Towards a Theory of Pseudo-Isidore: VII

Previous part (with links, alas, to yet earlier parts) here.

Pseudo-Isidore used Vat. lat. 3803, a mid-ninth century Hadoard-codex from Corbie. It was through this codex that he knew the writings of Ennodius of Pavia, and from its folios that he incorporated bits of Ennodius’s prose into his decretal forgeries. Vat. lat. 3803, on its own, is enough to refute Zechiel-Eckes’s hypothesis that some core of the False Decretals date to the later 830s. Zechiel-Eckes claimed this early date especially for those decretals within the shorter A2 recension of Pseudo-Isidore. And yet it is precisely these decretals that are full of Ennodius extracts from Vat. lat. 3803, a manuscript that was copied a generation later than the date he envisioned.

If you add up everything in A2 that must postdate the 830s, you come up with at least 17 distinct forgeries. Fourteen decretals use Ennodius in some way or another from Vat. lat. 3803, and three further decretals discuss episcopal translation with a view towards justifying Ebo’s installation at Hildesheim after 845.

I want to insist that Pseudo-Isidore’s use of Vat. lat. 3803 is not really open to doubt. Or, maybe it is, but then you’d have to doubt the annotators discovered by Zechiel-Eckes as well and the broader association of Pseudo-Isidore with Corbie. It is necessary to be clear about this because the pattern of annotation in Vat. lat. 3803 differs somewhat from that in the annotated manuscripts that Zechiel-Eckes discovered. Nevertheless, we find here and there precisely the same notae. The colored image on the left is a Pseudo-Isidorian nota in Vat. lat. 3803. On the right we find undisputed Pseudo-Isidorian activity (the second line under nota hic is in precisely the same style) from the St. Petersburg codex of the Historia Tripartita (F.v.I.11):

Moreover, Vat. lat. 3803 carries various interlinear and marginal glosses. Their purpose is to clarify the sense of words in Ennodius’s difficult Latin.

Here is one of them:

3803 24r intentionis

In Pseudo-Isidore, these glosses tend to be misunderstood as additions and taken into the text, resulting in a long series of characteristic corruptions. Only by identifying Pseudo-Isidore’s source with Vat. lat. 3803 can we explain how these strange readings came about.

As I went over all this evidence I noticed a second thing:

Ennodius is all over the False Decretals, but he is almost nowhere in the False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita or in other Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries. Additionally, in the False Decretals, the Ennodius appropriations are associated with all manner of textual problems. The misunderstood glosses from Vat. lat. 3803 are not the half of it. In the A1 and A2 recensions, an unrelated letter of Ennodius is folded into a decretal forgery, of Ps.-Liberius, apparently by accident. There are other things too. The point is, one has the impression that Ennodius came to the decretal forger’s notice very late, and was never as fully integrated into the Pseudo-Isidorian universe as other sources. This probably also has something to do with the notae in Vat. lat. 3803 being atypical.

It seemed to me that other Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries probably do not have very much Ennodius, because they were earlier and predated the copying of Vat. lat. 3803. Now throughout the twentieth century there would have been nothing remarkable in floating this idea. A generation ago, it was standard to hold that the False Decretals are Pseudo-Isidore’s last product, and that they postdated the False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita. This was the hypothesis first put forward by Paul Hinschius in 1863. He offered pages and pages of source-critical analysis in support of it.

After 2000, however, Zechiel-Eckes turned this view on its head. For him, the False Decretals were likely Pseudo-Isidore’s earliest product. At best, they and the False Capitularies were contemporary developments. Zechiel-Eckes’s new approach did not emerge from an analysis of the False Capitularies and their many, complex textual ties to the decretal forgeries. Neither he nor his students addressed Hinschius’s old proofs at all. Instead, the drive to place Capitularies after Decretals was a consequence of Zechiel-Eckes’s arguments about dating. He wanted an early date for the False Decretals or some substantial subset of them, preferably somewhere in the later 830s. Yet the False Capitularies bear a preface that was written after 847. So Zechiel-Eckes disputed that the False Decretals postdate or depend upon the capitulary forgeries in any way.

In this he was wrong, and I have been quietly collecting evidence for a long time to show why and how. Vat. lat. 3803 provided yet another stone for this edifice. Last year, I finally put my ideas together in the form of another article:

Pseudo-Isidorus collectione Benedicti Levitae ut fonte usus est: A Defence of the Hinschius Thesis, Deutsches Archiv 75, 2 (2019). (Forthcoming still because of coronavirus.)

The pretentious Latin title is an allusion to Hinschius’s own statement of this thesis in the preface to Decretales Pseudo-Isidorianae.

