Tacitus /

edited by Cynthia Damon

Manuscripts

From Stuart, Duane Reed. 1909. Tacitus: The Agricola. New York: Macmillan. Pp. xxv-xxvi.

Until recent years knowledge of the Agricola rested on two manuscripts only. Both of these are preserved in the Library of the Vatican. During the last decade two new manuscripts which throw a flood of light on the text have been put at the service of students of Tacitus. One of these is in the possession of the Chapter Library of the Cathedral at Toledo in Spain and is, therefore, designated as the Codex Toletanus. Its existence was reported to the world of scholarship in 1897, but four years passed before its readings were published. The text of this manuscript shows important variations from the text of the Vatican manuscripts. In numerous passages where its fellows are wrong, the Toletanus has preserved the correct version. Nevertheless there was some difference of opinion as to the reliance to be placed upon it until its authority was vindicated by the discovery of another manuscript, which has turned out to be one of the most valuable palaeographical finds of our day.

This fourth manuscript of the Agricola was found in the year 1902 in the private library of Count Balleani of Jesi, an Italian town not far from Ancona. Technically the manuscript is termed the Codex Aesinas, abbreviated by E. Eight of the fourteen leaves which it contains once formed a part of a manuscript of the minor works of (xxvi) Tacitus which Enoch of Ascoli, an emissary of Pope Nicholas V, obtained at the German monastery of Hersfeld and carried to Rome in 1455. This was the first manuscript of the minor works brought into Italy after the Revival of Learning. The six remaining pages of E were copied by a trustworthy scholar of the Renaissance directly from Enoch's original.

For practical purposes, therefore, the discovery of E has brought our text five hundred years nearer to Tacitus, as Enoch's manuscript of the Agricola was copied in the tenth century. Furthermore E is the source of the other three manuscripts, all of which were produced in the latter half of the fifteenth century. The Toletanus was copied directly from E; the Vatican manuscripts go back through an intermediary, being copies of a copy of E now lost to us. We see, therefore, why the Toletanus escaped many errors which crept into the Vatican manuscripts in the process of transmission. In reconstructing the text of the Agricola E, as the parent manuscript, must henceforth be the point of departure.

 

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