Annalisa ROSSI
Archivio di Stato, Bari

Latin and Vernacular Manuscripts of Ovid's Metamorphoses
Comparative Explorations about Codicological and Textual Models

Writing in the Vernacular
APICES Session, Tenth International Medieval Congress,
Leeds, 14-17 July 2003

O make a preliminary statement, I will say that this research began as a consequence of a doctoral thesis about those manuscripts of Ovid's Metamorphoses which also contain the so-called "Lactantian materials": i.e. argumenta (prose summaries) and tituli (titles), possibly ascribed during the humanistic period to a certain Lactantius Placidus. This research went on to build up a hypothesis about the development of the structure, typology and function of commented manuscripts of the Ovidian poem from the 9th to the 15th century.Here are the aspects I have considered in order to discover both constant and variable features of commented Ovidian manuscripts:

  • characteristics of the Lactantian materials from a material/codicological and a textual point of view: differences in writing, changes in writing related to changes in layout and to date and place of copy, and so on;
  • relationships between the Lactantian materials and other accessus and/or commentaries on the Metamorphoses;
  • relationships between material and textual peculiarities of the Lactantian materials and the use the books were produced for;
  • changes in use of the same books during their history and, consequentially, potential changes in their material and textual peculiarities.

Knowing the typology of the latin recensio of the Metamorphoses, it becomes possible to compare Latin manuscripts with those containing translations of the Ovidian text, in order to understand the weight of the original book-production system when it meets the habits and laws of other book-production systems, already established (as the Greek one) or developing (as the vernacular one).

The existing translations

Ovid was translated into Greek at the end of the 13th century by the Greek monk Planoudes. The most ancient ms. of his prose translation is Vat. Reg. Gr. 132 and 133. In a paper given at Paris, during the last International Byzantinistic Congress of August 2001, I proved that these two manuscripts are only one, produced at one time during the last years of the 13th century and dismembered/broken up almost a century after its production. It also contains the Greek translation of Ovid's Heroides . A total number of 10 manuscripts of this text are extant: only two of these were written during the first half of the 14th century: Laur. C.S. 105 and Ambros. A 119 Sup.

Arrigo Simintendi: status quaestionis and recensio

The 14th century produced two Italian vernacular translations of the Metamorphoses: the first ascribed to a notary public from Prato, a certain Arrigo Simintendi or Sinitendi; the second (dated 1370), done by Giovanni Bonsignori and printed for the first time in Venice in 1497 . Simintendi's text is much closer to the Latin text (which he translates almost verbum de verbo - as Marchesi , Segre , Guthmüller and Pelo 's studies have demonstrated) than Bonsignori's moral and allegorical reduction. However, it was published for the first and only time in three different moments (five books at a time) between 1846 and 1850 by C. Basi and E. Guasti at Prato. The edition is based on 13 of the 19 mss. known to Guthmüller in 1981. The mss. were all written during the 14th and the 15th centuries and in the Italian area . Three of them were produced during the 14th century: one in paper and two in parchment. One of the two parchment mss. is now kept in a private collection, the other one is 7601. Guthmüller referred to it for the first time in a footnote of his work and it doesn't appear in the 19th century edition already cited.

The author seems to have flourished around 1330, as the editors established by pointing out quotations from Simintendi's work in the Ottimo commento to Dante Alighieri's Divina Commedia.

I would like to give a summary analysis of Vat. Lat. 7601 (material peculiarities, handwriting, textual contents) and to compare it, on one hand, with some Latin manuscripts of Ovid produced between the 9th and the 15th century and, on the other hand, with the most ancient examples of Planoudes' translation. The aim is to identify – if possible – the family of Latin manuscripts Simintendi's translation is based on, and to understand the peculiarities which are found exclusively in the vernacular book-production system.

Vat. Lat. 7601

The ms. size is 270 by 220 millimetres and it is made up of 120 folios plus two blank folios added at the beginning and a single one at the end. There are two foliations: one almost of the same age of the ms., written on the recto of 1 folio out of every 10, in the upper right-hand corner; the other, type-written on the recto of each folio, in the lower right-hand corner of each folio. There are 15 quires, all consisting of four bifolios each, except the 12th, which contains only 3. We can read reclamantes written on the verso of the last folio of each quire, in the lower right-hand corner. Each quire begins with the flesh-side and is put together according to Gregory's law. The ruling is drawn without ink on each bifolio, directly on the hair-side of the parchment. There is only one ruling-type: 00E2 Leroy-Sautel or 1-1-11/0/0/JJ Muzerelle (as you like). It has a two column layout, simple bounding lines and no lines in the upper or lower margins. Each of the two columns is 205 by 70 mm and contains 39 written lines. The writing begins below top-line.

