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The Abbo glossary in London, British Library, Cotton Domitian i

  • Patrizia Lendinara (a1)


The process through which glossaries came into being can sometimes still be seen and studied in surviving manuscripts, and in such cases it provides a valuable index to the way in which Latin texts were studied in medieval schools. This is the case with an unprinted glossary in London, British Library, Cotton Domitian i. The glossary is mainly made up of words taken from bk III of the Bella Parisiacae urbis by Abbo of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a work which was widely studied in English schools in the tenth and eleventh centuries, above all because of its unusual vocabulary. We know that Abbo drew the unusual vocabulary in his poem from pre-existing glossaries such as the Liber glossarum and the Scholica graecarum glossarum; but he also took from these works the interlinear glosses which he provided for the difficult words in bk III of his poem, and these in turn are found, with little variation, in all of the manuscripts which preserve the poem. Now under the rubric ‘Incipiunt glossae diversae’ in Cotton Domitian i are collected some two hundred lemmata from bk III of the poem, followed in each case by one or more glosses; on examination these glosses are found to be identical with those which accompany the text in other manuscripts. The glossary in Domitian i thus provides a working model of how a glossary was compiled, and is a further witness to the popularity of Abbo's poem in Anglo-Saxon England.



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1 Batches of glossae collectae were taken from glossed manuscripts and then copied either in the same order in which they occurred in the source (as, for example, in the various sections of the ‘Leiden Glossary’) or else arranged under each letter of the alphabet and combined with batches taken from different sources.

2 I have shown elsewhere that the majority of these pairs (lemma of the poem and corresponding gloss/glosses) are traceable to glossary entries: see The Third Book of the Bella Parisiacae Urbis by Abbo of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and its Old English Gloss’, ASE 15 (1986), 7389.

3 The two remaining parts of the present manuscript (fols. 56–137 and 138–60) contain much later materials and did not belong to the original codex.

4 It is no. 434 in the late fifteenth-century catalogue of St Augustine's, Canterbury (now Dublin, Trinity College 360): see James, M.R., The Ancient Libraries of Canterbury and Dover (Cambridge, 1903), pp. 237 and 517.

5 See Bishop, T.A.M., ‘Notes on Cambridge Manuscripts, Part IV: MSS connected with St Augustine's, Canterbury’, Trans, of the Cambridge Bibliographical Soc. 2 (19541958), 323–36, at 325,330 and 334–5 with pls. xiv (b) and (c); ‘Notes on Cambridge Manuscripts, Part vi: MSS connected with St Augustine's, Canterbury, continued’, ibid. 3 (1959–63), 412–13; English Caroline Minuscule (Oxford, 1971), p. xiv and n. 1.

6 For descriptions of the manuscript, see Wanley, H. in Hickes, G., Thesaurus grammatico-criticus et archaeologicus (Oxford, 1705), p. 248; Smith, T., Calalogus librorum manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Cottonianae (Oxford, 1696; repr. from Sir Robert Harley's copy, ed. C.G. Tite, Cambridge, 1984), pp. 132–3; Planta, J., A Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Cottonian Library, deposited in the British Museum (London, 1802), p. 572; Gottlieb, T., Uber mittelalterliche hibliotheken (Leipzig, 1890), pp. 278–9 (no. 3); Napier, A.S., Old English Glosses, chiefly Unpublished (Oxford, 1900), pp. xix–xx; Ker, N.R., Catalogue of Manuscripts containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford, 1957), pp. 185–6 (no. 146); Jeudy, C., ‘L'Institutio de nomine, pronomine et uerbo de Priscien. Manuscrits et commentaires médiévaux’, Revue d'histoire des textes 2 (1972), 72144, at 106; and Gneuss, H., ‘A Preliminary List of Manuscripts written or owned in England up to 1100’, ASE 9 (1981), 160 (no. 326). The manuscript formerly belonged to John Dee before it came into the possession of Robert Cotton.

