minds the importance of a novelty.

The written catalogues of libraries are well worthy of attention, because in them manuscripts are frequently marked as Palimpsest; not because the compilers of catalogues entertained any hope that the original writing would ever be deciphered; for, before the use of galls for this purpose, an expedient first resorted to for the restoration of writings faded through age, it was deemed impossible; but the circumstance was mentioned only as tending to describe and identify the manuscript, as well as various other minute peculiarities, which are usually enumerated. To return to Niebuhr, he examined the manuscript, No. XIII, and soon perceived that the more ancient writing contained the work of some old Jurisconsult; he, moreover, applied the infusion of galls to folio 97, and thereby so successfully restored the characters, that he was able to transcribe that portion. He communicated his discovery to the very learned V. Savigny, and with his assistance published the specimen in a periodical work, together with an ingenious commentary, in which he endeavoured to show, that the manuscript contained the Institutions of Gaius, and that the fragment de Præscriptionibus et Interdictis' formed a part likewise of that work. To gratify the liberal curiosity and honiest desires of the learned, the Royal Academy of Sciences despatched from Berlin the two editors whose names appear in the titles we bave prefixed, that they might complete the working of the mine which Niebuhr had happily opened. They arrived at Verona at the end of May, in the year 1817: And thus report their proceedings: Itaque Mense Maio anni 1817, Be• rolino profecti, sub mensis finem, Veronam venimus. Cum • tamen ea sit Bibliothecæ Capitularis legibus instituta ratio,

primum, ut codicis alicujus domum auferendi nemini unquam * venia detur; deinde ut Bibliotheca scrinia publicis usibus unam, . tantum singulis diebus horam patere soleant : illud nobis ante

omnia curandum erat, ut diutius in Bibliotheca commorandi fa

cultatem nancisceremur:' When we thus find, that nearly a month was consumed in obtaining permission to remain longer than an hour daily in the library, we shall think, that the dedication by the Royal Academy of Sciences to the Chapter of Verona, is conceived in language, which, to say the least of it, is sufficiently civil. It is, however, prudent in all cases, to oil the wbeels well; and we must not forget, that they required also to be permitted to apply the infusion of galls to the manuscript, aud most probably to take it in pieces. Having obtained the per

« PoprzedniaDalej »