Friday 12 May 2023

A detail in the manuscript transmission of Sidonius

I still haven’t made up my mind about Twitter (where I may be found as @GavinKellyLatin). On the one hand, there is all sorts of useful information and one discovers that all sorts of people one doesn’t know well or at all are humane, knowledgeable, and fascinating; on the other hand it reveals and encourages the posturing, sanctimony, and silliness of many others, and sometimes things darker than that. The following blogpost is the result of the positive side. 

On 5 February ‘Ennius’ (@Red_Loeb) shared an image from a Durham manuscript, Cathedral Library A.II.4, the bible of William of St Calais, bishop of Durham, from AD 1096. This bible is said to originate in Normandy, like its owner. On f. 1v there is a list of the books that the bishop gifted to the library. In a retweet, my friend and colleague Justin Stover (‘Transmission of the Latin Classics’ = @OxGTLC), pointed out that it contained references to the works of Justin and Sidonius. Sure enough, two thirds of the way down you can see a paragraphus sign (¶) followed by Sidonius Sollius Panigericus. I forwarded it to Joop van Waarden who reproduced it on the website.

There is a potential significance to this observation. As Franz Dolveck has shown in his chapter in the Edinburgh Companion to Sidonius Apollinaris (2020), Sidonius’ works were originally transmitted with the letters first and then the poems (first panegyrics and then the shorter poems). Most extant manuscripts of Sidonius begin with the letters and it would be their title that one would expect to see. Indeed, Dolveck observes that ‘the manuscripts ‘containing only the poems (which are very few in number) are late and all derive from more complete manuscripts – in other words, they are the result of an editorial choice to omit the letters’ (483). So much for the surviving manuscripts, but Dolveck also shows that at one other point in the transmission a manuscript family was formed from different sources for letters and poems. This is what he calls the English family, consisting of six manuscripts from the late eleventh to early thirteenth centuries: these are Dolveck’s numbers 19, 23, 35, 36, 38, 49:

-Hereford, Cathedral Library, O. II. 6 (Gloucester, s. XII2, letters only)

-London, British Library, Royal 4 B. IV (B) (Worcester, s. XII1, complete)

-Oxford, Bodleian Library, Auct. F. 5. 25 (‘maybe England’ (Dolveck), ‘French hand’ (Chronopoulos), s. XI2, less likely s. XII1, letters 1-5.3 with lacunae)

-Oxford, Bodleian Library, Digby 61 (olim B.N. 6) (s. XIIex, letters 3.12 to end and Carm. 1-2)

-Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawl. G. 45 (England, s. XII, letters and poems with lacunae)

-Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 9551 (F) (England, s. XIII1/4, letters and poems)

In this family, the texts of the letters and of the poems come from separate sources. That of the letters lies fairly low in the stemma (a few steps below ζ in the stemma below), but that of the poems is close to the top (γ). Indeed, as I have suggested in a recent article on the paratexts of Sidonius’ poems (Kelly 2022, n. 8) the unity of γ and δ for the carmina is not wholly certain and there is a possibility that γ could be seen as a separate family.

The list from the Durham bible, it may be plausibly conjectured, fills in part of the story of this family. There was an authoritative text of Sidonius that omitted the letters and thus began with the Panegyrics. At some point it was combined with a text of the letters from a less excellent source and the oeuvre thus restored to its full length. Of course it is possible that the oldest of Dolveck’s English family, Oxford Auct. F. 5. 25, may not have contained the poems even before it was reduced to its current state, nor does Hereford O II. 6 contain them (Dolveck does not think any of the rest of the family are descended from these). William of St Calais’ manuscript, perhaps brought over with the Conqueror, could be either the source of the poems in this family, or perhaps a descendant or sibling of that source. At any rate, my main point is that England just after 1066 is exactly where you would expect to find evidence of a manuscript of Sidonius poems without the letters; it fits very nicely with Dolveck’s reconstruction.

Two further notes. First, the name Sidonius Sollius reverses the order of the two names Sidonius was most often known by. The manuscripts of the poems waver between giving the full glory of Sidonius’ nomenclature (Gaius Sollius Modestus Apollinaris Sidonius) and abbreviating in various ways: Modestus appears only very occasionally, though across the whole tradition, while some manuscripts shorten to GSAS or GSMAS. In the English family, the first panegyric is introduced thus: Gaii Sollii A. Sidonii panigerici dicti Anthemio augusto bis consuli praefatio incipit. The spelling panigericus, found in the Durham Bible, is absolutely consistent across the manuscripts of Sidonius.

Secondly, there are other fragmentary or partial manuscripts of Sidonius written in post-conquest England other those listed above (see Dolveck’s catalogue), and much other interesting material, including a life of Sidonius by none other than William of Malmesbury, and many glosses on manuscripts of the letters: Tina Chronopoulos has very well on written on both topics.

Works cited

T. Chronopoulos, ‘Brief lives of Sidonius, Symmachus, and Fulgentius written in 12th-cent. England? Journal of Medieval Latin 20 (2010), 232–291.

T. Chronopoulos, ‘Glossing Sidonius in the Middle Ages’, in G. Kelly and J. van Waarden (eds), The Edinburgh Companion to Sidonius Apollinaris (Edinburgh, 2020), 643–664.

F. Dolveck, ‘The Manuscript Tradition of Sidonius’, in G. Kelly and J. van Waarden (eds), The Edinburgh Companion to Sidonius Apollinaris (Edinburgh, 2020), 479–542. [The first part of this chapter has been made freely available by the publisher here]

G. Kelly, ‘Titles and Paratexts in the Collection of Sidonius’ Poems’, in A. Bruzzone, A. Fo, and L. Piacente (eds), Metamorfosi del classico nell’età romanobarbarica (SISMEL – Edizioni del Galluzzo: Florence, 2021 [2022]), 77–97. [I am not allowed to post this on my website till five years after publication, but I will happily send a copy to anybody who e-mails me; my text of the paratexts can be found on the website here].