2 vertical strips, each from a full column height, 304mm. by 63mm. and 310 by 65mm., left-hand edges cropped and crenellated with 7 rectangles removed to fit around the 7 sewing-stations of a binding, 26 well-spaced lines of a "regular stately uncial" (Lowe), the bow of 'A' attenuated and pointed, upper bow of 'B' forming a small triangle, the hasta of 'E' high, no word division, laid out 'per cola et commata', some rubbing and creasing, minor stains, other wear, between perspex, in a quarter red morocco fitted case gilt [by Nello Nanni, New York], including the printed book in which the pieces were found
Formerly used as sewing-guards in the contemporary binding of Johannes Leunclavius, Jus Graeco-Romanum, II, Frankfurt, 1595 (sold with the lot), bought for 5 shillings by Edward Herbert, first Baron Herbert of Cherbury (1583-1648), philosopher and historian, perhaps during his continental journey of 1614-15 to Cologne and up the Rhine (J.M. Shuttleworth, The Life of Edward, First Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Written by Himself, 1976, pp.72-3). The volume has his autograph monogram (as reproduced by Fordyce and Knox, Oxford Bibliographical Society Proceedings and Papers, V, 1937, pl. following p.72). Part of Lord Herbert's library was bequeathed to Jesus College, Oxford. The residue, including the present item, remained in the possession of his descendants at Powis Castle, central Wales, until 1952, when the castle was bequeathed to the National Trust by the fourth Earl of Powis. The library was mainly dispersed in these rooms, 31 January 1955 (and Maggs cat.837, 1956). The Jus Graeco-Romanum was consigned to Sotheby's by Edward Herbert, fifth Earl of Powis (1889-1974); his sale in these rooms, 10 July 1967, lot 20, to H.P. Kraus. It was Kraus, Monumenta Codicum Manu Scriptorum, 1974, no.2, bought by Martin Schøyen in 1987. It is now Schøyen MS 30.
Probably the fourth or fifth oldest witness to the Gospel of Matthew in the text of the Latin Vulgate. The New Testament was composed in Greek (see lot 3) and was most famously translated into Latin by Jerome (d. 420), in the version known now as the Vulgate, which remained incomparably the most important and widely circulated text of any kind throughout the entirety of Europe for well over a millennium, still extant in tens of thousands of manuscripts and never out of print since the Gutenberg Bible. Initially, however, Jerome's new Vulgate text struggled for recognition against the archaic Vetus Latina, or 'Old Latin' version. Early copies of the new Vulgate translation are surprisingly rare. The oldest surviving manuscripts which include all or even small parts of Matthew's Gospel in the Latin Vulgate are, in approximate order of date:
1. Sanct Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, MS 1395 (with further pieces in Sanct Paul in Carinthia and in the Staatarchiv and Zentralbibliothek in Zurich), multiple fragments, Italy, early fifth century.
2. Autun, Bibliothèque municipale, ms 21 (with further pieces in Paris, BnF, ms n.a. lat. 1628), fragments, palimpsest undertext only, Italy, fifth century.
3. Cividale, Museo archeologico nazionale (with further pieces in Prague and Venice, given as relics of Saint Mark), multiple fragments, Italy, early sixth century.
4. Ancona, Archivio capitolare, 101 leaves remaining, each bifolium mounted separately, Italy, mid-sixth century.
5. Schøyen MS 30, the present pieces.
6. Würzburg, Universitätsbibliothek, Mp.th.f.68, substantially complete, Italy, sixth century and later.
7. Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, C.39 inf., substantially complete, Italy, second half of the sixth century.
8. Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 286, the 'Gospels of Saint Augustine', substantially complete, Italy, late sixth century (perhaps 590s).
9. London, British Library, Harley MS 1775, the 'Harley Gospels', substantially complete, Italy, late sixth century ("possibly early seventh century", M. Brown, In the Beginning, 2006, p.156).