This is the argument: Beyond the False Decretals, the Pseudo-Isidorian universe consists largely of compendia that gather textual snippets into various sub-collections. These snippets, or capitula, have mostly been lifted from authentic sources. Some of them have been concocted by Pseudo-Isidore himself from several different underlying authentica, and others have been invented outright. For large stretches, the False Decretals are themselves little more than textual snippets like these, the only difference being that they have been combined with one another and more heavily edited to form continuous discussions.

The False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita are merely the most massive repository of these capitula; other more minor repositories are things like the Capitula Angilramni and the Nonnullae sanctiones or Chalcedon Extracts. All of these capitula repositories, as I call them, exercise a wide-ranging priority over the False Decretals. The decretals forger turns to them frequently for help in building his pseudonymous papal letters. This is a very simple picture, and yet it is complicated by two wrinkles that have confused scholarship again and again:

1) The decretals forger often appears to know a slightly different — a slightly earlier — form of these repositories than has come down to us. This makes perfect sense, as we must imagine that the author of the False Decretals worked from internal drafts of these compendia. The Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries were not circulated piecemeal, as soon as each was finished. Rather, they were all put about at once, after the forger had ceased working, and apparently subjected to a final stage of minor redactions preparatory to this final step.

2) The decretals forger often bypasses the intermediary repositories and returns to the underlying material sources from which they were compiled. Thus, sometimes the False Decretals use the acta of Chalcedon through the Nonnullae sanctiones compiled from Paris lat. 11611, but other times they just go directly to Paris lat. 11611. This, too, makes sense, if we imagine that Pseudo-Isidore maintained access to most of his library throughout work on the project. Here, however, there are also very interesting patterns. The False Decretals almost always cite secular law through the intermediary capitula repositories, and almost never directly. Thus, for example, the vast majority of Roman law citations in the False Decretals run through the False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita or the Capitula Angilramni. When you find an exception, it is generally highly significant.

There are a lot of ways to prove the priority of the capitulary repositories. In fact, there are so many that my article could easily have been twice as long, or four times as long. I don’t want to type these proofs out here: That is what the article is for. Here, I want only to explain the relative chronology of the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries, as I see it. I’ll try to be clear about what I think is merely likely, and what I think is absolutely certain.

To begin with, it is all but certain that the False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita did not emerge en bloc, all at once. Rather, they accumulated over a long time and they form a kind of measuring stick against which to assess the relative chronology of other pieces.

Book I of Benedictus is likely among the oldest Pseudo-Isidorian products we have. The number of forged capitula is relatively low and the arrangement of the capitula is less complex. A long time ago I even dared to call Book I “quasi-Pseudo-Isidorian”, which is probably an overstatement, but I think not far wrong.

It is likely that the interpolated Hispana was produced in the course of Book I. In a few early capitula Benedictus Levita seems to cite an uninterpolated Hispana Gallica, whereas later on he appears to know only a version of the enhanced, interpolated text. Extensive excerpts from the interpolated Hispana in later sections of the False Capitularies, however, suggest here and there that work on the collection might have been underway in some form or another for a while.

Next is Book II, and here you can see the procedural sensibilities of the forgeries developing more fully. Book II, c. 381 is an important early statement of the procedural vision of the forgers. It is remarkable how complete the program is even at this early stage, and yet a keen reader of the Capitula Angilramni (the procedural vision at its most developed) will be able to spot some points that have yet to take shape.

Then comes Book III, the most complex of all, with the highest percentage of invented capitula and a greatly increased procedural anxiety. The Capitula Angilramni were certainly composed late in the development of Book III and the greater part of them are repeated there. Very late in Book III is likely also when the Nonnullae sanctiones, the excerpts from Chalcedon, were assembled.

At a still more advanced stage we have the so-called Additiones, or Appendices, to the False Capitula. In Additio III, we find an excerpt from Ennodius, at that point probably a fresh discovery on Pseudo-Isidore’s part. And then there is Additio IV, which appears to cite some of the decretal forgeries in the form of drafts that have not come down to us.

Last of all, of course, are the False Decretals. These draw on the False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita, but they do so carefully and silently. The conceit is that Benedictus is a contemporary, ninth-century compiler, which means that ancient popes could not cite his work without destroying the verisimilitude of their own pseudodecretals. Benedictus Levita, for his part, is hungry to cite canon law and especially decretals in support of his inventions, and there would be nothing anachronistic at all about him citing the False Decretals. Yet beyond the very late Additio IV, he is never able to make anything but the vaguest of gestures. This is because he worked before the False Decretals had been drafted.

It is worth asking why Pseudo-Isidore did not work in pseudo-chronological order. I think from the beginning the plan was to forge two great self-reinforcing compendia: One of canon law and one of secular law. If this was the idea, then Pseudo-Isidore should have forged the False Decretals first, so that the False Capitularies might have some decretal law to cite. Yet Pseudo-Isidore seems to have worked in the opposite direction.

