Manuscript Number: ljs101

Version: Mar/28/2001

Boethius, In Librum Aristotelis de Interpretatione, in Latin with some words in Greek. Manuscript on Vellum.

[North Central France (Perhaps Fleury, Saint-Benoît-Sur-Loire), S. VIIImed –XIIin]

64 folios, plus vellum flyleaves, lacking 2 gatherings after f. 44 and other leaves at end else complete, collation: i4, ii4+4, iii-vi8, (vii-viii lacking), ix-x8, xi4, second gathering misbound (order of folios should be 5, 9-10, 6-7, 11-12, 8), the manuscript was evidently very imperfect by the eleventh century when major portions were supplied – ff. 5-44 are ninth century (quires 2-6), but ff. 1-4 and 45-64 are eleventh century (quires 1 and 9-11) and quires 7-8 are lacking – the format varying with the two dates, (a) ninth-century part, single column, 20 lines beginning above top ruled line, blind ruling always scored from the flesh side, writing-space 150 x 120 mm., written in yellow-brown ink in an upright Carolingian minuscule, with some words in Greek uncials, headings, etc., in Latin rustic capitals, initials mostly 2 lines high set out partly or entirely into the left-hand margins either in the same ink or (from f. 30 onwards) alternately in the same ink and in red, four large diagrams (two in color, brown, red, green and yellow), the diagrams being on ff. 36r, 36v and 37v, and (b) eleventh-century part, the pages slightly narrower (205 x 177 mm.), single column, 23 lines beginning above top ruled line, ruled in blind, writing-space 136 x 105 mm., written in dark brown ink in a very fine small upright late Carolingian minuscule, some headings in tall slightly backward-sloping capitals, 2- (and sometimes 3-) line capitals drawn delicately in ink, capitals touched in green on first few pages, red initials on ff. 60r-v, red and blue initials on f. 2r and also presumably the red and blue initial on the ninth-century f. 5r was added at the same time in the eleventh century, a very large (almost full-page) decorated initial on f. 1v, a diagram on f. 54v, the text extensively corrected and repunctuated in a darker ink, including words changed or marked for deletion, etc., the added text on ff. 60v and 63r glossed using various common signes-de-renvoi (these are not ‘tyronian notes’ as had been suggested in the Kraus description), some late medieval ‘nota’ signs, some signs of use but generally in remarkably fine fresh condition with very wide margins usually preserving the prickings, bound in nineteenth-century English diced russia, doubtless for Phillipps, end flyleaf watermarked J. Whatman, 1832, in a brown cloth case, title gilt. 205 x 180 mm.


  1. Probably written and illustrated at the great Carolingian abbey of Fleury (Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire), according to the late Professor Carl Nordenfalk, who worked on the manuscript when it was in the possession of H. P. Kraus. Fleury was one of the largest and richest and most important monasteries of Europe, founded in the seventh century. Fleury claimed possession of the relics of St. Benedict. By the mid-ninth century, the date of the present manuscript, its library was one of the most comprehensive ever assembled, and scholars such as Lupus of Ferrières (d. 862) traveled there for its texts. Fleury had close links with Anglo-Saxon England. It became a Cluniac house in c. 930 and, especially under the rule of Abbot Abbo, 988-1004, enjoyed a second renaissance of learning and scholarship. "A satisfactory history of the Fleury library, in which the evidence of surviving manuscripts is interpreted in the light of the monastery’s rich history, is still lacking" (M. Mostert, ‘the Tradition of Classical Texts in the Manuscripts of Fleury’, in C. A. Chavannes-Mazel and M. M. Smith, eds., Medieval Manuscripts of the Latin Classics, Production and Use, 1996, p. 19, n. 2). By the seventeenth century, its library had become a quarry for collectors of texts. After more than a thousand years, Fleury was suppressed in 1790 and most of its buildings were demolished. Even in the early nineteenth century, the residue of the Fleury library, by then in Orléans, had suffered losses, not least from Guglielmo Libri. Some 1,300 extant manuscripts are now securely ascribed to the library of Fleury, with another 250 or so, including the present volume, attributable with a greater of lesser degree of certainty; cf. M. Mostert, The Library of Fleury, A Provisional List of Manuscripts, 1989. A tenth-century library catalogue, generally assumed to be from Fleury but not accepted by Mostert, includes "periermenia apulei cum periermeniis asistotelis" (G. Becker, Catalogi Biblioghecarum Antiqui, 1885, p. 132, cat. 45, item 44) which may be the present manuscript.
  2. The London bookseller James Taylor, sold c. 1826 to Phillipps.
  3. Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), his Ms. 2179, with his stenciled crest inside upper cover and his note on f. 1, "717 in alio catalogo".
  4. William H. Robinson Ltd., purchased as the residue of the Phillipps collection in 1945.
  5. H. P. Kraus, purchased as the still further residue of the Phillipps collection in March 1978.
  6. Beck Collection Ms. 3, bought from H. P. Kraus in March 1979.
  7. Acquired from Sotheby’s, 16 June 1997, lot 3.


