Leaf from a copy of Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, in pre-Caroline Germanic minuscule, in Latin, manuscript on parchment [southern Germany (perhaps Reichenau), last decades of the eighth century]
Single large leaf, with single column of 30 lines (with parts of book 33, ch. 15) in a large and bold pre-Caroline Germanic minuscule (see below), tears and darkening to edges, small losses at head, and section of blank margin at foot missing through natural flaw in parchment, recto more darkened than verso, and slightly scuffed on inner vertical side of column, slight cockling, some small later scrawls (see below), but still in good and fresh condition, 257 by 156mm.
A leaf from a fundamental early medieval text, in a rare and often overlooked pre-Carolingian script, perhaps from the founding library one of the most important monasteries in medieval Europe
1. Written in southern Germany, most probably in a region bordering Switzerland (probably vicinity of Lake Constance) in the last decades of the eighth century (see below). If this was in Reichenau (founded 724 on an island in Lake Constance), then it must have been part of that monastery's earliest book collection, significantly predating the grand expansion of the library there under Abbot Reginbert in the decades up to his death in 846, and used by the Carolingian scholarly luminary Walafrid Strabo (c. 808-49, abbot of Reichenau from 842). The house was closed during the Secularisation initially in 1757, then permanently in 1803, with a part of the library passing to the Landsbibliothek at Karlsruhe.
2. This leaf reused at the close of the Middle Ages as a pastedown in the binding of a large book, and that book in French ownership in the seventeenth-century: scrawled French inscriptions of a 'Catherine de ...' interlineally and in outer upright margin of recto, and a single inscription in same hand at foot of verso: 'Constitué ...' (the remainder lost due to a missing section of parchment at foot).
3. Mr de Coligny, a twentieth-century Parisian collector.
4. Acquired by Roger Martin from European trade in 2016.
The script and its rarity:
When we think of pre-Carolingian local hands, we begin with the most distinctive, such as Insular, Luxeuil, Corbie ab, Rhaetian and Alemannic, as well as those that persisted well after Carolingian minuscule swept away all others, such as Visigothic and Beneventan. However, there are a few others, not quite so clearly defined from their neighbours or perhaps not so numerous in surviving examples, and as a result often forgotten or lumped in with those neighbours. The Germanic pre-Caroline hands fit into this group. They are far from numerous, with only twenty-three examples in the vast survey Codices Latini Antiquiores (1934-66; about ten of these probably from Freising, see K. Bierbrauer, Die vorkarolingischen und karolingischen Handschriften der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek , 1990, pp. 15-24, for these) and its Supplement (1971), and surviving examples come from a wide geographic range, reducing how conclusive any findings can be, and perhaps deterring the same levels of scholarly study seen with other early scripts. While Michelle Brown's A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600 (1993), is to be commended for including an example of these (her no. 14), it is notable that they are almost passed over by the new Oxford Handbook of Latin Palaeography (2020), where the closest we come to them is the chapter on 'St. Gall scripts'.
The script here is a bold and fine pre-Caroline Germanic minuscule most probably of the last decades of the eighth century, with strong Swiss influence suggesting an origin in Reichenau. The numerous ligatures here are overwhelmingly pre-Carolingian and point strongly to the eighth century, with that in the 'rp' in 'serpens' (recto, line 16) producing a strange letterform in which the arch of the pen downwards from the preceding 'r' almost leaves the back of the 'p' undefined and produces a wedge-like tongue under its bowl jutting out towards the next letter. There is also a 'li'-ligature in which the second letter is mostly subscript and is joined to the first at its midpoint (this also reported for a binding fragment dated to 776-800 and located to south east Germany, now BSB, Clm. 29300/3, but rest of hand quite different: CLA Supplement 1799). These, as well as the clusters of compacted abbreviations (such as the first part of 'tergiversationis' in line 4 of the recto, the 'serpens' noted above, and 'rerum' in line 2 of the verso), point to the eighth century.
For Swiss influence, there are apparent Rhaetian minuscule features in the open 'a' both like 'cc' and 'oc' (but the hand here favours the first of these), the use of 'r' with a slashed line through its tail for '-rum', and particularly the 't' with its left-hand crossbar curving down and around to close the loop with the main ascender (as here in line 22 of the verso: 'Et') and the open 'g' with a bowed top so it is shaped like a '3' distinctive to Rhaetian and Alemannic minuscule and sometimes used as a key identifying feature of Swiss hands. However, the closed 't' is not employed consistently, and half-curled (without closing the loop), and flat-topped examples abound here. Examples of these are found in Alemannic minuscule, centred on St. Gallen, as in Cod. Sang. 6 (Bible, last quarter eighth century), Cod. Sang. 44 (Bible c . 780), and Cod. Sang. 125 (Jerome, Gregory, Cassiodorus and others, c . 770-780, in which again all three forms of 't' are found together, as well as the 'o' formed like a 'u' with its two upwards strokes crossing, as here in 'vero' in line 28 of the recto: see pp. 7 and 22 of Cod. Sang. 125 for examples) and Cod. Sang. 567 (Vitae Patrum, second half of codex from last quarter of eighth century, and with same distinctive 'o': see p. 145 for example; all these manuscripts reproduced in full on the ecodices website).
However, the hand here manages to avoid having the elongations and flows of Rhaetian as well as the heavy rotundity and wide spacing of Alemannic, and compares most closely to hands from modern Germany, and in particular those traced to, or linked to Reichenau (see CLA . I:7, Vatican, Lat. 583, a Moralia in Iob , 11-16 of the late eighth century or opening years of ninth century [this reproduced in full online]; I:89, Vatican, Lat. 245, another Moralia in Iob , 1-5 of the late eighth century or opening years of ninth century, and in Lorsch by the eleventh century [this also Michelle Brown's example, and reproduced in full online]; II:222, as well as those from the Lake Constance Germanic region and probably Murbach: II:222, a Cyprian of 776-800; and VI:751, an Isidore of the late eighth century or opening years of ninth century). It has the Reichenau-type mix of open 'a' and uncial 'a' (here see 'maliciam', lines 8-9 of recto), and common ligatures for 'ri', 'ti' as well as rarer features such as a 'te'-ligature and a 'nt'-ligature used even midword and that characteristic of the region. Moreover, the open 'g' here with its bowed top finds its near-exact match in both CLA . I:7 and I:89.
It is interesting that the earliest books surviving that are most probably from Reichenau are both copies of parts of the Moralia in Iob ...(for full text, see catalogue PDF).