In earlier days, I think it was the interpolated Hispana that was envisioned as the canon-law counterpart to the secular law of the False Capitularies. The Hispana was accordingly lightly retouched and supplemented as in Vat. lat. 1341 with the decretal forgeries in the name of Ps.-Damasus I. Much of this work happened very early on — as we have seen, parallel to Book I of the capitulary forgeries. Pseudo-Isidore, in other words, did try to develop the ancient canonical counterweight before most of his capitulary inventions.

Later on, however, the emphasis of the project shifted for some reason. It was decided not to issue the interpolated Hispana as a standalone collection to complement the False Capitularies. Instead, a new and far bolder project of canonical forgery was conceived, the creation of the False Decretals. These inventions, of course, overshadowed everything else that Pseudo-Isidore produced. Some early copies of the interpolated Hispana were perhaps dismembered to produce False Decretals manuscripts: thus we find flyleaves I and II in Vat. lat. 630 have been taken from an otherwise lost witness to this collection.

The Earliest Pseudo-Isidore Manuscript?

The dossier on chorbishops in Leiden, Voss. Lat. Q 108 and the dilemma of Pseudo-Leo, De privilegio chorepiscoporum.

76r detail

I am writing a book on what I’ll call the Pseudo-Isidorian dubiae. By this I mean a small pool of forgeries that are associated with Pseudo-Isidore, but that due to formal anomalies or strangeness in their manuscript tradition are of uncertain origins. This is obviously a fluid category, but as I see it three decretals raise particularly compelling and interesting questions worthy of extended study. These are Ps.-Leo, De privilegio chorepiscoporum (J3 †1118); the apocryphal exchange between Ps.-Felix of Sicily and Ps.-Gregory I (J3 †2466 and J3 †2467); and finally the notorious (Ps.?) Gregory IV decretal on behalf of Aldric of Le Mans (J3 †5174). The idea is to provide a decent edition of each one, along with a study of text, sources, purpose and relationship to the Pseudo-Isidorian corpus.

I went into the project thinking that it would be easy enough to lay all three items at Pseudo-Isidore’s door, but Ps.-Leo (ed. Hinschius, Decretales, p. 628) has proven uncooperative. Consider the manuscript tradition. We find the thing in four places:

    1. In A1 manuscripts of the False Decretals
    2. In C manuscripts of the False Decretals
    3. In four ninth-century manuscripts carrying canonical collections: Two Dionysio-Hadriana manuscripts, a Dacheriana manuscript (kind of: it’s complicated, wait for my book); and finally the crazy Berlin, Hamilton 132 that I have written about before.
    4. In Leiden, Voss. Lat. Q. 108, fol. 68-82: A dossier of Pseudo-Isidorian material on chorbishops copied at Fulda, perhaps for Hrabanus Maurus.

So I collated all these things, and found that by far the earliest, indeed the first, version of Ps.-Leo, is that on hand in 3), these canonical collections. In this earliest form, Ps.-Leo always comes with a brief appendix of canons that might be construed to the disadvantage of chorbishops, and the text suffers from a variety of infelicities that seem to reflect the forger’s great incompetence.

The A1 manuscripts at 1) try to fix the worst of these errors. They also omit the canonical appendix, which is why the Hinschius edition of Ps.-Leo ends abruptly with et reliqua, rather than what you might expect, namely some kind of conclusion and a dating clause. Finally, the C-version of Ps.-Leo is derived from an extant A1 codex (namely New Haven, Beinecke 442). It is not important for the early history that concerns me here but raises some issues of its own that I’ll probably post about later, when I understand them better.

Now, obviously, there is something missing from that list above. The other long version of the False Decretals, namely the A/B recension, does not have Ps.-Leo at all. Is this because the architects of A/B, at Corbie, didn’t have access to this text? Or did they instead refuse to include it in their compilation of the forgeries, perhaps because its argument was no longer relevant or, as I’ll argue in my book, even at cross-purposes to the aims of the decretal forgeries vis a vis chorbishops? If you opt for the latter view — that the A/B team had Ps.-Leo but suppressed it — you might nevertheless wonder what the A/B recension of this Ps.-Leo forgery looked like.

This is why item 4), the Leiden manuscript, is interesting.

Bernhard Bischoff has dated fols. 68-82 of VLQ 108 to the middle third of the ninth century. Klaus Zechiel-Eckes, who was anyway predisposed to believe that the decretal forgeries were very early, insisted that the script of the Leiden MS seemed to him like it must date to the earliest years of that window. His acolyte Clara Harder agrees. According to both of them, this is our earliest manuscript of the False Decretals.