10. Oxford, Bodleian, MS Auct. D.II.14, substantially complete, Italy, probably early seventh century.
All earlier manuscripts and fragments of the Gospels in Latin are either of the archaic Old Latin text, including such famous manuscripts as the Vercelli Codex (fourth-century) or the Latin parts of the Codex Bezae (fifth-century), or are tiny Vulgate fragments which no longer include any part of Matthew's Gospel. E.A. Lowe drew attention to the "marked similarity" between the present pieces and the Ancona manuscript, which is reputedly and credibly associated with Saint Marcellinus, bishop of Ancona 550-c.566. Both manuscripts probably date from the middle third of the sixth century. They are older than any complete Vulgate Gospel Book extant. They are about a century and a half earlier than even the Codex Amiatinus, the most important primary source for Jerome's text. The oldest fragments of the Latin Vulgate in North America both date from the late seventh or early eighth century: Yale, Beinecke, MS 440 (pieces of Mark), and Indiana University, Lilly, MS Poole 65 (a tiny fragment of Luke).
The texts here are from Matthew 6 and 8: piece (a) recto, from "[tot]um corpus ..." (Matthew 6:23) to "...[no]nne anima plu[s]" (6:25), and verso, from "quam esca ..." (Matthew 6:25) to "...[no]n laborant [nequ]e nent" (6:28); piece (b) recto, from "[dignus] ut intres ..." (Matthew 8:8) to "...occid[en]te venient" (8:11), and verso, from "[e]t recumbent ..." (Matthew 8:11) to "...[ve]spere autem f[acto]". This includes the text of Christ's injunction not to serve both God and mammon, culminating in 'Consider the lilies of the field' (verse 28), and, in the next piece, the healing of the centurion's servant. At Matthew 8:13, a line of dots under the 'h' or 'hora' changes the reading to 'ora' (cured in 'the mouth'), a variant without authority.
Like many of the earliest biblical manuscripts, the text is laid out 'per cola et commata', in short sense breaks for reading aloud a breath at a time. There is no word division. The strips are both from the outer columns of a 2-column manuscript, originally c.252mm. by c.240mm. One leaf separated the two. The whole volume would have had upwards of 200 leaves.
The contemporary binding of the Jus Graeco-Romanum is clearly continental, in simple plain vellum over pasteboards. It is most probable that the Gospel manuscript was cut up by a bookbinder in or near Frankfurt between 1595 and 1614-15, when Lord Herbert visited Germany. An obsolete sixth-century Gospel Book could have reached the Rhineland by any route in the previous 900 years, but the simplest explanation is that it had arrived with the first Christian missionaries to Germany, who came not directly from Italy but from England. In the late sixth and seventh centuries, uncial texts of the Vulgate Scriptures had first been brought to Britain by Italians such as St. Augustine of Canterbury, who was furnished with manuscripts by Gregory the Great (pope 590-604), and St. Benedict Biscop, who probably acquired part of the biblical library of Cassiodorus (d. c.585). In the seventh and early eighth centuries, many of these same manuscripts (by that time of less value) were then taken back across the Channel to Germany by St. Willibrord (d. 739), St. Boniface (d. 754) and other Anglo-Saxon missionaries, establishing Christianity in the Rhineland, Fulda, Mainz, Eichstätt, Würzburg, and elsewhere, all in the region of Frankfurt. A good example is Würzburg Mp. th. f.68, cited above, written in Italy in the sixth century, in Northumbria by the seventh century, and in Germany by the early eighth century, apparently owned by St. Burghard, Anglo-Saxon bishop of Würzburg 742-53. Another is the Laudian Acts (Bodleian MS Laud Gr. 35), written in sixth-century Italy, probably in Northumbria by the time of Bede (d.735), and apparently in western Germany by c.800. The Schøyen uncial Matthew may very well have followed a similar route from late classical Italy through Dark Age Britain.
E.A. Lowe, Codices Latini Antiquiores, Supplement, 1971, p.37, no.1801; B. Bischoff, V. Brown and J. John, 'Addenda to Codices Latini Antiquiores', Mediaeval Studies, 54, 1992, p.307.
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