7 According to Ker (Catalogue, p. 185), the first part of the manuscript (fols. 2–39) is to be dated to the second half of the tenth century, and the second part (fols. 40–55) to the mid-tenth century. For a codicological description of the manuscript, see Bishop, ‘Notes IV’, p. 334.

8 Bishop has noted various connections between Domitian i and other contemporary manuscripts from St Augustine's (‘Notes IV’, pp. 330 and 335, and ‘Notes VI’, p. 413): thus the Old English glosses and the construe-marks on 34r and 53v are very similar to those in Cambridge, Trinity College O. 1. 18 (1042) and Salisbury, Cathedral Library, 38; the colophon on 55v is in the same hand as that of London, BL, Royal 8. c. iii, 2r–19r; the hand of fols. 40–54 corresponds to that of the third part of Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 356; and the first hand of 2r is like that which copied the Dunstan acrostic on 112v–113r of Trinity College O.1.18 and that of Vatican City, Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, Reg. lat. 204,4v–5r.

9 See Bishop, ‘Notes iv’, pp. 334–5.

10 Also on 2v a later hand (s. xiiiex) has added the ex-libris and press-mark of St Augustine's; and on 2r is a note in a thirteenth-century hand referring to St Augustine's.

11 Napier, Old English Glosses, no. 55; these were previously ptd Gottlieb, Uber mittelatterliche Bibliotheken, p. 279. The manuscript also contains OE glosses to Isidore (on 31 v and 34v, ptd Napier, ibid. no. 41) and to Bede, De die iudicii (on 53v, ptd. Napier, ibid. no. 33).

12 De differentiis uerborum, chs. 151–2 (PL 82, 94).

13 See Roger, M., L'enseignement des lettres classiques d'ausom à Alcuin (Paris, 1905), p. 320.

14 As an alternative source it is worth noting that the same eight words also occur in Aldhelm's Epistola ad Acircium (ed. Ehwald, R., Aldhelmi Opera, MGH, Auct. Antiq. 15 (Berlin, 1919), 71, lines 23–4, and 73, line 6); the first seven, but not the eighth – mathematici – are also given by Aldhelm, in his prose De uirginitate (ed. Ehwald, , p. 277, line 4). There is no surviving English manuscript containing the Epistola ad Acircium. (see Boyer, B. B., ‘Insular Contribution to Medieval Literary Tradition on the Continent’, Classical Philology A2 (1947), 209–22, at 216), but there is nevertheless sound evidence of its circulation in England during the Anglo-Saxon period: see Thomson, R. M., ‘Identifiable Books from the Pre-Conquest Library of Malmesbury Abbey’, ASE 10 (1982), 119, at 15 and 18, and Law, V., ‘The Study of Latin Grammar in Eighth-Century Southumbria’, ASE 12 (1983), 4371, at 46–52. Note also that the first five OE glosses are identical to glosses which accompany Aldhelm's list of the seven artes (prose De uirginitate, ch. 59, ed. Ehwald, p. 320, lines 13–14) in Salisbury, Cathedral Library, 38, London, BL, Royal 6. A. VI and 5. E. XI.

15 See Bedae Venerabilis Opera I: Opera didascalica, ed. Jones, C.W., CCSL 123A (Turnhout, 1975), 192–3. Domitian i is not listed among the manuscripts used by Jones for his edition, nor by Laistner, M.L.W. and King, H.H., A Hand-List of Bede Manuscripts (Ithaca, NY, 1943), pp.139–44.

16 Isidore de Séville: Traité de la nature, ed. Fontaine, J., Bibliothèque de l'école des hautes études hispaniques 28 (Bordeaux, 1960).

17 See Stevens, W.M., ‘Scientific Instruction in Early Insular Schools’, Insular Latin Studies. Papers on Latin Texts and Manuscripts of the British Isles, 550–1066, ed. Herren, M. W. (Toronto, 1981), pp. 83111, at 100–1 and n. 53; ‘The Figure of the Earth in Isidore's De natura rerum’, his 71 (1980), 268–77. 18 Stevens, ‘Scientific Instruction’, p. 110, n. 57.