A few authors have characterised the Pseudo-Isidorian items in VLQ 108 as a puzzle. Why should this little snippet of Pseuodisidoriana have gotten all the way to Mainz, and so early? A lot of questions about Pseudo-Isidore are hard, but this isn’t one of them. The Frankish chorepiscopate was especially ingrained in the German church east of the Rhine, while from the reign of Louis the Pious, reformers in the Frankish west regarded chorbishops with growing suspicion. The reasons for this are not entirely clear. Like archdeacons, chorbishops had come to be associated with a variety of abuses, but the late-stage reformers had also begun to cultivate a peculiar flavor of episcopalism that sought to set bishops as a class apart among the clergy, and chorbishops blurred the lines. The first shot across the bow of the chorepiscopate was fired by the 829 Council of Paris. The fathers who gathered there issued a canon banning chorbishops from performing confirmation.

These attitudes offended the more German sensibilities of Hrabanus Maurus, who was then abbot of Fulda. He responded to growing western anti-chorbishop sentiments with a letter to Drogo of Metz, defending the chorepiscopate as a Christian institution and chorepiscopal consecrations as surely valid. 

According to me, it is blindingly obvious that Pseudo-Isidore came across a copy of Hrabanus’s letter in defense of chorbishops. (I even have a very good idea of when and how that might have happened.) It irritated him enormously, and inspired him to produce two forgeries in response. The first is Ps.-Damasus, J3 †571: De vana superstitione corepiscoporum vitanda; the second is the lesser known and rather halfheartedly devised Ps.-John III, J3 †2022. Beyond our good friend Ps.-Leo of doubtful authorship (which does not seem to be directed against Hrabanus at all), these are the only decretal forgeries to take an explicit line against chorbishops.

The contents of the dossier in Leiden, Voss. Lat. Q. 108 fols. 68-82 are nothing but Ps.-Damasus and Ps.-John III, together our very own Ps.-Leo and two extracts from an authentic decretal of Innocent I (J3 701) that strictly speaking has nothing to do with chorbishops, but that had come to be bound up in ninth-century debate for reasons we need not explore right now. These items, copied by Fulda scribes, represent Hrabanus’s very understandable interest in these new legal texts, which struck at the heart of his argument. The collating I have done so far shows that the Leiden MS offers Ps.-Damasus and Ps.-John III in the A/B recension — that is, the version of the False Decretals assembled at Corbie, the best copy of which is Vat. lat. 630. But, as I typed just a few paragraphs above, there is no Ps.-Leo in Vat. lat. 630 or in our very few other A/B witnesses.

Is Ps.-Leo in the Leiden MS nevertheless the A/B version of Ps.-Leo, which the architects of Vat. lat. 630 and our other manuscripts set aside, for whatever reason?

Yes. Yes, it is.

I typed above that Ps.-Leo is an incompetent forgery. It abounds in moments of textual awkwardness and even grammatical misunderstandings. A subset of these textual problems are solved the same way in A1 manuscripts and in VLQ 108. But, on other matters, A1 and VLQ 108 provide their own distinct solutions. A1 and A/B handle textual corruptions in the interpolated Hispana in exactly the same way: They both draw on the same fund of fixes for the most glaring corruptions to afflict the text of the Hispana Gallica, but they apply their own independent solutions to a whole host of other issues. These and other matters are why A1 and A/B appear at many points to provide equally valid or ‘original’ readings.

The very few people who have read to this paragraph will be asking why exactly I have typed this much text on the obscure problem of Ps.-Leo, and what it means. I think it means these things:

First, the corrections of A1 and A/B to Ps.-Leo are interesting. They tend to show that this decretal wasn’t concocted by Pseudo-Isidore, mainly because it is such a mess that it requires substantial retouching, much the same as the Gallican Hispana was such a textual mess it required a bunch of conjectural revisions. Thus Ps.-Leo starts to look like one of Pseudo-Isidore’s sources, rather than one of his creations. At the same time, Ps.-Leo is not totally disconnected from Pseudo-Isidore. He also knows and uses the Gallican Hispana, a rather rare collection. He also includes an excerpt from the 829 Episcoporum relatio (BK 196), with some distinctive textual anomalies that also recur in Benedictus Levita’s extensive Relatio excerpts. Ps.-Leo, in other words, seems not to have been Pseudo-Isidore, but to have had access to some of the very same distinctive sources. He very likely helped shape Pseudo-Isidore’s own views on chorbishops, at least at the level of the False Capitularies. Who was Ps.-Leo, I wonder?

Did Pseudo-Isidore Die in 850?

Consider the following oddities.

