Lot 1
  • 1

Ambrosiaster, Quaestiones Veteris et Novi Testamenti, two fragments from leaves from a monumental decorated Carolingian manuscript, in Latin, on vellum [France or Low Countries, tenth or early eleventh century]

3,000 - 5,000 GBP
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  • Vellum
two tall strips, cut vertically from two leaves, 313mm. by 65mm. and 335mm. by 65mm., with remains of 36 lines in dark brown ink in a fine Carolingian minuscule with pronounced st-ligatures and some archaic capitals, chapter headings “XIII” and “XI” in terracotta red on recto, one simple red 3-line initial on verso (perhaps added later), first fragment preserving 10mm. of upper margin, second fragment with 42mm. of lower margin, loss of only a few letters from edge of each column (thus original leaf double column, at least 355mm. high, and probably c.190mm. wide), recovered from the binding of a copy of Quintilian, Declamationes, printed in Paris in 1542 by Simon de Colines, and with some scuffs, folds and small areas of damage, glued at edges to a card

Catalogue Note

These fragments contain parts of an unrecorded manuscript of an important early commentary on the Old and New Testament (here with parts of quaest. XI, XXIII and XXXV). The author is anonymous, and perhaps deliberately so, but was named Ambrosiaster in the sixteenth century by Erasmus, who differentiated his works from that of Ambroise (his work has also been ascribed to Hilary and is often printed among the works of Augustine). He wrote in the second half of the fourth century, and whilst often overlooked, he is a fundamentally important voice for the early Church, offering a moderate and tolerant viewpoint on matters such as clerical celibacy,  free of Jerome's zeal. In fact, the two writers sparred through their writings: when Jerome referred in his letter of 384 to certain “two-legged asses” who were criticising his revision of the New Testament, it is to passages found in the present text that he refers.

These fragments are among the earliest copies of the text to survive. Copies of extracts of the text interspersed with that of Theodore of Mopsuestia were produced at Corbie in the eighth century (these probably descending from a North African copy from the library of Cassiodorus at Vivarium: see Ganz, Corbie in the Carolingian Renaissance, 1990, pp.40, 126-7, and lot 17 in the Schøyen sale in our rooms, 10 July 2012), but no pure text is extant before the ninth century. Souter in 1905 listed only 23 extant manuscripts (A Study of Ambrosiaster, pp.18-19), of which six date to the ninth century and three to the tenth or eleventh century (including Metz, Bibliothèques-Médiathèques, MS.322, a tenth-century copy from the medieval library of the Cathedral of St. Arnulfus there; and Universiteitsbibl., MS. 95, a late tenth-century copy from the library of the monastery of St. Maximin at Trier; both perhaps closely related to the present fragments). All of those listed by Souter are in institutional hands.