Pseudo-Isidore’s Autograph?

To date we know of at least four manuscripts that Pseudo-Isidore used directly:

St. Petersburg, Russian National Library, F.v.I.11: Copied at Corbie and kept there throughout the Middle Ages, a famous example of a-b minuscule.

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Ms. lat. 11611: Copied at Saint-Denis; later booklists place it at Corbie. According to Zechiel-Eckes it came to Corbie in the 830s at the latest; as evidence of this he cites Maurdramnus-type annotations (see idem, Fälschung als Mittel politischer Auseinandersetzung, p. 10).

Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica, Pal. lat. 1719: origins perhaps in Western Germany? No known associations with Corbie.

Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica, Vat. lat. 3803: a Hadoard-style Corbie codex from the mid-ninth-century.

All four codices carry a series of subtle marginal notae that attest to Pseudo-Isidore’s interest in specific passages. These notated passages very often recur in the forgeries. In rare cases the annotations direct the copying of specific passages, or appear to anticipate some of Pseudo-Isidore’s falsifications. Thus in these codices we can observe the autograph of a person directly affiliated with the forgery enterprise. In my work I have spent hours and hours on the textual and source-critical problems of these notae. Here, I want to explore their graphical form.

Behold a typical cluster of notae between columns in the St. Petersburg codex (fol. 63r: reproduced from Zechiel-Eckes’s Francia 2001 article: Abb. 5 after p. 68):

petersburg fol 63r.jpg

Even with the poor quality of the reproduction you can see that all four notae were probably not added at the same time. Instead, it looks like the more graphically confident nota hic came first. Then beneath it you have the more cryptic signs, which it seems plausible arrived later on. This phenomenon recurs often enough to be a pattern. Frequently the dotted n stands alone, but in other cases it looks a lot like somebody else’s notes on interesting passages attracted more specific annotations, perhaps indicating their nature or significance to Pseudo-Isidore’s program.

vat. lat. 3803 fol 31r

Of course no pattern is totally consistent. This is from Vat. lat. 3803, fol. 31r (forgive here and elsewhere the watermark of the Biblioteca Apostolica). The dotted n occurs as a constellation of two or three signs (a q over a t precedes it).

This is as good a time as any to point out that a distinct notational personality prevails in each of the codices. Combinations of multiple signs recur in the Petersburg codex, while in Vat. lat. 3803 this is the only instance of notae in constellation. A lot of the marks in the St. Petersburg codex are fairly subtle and there are no glosses on the content. Again the annotator of Vat. lat. 3803 is even more restrained. Some of his notae have been erased and most of them occur only singly.

Paris lat. 11611 is very different. There the notae are much clearer and very plentiful: much more so even than in St. Petersburg F.v.I.11. The one fairly clear rule — namely that Pseudo-Isidorian interpolations and falsifications are nowhere to be found in the source codices, but were added at some later stage — comes very near to being broken in the case of Paris lat. 11611. At two points, apparently Pseudo-Isidorian glosses are added directly to its margins; both of them generalize from specific discussions about the competence of the bishop of Rome. The Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries then take up the annotated passages from Chalcedon, complete with interpolations that seem to be based on the glosses.

Why is the annotator less restrained in Paris lat. 11611?

One theory –it is not necessarily mine — could be that the margins of this codex, a copy of the Rusticus version of the acta of Chalcedon, are already full of Rusticus’s annotations to specific passages that the main scribe has carried over from the exemplar. The Pseudo-Isidorian annotator perhaps felt he could add his own notes here and there without standing out too much.

Still, even here the annotator is not totally confident. Here is what looks like a note to a copyist, usque hic, which could not be fainter or more retiring (fol. 20r):

11611 fol 20r

Beneath it you see another dotted n.

Here (fol. 154v) we have the first of the apparently Pseudo-Isidorian glosses:

11611 fol 154v

In the center of the image you see one of the Rusticus annotations in the hand of the main copyist. You can see how it is like a tree under which the Pseudo-Isidorian activity shelters. To the left of the annotation, you have another of these dotted-n moments. And under all of that, in rather different script, you have this gloss:

(quo)d missi apostolici primo s(ubscripserunt).

As I said, the gloss is interesting because it anticipates Pseudo-Isidore’s falsification of the same passage from Chalcedon. Highly unusual in the Pseudo-Isidorian context is the Tironian note for subscripserunt. Usually the annotator avoids Tironian abbreviations altogether, except generally those for hic and et. This one is of course not that obscure but this is still an atypical moment.

Here is the second seemingly Pseudo-Isidorian gloss in Paris lat. 11611 (fol. 176r):

11611 fol 176r

The pattern is the same, namely a phrase inc. quod… that anticipates how Pseudo-Isidore will falsify the associated passage:

Q. quod apostolicae sedis missi prius semper debeant iudicare. 

Finally, there is the single marginal note in Pal. lat. 1719 (fol. 48r), another direction to a copyist:

pal lat 1719 48r wide

The annotator’s dark ink makes it easy to recognize him. The two dots mark the point of interest in the text (Ut sicut…) and tie to the marginal note: hic usque in finem. Probably the same person has also added the point after caritas.

Now more detail:

pal lat 1719 48r detail.png

Some meager conclusions:

Of four known annotated codices, one (Pal. lat. 1719) has no obvious association with Corbie; the other (Paris lat. 11611) indeed came to Corbie eventually but was copied at Saint-Denis according to paleographers. It is precisely both of these codices that have received the most confident annotations.

The dotted-n-annotator highlights many passages of interest to Pseudo-Isidore, but his marks often seems graphically distinct from the more clearly Pseudo-Isidorian annotations.

There appears to be no obstacle to identifying the hand that glossed Paris lat. 11611 with the hand that annotated Pal. lat. 1719.

And some questions:

Typing all of this up convinces me once again that Paris lat. 11611 is enormously important for the abundant and anomalous nature of its annotations and the curiosities of its provenance.

Excerpts from this codex primarily feed the so-called Nonnullae sanctiones, a minor Pseudo-Isidorian forgery that circulated exclusively as an appendix to the False Decretals.

How did this codex get to Corbie? When did that happen? Is it all that absurd to suggest that Pseudo-Isidore brought it there? Who is the “Maurdramnus-type” annotator and what is he doing?

One of these questions might even turn out to be answerable.


This post lightly revised after I realized that the gloss in Paris lat. 11611 fol. 154v must begin with quod (partially illegible in the gutter), not a d as I had first thought. Schwartz (ACO 2.3.2 p. 156: apparatus) transcribes incorrectly: d(efininiunt) missi apostolici primo, so I had the in my head somehow. 

Leave a Reply