A manuscript from Cologne

The other day, I had the happy task of collating a manuscript from Cologne — Erzbischöfliche Diözesan- und Dombibliothek, 213 (olim Darmstadt 2336). It can be accessed via this website. As with the vast majority of manuscripts I come into contact with in my research, it is a manuscript of canon law. Ms 213 contains the Collectio Sanblasiana (in some literature Italica), an early sixth-century ‘canonical’ collection. A canonical collection is a collection of documents pertaining to canon (that is, ecclesiastical) law. Sanblasiana is one of the earliest surviving canonical collections, and amongst the canons (that is, brief regulations) of church councils and letters from popes, we find four of Leo the Great’s letters in it, Epp. 167, 12, 1, and 2 (not available online due to extreme similarity to Ep. 1).

Most manuscripts of canon law are pretty boring. They will simply be written out in black or brown ink with rubrics in red (technically a redundant statement). An ‘exciting’ day is perhaps when they have multiple colours in the rubrics (so are they rubrics anymore?). Some of the 15th-century manuscripts I’ve hung out with include very beautiful opening pages with paintings and flowers and all sorts of loveliness. Usually they drop the fancy fairly soon.

So, Cologne 213. It is written in an insular half-uncial (insular hands emerge in Britain, Ireland, and the surrounding isles) that Codices Latini Antiquiores says is Northumbrian (so, the North of England) — although I think it was written in Germany either by a Northumbrian or by someone under Northumbrian influence, since Anglo-Saxon missionaries were active in Germany around the time the manuscript was written (8th c), and it’s in Germany (Cologne) within the century.

Its first page is quite lovely, and various illuminated letters are found throughout, although they start to peter out by the time we reach Leo — he’s towards the end of the collection. Here’s a wee gallery. Enjoy!


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