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. 

Paschasius Radbertus was not Pseudo-Isidore

Clara Harder has written a new article: “Pseudo-Isidorus Mercator,” in: Great Christian Jurists and Legal Collections in the First Millennium, ed. Philip L. Reynolds (Cambridge, 2019),  397–412. Everybody should read it.

I did, and I found the following remarks, at 398f. (please see the original for the citations, which I haven’t reproduced):

There has also been controversy as to when the work of forgery began and what were the forgers’ intentions. Some argue that there had been general dissatisfaction with the rule of Louis the Pious among the Carolingian clergy since the late 820s. The unjust dismissal of bishops, in particular, was already a topic of discussion. Work on the forgery, therefore, could have begun in the early 830s. The decisive moment might even have been in 830, when, after a brief uprising against him, Louis the Pious seems to have deposed bishop Jesse of Amiens and exiled abbot Wala of Corbie. Others have suggested recently that the nineteenth-century scholars Hinschius and Seckel were correct in assuming that the forgery was not carried out before the late 840s. According to this view, archbishop Ebo of Reims was a central figure in work on the forgery.

The crucial consideration pertains to the forger’s intentions. One can find textual support for several different theories by selectively analyzing the vast amount of material contained in Pseudo-Isidore’s collection. But any theory about the forger’s identity has to take account not only of the content of the collection, but also of additional evidence acquired through detailed textual and comparative analysis. Zechiel-Eckes showed how one could do this by compiling all the points of correspondence between the forgery and Paschasius’s known writings. Although Zechiel-Eckes could not definitively demonstrate that Radbert of Corbie was the guiding spirit of the forgery, therefore, he makes a very strong case. The involvement of this monk in the Pseudo-Isidorian project seems at least to be very likely, and to date no one has convincingly refuted the thesis or proposed a more convincing one.

In Kuhnian terms, the little world of Pseudo-Isidorian research is between paradigms right now. This is why it is not stable and to informed observers the research appears “highly technical and extremely controversial.”  (Well, at least it explains the controversial part: the technical problems are unfortunately down to Pseudo-Isidore himself.) What happened is that the question of Pseudo-Isidore’s origins, at the very end of the 20th century, had become a dead field. The Hinschius/ Seckel/ Fuhrmann framework for understanding the forgeries had no more active supporters because the entire question of who Pseudo-Isidore was and when he worked had no active scholars. This paradigm collapsed as Zechiel-Eckes revived the field with his quite different theories. Early on it seemed that these theories would become the new paradigm, but they have not held, and so we are where we are now.

Harder is a generous scholar and so she writes implicitly. But I will answer the charge of “selectively analyzing” as if it were directed at me.

From the beginning, Zechiel-Eckes developed his political theory of the forgeries on the basis of the relationship between procedural and related provisions in the False Decretals and what we know of Louis the Pious’s legal retaliation against his episcopal political opponents at the 835 Council of Thionville.

The False Decretals, or some core of them (the A2 recension) as a direct reaction to Thionville 835: this is Zechiel-Eckes’s thesis.

To explore how this thesis relates to the content of the False Decretals in a systematic (rather than a selective) way, I focused on Ebo specifically because most of what we know about Thionville is about his condemnation and deposition. It is thus the parameters of Zechiel-Eckes’s political hypothesis of the forgeries that determined my focus on Ebo. I pulled everything out of the decretal forgeries that could conceivably relate to Ebo and his problems, but then I also gathered everything I could find about episcopal trials in the Carolingian kingdoms between 814 (Louis the Pious’s accession) and 858 (when the False Decretals were surely in circulation). The point was to find circumstances attested only for Ebo that the False Decretals also addressed.

The result of this exercise was the Speculum article that I published. The exceptio spolii, an isolated passage in Pseudo-Alexander (J3 †49) on forced confessions, and four false decretals addressing episcopal translation: This was my harvest of things in Pseudo-Isidore’s program that are almost assuredly about Ebo in particular because there is not really anyone else in the historical record for them to be about.

This project yielded unexpected information about the post-845 date of the decretal forgeries. Naturally only some passages in the False Decretals address episcopal translation, in fact relatively few of them. But the thing about termini post quem or termini ante quem is that how selective the passages chosen to indicate them might be, does not matter. One textual moment can be enough to date an entire corpus. And the other thing about passages addressing Ebo in the False Decretals is that, selective or not, they help us determine Pseudo-Isidore’s ecclesiastical and political allegiances, which was my only point. The suggestion that Pseudo-Isidore has some connection with Ebo’s associates follows not from this internal reading, but from other points of evidence: in part, from Ebo’s own writings, which seem to demonstrate an advance knowledge of the forgeries; and in part also from the post-845 date itself, together with the circumstances of the earliest reception. I will elaborate more on this issue later, as it is a bit involved.

Anyway, that is how I would respond were anyone to suggest I have achieved the post-845 date and the association of the False Decretals with the Ebo clerics on the basis of a selective reading.