19 The third version contained a new chapter on seas and winds, as well as reworkings of other chapters: see I sidore de Séville, ed. Fontaine, , pp. 3845, and Stevens, ‘Scientific Instruction’, pp. 100–1.

20 The rules for such reckoning are given by Bede, De temporum ratione, ch. 20 (‘quota sit luna in kalendas quasque’): Bedae Venerabilis Opera VI. Opera didascalica II, ed. Jones, C. W., CCSL 123B (Turnhout, 1977), 346–9.

21 De temporum ratione, ch. 20: ‘quia nimirum luna Nouembri mensis unam amittit diem et pro. xxx. consuetis undetriginta solum diebus cogitur esse contenta’ (Bedae Venerabilis Opera VI, ed. Jones, , pp. 348–9). The saltus lunae is discussed ibid. ch. 42 (ed. Jones, pp. 407–12).

22 The glossary is mentioned in the manuscript's table of contents (‘glosule quedam’), in the fifteenth-century St Augustine's catalogue, and in Planta, A Catalogue, p. 572. It is also mentioned by Gottlieb, (Uber mittelalterliche Bibliotheken, pp. 278–9), who dates it to the eleventh or twelfth century, but judges the glosses ‘nicht werth, veröffentlicht zu werden’. It is apparently unknown to any editor of Abbo's poem. The nature of its principal content was pointed out by Lapidge, M., ‘The Hermeneutic Style in Tenth-Century Anglo-Latin Literature’, ASE 4 (1975), 67111, at 76.

23 Napier drew general attention to the presence of a ‘grammatical treatise ascribed to Priscian’ (Old English Glosses, p. xix), and Ker {Catalogue, p. 185) speaks of ‘scholia to Priscian’. Ogilvy, J.D. A. (Books known to the English, 597–1066 (Cambridge, MA, 1967), p. 228) refers wrongly to scholia to the Institutiones (rather than the Institutio de nomine, pronomine et uerbo) of Priscian. The nature of the commentary is correctly recorded by Jeudy, , ‘L'institutio’, pp. 77, 79 and 106.

24 Cf. the following Remigius glosses, as ptd M. Manitius, ‘Zu lohannes Scottus und Remigius’, Didaskaleion 2 (1913), 43–88, with those ptd from Domitian i in the notes to the Appendix below, pp. 147–9: ‘gymnasium: gimnus dicitur nudus … uel gimnasium dicitur locus exercituum’ (Manitius, p. 75; note to no. 207 below); ‘ir indeclinabile medietas palme: ir uero Iris arcus in celo, unde Virgilius, Irim misit Saturnia luno’ (Manitius, p. 77; note to no. 200 below); ‘rictus: a ringo uenit, quod significat os aperio, que est nimia apertio oris’ (Manitius, p. 83; note to no. 212 below); ‘sinciput dimidia pars capitis: alii uolunt quod sinciput sit posterior pars, sicut occiput anterior’ (Manitius, p. 84; note to no. 203 below).

25 The version in Paris, BN, lat. 7581 has been ptd M. De Marco, , ‘Remigii inedita’, Aevum 26 (1952), 495517. Huygens, R.B.C., ‘Remigiana I: Le commentaire sur Priscien De nomine’, Aevum 28 (1954), 330–42, has ptd excerpts from the version of the commentary in Leiden, Bibliotheek der Rijksuniversiteit, BPL 67, 214r–218v. C. Jeudy {‘L'Institutio’) has noted the existence of three further manuscripts: Rheims, Bibliothèque municipale, 1094, 182v–196r (pp. 75–7 and 129–30); Erfurt, Wissenschaftliche Allgemein Bibliothek, Amplonianus 4° 53, 46v–50v (pp. 77–9 and 98–9); and the present manuscript, Cotton Domitian i (pp. 77,79 and 106). A commentary on Priscian attributed to Remigius in Amiens, Bibliothèque municipale 425 has also been signalled by C. Jeudy, ‘Un manuscrit de Remi d'auxerre à Corbie au début du Xe siècle’, La chanson de geste et le mythe carolingien: Mélanges René Louis (Saint-Père-sous-Vézelay, 1981) I, 171–5.