1) We find traces of Pseudo-Isidore’s activity here and there throughout the 840s. The clearest example are the fingerprints he left on the decrees of the Council of Meaux/Paris from 845. Several capitula rehearse Pseudo-Isidorian ideas about chorbishops, the consecration of chrism, and the integrity of church property. They do so vaguely and distantly, filtered through somebody else’s prose, and qualified by other points of view. After the later 840s, traces like these, of a living breathing Pseudo-Isidore with committee assignments, evaporate and never return.

2) The picture from inside is exactly the same. The forgeries respond to events from the reign of Louis the Pious, particularly the Council of Thionville from 835. Much of their procedural law strives to exclude episcopal depositions like those enacted there. As one progresses from the earliest forgeries (the Hispana, Benedictus Levita Book I/Book II) to the later forgeries (especially the False Decretals), the emphasis shifts. Not only is Thionville to be prevented in the future; it is to be invalidated in the moment. The earlier forgeries were as abstract as possible, even if the ultimate point of their provisions was clear. With the False Decretals, Ebo comes suddenly into focus, as the forgeries angle to reinforce the legality of his installation at Hildesheim. Hincmar, too, is suddenly present. The forgeries deplore his consecration as archbishop of Reims while Ebo still lives in exile. An anti-metropolitan aspect that is clearly about Hincmar becomes more defined.

3) The latest event that the forgeries seem to know about is the death of Archbishop Otgar of Mainz in 847. The preface to the False Capitularies famously characterises Otgar as the former archbishop of that see, in such a way as to suggest that he’s been dead for a little while at least. After the False Decretals it appears that Pseudo-Isidore never forged anything else again, and no items associated with Pseudo-Isidore reveal the slightest awareness of anything that happened after about 850. The Council of Soissons from 853 leaves no impression on any Pseudo-Isidorian invention at all, and if anything were to inspire Pseudo-Isidore to take up his pen again, you’d think it would be Soissons 853.

4) There are a lot of signs that Pseudo-Isidore never put the finishing touches on his masterpiece, the False Decretals. Quite obviously, no fair copy was ever produced, and the full collection was assembled from its constituent components on at least two distinct occasions, by people who were less than fully acquainted with its intricacies. The preface of Isidorus Mercator, for example, describes a three-part collection that differs in slight but important ways from the long versions that have survived. Strange mistakes in arrangement and variations in contents plague both A1 and A/B, with independent errors occurring in both. A1, for example, messes up some Pseudo-Isidore’s corrections to the sequence of decretals in the Hispana Gallica, and includes one or two forgeries that for intriguing reasons seem not to belong, almost as if they were early, discarded efforts. A/B rightly omits these, but has errors of its own: It messes up the Symmachus dossier and puts the false Fifth and Sixth councils at the end rather than where they belong. Its architects are also confused, for example, about how the prefatory material from the Hispana is to be integrated with the prefatory material the forger has invented, and they end up including the Hispana preface right after the Isidorus Mercator preface, even though the latter is an expansion of the former. Errors and anomalies of arrangement like this are what the different recensions are made of.

5) The forgeries were not immediately circulated. In 852, Hincmar alludes to two decretal forgeries in regulations for his clergy, but it’s not clear how well he knows these documents. Perhaps also around this year, Archbishop Thietgaud of Trier begins to think that as metropolitan of Belgica Prima (Trier), he enjoys Pseudo-Isidorian primacy over Belgica Secunda (Reims). He has heard somewhere about Pseudo-Isidore’s totally novel idea of primacy. After those two hints, we have nothing until 857, and then again the first person to cite the documents is Hincmar at Quierzy, now verbatim. Only after 857 do the forgeries really seem to be out and about. Horst Fuhrmann discussed this delay with a citation from Johannes Haller: “Man fälscht nicht auf Vorrat”: You don’t forge things just to stockpile them.

To summarise: Pseudo-Isidore, whoever he was, clearly took part in the life of the Reims province in the 840s but he disappears after 850. His forgeries also belong to this decade and are aware of nothing that happens afterwards. The False Decretals in particular appear to have been assembled in their final form by people with an imperfect understanding of how they fit together. When they were finally released, after considerable delay, they came first to the eyes of Pseudo-Isidore’s greatest enemy (Hincmar), and were too late to help Ebo (who died in 851) or the clerics he had doubtfully ordained (who were deposed in 853).

Everyone has to stop writing their book sometime, but Pseudo-Isidore didn’t just come to the end. He disappeared entirely, for he was unable even to give final form to his latest and most complex creation, he never shepherded his work into the wider world, and as far as we know he never forged anything ever again.