Now to the theory of Radbert-as-Pseudo-Isidore, which as the above quotation shows still has its defenders:

In the Speculum article, I tried to pen mostly a positive argument in favor of a different approach. I made my disagreement with the Radbert theory clear but I tried to avoid a comprehensive confrontation with it, because it seemed in poor taste to do so. As I wrote my more recent piece on Ennodius, the subject matter forced me to be a little more direct, but still I tried to play it down, addressing Radbert’s purported authorship of the False Decretals only insofar as it concerned Vat. lat. 3803, and only in the final pages of the article.

But Harder writes that there is “a very strong case” for the Radbert theory and also that “no one has convincingly refuted the thesis.” So, I will advance a much more direct argument here, and one that turns on three points.

I. The Radbert Thesis Is an Artifact of Zechiel-Eckes’s Impossible Dating Scheme

This is the logic of it: The False Decretals are brimming with material to the advantage of the episcopate. So people always thought the forger was some kind of episcopal actor. Zechiel-Eckes found that the forgers did some research at the Corbie library, and he decided that they had to be a monastic forgery. This in my view is where he went wrong; he had evidence placing the forgery at Corbie, which was not really the same as evidence identifying the forgery with the monastic institution of Corbie and hence its abbot.  However that may be, though, he then needed an explanation for the episcopal material in the False Decretals, because “monastic forgery at Corbie” meant “Abbot Radbert of Corbie is Pseudo-Isidore”, and yet Radbert was only ever an abbot and a deacon. Zechiel-Eckes provided a political explanation, glossing the apparently pro-episcopal material in Pseudo-Isidore as in fact a defense of Radbert’s political allies, namely bishops who had opposed Louis the Pious in 833 and who lost their sees at Thionville 835; and of course an attack from the perspective of the “Unity Party” (membership in which Zechiel-Eckes granted Radbert) upon Louis the Pious himself.

But, the False Decretals postdate Ebo’s transfer to Hildesheim in 845. They just do. And so if you continue to subscribe to the Radbert thesis, your explanation for the episcopal arguments that Pseudo-Isidore makes is broken. And, just to be clear: At the level of the False Decretals, the episcopal arguments are almost all of the arguments that Pseudo-Isidore makes.

II. The Radbert Thesis Was Never Fully Developed, Let Alone Proven

Harder writes that “any theory about the forger’s identity has to take account […] of […] evidence acquired through detailed textual and comparative analysis. Zechiel-Eckes showed how one could do this by compiling all the points of correspondence between the forgery and Paschasius’s known writings.”

If Zechiel-Eckes ever undertook such a comprehensive comparison, he never published the results. And so we are not obliged to refute anything.

Lest you think I am exaggerating, we turn to Zechiel-Eckes’s last statement on this matter[1], where he argued that Radbert was Pseudo-Isidore as follows:

1) Pseudo-Isidore and Radbert were both learned; 2) Pseudo-Isidore presumably worked on his forgeries between from the later 830s and this aligns with a caesura in Radbert’s literary activity from 831 and 849; 3) both authors know the rare works of Ennodius of Pavia; 4) Radbert at one moment in the second book of his Epitaphium Arsenii mentions giving Gregory IV a legal collection that proved the universal competence of Gregory IV to judge everyone, such that he was to be judged by nobody, and Pseudo-Isidore also has expansive views of papal jurisdiction; 5) Radbert forged a brief pseudopatristic tract inc. Cogitis me in the name of Jerome, and indeed “nach demselben Strickmuster” (p. 18) as Pseudo-Isidore, that is to say with the help of authentic sources that postdated the putative author (Jerome) and were therefore anachronistic; 6) and finally it would seem hard to believe that this great forgery enterprise could have operated at Corbie without Radbert’s knowledge.

Now these are certainly not all the arguments that Zechiel-Eckes made about Radbert’s authorship. (This is a blog post, I do not have to cite everything.) They are, however, the arguments that Zechiel-Eckes believed were sufficient to demonstrate Radbert’s authorship, and in fact they are an entirely fair representation of the case Zechiel-Eckes tended to make for Radbert-as-Pseudo-Isidore, with minor variations here and there.

As I think any neutral reader can appreciate, if you have a priori reasons for believing in Radbert’s authorship, the above will seem to be promising points of departure for further research; but if you are not convinced of Radbert’s authorship, or even perhaps agnostic, none of this has any force at all.

As for 1), I think that Pseudo-Isidore’s learning has been in many respects exaggerated. Work on the sources of the False Decretals, which has occupied me intensely this past year, has convinced me that it is a mistake to make too much of this. Also it is possible for two learned people to be in the same place, and at an august monastic institution like Corbie, even probable that such a thing would happen.

As for 2), there is no proof at all that work on the forgeries began as early as 831, so this neat alignment with the gap in Radbert’s known activity is a product of the assumptions some have made about Pseudo-Isidore’s dates, and not of any evidence. As for circulation after ca. 850, well, there is a lot more happening around this time than Radbert’s retirement: Ebo’s death at Hildesheim and Hincmar’s preparations for Soissons 853 are the two big Other Things. And then it is also the case that dates can just as easily be read against the Radbert thesis as for it: One could argue, for example, that the forgeries only begin to circulate after Radbert’s retirement ca. 850, because before then the monastic scriptorium (responsible for early post-850 copies of Pseudo-Isidoriana like Vat. lat. 1341 and Vat. lat. 630) had been under Radbert’s oversight as abbot and was thus closed to the forgers. That is of course not my argument: it is just an illustration that conclusions drawn about Radbert’s dates and the chronology of the forgery enterprise are conditioned by prior assumptions.

