Abigail Firey on the Corbie Origins of Pseudo-Isidore and Berlin, Hamilton 132

Abigail Firey, “Canon Law Studies at Corbie,” in Fälschung als Mittel der Politik? Pseudoisidor im Licht der neuen Forschung, ed. Karl Ubl and Daniel Ziemann, MGH Studien und Texte 57 (Wiesbaden, 2015), 19-79.

Abigail Firey, professor of medieval history at the University of Kentucky and founder of the Carolingian Canon Law Project, published in 2015 a long reconsideration of the origins of Pseudo-Isidore, the nature of an early witness to the interpolated Hispana, and ancillary matters. Across sixty pages of discussion, Firey subjects current views of Pseudo-Isidore and an important early witness to the interpolated Hispana to extended questioning and skepticism.

What exactly does Firey argue? Well, she is uncertain that Zechiel-Eckes’s discovery of excerptors in St. Petersburg, F.v.I.11 proves that the forger worked at the monastery of Corbie. She thinks that things might be more complicated. For some insight into how complicated things might be, Firey descends upon Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Preussische Kulturbesitz Hamilton 132, a ninth-century manuscript generally ascribed to Corbie. The standard view, which Paul Hinschius established in 1884, is that Hamilton 132 originally carried the Collectio Dionysio-Hadriana with an appendix of conciliar supplements known as the Collectio Sancti Amandi, both of them in Corbie a-b minuscule produced sometime around 800. Hinschius argued that a team of later scribes, writing standard Carolingian minuscule nearer the middle of the ninth century, supplemented and reworked the original manuscript to reflect the contents and arrangement of Pseudo-Isidore’s interpolated Hispana. Firey attacks this view. She prefers to see the interactions of a-b and Caroline scribes as contemporary collaboration. Specifically, she draws on the arguments of T.A.M. Bishop to propose, however tentatively, that Hamilton 132 might be a joint product of nuns and monks combining Dionysio-Hadriana and Hispana texts. These conclusions encourage her, in conclusion, to explore connections between Hamilton 132 and the great Carolingian reform council held at Paris in 829.

Firey, therefore, presents three arguments. The first questions what has recently become conventional wisdom about Zechiel-Eckes’s revolution, while the second aims to overturn older arguments about an important early manuscript witness to Pseudo-Isidorian materials first aired by Hinschius. The third, finally, asks that we think more flexibly about Hamilton 132 and its relationship to Carolingian-era conciliar legislation.

We will address these over the next week in a series of three or four posts.

Part I: On the St. Petersburg Historia Tripartita

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