26 On manuscripts of Priscian, see Gibson, M., ‘Priscian, Institutiones grammaticae: a Handlist of Manuscripts’, Scriptorium 26 (1972), 105–24; Passalacqua, M., I codici di Prisciano, Sussidi eruditi 29 (Rome, 1978); Ballaira, G., Per il catalogo dei codici di Prisciano (Turin, 1982); Jeudy, C., ‘Complément à un catalogue récent des manuscrits de Priscien’, Scriptorium 36 (1982), 313–25; Nouveau complément à un catalogue récent des manuscrits de Priscien’, Scriptorium 38 (1984), 140–50.

27 The manuscript is of French origin and, according to B. Bischoff (whose opinion is quoted by Jeudy, , ‘L'Institutio’, pp. 74 and 124), might have been written at Fleury; see also Mostert, M., Tie Library of Fleury: A Provisional List of Manuscripts (Hilversum, 1989), p. 218 (no. BF1116).

28 Bedae Venerabilis Opera IV: Opera rhythmica, ed. Fraipont, J., CCSL 122 (Turnhout, 1955), 439–44. Manuscripts containing De die iudicii are listed by Fraipont (ibid. p. 439) and by Laistner and King, A Hand-List, pp. 127–9. On the vicissitudes of Bede manuscripts, see Beeson, C. H., ‘The Manuscripts of Bede’, Classical Philology 42 (1947), 7387, and Boyer, B. B., ‘Insular Contribution to Medieval Literary Tradition on the Continent, 2’, Classical Philology 43 (1948), 31–8.

29 In Domitian i the copy of De die iudicii concludes with the epilogue addressed to Acca which is, however, not found in all manuscripts of the poem; see Whitbread, L., ‘A Study of Bede's Versus de die iudiciî’, Philological Quarterly 23 (1944), 193221. Following the end of the poem on 54v are some notes in a much later hand.

30 Ptd Leechdoms, Wortcunning and Starcraft of Early England, ed. Cockayne, T.O., 3 vols., RS (London, 18641866) i, 382.

31 The list has been published often, and various identifications of the Athelstan mentioned in it have been put forward: Gottlieb, , Uber mittelalterliche Bibliotheken, pp. 278–9; Robertson, A. J., Anglo–Saxon Charters (Cambridge, 1939), pp. 250 and 499–500; Wilson, R.M., ‘More Lost Literature II’, Leeds Stud, in English 6 (1937), 3049, at 49; Lapidge, M., ‘Surviving Booklists from Anglo-Saxon England’, Learning and Literature in Anglo-Saxon England, ed. Lapidge, M. and Gneuss, H. (Cambridge, 1985), pp. 3389, at 50–2. See also discussion by Napier, , Old English Glosses, p. xx; Haverfield, F.J., ‘The Library of Æthelstan, the Half-King’, The Academy 26 (12 July 1884), 32; Bishop, ‘Notes IV’, p. 335 and pi. xiv (b); and Keynes, S., ‘King Athelstan's Books’, Learning and Literature, ed. Lapidge, and Gneuss, , pp. 143201, at 146, n. 22.

32 Ker, , Catalogue, p. 186. The excerpt of Bede's De natura rerum must now be taken into account.

33 Abbo of Fleury, whose presence in England contributed to the diffusion there of Remigius's works (see Jeudy, ‘L'Institutio’, p. 79), came to Ramsey in 985 at the invitation of Oswald of Worcester, but was also evidently in contact with Dunstan. For the earlier introduction of Remigius commentaries in England, see Parkes, M.B., ‘A Fragment of an Early Tenth-Century Anglo-Saxon Manuscript and its Significance’, ASE 12 (1983), 129–40.

34 See Wulfstan, , Vita S. Æthelwoldi, ch. 9 (ed. Winterbottom, M., Three Lives of English Saints (Toronto, 1972), pp. 38–9), as well as Lapidge, M., ‘Æthelwold as Scholar and Teacher’, Bishop Æthelwold: His Career and Influence, ed. Yorke, B. (Woodbridge, 1988), pp. 89117, at 89–90.