Around 850, it seems, Pseudo-Isidore was abruptly removed from his own undertaking. Death would be the simplest assumption, but he might also have been demoted or deposed or driven out of whatever position he held. If something induced him to abandon his forgeries voluntarily, such as a promotion to higher office, we have to ask why we never find his ideas recurring beneath of the veneer of later conciliar pronouncements and the like, as we do in the years before 850.

Why did Pseudo-Isidore interpolate the Hispana?

In 1885, Friedrich Maassen showed that the Collectio Hispana Gallica which serves as a vessel for the False Decretals was no ordinary version of this collection, but rather a special Pseudo-Isidorian recension, complete with inauthentic adulterations. He also showed that this adulterated Pseudo-Isidorian Hispana survives mostly or entirely separately from the decretal forgeries, in Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica, Vat. lat. 1341. Maassen himself and others since have been fond of writing that Pseudo-Isidore interpolated the Hispana by way of preparing it to receive his decretal forgeries. I too am guilty of writing this way. The problem with this view is that it makes no sense.

First of all, we must ask ourselves: Why did the Hispana have to be prepared at all? If indeed its contents required revisions, these could have been carried out alongside the more major changes, that is to say the massive expansion of the authentic Hispana decretals with forgeries. Not only are we supposed to think that Pseudo-Isidore wasted time and parchment producing a fair copy of this lightly retouched collection; he or somebody else also took steps to circulate it. Only one complete copy of the interpolated Hispana survives today, but even if we confine ourselves to the ninth century we have evidence of two further copies (the initial folios of Vat. lat. 630 and the s. IX med. additions to Berlin, Hamilton 132). In total, six or seven medieval copies of the Pseudo-Isidorian Hispana have left traces.

Second, the interpolations to the Hispana do not really mirror the agenda of the decretals forger. Instead they address a variety of miscellaneous concerns, in much the same way as the False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita tend to do. The decretal forgeries stand apart from both in presenting far less of a miscellany, with a much tighter focus on procedural matters.

What can this mean? In a forthcoming article for Deutsches Archiv, I show with many tables and parallel columns and so forth why all three books of the False Capitularies, together with the first three Additiones, must predate the False Decretals. So we began to get an earlier picture, of miscellaneous concerns in the Hispana interpolations and in the capitularies; and a later picture, of increasing preoccupation with matters of procedural law.

In fact, and just as an aside, you can by and large determine the relative chronology of Pseudo-Isidorian items by their degree of procedural hysteria. Take for example the Capitula Angilramni: There are strong source-critical reasons to assign them to the same era as Book III of Benedictus Levita and just prior to the False Decretals. They focus exclusively on procedural protections for bishops. The same is true of Additio IV of Benedictus Levita, which was assembled very late, after drafts of at least some decretal forgeries had been drawn up.  Early items in the Pseudo-Isidorian library, however, like Benedictus Levita Book I and Book II, have some of the procedural material, but they balance it against various other concerns.

Third, further on the matter of chronology and its implications. It is plain to me that Pseudo-Isidore revised the Hispana at the earliest stages of his project, alongside Book I of Benedictus Levita. At one point early on in Book I, Benedictus is forced to resolve a textual problem with a decretal of Leo transmitted to him in corrupt form by the Hispana. The Hispana interpolator encounters the same corruption and applies a different, independent solution. Conclusion: Benedictus had before him the unredacted Hispana Gallica and not yet the Pseudo-Isidorian recension.  

By the time Benedict got to Book II, however, the interpolated Hispana was more or less finished, because Book II includes unmistakable excerpts from it. These excerpts are extensive, so much so that they allow some very precise conclusions about what the Benedictus Hispana looked like; it was slightly different from what we have. After Book II, the forgers still had to compile Book III of the False Capitularies, the most complex stretch of the capitulary forgeries by far, where procedural concerns come to the fore more and more. Then they had to assemble the Capitula Angilramni, and only then the decretal forgeries. These were then finally embedded in the Hispana.

The distance between the interpolation fo the Hispana and the forging of the decretals is thus very great. The former is not immediately prior or preparatory to the latter. 

In sum: Nobody has explained why Pseudo-Isidore needed to prepare the Hispana in the first place; the adulterated Hispana circulated on its own and was not merely an internal draft; the Hispana interpolations align with early Pseudo-Isidorian concerns and do not have the developed procedural hysteria of the False Decretals; and in fact the interpolated Hispana was produced well before the decretal forgeries.

There is a powerful case to made that minor items like the Capitula Angilramni were indeed preparatory to the False Decretals. The interpolated Hispana is totally different, and we are driven to ask why Pseudo-Isidore bothered with it at all.

Radbert’s Autograph?

If Radbert is Pseudo-Isidore, we ought to find similar secretarial practices underlying the acknowledged works of both. If we fail to find similarities, and instead find substantial differences, that would constitute another grave mark against this theory.

