Puzzling out Hrabanus Maurus' Encyclopedia: A Manuscript Tale

Upper part of Mich. Ms. f. 14r. Leaf fragment containing Hrabanus Maurus' De rerum naturis, 14, 27. Parchment. 210 x 150 mm. Spain. 14th c. Special Collections Research Center (University of Michigan Library)

Upper part of Mich. Ms. f. 14r. Leaf fragment containing Hrabanus Maurus' De rerum naturis, 14, 27. Parchment. 210 x 150 mm. Spain. 14th c. Special Collections Research Center (University of Michigan Library)

When searching for manuscripts of Hrabanus Maurus' medieval encyclopedia De rerum naturis (On the Nature of Things) in the database Digital Scriptorium,  I came across a leaf fragment held at Columbia University Libraries (Plimpton MS 128) which, in terms of its handwriting and style of illumination, was clearly connected to a leaf fragment held at the University of Michigan Library (Mich. Ms. f. 14). Professor William Schipper (Memorial University of Newfoundland), who is currently completing an edition of De rerum naturis, had already identified the Columbia fragment leaf as being originally part of folio 41 of a richly illuminated 108-leaf codex held in Berlin, Staatsbibliothek-Preussischer Kulturbesitz: Lat. fol. 930. Professor Schipper also confirmed that our small fragment had originally belonged to the same codex.

Plimpton MS 128r. Leaf fragment containing Hrabanus Maurus' De rerum naturis, 9, 6-8. Parchment. 243 x 287 mm. Spain. 14th c. Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Columbia University Libraries)
Plimpton MS 128r. Leaf fragment containing Hrabanus Maurus' De rerum naturis, 9, 6-8. Parchment. 243 x 287 mm. Spain. 14th c. Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Columbia University Libraries)
Plimpton MS 128v. Leaf fragment containing Hrabanus Maurus' De rerum naturis, 9, 9-10. Parchment. 243 x 287 mm. Spain. 14th c. Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Columbia University Libraries)
Plimpton MS 128v. Leaf fragment containing Hrabanus Maurus' De rerum naturis, 9, 9-10. Parchment. 243 x 287 mm. Spain. 14th c.  Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Columbia University Libraries)
Mich. Ms. f. 14r. Leaf fragment containing Hrabanus Maurus' De rerum naturis, 14, 27. Parchment. 210 x 150 mm. Spain. 14th c.  Special Collections Research Center (University of Michigan Libraries)
Mich. Ms. f. 14r. Leaf fragment containing Hrabanus Maurus' De rerum naturis, 14, 27. Parchment. 210 x 150 mm. Spain. 14th c. Special Collections Research Center (University of Michigan Library)
Mich. Ms. f. 14v. Leaf fragment containing Hrabanus Maurus' De rerum naturis, 14, 28. Parchment. 210 x 150 mm. Spain. 14th c. Special Collections Research Center (University of Michigan Library)
Mich. Ms. f. 14v. Leaf fragment containing Hrabanus Maurus' De rerum naturis, 14, 28. Parchment. 210 x 150 mm. Spain. 14th c. Special Collections Research Center (University of Michigan Library)

Students can still learn much about manuscript production and textual transmission from parchment fragments like the ones featured in this post. For instance, in these pieces we can appreciate how the scribe painstakingly reviewed the text, making corrections and adding missing words on the margins, as well as connecting them with the main text by a clever system of symbols. 

Detail of

Detail of

Below are images of the two pages of the codex from which our fragments were cutt off.  Professor Schipper helped me locate the exact pages and Kurt Heydeck (Staatsbibliothek-Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin) graciously provided the images.  Lastly, we have also added a virtual reunion of these pieces with their respective original pages.

 

Lat. fol. 930.  Fol. 68r. Berlin, Staatsbibliothek-Preussischer Kulturbesitz
Lat. fol. 930. Fol. 68r. Berlin, Staatsbibliothek-Preussischer Kulturbesitz

 

Lat. fol. 930. Fol. 68v. Berlin, Staatsbibliothek-Preussischer Kulturbesitz
Lat. fol. 930. Fol. 68v. Berlin, Staatsbibliothek-Preussischer Kulturbesitz

 

Lat. fol. 930. Fol. 68r. Berlin, Staatsbibliothek-Preussischer Kulturbesitz + Mich. Ms. f. 14r.
Lat. fol. 930. Fol. 68r. Berlin, Staatsbibliothek-Preussischer Kulturbesitz + Mich. Ms. f. 14r. 
Lat. fol. 930. Fol. 68v. Berlin, Staatsbibliothek-Preussischer Kulturbesitz + Mich. Ms. f. 14v.
Lat. fol. 930. Fol. 68v. Berlin, Staatsbibliothek-Preussischer Kulturbesitz + Mich. Ms. f. 14v.