As for 3), I deal with this in my article on Ennodius. The reason Radbert knows Ennodius is that Vat. lat. 3803 was at Corbie when he was writing the Matthew commentary. Pseudo-Isidore was also at Corbie and also knew Vat. lat. 3803. Radbert cites just one line from Ennodius from the first folio recto of Vat. lat. 3803. Alas he does so without the distinctive marginal notae we have learned to associate with Pseudo-Isidore. Pseudo-Isidore demonstrates a far more extensive knowledge.

As for 4), and the whole matter of the libellus that Radbert claims he and Wala gave to Gregory IV in 833: This is bound up with arguments I made a long time ago and have since partially retracted (see the link if you want to know what is going on here). Harder repeats this argument several times in her book, but a) you could buy the whole story and even my old idea that the libellus was some proto-Pseudo-Isidorian forgery (as Zechiel-Eckes also seems to suggest at one point) and still we are only as far as point 3), namely that Radbert and Pseudo-Isidore shared a library. Otherwise, b), an expansive vision of papal jurisdiction by itself does not prove Pseudo-Isidore is at issue, which is why even in my old work I tried to bring the Gregory IV decretal into the mix as additional evidence that could bear on the problem of the libellus. Expanded papal jurisdiction may be in the 830s an uncommon thing to insist on, but the idea can be derived from widely circulated decretal texts like those in the Dionysio-Hadriana and other items like canons from the Council of Sardica. I don’t know what else to say: A shared theme, one widely available in authentic sources, is no way to argue for authorship.

On 5), there is nothing more likely to destroy belief in the Radbert thesis than to actually read Cogitis me. It is ed. Albert Ripberger, CC Cont. med. 56C, from p. 97. Other than the fact that it is a pseudonymous letter, it has nothing in common with Pseudo-Isidore at all. The source base is almost totally different. Many of the authors that Radbert draws on are nowhere in the False Decretals. It is a pseudepigraphical invention defending western devotion to Mary, a theme that could not be more remote from the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries. And I type these next words a bit reluctantly, because I don’t want to be impolite. But as Harder has written of a “detailed textual and comparative analysis”, an endeavor in which she says Zechiel-Eckes has shown us the way, it is necessary to say this: Arguments like this one, but also points 1), 2) and 3) above too, are not the result of close textual investigations, but rather of frankly superficial comparisons. Radbert forged, Pseudo-Isidore forged; Radbert used authentic and anachronistic sources, Pseudo-Isidore used authentic and anachronistic sources. These kinds of arguments are a grave weakness and they are most of what the Radbert thesis is made of. In other articles, for example, Zechiel-Eckes referred to Radbert’s great Matthew commentary, and argued that this implicated him because Pseudo-Isidore cites Matthew more than any other book of the Bible. (But why is that?

And this brings us to 6), which is a possibility I am anxious to consider: Perhaps Radbert did know about the forgery enterprise at least in some capacity. Other people who were not Pseudo-Isidore surely had some idea of what was going on as well. This is a very different thing from arguing that Radbert was Pseudo-Isidore, but the whole question also turns on speculation. Nobody has direct insight into how scholarship and the library and the scriptorium were administered and what it was possible to do at a large institution like Corbie, for how long, with or without the abbot’s approval, and with or without his coming to find out about it.

We should not, however, assume that the forgeries were common knowledge at Corbie or that they represent anything like a collective enterprise of the monastery. A curious thing about early manuscripts of the forgeries copied at Corbie (Vat. lat. 1341, Vat. lat. 630) is how the scribes responsible for them nowhere demonstrate special knowledge of the nature of the forgeries. Underlying sources are never brought in to correct textual defects, for example; and in Vat. lat. 630 sometimes the scribes seem puzzled about the proper order of what they’re copying and where specific pieces ought to go. Then there are the extremely subtle marginal annotations in the source manuscripts we have discovered, very much in contrast to the bold and confident excerpt marks left by other Corbie scholars like Ratramnus. In Vat. lat. 3803 a few of the excerpt signs have even been erased.

III. The Radbert Thesis Has Led Nowhere

Now I come to the part of the argument that I have generally tried not to make, because it seems the least polite of all, but it is also in my view the most powerful reason to put all of this talk about Radbert aside.

The Radbert thesis has not proved helpful in reading the forgeries or in editing them or in understanding their early history or reception or anything like that. Nor, conversely, has the Radbert thesis proven helpful in reading the other acknowledged works of Radbert or in understanding their perspective or sources or purpose. In fact it looks like scholars of Radbert reject the idea that he had anything to do with the Pseudo-Isidorians.