The text is written inside these two columns. It is divided into 15 books: each of them begins with a head-letter, as tall as 5 or 6 written lines, not in ekthesis, alternatively coloured in red or blue and ornamented with filigree. Each book is divided into many mythological episodes: each of these begins with a two to three-line initial, coloured and ornamented as the ones already described. Moreover, each episode is divided into many sub-episodes, each of which begins with a letter of the same type and size as the ones in the text, drawn in brown ink (as the text) and coloured in yellow. Sometimes these letters are preceded by red or blue (alternatively) pieds-de-mouche. Each of the main episodes is preceded by the corresponding rubricated title: it is introduced in textu just as in the Alternierende-typ of the layout of text and commentary described by Powitz in his 1979 study.

The whole text is written by only one hand. The script is gothic, laterally compressed and complying with all of Meyer's rules; a has its first stroke closed; d is uncial-shaped. b, h, l, p, u, t, i add a small leftward stroke to the beginning of their first stroke, in order to draw a real graphic chain. At the end of words s is capital and written high over the written-line. Et is z-shaped. P(er) is abbreviated by the classic p with a horizontal stroke. -er- is abbreviated by an s-shaped stroke over the word which contains the syllable. M and n are abbreviated by a small stroke over the syllable. I is always dotted, even when single. The distinctio verborum is given by an oblique line written between words in paler ink. It prefers to distinguish the iuncturae instead of each word. Rubricator and scriptor are the same person: he wrote the text before and the rubricated-titles and their numbers after.

The manuscript contains – as I have already said - the Italian-vernacular prose translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, made by Arrigo Simintendi da Prato. Analysing its mise en texte, I have already mentioned the rubricated titles written before each mythological episode. The same rubricated titles are grouped at the beginning of the manuscript (ff. 2r-5v) to form a pinax or tabula argumentorum – as you prefer – : they are written in two columns, following the same ruling-type already described for the main text. A complete transcription of them as they appear in the tabula and a comparison with those that appear in the Latin manuscripts allows me to assert that they are translated from the pseudo-Lactantian tituli (titles). These, just as the narrationes, were circulated together with Ovid's work throughout the Middle Ages. This is not the place to discuss the problems relating to the different typologies of the Lactantian material within the Latin tradition (I'm writing a monographic work about them). I will only say that Simintendi's translation was built up starting from that specific typology of the Latin tradition (the Lactantian materials) connected to the transmission of the so-called vulgate commentary (F.T. Coulson), yet undefined in its peculiarities and certainly very different from the text published as tituli Lactantiani in the last Oxford edition, dated 1927 (D.A. Slater). Moreover, the collation of the tituli of the tabula with those inserted in textu, shows that they are two different versions of the same text. Folios 6r to 7v contain another accessus to the text, with the same layout. Here's its incipit:

"Prohemio sopra latauola dello/uidio Metamorphoseos:- / nequi(n)dici libri Methamorpho/seos. Ouidio pone op(er)a auen/turatame(n)te eco(n)merauigliosa/ arte ricordando glicorpi i(n)muta/ti dalcominciame(n)to delmondo infino al/suo tempo esuaria nuoue forme nei cor/pi. P(er)o chio posso tenere q(u)esti nella m(en)te / lasomma che seguita ecome p(er)ispechio. Nella quale qua(n)dio riguardo simani/festa alcuna uia. Questa mia rozzaso/ma confessa conmolto tempo e degno/chastighame(n)to nolla corretta lauergho/gna medesima dicolui chi confessa basta / il p(er)dono enone licito dichiedere piu co/se "

A comparison with the text of the Summa memorialis, an Ovidian speculum made up of 15 summae (one for each book), each of which consists of 12 hexameters, ascribed to Orrico (or Enrico or Arrigo – yet another!) di Cavriana civis Mantuanus seems to demonstrate that, here also, we have the translation verbum de verbo of the Summa. The Summa memorialis is preserved in 19 manuscripts dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, except some older examples (12th and 13th centuries) where it was added later on. Here's the latin text incipit:

"Prooemium Summae memorialis Ovidii Metamorphoseos / In Metamorphoseos ter quinis Naso libellis / tempus adusque suum memorans ab origine mundi / corpora mutata, mira feliciter arte / ponit opus, variatque novas in corpora formas. / Haec. Licet apprensa, nequeo quia mente tenere, / summ sequens, referens summatim membra librorum, / est mihi pro speculo: quam dum speculor, via quaedam / panditur, hac gradior, inventaque mente pretendo. / Livor ut abscedat, rudis haec mea summa fatetur / quod nec multa dies nec castigatio digna / elimavit eam; culpam pudor ipse fatentis / sufficit ad veniam, nec plura requirere fas est"