35 See Lapidge, ‘Surviving Booklists’, pp. 52–5.

36 See Robinson, J.A., St Oswald and the Church of Worcester, Brit. Acad. Suppl. Papers 5 (London, 1919), 3851.

37 On the literary interests of these scholars, and their penchant for the ‘hermeneutic’ style, see Lapidge, ‘The Hermeneutic Style’, pp. 77–9 (Oda), 85–7 (Æthelwold), 94–5 (Oswald of Worcester, who had also studied at Fleury) and 95–7 (Dunstan).

38 See Brooks, N., The Early History of the Church of Canterbury (Leicester, 1984), pp. 209–53.

39 See James, The Ancient Libraries, pp. 21 and 506. For the manuscript, see James, M. R., A Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1912) i, xxii and n, 143–5; Ker, , Catalogue, pp. 105–6 (no. 61); Page, R.I., ‘More Aldhelm Glosses from Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 326’, English Stud. 56 (1975), 481–90; Whitbread, L., ‘The Old English Poem Aldhelm’, English Stud. 57 (1976), 193–7; Bishop, T. A. M., ‘Notes on Cambridge Manuscripts, Part vii: The Early Minuscule of Christ Church Canterbury’, Trans, of the Cambridge Bibliographical Soc. 3 (19591963), 413–23; Gneuss, ‘A Preliminary List’, no. 93; and Brooks, , The Early History, p. 268.

40 See Goossens, L., The Old English Glosses of MS. Brussels, Royal Library, 1650 (Aldhelm's ‘De Laudibus Virginitatis’) (Brussels, 1974), pp. 1819.

41 For a detailed description of the manuscript and its contents, see Rigg, A.G. and Wieland, G. R., ‘A Canterbury Classbook of the Mid-Eleventh Century (the ‘Cambridge Songs’ Manuscript)’, ASE 4 (1975), 113–30, with corrections in Dronke, P., Lapidge, M. and Stotz, P., ‘Die unveröffentlichten Gedichte der Cambridger Liederhandschrift (CUL Gg.5.35)’, Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch 17 (1982), 5495, at 55–6; see also Gibson, M. T., Lapidge, M. and Page, C., ‘Neumed Boethian Metra from Canterbury: A Newly Recovered Leaf of Cambridge, University Library, Gg. 5. 35 (the ‘Cambridge Songs’ Manuscript)’, ASE 12 (1983), 141–52, as well as Ker, , Catalogue, pp. 21–2 (no. 16) and Gneuss, ‘A Preliminary List’, no. 12.

42 All references to bk HI of the Bella Parisiacae urbis are to the edition of P. von Winterfeld, MGH, PLAC 4 (Berlin, 1899), 77–121, whose spelling is retained throughout. No attempt has been made to normalize the spelling of lemmata and glosses from the glossary in Domitian i, and only a few errors have been emended in the appended edition. A full study of Abbo's lexicon will form part of my forthcoming edition of bk HI of the poem.

43 Another neuter form scrupulum is attested in a glossary ptd Corpus Glossariorum Latinorum, ed. Goetz, G., 7 vols. (Leipzig, 18881923) iv, 390. 1: ‘scrupulum a(n)xietas, angor. i. molestia’.

44 For the syncopated form didasclus, see Norberg, D., Introduction à I'étude de la versification latine médiévale, Studia latina Stockholmiensia 5 (Uppsala, 1958), 31.

45 Line 29: ‘Acrizimum celebres. Oroscopus esque didasclus’.

46 Other disparities such as disertus D dissertus C (III.22, rightly disertus) do not help in establishing the relationship between the two manuscripts. The same may be said of such variants as tapetum D, tapete C (gloss to 111.16). Among the idiosyncracies of the glossary is the spelling uellosum for uillosum (in the glosses to in.16 and 30). The scribe of D does not accord with C in his spelling of-mn-: where C has calumpniator (111.10) and dampnare (111. 109), D has calumniator and damnare respectively.


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