Now of course scholars could be wrong. But the theory that Radbert steered the Pseudo-Isidorian enterprise is now old enough to drive a car, having been outlined in detail for the first time in 2001. And in all of that time, how has it advanced? The answer is that it has not advanced at all. No new proofs beyond the cursory suggestions of Zechiel-Eckes in his articles have been adduced for it. Worse still, adherents of this theory have not really behaved like they believe in it. I don’t mean to accuse others of insincerity, but it has always struck me as strange that Zechiel-Eckes thought Pseudo-Isidore and Radbert were in some sense the same person and that for a while many people including myself believed this, and some still do, but that their work on Pseudo-Isidore never once spilled over into study of Radbert. Years ago in 2010, when I thought Zechiel-Eckes was right, I even asked myself why I wasn’t doing more with Radbert’s acknowledged works. I sat down to read the great Matthew commentary and after returning to it on and off for three years, I learned why: The Matthew commentary has nothing to do with Pseudo-Isidore.

What would be most welcome is any study at all that compared the prose style of Paschasius Radbertus or the broad pool of mostly theological sources that Radbertus draws on in his work to the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries. Rather than saying Radbert commented on Matthew and Pseudo-Isidore cites Matthew a lot, somebody might attempt the apples-to-apples comparison: Does Radbert also cite Matthew a lot when he is not commenting on Matthew? Or OK, perhaps we Pseudo-Isidorians are all legal scholars and uncomfortable in the Radbertian theological sphere. I accept that. So why not try to do the next best thing? Why not explain anything in Pseudo-Isidore (beyond a broad political orientation) according to Radbert’s concerns and circumstances and his favorite themes or authors in his other works? I do not mean the rough comparisons outlined above, I mean real work. If the Radbert theory were worth anything analytically, it should have proven fruitful by now. We ought to be smacking our heads and saying: What an excellent theory, it has helped us explain Pseudo-Isidore’s whole puzzling thing about chorbishops/clerical oaths/the consecration of Chrism on Maundy Thursday/whatever. But nobody has done anything like that at all. And in fact just typing out this careless list of puzzling things that come to mind shows again how far Pseudo-Isidore is from Radbert, and why nobody has undertaken this work, and why they never will.

The Radbert theory does not, like good productive theories, suffuse our texts and help us explain them. Adherents of this theory (as I was myself) read Pseudo-Isidore on his own terms and then in totally separate connections genuflect to Radbert’s involvement at semi-regular intervals.

Just look at the research: Zechiel-Eckes’s theories might have other problems, but they are no less valid if we take Radbert’s name out of them and replace it with “unknown monk(s) at Corbie” or the like. The same is true of Clara Harder’s publications, which insist on Radbert-as-Pseudo-Isidore but which also advance wide-ranging arguments about the forgeries that stand or fall on their own without need of the Radbert thesis at all. In fact, assuming a refuted Radbert thesis, I have trouble finding anything in Harder’s publications that is undermined, except her case for the Radbert thesis itself. And in looking over my old article on Gregory IV and Divinis praeceptis, which was even inspired by my belief in Radbert-as-Pseudo-Isidore, I am struck by how all of it works just the same, or does not work just the same, save for a few details, if I get rid of the Radbert thesis.

That the theory sits apart from work on Pseudo-Isidore and not within it is a powerful demonstration that it does not go anywhere, and it does not go anywhere because it is not true.

[1] Fälschung als Mittel Politischer Auseinandersetzung, Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste, 2011, esp. at pp. 17–19.


For further reasons to disassociate Radbert and Pseudo-Isidore, see this brief investigation of secretarial activity associated with Pseudo-Isidore, including what may well be Pseudo-Isidore’s autograph. The literary and intellectual processes illustrated there do not compare favorably to secretarial activity associated with Radbert, including perhaps an example of Radbert’s autograph.

Firey Review, Part III: Hamilton 132 and the 829 Council of Paris

Intro here; Part I; Part II/1; Part II/2

Firey concludes her remarks on Hamilton 132 by positing some connection between this manuscript and the great reform council that convened at Paris in 829. She writes that “…perhaps the most interesting question about the testimony of Hamilton 132 with respect to its historical context is that it may reveal something about the purposes for production of canon law codices in the early ninth century in the Paris basin.”

The somewhat unusual…texts in Hamilton 132…are attested in the Council of Paris. … The Pseudo-Leo text on chorepiscopi (JK †551; fol. 95v)[1] is reproduced in the Council of Paris as cap. 37. The insertion of this text, transcribed in a Caroline hand, occasioned more disruption in Hamilton 132. The leaves in this portion of the manuscript are prepared differently from others, and could have been added even later than the other Caroline leaves, although the continuation of the text [onto pre-existing a-b folios] shows the same method of integration as other Caroline-inscribed leaves. The Pseudo-Leo decretal is replicated in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, lat. 3838, where it is also attributed to Leo, on a flyleaf… It appears to be written by the same scribe as that who wrote it in Hamilton 132. In Paris 3838, the first three lines of the decretal are annotated with later interlinear neumes and, above the second column of the text, is an annotation Fiat, fiat, both suggesting that the Paris copy was perhaps later used for public acclamation, as at a council. …

First, a very minor point: The Fiat fiat thing in Paris lat. 3838 (it is actually fiat fiant) is a pen trial; it is followed by Tironian notes for qua or quia and in the middle of the page between columns the same doodler has written DEUS in adiut t t t. You can go to the photos of Paris lat. 3838 at Gallica yourself and see. I don’t see any reason to read these marks in light of Pseudo-Leo.

