PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION AND MATERIALITY
Two parchment fragments, each c.40×76mm, preserving on each side most of four lines of text and traces of a fifth, severely cropped, wormed, and stained.
From the size and shape of these fragments we can deduce that they were used as spine-linings: each one would have been affixed to the spine of the host volume between the horizontal sewing bands of the spine; in each case the more damaged side is the one that was glued to the spine.
From the short line-length of the text we can see that the parent volume must have been written in two columns; both fragments probably come from the same original leaf, as the texts they contain are closely adjacent, so by calculating the amount of text missing between the recto and the verso, the page layout could be reconstructed.
Despite their small size and damaged condition, these are still precious witnesses to one of the strangest scripts of the Middle Ages in Europe, with an ‘a’ and a ‘t’ that both look like the letters ‘oc’ joined together, an ‘e’ that looks like an ‘8’ with part of its lower bowl missing, an ‘fi’ ligature that looks like a German Eszett ‘ß’, and a ‘c’ that looks like a backwards ‘3’.
Both fragments come from Augustinus, In Evangelium Joannis Tractatus CXXIV:
(I) Tractatus X
“[ ] triduo pater resuscit[et sed] [q]uomodo cum pater resusc[itat et] [filiu]s suscitat sic cum filius sus[citat] & pater suscitat quia fi[lius]”
“[ ] compescatur; Fac qu[idquid] [pot]es pro persona quam portas [et perfi-] [cis] zelus domus tue comed[it me] [last line only semi-legible]”
(II) Tractatus XI
“Sed non diceret eva[ngelista mul-] ti crediderunt in nom[ine eius nisi] verum illi testimoni[um perhiberet] Magna ergo res & [mira res]”
“[pro]pter iustificationem nostram
[Audi verba] ipsius: Potestatem
[habeo ponen]di animam meam, et pote
[statem hab]eo iterum sumendi eam”
PROVENANCE AND SISTER-FRAGMENTS
About a dozen fragments from the same manuscript are known, having been introduced onto the market gradually from 1987 to 1993, doubtless all recovered from the same host binding:
• June 1987: Basel (formerly Geneva), Comites Latentes Collection, MS 224 (V. Brown, ‘A Second New List of Beneventan Manuscripts (II)’, Mediaeval Studies, 50 (1988), p. 599)
• Sotheby’s, 6 December 1993, four of the eight items that comprised lot 8, bought by Quaritch, now Comites Latentes Collection, MS 271 (V. Brown, ‘A Second New List of Beneventan Manuscripts (III)’, Mediaeval Studies, 56 (1994), p. 312)
• Sotheby’s, 6 December 1993, the other four items that comprised lot 8, later owned by Martin Schøyen, his MS 1356, to which he added one more; sold at Bloomsbury Auctions, 8 July 2020, lot 20
• Sotheby’s, 21 June 1994, part of lot 5, bought by Quaritch; later owned by Martin Schøyen, now Comites Latentes Collection, MS 290.
One of the present fragments is recorded as belonging to Christopher de Hamel, London, his MS 259 (V. Brown, ‘A Second New List (III) …’, as above, p. 315); both were at Christie’s, South kensignton, 28 November 20, part of lot 6 (col. ill.) and Bloomsbury Auctions, 6 July 2016, lot 5 (col. ills.).
The origin of fragments in Beneventan script is usually difficult to determine. The main centre for its dissemination was Monte Cassino, approximately half-way between Rome and Naples, and most examples have been attributed to the southern half of Italy, (and there is a “Bari” variant of the script that is particularly associated with Puglia), but it has also been found in sources from the other side of the Adriatic, in what is now Croatia.
Beneventan script is very rare on the market in anything but small scraps such as these, but it is the only national/regional type of script (others being Ravenna and Merovingian Chancery scripts, Visigothic, and Luxeuil minuscule) that any collector or institution of modest means can now hope to acquire