  1. Aristotle, Periermenias, in the Latin translation of Boethius (c. 480-c. 524), opening on f. 1v, "PERIERMENUS ARISTOTELIS A BOETIO TRANSLAUS, LIBER PRIMUS INCIPIT, Primum quorum constaverunt…", with a very large decorated initial ‘P’ inset into the text up to the full height of the page drawn in an elaborate interlaced design of broad multi-colored arabesque panels with fine leafy Celtic interlace at upper and lower and right-hand extremities, and with 4 lions’ heads holding colored leaves in their mouths; last line of f. 1v continuing onto f. 2r, "ANICII MALLII [sic] SEVERINI BOECII VIRI CLARISSIMI DE INTERPRETATIONE LIBRI PERIERMENIAS ARISTOTLES…Magna quidem libri huius apud peripatheicam…" (Boethius, In Librum Aristotelis de Interpretatione, i.e. the Editio Prima or Minora Commentaria of Boethius on the text of Aristotle; Migne, PL LXIV:293-333; K. Meiser, ed., Anicii Manlii Severini Boetii commentarii in Librum Aristotelis Peri Ermeneias, I, 1877, p. 31); f. 36r, colored diagram, 43 x 100 mm., principally in red and green, on universal and particular affirmations and negations; f. 36v, colored diagram, 40 x 98 mm., drawn in red with fleurons in corners, infilled in green and yellow, on affirmations and contradictions; f. 37v, two diagrams, 34 x 101 mm. and 41 x 103 mm., in brown ink, on the same subjects; f. 37 is a duplicate of ff. 34v-36v (Migne col. 321) and the text correctly runs from the foot of f. 36v to the second line on f. 38v, breaking off "…non contingent" on f. 44v at Migne col. 333 and beginning again on f. 45r at Migne col. 359, all ending on f. 53r, "…siries explicabit, FINIT".
  2. Pseudo-Apuleus, Peri ermenias (or De Interpretatione), opening on ff. 53v, "INCIPIUNT PERI ERMENIAE APULEI, Studium sapientiae quam philosophiam vocamus…" (the De Interpretatione of Pseudo-Apuleus of Madaura; P. Thomas, Apulei Opera quae Supersunt, III, Leipzig, 1908; cf. Pauly-Wissowa, III, 252), ending on f. 59v, "…non potest numerus augere, PERIERMENIAE APULEI EXPLICIUNT". This text was part of the Logica Vetus of Gerbert.
  3. Decimus Magnus Ausonius (310 – c. 400), Carmen de Mensibus (or Monosticha Recapituationis Septem Dierum, verses on the Seven Days of Creation), f. 60r, "Primus romanas ordiris…" (Verses from Ausonius, Eclogues, book X; Migne, PL XIX:1911).
  4. A long rhetorical specimen letter, from a monk who is asked to enter a job which he does not feel himself qualified for, opening on f. 60v, "Mirum oppido mihi videtur venerabilis pater…", continuing on f. 63r, ending "…delebitur aevo", apparently unique and unrecorded, extensively glossed using a wide range of decorative signes-de-renvoi resembling tironian notes.
  5. Other short texts include: f. 1r, part of a grammatical text on declensions, with words in Greek, references to the Aeneid, the Thebais of Statius, etc.; f. 1r, "Primus in orbe dies…", a 7-line verse by Eugenius of Toledo, ending "…septimus est domino requies his rite peractis." (MGH, Auct. Antiq. XIV; Migne, PL LXXXVII:365-6); f. 1r, "Rethorica est benedicendi sciencia…", a definition of rhetoric attributed to Isidore of Seville (cf. Etymologiae II, I, 76); f. 4v, a marginal verse opening "Vult huius ce modi cythare qui fide…", mentioning an "audaldus magister"; f. 63r, a distich, "Hic cubat ergo pater stephanus venerabilis abba…", apparently unrecorded, addressed to an abbot Stephen; ff. 63v-64r, definitions of various words, "Draco, serpens est, et significat diabolum…", "Publicanus est qui fiscalia publica exigit…", etc., and names of apostles and others, ending on f. 64r, "…in corda hominum"; f. 64v blank.