Otherwise, to further our understanding of Hamilton 132, the relative chronology of its materials, and its importance for the history of Carolingian church councils, I must point out that Firey is mistaken on several levels:

1) Paris 829 legislates on chorbishops at c. 27, not c. 37. Whatever relationship c. 27 might have to Pseudo-Leo, JK †551/J3 †1118 is as yet undetermined. Both Paris 829 and Pseudo-Leo make what you might call related arguments with reference to the same (genuine) patristic-era canons, but no decretal forgeries occur in the acta of Paris 829. If they did, our entire estimation of both the Pseudo-Isidorian problem and Paris 829 would be much different.

2) Right below Pseudo-Leo in Hamilton 132, we find our Caroline scribe adding not Paris 829, c. 27, on chorbishops, but instead the related c. 9 from the Relatio episcoporum of 829. The distinction is a minor one, of course, as this is the summary of c. 27 that got sent to Louis the Pious. And the upshot is the same either way, namely that this particular scribe must have copied after the promulgation of the Paris acta in 829. This scribe also goes on to add (from the Dionysio-Hadriana) the first part of Antioch, c. 10; then Ancyra, c. 12; Laodicea, c. 57; and then the final part of Antioch, c. 10. What we are looking at here is a miniature dossier to the disadvantage of chorbishops. The exact same dossier also occurs as an addition to Paris, BnF Ms. lat. 1453, so we now have a total of three manuscripts with this same sequence of texts: Hamilton 132, Paris lat. 3838 and Paris lat. 1453. In all three cases we are dealing with a manuscript of the Dionysio-Hadriana; in Hamilton 132 and Paris lat. 1453, the dossier is clearly a later addition, and in Paris lat. 3838 it occurs on a flyleaf.

I am not sure what all of this does for Firey’s arguments about the relationship between Hamilton 132 and Paris 829, but it might imply that she has gotten the chronology wrong when she wonders (as at points she seems to) whether the activity we witness in Hamilton 132 was in some way preparatory for the Paris council. I would think that the anti-chorbishop dossier in all three manuscripts postdates Paris 829, perhaps substantially; and also Hamilton 132 is merely one of three witnesses to these texts, so any relationship between this chorbishop dossier and this or that council is not specific to Hamilton 132.

3) If the Caroline scribe adding Pseudo-Leo is writing after Paris 829, what are we to make of Firey’s thesis of collaboration, given that paleographers date the a-b folios of Hamilton 132 to the years around 800 (Ganz, 50; Bischoff, 74; the CLA at VIII, no. 1047)? This consideration would seem to be why Firey allows that the Pseudo-Leo decretal might have been added to Hamilton 132 even later than the rest of the Caroline material. But how much later can it have been added, if this Caroline folio “shows the same method of integration as other Caroline-inscribed leaves”? Three decades later? Five?

4) Five decades would seem around the minimum necessary for Firey’s scenario to work, since Paris 3838 was copied in the third quarter of the ninth century according to Hubert Mordek[2], and if the scribe copying Pseudo-Leo in Hamilton 132 and Paris 3838 is indeed the same (more on that later, perhaps), we seem to be exactly where Bischoff said we were vis-a-vis the dates for the Caroline material in Hamilton 132: In the middle of the ninth century, as opposed to the beginning of it, when the a-b folios were copied.

[1] For Pseudo-Leo on chorbishops (J3 †1118), a forgery with Pseudo-Isidorian tendencies that is based on a canon from the Hispana Gallica (Seville II, c. 7) and shows a close relationship to the interpolated Hispana, see Fuhrmann, “Pseudo-Isidorian Forgeries,” in Papal Letters in the Early Middle Ages, ed. Hartmann and Pennington, p. 167.

[2] Hubert Mordek, Bibliotheca capitularium regum Francorum manuscripta,  MGH Hilfsmittel 15 (1995) p. 435.


In conclusion, a few observations:

Firey calls into question arguments that Klaus Zechiel-Eckes and Paul Hinschius made in two lengthy, sophisticated, and difficult articles. She discards the finer points of argument in both. In the face of Zechiel-Eckes’s analysis, she raises pedestrian concerns about the uncertainties of manuscript provenance that do not apply in the case of the St. Petersburg codex, that ignore a wealth of other evidence, and that have aged poorly as still more evidence comes to light.

Firey’s analysis of Hamilton 132, meanwhile, appears almost totally oblivious to Hinschius’s analysis and overlooks basic features of the manuscript. I am as nervous about palaeographical dates as anybody, but I also think it unwise to argue against the grain of too much established opinion on this front without good reason. If we accept Firey’s arguments for collaboration in Hamilton 132, we are forced either to reject the entirety of scholarship that dates the a-b hands in these folios to the years around 800 (moving a-b towards the middle of the ninth century), or to backdate the interpolated Hispana to the reign of Charlemagne (so that Caroline scribes can have collaborated with the a-b scriptorium in copying interpolated Hispana texts). There is no reason to do either.