The material typology and script of the Vat. Lat. 7601 allows me to ascribe it to the first half of the 14th century. The dating can be confirmed by referring to other dated examples, like another Vatican manuscript, Ferrajoli 559. This is a fragment which contains a translation of Valerius Maximus into the Italian vernacular, by an unknown author. The script appears in the same forms I have described for Vat. Lat. 7601: it is dated from the year 1336 . Moreover, referring to the place of copy, Vat. Lat. 7601 bears a Latin colophon on folio 118v: "Explicit Liber mettamorfoseos ouidij / Gratia sit deo et sancti Nicolay Barensi". No other Latin or vernacular manuscripts with a similar subscription are known to me yet .

The relationships with the other manuscripts of the Vernacular recensio

I have not yet studied the other manuscripts of the Vernacular version of Ovid's poem in the original - but I hope to do so as soon as possible. Anyway, the comparison between Vat. Lat. 7601 and the other 18 mss. (described in the catalogues and in Guthmüller' study) show that our ms. is not very different from the other ones. The systematic collation of both versions of the Lactantian tituli, the one in the Vatican ms. and the one published by Basi and Guasti , does not allow me to say anything more in order to establish the relationship between the manuscripts. It is possible, however, (with the help of transcriptions of the incipits and explicits of the other manuscripts) to say that most of them contain the translation of the Lactantian titles and of Orrico's Summa memorialis .

On the other hand, I can put to immediate use the evidence resulting from the layout. All copies have two columns of text, either in folio or in octavo, either on paper (17 of the total 19 are so) or not. Choosing the two-column layout without considering other variables seems to mean that the Latin manuscript from which the translation was made certainly looked the same. But that's only one piece of evidence to guess at the appearance of the Latin manuscript use by Simintendi to write his translation.

The relationships between the Vernacular and the Latin recensio

The Vat. Lat. 7601 has an archaic ruling-type. Leroy and Sautel (who based their census on Greek manuscripts) mention examples of it dated not later than the first half of the 12th century. On the other hand, Derolez has similar examples in manuscripts ascribed to central Italy in the first half of the 15th century.

Looking for the same ruling-type among the Latin copies, I have found it in a single manuscript, Laur. San Marco 223, copied in central Italy between the end of the 11th and the beginning of the 12th century. Ovid's text is written in two columns, with verse initials in ekthesis. The poem is divided into 15 books: each of these is divided into mythological episodes beginning with a rubricated letter or with a pied-de-mouche in ink of the same colour as the text. The Lactantian tituli, an incomplete series if referred to the published version, are preceded by serial Roman numbers , written in the outside margin even when the corresponding title is missing . This also happens in Vat. Lat. 7601 <see Table>. Sometimes the serial number precedes a fragmentary narratio and not a titulus . The scribe does not understand the difference between narrationes and tituli. The narrationes / argumenta copied refer to a version very different from the published one. Many other fragments of narrationes are copied in the margin and connected to the main text by a system of capital letters and dots, repeated in the text and in the margin before the fragment itself .

The manuscript also has a series of paragraph-signs (shaped as a Greek gamma), placed in ekthesis, to indicate the beginning of some mythological episodes, and followed by a serial Arabic number. Paragraph-signs and titles together indicate the presence, in the margin, of vernacular notes, which can be ascribed to the end of the 13th or, at the latest, the beginning of the 14th century . Here is the Latin version of the title they translate: ut, subject of metamorphosis, in + the accusative of the person or of the animal or of the thing the subject becomes, the verb mutatus est (in the proper form according to context). The collation of these Vernacular notes and the tituli as translated by Simintendi proves their identity . The evidence is very interesting also because the typology and structure translated into Greek by Planoudes were the same.

Moreover, Laur. San Marco 223 sometimes has white spaces of variable length in the passage from a book to another and from one episode to another . Vat. Lat. 7601 met with the same problem, and tried to solve it by adding the Latin (mark this) expression materia p(re)dicta or – only twice – its vernacular translation "della detta materia" .

It is possible, however, to find the same layout as in 7601 in other Latin copies, not least in one of the most ancient manuscripts of Ovid, the so-called p-fragment, Par. Lat. 12246, copied at the end of the 9th century. It contains the Lactantian materials inserted among the sections of Ovid's text.

Two further manuscripts with the same features were also produced in Italy in the first half of the 12th century: the so-called Hauniensis fragment (Copenhagen, Royal Library, Ny.Kgl.S.56.fol.; two columns, Ovid's text divided into episodes and Lactantian narrationes in the text) and Par. Lat. 8001.