This is an extremely important collection of secular and classical texts principally made in France in the mid-ninth century. These are school texts, on logic and the nature of learning and language. This is very probably the oldest entirely secular Western manuscript in private hands, perhaps a generation earlier than the Cassiodorus of the third quarter of the ninth century which was lot 34 in the J. Paul Getty Museum’s sale, Sotheby’s, 6 December 1988. At least one of the texts here is apparently unique. The manuscript stands as a remarkable symbol of the breadth of Carolingian scholarship and as a link between the ancient world of Athenian philosophy and the medieval learning of the emerging cathedral schools.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) became in the course of the Middle Ages the embodiment of the concept of human genius. Especially from the thirteenth century onwards, the philosophy of Aristotle became absolutely central to scholastic study. Before the rise of the universities, Aristotle’s works were mostly known, if at all, through the translations and commentaries of Beothius (c. 480-c. 524), author of the De Consolatione Philosophiae. The Periermenaias, or De Interpretatione, is one of two works of Aristotle which Boethius translated and wrote commentaries on (the other is the Categoriae or Liber Praedimentorum) and it forms part of the Aristotelian corpus of works on logic known collectively as the Organon. Boethius’ commentary on the Periermenias probably owes its survival to its inclusion in Alcuin’s program for the revival of classical scholarship in the court schools of Charlemagne. The oldest surviving manuscript of the text dates from the beginning of the ninth century, now in the Casa Madre dei Padri Maristi in Rome, which was written probably in Lyons and was presented to the cathedral there by archbishop Leidrat (d. 816; cf. E. A. Lowe, Codices Latini Antiquiores, IV, 1947, p. 4, no. 417; B. Bischoff, Manuscripts and Libraries in the Age of Charlemagne, 1994, p. 64). The nineteenth-century editor of the text, Karl Meiser, knew of no manuscript earlier than the tenth century. The dating of the core of the present book to the middle third of the ninth century places it was one of the primary witnesses to the text. This ms. is described by George Lacombe in the first volume of the catalogue of Aristoteles Latinus manuscripts (1957).

The second principal text here, attributed in the Middle Ages to Apuleis, is also of extreme rarity but in fact survives in two other manuscripts from Fleury abbey, one of the early ninth century (Orléans ms. 277, pp. 1-55) and the other of around the year 1000 (B.N. ms. Lat. 6638). Probably these two represent the exemplar and a copy of the present manuscript.

The present manuscript was made in two stages, representing the twin highpoints of the scriptorium of Fleury. The magnificent almost full-page initial ‘P’ on f. 1r is in the portion of the manuscript supplied in the early eleventh century, probably in the time of Abbot Abbo (d. 1004). It was this initial, celtic and insular in its interlace and lions’ heads, classical and Italian in its bursts of colored leaves, which Professor Nordenfalk ascribed especially to Fleury.

A group of very similar initials are discussed by him in ‘A Tenth-Century Gospel Book in the Walters Art Gallery’ in U. McCracken, L. Randall, and R. Randall, eds., Gatherings in Honor of Dorothy E. Miner, 1974, pp. 139-70, esp. pp. 163-70, including a manuscript of Aristotle’s Categoriae, the companion text to the present Periermenias, now Orléans, Bibl. Mun. ms. 277 (his fig. 23 on p. 165); for the Walters manuscript, W.3, and further examples, cf. L.M.C. Randall, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery, I, France, 875-1420, 1989, pp. 7-9, no. 3). Fleury Abbey also decorated manuscripts for other houses in the time of Abbo’s successor, Gauzlin (abbot 1005-30), probably including Beauvais Cathedral (cf. J. Paul Getty Museum, MS. Ludwig V.I; A. von Euw and J.M. Plotzek, Die Handschriften der Sammlung Ludwig, I, 1979, pp. 219-22).

Dr. Paul Saenger, in a paper delivered in November 1998 argues that a team of scribes working together in the late tenth century could have produced the codex.


This ms. is described in Lacombe, George, Aristoteles latinus : codices, Bruges: Desclée de Brouwer, 1957, OCLC 43656217; this ms. referenced in Aristotle, De interpretaione: vei Periermenias, edited by Lorenzo Minio-Paluello, Bruges: Desclée de Brouwer, 1965, OCLC 2353818; H. Schenkel, Bibliotheca Patrum Latinorum Britannica, I, ii, 1892, p. 48, no. 1213; Sotheby’s 16 June 1997, lot 3; Abbo of Fleury and the Birth of Visual Language: The Evidence of the Codex Schoenbergensis, Paul Saenger, Newberry Library, November 8, 1998 (unpublished).

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