Towards a Theory of Pseudo-Isidore: VI

Previous parts linked in the side-bar here.

Six years ago, on the old blog, I began a series of posts that I called Towards a Theory of Pseudo-Isidore. What I was trying to do, with all that blathering about the interpolated Hispana and those rare forgeries that draw heavily upon it, was demarcate one small morsel of the Pseudo-Isidorian soup that I thought was indeed especially early. I wanted to do that because, at that point in 2013, I had just stumbled upon reasons to believe that probably everything else in the world of Pseudo-Isidore didn’t have the enticing early dates that Zechiel-Eckes had proposed. Indeed, the False Decretals were probably super late — every inch as late as Paul Hinschius had told us they were.

Like many things over there (and many things over here), I didn’t get as far as I wanted to. But that was not because I gave up. Instead, I decided the basic idea was important enough for an article. I was an assistant professor writing lecture after lecture on late medieval history, and the library at Williams College is an abomination, so the article took a while.

It finally appeared in 2017:

Ebo, Pseudo-Isidore, and the Date of the False Decretals, in: Speculum 92 (2017) p. 144–183.

You can read it, but here’s the potted version: The decretal forgeries of Isidorus Mercator strive in very specific ways to condemn procedures used against Archbishop Ebo of Reims at the 835 Council of Thionville. Some of these same tendencies are visible in other Pseudo-Isidorian compilations, like the False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita, but they are never as clear or pronounced or repeated as often as they are in the world of the pseudopopes.

More importantly, I realized that four decretal forgeries relax ancient canonical prohibitions on episcopal translation (the movement of a bishop from one see to another see), in a way that was designed, undeniably, to justify Ebo’s transfer to Hildesheim after 845. These forgeries also deplore bishops who occupy the sees of deposed bishops while those unfortunate deposed bishops are still living. These lines are obviously about Hincmar, who took office at Reims in 845 while Ebo was still alive.

For me, there is no alternative to accepting that the decretal forgeries took shape in the years between 845 and 851, when Hincmar was at Reims and Ebo at Hildesheim. After Ebo’s death on 20 March 851, there can have been no point in making these arguments. The translation arguments are exclusive to the False Decretals: They are not in the False Capitularies or anywhere else. So as far as Ebo goes, there is a movement in the Pseudo-Isidorian corpus, from those forgeries that are not at all concerned with Ebonian matters (the interpolated Hispana) to those that are sort of peripherally here and there (the False Capitularies) to those that take up Ebo-inspired lines of argument again and again (the False Decretals). In fact, the decretals material allowing episcopal translation even cuts against some tendencies of the capitulary forger.

This dating, post-845 to 851, applies even to the decretal forgeries of the A2 recension, as in fact three of the four pseudo-decretals addressing translation occur within A2; and one of the codices with Pseudo-Isidorian notae discovered by Zechiel-Eckes even has excerpt marks around a passage that came to serve as an important source for Pseudo-Isidore’s arguments on episcopal translation and that is used in no other connection.

I think that this destroys Zechiel-Eckes’s broader theories about the date and political significance of Pseudo-Isidore. Skeptics somewhere might propose complex arguments to subvert the proofs that I have brought, but that would be a grave error. The work of placing Pseudo-Isidore’s arguments in their proper historical context, the long neglected project that scholars like Weizsäcker started over 150 years ago, is far from complete and much has been forgotten. There are other subtle political tricks and traps lurking in the forgeries. I have since found one or two more, and in the course of time others will surely extend this work. The further we are able to integrate the False Decretals with specific ecclesiastical and political events, the more adherents of early dates will have to fear, because the political backdrop will inevitably turn out to be that of the 840s or early 850s time and again.

I promise.

The forgeries surely have close ties to the library of Corbie — here Zechiel-Eckes will always be right. That’s why I’ve preceded these words with a long review (not yet complete!) of Firey, which is also in its way a defense of Zechiel-Eckes where he saw further than anybody before him had.

But I now think he was mistaken as to the broader picture. Pseudo-Isidore was not Paschasius Radbertus, and the forgeries cannot be called an immediate reaction to the 835 Council of Thionville (a distant reaction to it: sure), and the False Decretals have nothing to do with political opposition to Louis the Pious.

At the end of that Speculum article, I tried to put all those reheated Wasserschleben notions aside, and think about the origins of the False Decretals in a simple and direct way, given what I now consider to be the certainty that the traditional dating of Paul Hinschius, Emil Seckel and Horst Fuhrmann is right; and given, too, that we are now certain that Pseudo-Isidore’s library was at Corbie.

I suggested that the forgeries might have something to do with the clerics Ebo ordained during his brief restoration to the see at Reims in 840/1, and that the earliest moments of their reception are bound up in the controversies surrounding the career of Wulfad, a favorite of Charles the Bald and eventual archbishop of Bourges. Vat. lat. 630, the manuscript that I am slowly editing here, is closely associated with Wulfad and also comes from Corbie. I think here we are very near to the forger himself.