From the second half of the 12th century we have the only Metamorphoses ms. known with 3 columns of text, Par. Lat. 7993 (with Ovid's text divided into episodes and tituli inserted in the text).

Other copies from the 14th and 15th centuries are Laur. 36.13 (copied in Italy, 14th cent.), Paris. Lat. 8500 (copied in Mantua around the 1370), Harley 3754 in the B.L. (Italian, 15th century).

Another interesting comparison is with the numerous family of Latin copies of Ovid's text in only one column (always divided into books, each beginning with its tituli). Each episode begins with the corresponding Lactantian titulus + narratio. Examples of this group are B.L. Additional ms. 11967 (copied in central Italy between the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th century); Laur. San Marco 225 (copied in central Italy at the end of the 11th century) and Vat. Urb. Lat. 341 (copied in Bari at the end of the 11th century or at the beginning of the 12th). Despite the one-column layout, these manuscripts betray their own connection to the two-column family, in that they have some groups of Lactantian tituli at the head of books written in two columns, as in the following manuscripts: the Naples Ovid (Neap. IV.F.3), written in Bari at the beginning of the 12th century; the ms. Gl.Kgl.S.2008 of the Royal Library of Copenhagen (copied in Italy between the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century) and Laur. 36.5 (copied in Italy during the first half of the 13th century).

There are also Latin copies beginning with tabulae argumentorum, whose structure is the same of the Vat. Lat. 7601: see for example Laur. 36.16 (copied in Italy in the first half of the 14th century) . A pinax of the same type is also to be found in the most ancient copy (after the Vatican autograph already mentioned) of Planoudes' translation, Laur. C.S. 105, copied at the beginning of the 14th century.

More strictly evident is the choice of a two-column layout, but also of the same ruling-type as in Vat. Lat. 7601 and of the folio size, in miscellaneous manuscripts containing commentaries and accessus to various Latin classical authors. In the sections concerning the Lactantian materials, or the so-called vulgate commentary, or Giovanni del Virgilio's Allegoriae they look exactly like Vat. Lat. 7601 : see for example ms. Fabricius 29 of the Royal Library of Copenhagen (maybe copied in Italy during the 12th century); ms. AF.XIV.21 of the National Library of Milan (on paper, copied in Italy in the 14th century) and Clm 14120 of the S.B. of Munich (copied in Germany after the 1415).

Last (but not least), see ms. Vat. Lat. 5222: on paper, in-folio, copied in 1415 (see f. 137v). It is made up of two units: the second (ff. 24-247) contains Ovid's text, written in only one column, and organizes in its margins the Lactantian materials, Giovanni del Virgilio's Allegoriae, parts of Fulgentius' Liber Mythologiarum and other marginalia which can be identified as parts of the so-called vulgate commentary. The first unit (ff. 3-28) written on two columns, contains the entire Lactantian material (ff. 3-25) and Orrico of Cavriana's Summa memorialis (ff. 26-28). The two units were put together soon after they were copied by Damiano da Pola, a professor at Padua, who wrote a subscription on f. 247v. The analogy with Vat. Lat. 7601 is obvious.


Let us conclude. Vat. Lat. 7601, one of the most ancient examples of the prose translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses by Arrigo Simintendi da Prato, was copied in Bari in the first half of the 14th century. It contains not only Simintendi's translation but also that of the Lactantian tituli (scattered all over the pages of the Latin manuscripts of the Metamorphoses) and of the Summa memorialis. The codicological, graphic and textual peculiarities of this manuscript make it possible to compare it with the Latin family which contains many copies produced in central and southern Italy between the 11th and the 12th century.

About the possibility of discovering the Latin family of the copy on which Arrigo based his translation, I think that it may be ascribed to the Q group of my stemma codicum. Its peculiarities show that it was most probably a 12th-century manuscript. The evidence, together with the similar structure of the Lactantian tituli translated into Greek and of Simintendi's own, is very important because it opens new avenues of research for a comparative analysis of Planoudes' and Simintendi's translations .

Moreover, we could consider from a different point of view the evidence provided by the comparison between Vat. Lat. 7601 and contemporary or slightly earlier Latin copies: why shouldn't we think of material and textual models being transferred from the Vernacular book-production system to the Latin one in the late Middle Ages? This path deserves to be trodden, and results could be really surprising. (We should also consider that, in contrast, late medieval copies of the Greek translation by Planoudes' remained strictly dependent on the Latin models and didn't succeed in attaining the same level of autonomy as Simintendi's translation.) If such were the case, we would have to admit that not only did vernacular books prove capable of reproducing Latin models; they were also strong enough to free themselves from these and even to invent new editorial solutions and subsequently to impose them on the Latin tradition itself.