The ninth-century Corbie library is well preserved and a great part of it has been digitized. This has made it possible to study actual codices that the great theologian must have consulted personally in constructing his Matthew commentary.  I have now gone through several likely candidates. I have pondered many notae indeed, but I have not found a single one that has any plausible connection to Radbert.

I will confess that I sort of expected this result. Scholars have long talked about Radbert’s corrections or annotations, but never as far as I know in relationship to his sources. Instead, if Radbert is to be found anywhere, it is said to be in the earliest copies of his works, specifically in a Corbie codex of his Expositio in Matheo, where we find somebody making minor corrections and expansions here and there that have an authorial flavor to them.

Note that this is the precise inverse of the situation with Pseudo-Isidore. For our august forger, we find suspicious activity in the sources, but the earliest Corbie copies of Pseudoisidoriana betray no privileged access to the sources of the forgeries or the agenda of their fabricator at all. As for Radbert, meanwhile, we have author-tier redactions in a Corbie copy of his Expositio, but nothing that I can find or that I know of in any source codices.

The question of Radbert’s hand goes back to 1975, when T.A.M. Bishop gave a talk at Oxford discussing what he thought were autograph notes of Eriugena and Paschasius Radbertus. Twenty years later, Édouard Jeauneau and Paul Edward Dutton wrote a whole book on Eriugena’s hand. Meanwhile, rumors of a Radbert autograph kicked around here and there but as far as I know, were never more fully developed.

The autograph was supposedly to be found in Laon, Bibliothèque municipale Ms. 67: one of two ninth-century copies of the first four books of Radbert’s Matthew commentary. I think there was the expectation that Beda Paulus would look into the whole matter with his edition of the Expositio in Matheo. But, when CC Cont. med. 56 finally came out in 1984, Paulus could not have been more circumspect. He provided an extremely cautious description of corrections to Laon 67 that seems here and there almost at pains to avoid raising the question of their origins and authorship. From Paulus’s introductory discussion, however, and also from no little paging around in the edition and the digitized mircrofilm, I have gained some idea of why we might think Radbert worked in this codex:

In the beginning there was Paris, BnF ms. lat. 12296: a post-843 Corbie copy of in Matheo I-IV (it calls Radbert abbot of Corbie), which spent the Middle Ages at the monastery. Laon 67 was then copied from Paris lat. 12296. Like its parent, the Laon codex was produced at the monastic scriptorium, but it was intended for export to the Laon cathedral library. Radbert seems to have used the production of this second manuscript as an opportunity to lightly revise his commentary. Laon 67 thus received corrections, sometimes from the main hand and sometimes from others. A subset of these corrections must have been authorial, because at some later stage they were implemented in the exemplar, namely Paris lat. 12296: the local Corbie copy of Radbert’s commentary. They thus represent a general update to the first books of the Expositio. Importantly, there exists only one other codex of in Mattheo I-IV, copied from Paris lat. 12296 in the twelfth century. The absence of any other independent tradition means that the earlier readings, if the corrections to Lat. 12296 have obliterated them, are gone.

Now, I have not completed my study of this problem, and what follows is anyway only a very small sample of the evidence, which will perhaps become an article somewhere. So far, I am convinced that some of the corrections and expansions to Laon 67 surely reflect Radbert’s own changes. But it is not always clear to me that these changes were made with Radbert himself holding the pen. It seems to me that there are several different hands involved. Some of the corrections might even come from the primary copyist. Perhaps there is evidence somewhere in the codex tying one of these correctors to Radbert. In fact, Bishop must’ve thought he had such evidence, but right now I can’t imagine what it would be.

That is not really a problem for my purposes though. I am far less interested in Radbert’s handwriting than I am in the broader picture of secretarial activity surrounding an acknowledged Radbertian work from the era of the decretal forgeries. Remember: According to Zechiel-Eckes’s chronology, the first four books the Expositio predate Radbert’s activity as Pseudo-Isidore. Our earliest copies of the Expositio, however, both postdate Pseudo-Isidore, again according to Zechiel-Eckes. You could not ask for a more appropriate case study: the text and its manuscript witnesses seem to bracket the entire phenomenon of the False Decretals, as Zechiel-Eckes conceived of it.

We will start at the beginning, at an amusing erasure in Laon 67 at fol. 4v, also noted by Paulus (CC Cont. med. 56 p. xi):

Laon 67 4vOriginally, Radbert had promised to add marginal sigla to indicate his sources. Maintaining them in the proper position was however apparently too much even for a codex copied under Radbert’s supervision, and so the device was discarded in all extant manuscripts, including Laon 67. The corresponding discussion of these sigla in the preface has thus been erased.