So anyway, I got that article in press and then I decided to write a book about the bigger problem of Pseudo-Isidore and who he was. This was going to get the provocative title Who Was Pseudo-Isidore? My idea was to write an introduction to the forgeries (so far no such thing exists in English with the exception of Fuhrmann’s helpful article) that could also be a receptacle for some of my crazy theories. I even wrote a good part of this book at the American Academy in Rome.

But as I wrote it I began to sour on the project. For one, I had the feeling I was working at cross-purposes. It is hard to provide a neutral introduction to the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries and the theories scholars have developed about them, while at the same time arguing a particular point of view. I had to tread a fine line lest I be untrue to myself or unfair to others, and after a while that got annoying. Furthermore, I realized that my own ideas on some crucial points required more work: not ordinary book research, but very hard collation edition research, the kind that takes years. And finally, I was writing chapter after chapter under a title that posed the one question that has been on everyone’s minds since 2000 at least — Who was Pseudo-Isidore? — and I was not certain about the answer, or even clear that trying to find one was the right exercise at the moment.

I did most of this writing in the Vatican library, and as I worked on this footnote and that one, I came to wonder about Pseudo-Isidore’s manuscript source for the writings of the truly dismal sixth-century poet and bishop of Pavia known as Magnus Felix Ennodius. Unlike a lot of really terrible authors, Ennodius never produced a bestseller. Indeed, for much of the Middle Ages he was almost totally unknown. Thus Pseudo-Isidore’s use of his works, almost exclusively in the decretal forgeries, has intrigued many people for a very long time. Since the nineteenth century, Ennodius’s editors realized the close connections between Pseudo-Isidore’s text of Ennodius and one of three ninth-century copies of his collected opera: Vatican, Bibl. apost. Vat. lat. 3803. This is a Corbie codex — Corbie, where Pseudo-Isidore worked! — that Bischoff dates to 850 or shortly thereafter.

The conventional view was always that Pseudo-Isidore used the archetype of Vat. lat. 3803. With one exception, the entire medieval tradition of Ennodius also descends from Vat. lat. 3803 in some way, so this view put Pseudo-Isidore literally at the head of nearly the entire medieval Ennodius tradition.

But, I thought: Isn’t that odd? How are we to understand this little literary history? Now that we are free of the Radbert theory of Pseudo-Isidore’s identity, we no longer have to think of the forger as a Corbie monk. Maybe he just had a library card with borrowing privileges, or maybe he was some kind of episcopal dissident hiding out at the abbey, or whatever. The point is, perhaps Pseudo-Isidore had his own copy of Ennodius, which he maybe brought from his own library, wherever that was, and in the course of his other research at Corbie the scriptorium there made a copy of it because they found it interesting. I imagined other scenarios too, but this seemed the simplest way to explain how it was that Pseudo-Isidore knew the archetype of the Corbie Ennodius, rather than as you would expect either the Corbie Ennodius itself or some copy thereof.

Then I noticed another thing. This is that Ennodius’s editors have really terrible reasons for supposing that Pseudo-Isidore’s appropriations from Ennodius are prior to Vat. lat. 3803. If Pseudo-Isidore knew the archetype of this codex, then he should have an earlier text. The forger appropriates vast amounts of material from the Pavian bishop, including his entire Libellus pro synodo, so there’s an ocean of data points. Ideally, you’d want the vast indirect tradition in Pseudo-Isidore to show here and there a slightly better or less corrupt or somehow antecedent text, and Vat. lat. 3803 even in slight ways and very occasionally to have the later or worse or more corrupt text. All the Ennodius editors could do, however, was give two variants that didn’t prove anything at all. These learned philologists weren’t fools, but they were laboring under a bad manuscript date: Everyone at the time thought Vat. lat. 3803 was a tenth-century codex, but the early Pseudo-Isidorian manuscript tradition dated from the ninth century. So Pseudo-Isidore had to be earlier! And thus they found themselves scraping around for reasons that Pseudo-Isidore’s Ennodius had earlier variants than the Vatican manuscript, and not really finding anything.

These considerations drove me to consult Vat. lat. 3803 itself, which of course I should’ve done at the beginning. When I did so, I found that this precise manuscript — and not any archetype — was Pseudo-Isidore’s source for Magnus Felix Ennodius. Its margins carried the notae of a Pseudo-Isidorian excerptor, very much like those that Zechiel-Eckes discovered in the three source codices he identified. But there were also some subtle differences from Zechiel-Eckes’s annotator: The system employed was much simpler, in most cases consisting of a single note rather than a series of signs. There was the same limited knowledge of Tironian shorthand, whereby only widely known abbreviations for words like hic and et appeared. Some of the notae in Vat. lat. 3803 had been erased; in other cases, passages appropriated by Pseudo-Isidore were not marked at all. Most striking, though, were a great many notae demarcating texts that Pseudo-Isidore never seems to have used, at least not in his extant works.

I wrote an article about all of this:

Pseudo-Isidore’s Ennodius, in: Deutsches Archiv 74 (2018) p. 1–52.

