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 Ps.-Jerome, Hebraicae questiones in libro Paralipomenon (Migne 23: 1365-1389: see col. 1371). The only place in the entire Expositio in Matheo where this Pseudo-Jerome thing is 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.

Leave a Reply