An aside: I would even dare to posit this little story: That Radbert told his scribes he would add the sigla later himself, because knowing precisely where they ought to go in a new copy was a great problem. (The sigla, famous token simultaneously of Carolingian-era ambitions in the field of learning and the inadequacy of many of their methods, have a tendency to slide up and down the text through subsequent copies, as scribes can’t tell to which precise passage they are attached.) But, given the finished copy of Laon 67, Radbert recognized the enormity of the task before him, realized he had himself forgotten a lot about his sources, and with a great sigh rubbed out the naive promise he had made years before.

Now to the much more important matter and the primary point of comparison, namely tie signs. Remember that Pseudo-Isidore prefers a simple colon (:), with the upper dot a bit to the right of the lower one. 

Here, at fol. 34r, are some plausibly authorial additions to Laon 67, complete with tie signs:

67 34r

The colon does not appear. Instead, we get a common alternative, the dot and line (./). We find the same again at fol. 73r, where ut dixi is added in a manner that seems overtly authorial (as dixi speaks in Radbert’s voice):

Fertur autem \ut dixi/ haec stella sidereas vias non tenuisse…

67 73r autograph with tie sign also missing originally in C

Again, a dot and a line. But, do not despair, there is a colon somewhere here! The very same ut dixi is also added to the exemplar, Paris lat. 12296 fol. 51r, with the two dots:

12296 fol 51r ut dixi

I would think everybody can agree that this is not the same hand as in Laon 67.

Another tie sign in Laon 67 occurs at fol. 22r. Again the addition is plausibly authorial:

laon 67 22r

Again, a dot and a line. Of course a lot of marginal additions are simply corrections to scribal mistakes. When this happens the tie signs are often rather different, for example a line with two dots:

67 191v tie sign.png

Quod sicut was omitted by accident and is here supplied a little differently from the authorial changes above. The same sign occurs in several other cases where the addition is not Radbert’s revision but the result of scribal error.

A substantial revision to Laon 67, which must surely represent Radbert’s expansion of the text, comes at fol. 35r:

Laon 67 fol 35 recto

To understand what is happening here, see CC Cont. med. 56, p. 69, lines 258 to 260. Somebody is expanding here on the definitions of various names. He is doing so with the help of an anonymous Carolingian-era tract by a convert from Judaism who knew Hebrew that was once wrongly ascribed to Jerome, the Hebraicae questiones in libro Paralipomenon (Migne 23: 1365-1389: see col. 1371). The only place in the entire Expositio in Matheo where these Quaestiones are ever cited, is right here in this added text. So I will venture this hypothesis: While Radbert was reading over the freshly copied Laon 67, he came to a bit where he realized he had new information and he added it spontaneously in the margin. This would be a light indication that Laon 67 was copied after work on the entire Expositio had been completed, since this novel pseudopatristic source occurs nowhere else in the commentary.

Laon 67 fol 35 recto

This is a hand that has nothing in common with the glossator in Paris lat. 11611 that we looked at yesterday.

Of course, as we have learned to expect from authorial additions in Laon 67, the same text has been added to Paris lat. 12296:

Paris 12296 fol 24 verso marginal addition

The hands are different but they have more in common with each other than it seems at first. Here we are at the limits of the resolution of our images but behold this hasty comparison:



Other marginal signs occur here and there in Laon 67. Here for example is a recurring note, the significance of which I do not yet understand:

67 63v marginal sign.png

Finally, the primary copyist has his own repertoire of rather more elegant and visually appealing tie signs. Here is how he supplies an eyeskip at fol. 65r:

67 65r tie sign eyeskip omission.png

At fol. 69v a corrector supplies another omission like this:67 69v another tie sign

I will state it plainly: Nothing here looks anything like Pseudo-Isidore at all. And you do not even have to take my word for that. Some years ago now, Zechiel-Eckes himself surveyed Corbie manuscripts for signs of Pseudo-Isidorian activity. His census is online here. He likewise discovered nothing Pseudo-Isidorian in these codices.

But he should have, right? Because that would seem to be what the Radbert theory predicts.

There are a lot of ways to rationalize this problem: Radbert used different secretarial teams as a forger and as an exegete (but in both cases we are talking about the scribal resources available to Radbert as abbot); it is an apples-to-oranges comparison, contrasting annotations in source codices with redactional activity in drafts (but tie signs are tie signs); the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries are earlier and this is later (but not really, and at the extremes not nearly enough to expect a new generation of scribes or new practices in the scriptorium).

The differences between the authorial personae of Pseudo-Isidore and Radbert are reflected perfectly in the totally different literary practices associated with their respective works. Radbert is not Pseudo-Isidore, and everywhere you look you find new ways to show it.