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Pay attention and mark your references! The use of technical signs in manuscript margins

Leiden Symposium, 17 March 2016

Evina Steinova

on 23 April 2016

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Transcript of Pay attention and mark your references! The use of technical signs in manuscript margins

Pay attention and mark your references!

Evina Steinova
Leiden, March 2016

The use of technical signs in manuscript margins
Technical signs
discrete graphic symbols inserted in the manuscript to add a layer of information to the text
these symbols have their own meaning which is encoded in their graphic shape (distinct from
signes de renvoi
their function not fixed, but rather determined by communities of users - the signs thus always reflect a particular community of users

how signs are used
captured by manuscript marginalia
the reflection of practices without their explanation

how signs are discussed
captured by texts: technical literature about the signs and testimonies of notable users
may be highly specific to singular cases, does not reflect the viewpoint of all or the majority of users

Technical signs in Antiquity
their use may reflect the physical shape of the papyrus book roll, specifically the limited margin size that did not accommodate marginalia
originally probably used by individual readers in an
ad hoc
manner, but already in the 3rd century BCE the consistency of manuscript evidence suggests that conventions emerged
several identifiable communities of users:
professional scribes and book-copyists
scholars engaged in the study of Homer
students of law
students of philosophy
Christian theologians
Scribes and scholars
the bulk of technical signs found in ancient papyri can be attributed to professional book-copyists and the routine tasks they performed in the process of book production, e.g. correction for errors and text division
only a smaller proportion of manuscript evidence reflects the activities of elite users who can be described as scholars
Hellenistic scholarly sign users connected to Museion in Alexandrian developed an elaborate system of signs to critically annotated Homer
these Alexandrian scholars can be identified by name, e.g. Zenodotus of Ephesus (f. 280 BCE) or Aristarchus of Samothrace (d. 145 BCE)
Christan scholars in Antiquity
Origen (c. 185 – 254) used technical signs derived from the Alexandrian scholarly use to critically annotate the Old Testament
technical signs were used by Christian scholars to assess the doctrinality of central texts: a positive sign would mark approved passages while a negative sign could be used to express disapproval or flag heresy
Transmission of ancient
scribal conventions
we can see the continuity between the
of ancient scribal workshops and early medieval monastic scriptoria
Through written texts:
scholarly conventions
from the first centuries CE appearance of specialized technical literature about technical signs devoted to the practices of the Alexandrian scholars and later to the practices of Christian thinkers
Sign treatises
specialized lists of technical signs providing their names, graphic forms and descriptions
The 21-sign treatise
the most influential textual tradition about technical signs in the Latin West
at least four independent witnesses from the Early Middle Ages; the material they share points to an existence of a set of twenty-one signs that goes back to Late Antiquity
consists of four discernible layers that reflect different stages of growth:
8-sign treatise:
1st/2nd c., reflects Alexandrian scholarly tradition, the same material survives in Greek

12-sign treatise:
2nd c.?, reflects both knowledge of Homeric scholia and Virgil, Latin environment

16-sign treatise:
2nd c.?, pertains to Greek lyric poetry and drama, similar material found in Hephaestion

