Hunting down annotations in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München


Our little team has reconvened in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, where we sit and look at manuscripts from their wonderful collection, on the hunt for interesting phenomena in their margins. The library has, in fact, a very good system for digital facsimiles, but we are happy that there are still quite some manuscripts left for them to digitize, and that we can ask for them in the reading room of library. The building itself is actually intimidatingly large and stern, but inside we find the staff most helpful and accomodating!

One of my nice finds from yesterday is a book with Smaragdus “Expositio libri Comitis”,  an exegetical commentary on Epistles and Gospels, written by the monk Smaragdus of Saint Mihiel, of whom we know little more than that he was active at the royal courts of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious in the first half of the ninth century. Smaragdus’ scholarly method, which has been characterized as a copying and pasting of Church Fathers and other authorities, is very visible on the pages of ms. Clm 23368. On nearly every page, there are capital letters indicating the authorities from which the particular passage is taken: AG for Augustine, ISI for Isidore, H for Hieronymus, G for Gregorius, IO for Iohannes, B for Beda, etcetera.

Another nice find was not a voice from the ninth, but from the sixteenth century. In a little book, Clm 14846, with a grammatical commentary from Erchanbertus followed by the curious text “Sortilegia per litteras” (Witchcraft with letters), a humanist hand added: “legis sed non intelligis”. I sat with the manuscript for a while, but in the end I decided that I second this humanist voice!


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