21-sign treatise:
5th-7th c., contains material from Servius
De notis sententiarum
Isidore of Seville (c. 560 - 636) incorporated a version of the 21-sign treatise into his
Isidore added five additional signs to the list to form the total of 26 items
he also added his own prologue and epilogue, reworked some of the items and changed their order
because of the popularity of the
, the 21-sign treatise became mediated in the early medieval West chiefly through Isidore's reworked version
'On the signs of assessment'
Sign treatises as a genre
almost thirty different texts that can be classified as sign treatises survive from Antiquity and the Middle Ages in Latin, Greek, Armenian, Syriac and Anglo-Saxon
most of them are anonymous compilations that are transmitted in miscellanies and compendia, although the material they contain often comes from texts with known authors
utilitarian texts subjected to constant rewriting and recompilation by their immediate users
in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages change in the format: from continuous texts to lists with distinct items that can be reshuffled or omitted
Cassiodorus' sign treatise in the
Expositio psalmorum
included in the Expositio as a preface by Cassiodorus and transmitted in this fashion in the Early Middle Ages
this preface was excerpted as transmitted separately as an anonymous text at least since the 8th century in Francia
since at least the 9th century it also survives as an anonymized sign treatise with additions in Carolingian manuscripts, probably Insular in origin
another anonymized version circulated in England as
Notae divinae legi necessariae
in manuscripts containing the works of Jerome
If we now move to the Carolingian period...
... we still see two groups of users who can be called scribes and scholars ...
... but who are now members of the same literate elite
scribes acquire a basic package of technical signs together with Latin literacy and script
just as there exist different regional scripts, there exist different regional conventions of sign use, e.g. between Frankish and insular scribes
these conventions go back to ancient scribal practices
On average scribes use only a handful of standard signs
sign to mark quotes from the Bible
sign to mark passages that need checking against a better copy
sign to mark noteworthy passages
some members of the same community also acquired additional conventions of sign use that do not go back to ancient scribal practices
these conventions were rather adopted from written sources such as sign treatises and testimonies about sign use by notable scholars, e.g. Jerome
The reform of the Gallican Psalter and revival of scholarly sign use in Carolingian period
Gallican Psalter: a Latin text version of the Psalms prepared by Jerome in the fourth century on the basis of Origen's critical text
: words found only in Hebrew and not in Greek (LXX)
: words found only in Greek (LXX) and not in Hebrew
adopted as the preferred text version in the Frankish empire
BUT: manuscripts missing or misplacing the signs, a 'corruption' of the text
as a result attempts at the restitution of the signs by Carolingian scholars from the last decades of the eighth century onwards
Origen's critical method applied to texts other than Old Testament, e.g. the Rule of Benedict
greater interest in texts devoted to Origen's critical method: Jerome's letters and commentaries, Augustine's testimonies, Isidore's
De notis sententiarum
a source of a major wave of interest in technical signs among Carolingian scholars in the 9th century
De notis sententiarum
as a key source of
in the Carolingian period
quoted by: Alcuin, Hraban Maur, Hincmar of Reims, Prudentius of Troyes, and Atto of Vercelli (+ source of inspiration of Florus of Lyon)
appearance of abbreviated versions of
De notis sententiarum
, which appropriate this text for the Carolingian context
manuscripts of the
from the Carolingian period contain evidence of the active reception of
De notis sententiarum
at this time, which are absent from copies from other periods and regions:
glosses and annotations
changes to layout that allow for consultative reading
separate transmission of the first book of the
as a handbook of grammar, thus potential inclusion of
De notis sententiarum
in classroom curriculum
Scholarly users of technical signs in the Carolingian period
as in Antiquity, notable individuals can be connected with scholarly sign use in this period
restricted to a small group of users, in particular in comparison with scribal practices
did not last significantly beyond the Carolingian period, dependent on the fortunes of large intellectual centers that could support scholarly activities
does not seem to have significantly permeated scribal
, although for some time, some of the signs mentioned in
De notis sententiarum
) seem to have gained some popularity also outside of the scholarly circles
characteristic feature of Carolingian scholarly sign use: mixing of older Hellenistic and Patristic traditions
Carolingian scribal
two manuscript corpora as a basis:
Codices latini antiquiores
: ~ 1800 Latin manuscripts produced before 800

2) a corpus of ~150 manuscripts produced between 750 and 900 in Bavaria and kept there in the Middle Ages
Some conclusions
1) The volume of some types of technical signs increased significantly between Late Antiquity; quotation signs in particular became wide-spread
2) Regional Bavarian use: an older set of insular conventions replaced in the ninth century by the standard Frankish set
3) Some traces of Isidorian influence, but only very limited, late and restricted to a handful of manuscripts
4) As many as 75% from the Bavarian corpus contain technical signs; mostly only four or five basic types (i.e., correction, attention and quotation signs)
5) At the same time, marginal annotations are very rare in the same corpus, making technical signs the most common form of marginalia in early medieval Bavaria
6) Approximately 17% of manuscripts were annotated in a programmatic fashion and may reveal regional intellectual projects
Munich Clm 5508, fol. 20v:

Munich Clm 6278, fol. 28v:

Munich Clm 13038, fol. 18r: quotation signs
P. Oxy. liii 3711:
P. Cologne Theol. 1:
P. Berol. inv. 9875:
Vatican Reg. Lat. 886, fol.93r:
P. Oxy. xxvi 2441: scribal text-structuring sign
Venice Gr. 882, fol. 12r: critical signs in a manuscript of Homer
Codex Marchalianus, p. 17:
added by Origen mark a passage not found in the LXX
Paris Lat. 12098, fol. 110v: negative
marking a 'heretical' passage
P. Oxy. xxv 2429:
in a 2nd-c. papyrus
St. Gallen 48, p. 8:
in a 9th-c. codex
Wolfenbuttel Weiss. 64, fol. 14r:
De notis sententiarum
Paris Lat. 4841, fol. 27v
Madrid Real Academia 76, fol. 3r
Wolfenbuttel Weiss. 64, fol. 14r
Zofingen Pa 32, fol. 12r
Oxford Ashmole 328, p. 195
Paris Lat. 7530, fol. 28r
Oxford Digby 184, fol. 93r
Schaffhausen Min. 78, fol. 1v: sign list in Cassiodorus's
Expositio Psalmorum
Munich Clm 9543, fol. 9v
Vatican Reg. Lat. 886, fol. 49v
Munich Clm 6252, fol. 10r
St. Gallen 904, p. 137
St. Gallen 904, p. 13
St. Gallen 904, p. 12
St. Gallen 27, p. 27
Bern 3, fol. 195r
Leiden VLO 41, fol. 47v
Bern 317, fol. 11r
Paris Lat. 13759, fol. 64r
Munich Clm 6375, fol. 34r: manuscript from the Bavarian corpus
examined in order to see the patterns of the distribution of technical signs in large corpora: What are the most common signs? How many signs are used per codex on average? etc.
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