Among other things, I find it important that Pseudo-Isidore used a codex from the very middle of the ninth century. This is another obstacle to the Zechiel-Eckes hypothesis of A2 decretals dating from the later 830s, because passages from Ennodius are all over the decretal forgeries, in no few instances they correspond to marginal notae in Vat. lat. 3803, and this codex was clearly not copied in the 830s. It was produced in the graphically distinctive style that Bischoff and other paleographers have associated with the librarian named Hadoard. No few Hadoard-style codices are dated, and from these we learn that the distinctive style dates no earlier than the 840s. So here is more confirmation that the False Decretals are late through and through.

But Vat. lat. 3803 also confirms another thing, which I’ll write more about in Part VII.

 

Firey Review, Part II/2: More on Hamilton 132 and ‘Collaboration’

Introduction here. 

Part I here.

Part II/1 here.

Firey advances four arguments to convince us that Hamilton 132 is the product of collaboration. First, she finds problems with the traditional explanation that Caroline scribes in Hamilton 132 are reworking a Dionysio-Hadriana to look more like a Hispana:

The Hispana has a set of Gallican councils not in the Dionysiana, and also a substantial sequence of about fifteen Spanish councils. … If the Caroline scriptorium were updating or expanding a Dionysiana to make it more like an Hispana, it would be the Caroline scriptorium that added the Gallican and Spanish councils to the manuscript. The Gallican councils, however, are in “a-b” script, and the Spanish councils are in both Caroline and “a-b” script. What the Caroline scriptorium added were the sorts of supplementary texts…that often get appended to canon law codices to enhance their intertextual value (45-46).

Three pages prior to these remarks, Firey acknowledges that the Collectio Sancti Amandi was a collection of Gallican and Spanish councils assembled to supplement the Dionysio-Hadriana, available in at least two manuscripts besides Hamilton 132.[1] When Gallican councils in a-b script or Spanish councils in a-b script occur in Hamilton 132, it turns out that they are always from the Collectio Sancti Amandi. This observation is the basis of the standard characterization of Hamilton 132 as a Collectio Dionysio-Hadriana cum Collectione Sancti Amandi that has been expanded with Hispana material. Again, just to be totally clear: Because the Collectio Sancti Amandi contains Gallican and Hispanic councils, a-b scribes sometimes copy Gallican or Hispanic conciliar texts, which they have from the Collectio Sancti Amandi. The Caroline scribes do add “supplementary texts,” but they also add a substantial amount of canonical material from the interpolated Hispana.

Firey has a second point in favor of collaboration:

The evidence that seems to controvert the possibility that the Caroline portions were inserted in an independent, later process is in the pricking and ruling of the codex. The pricking and ruling seem to reflect the existence of two, separate scriptoria. The ‘a-b’ leaves are ruled in a particular way: four pricks and lines for the center boundaries of the columns; the Caroline leaves, although ruled for the same text space and also for the same forty-two lines per column, show a much simpler form in the column boundaries (single rather than double lines). The matching text spaces and number of lines do, however, suggest co-ordination. Again, the Caroline leaves could have been planned later specifically to match the codex that was to be updated. At several points, however, the Caroline scripts are on leaves that are pricked and ruled in the ‘a-b’ style. That suggests that some parchment was passed from the ‘a-b’ scriptorium at the time of the ‘a-b’ transcription to the Caroline scriptorium for use in the same codex…. (46-7)

In a footnote that sometimes confuses which leaves in Hamilton 132 have a-b and which have Caroline text, Firey explains that the “a-b” ruling is evident on Caroline folios 31, 33 through 49, 40 through 51, and 56 through 61. After considering explanations for this phenomenon that do not involve “collaboration,” Firey concludes:

Simultaneous production in two different, co-operating scriptoria seems more likely, and fits with Bishop’s analysis of other manuscripts showing similar combinations of “a-b” and Caroline script.

As for Bishop, we have seen that he explicitly rejected collaboration between the a-b and Caroline scriptoria at Corbie. But however that may be, there is nothing inherently “a-b” about double bounding lines, beyond their association with a-b scribes in this specific codex. With that point in mind, the worst we can do to Firey’s argument is put it in simpler terms: According to Firey, the a-b scribes always write on folios with double bounding lines. Also according to Firey, the Caroline scribes generally write on more simply ruled parchment, but sometimes their parchment is also ruled with double bounding lines. You may decide for yourself whether and to what degree traditional views of Hamilton 132 are refuted by this observation.

Firey has a third argument:

Finally, as evidence for apparently simultaneous production, fol. 44r has two corrections, which appear to be made at the same moment, to judge by the system of symbols for insertion of the correction, the size and pen-angle of the scripts, and the ink. One, however, is in Caroline minuscule, and one is in ‘a-b.’ Either they were made by a person who could switch script styles readily, or by two persons who may have passed the same quill back and fort at a final phase of proof-reading’ (48).

From Firey’s own reproduction of fol. 44r (fig. 1 at page 76), we can see that a Caroline scribe has supplied one omission in the upper margin, while an a-b scribe has supplied another in the lower margin. The tie signs are different, the module is different, and the pen-angle is different. As for the ink, the relative colors are hard to judge in black-and-white. Even if all these things were the same, though, would we be compelled to imagine script switching or quill passing? What has become of Firey’s skepticism in the face of other scholars’ argumentation? Here, it seems that the only thing we can say with certainty is that the Caroline corrector and the a-b corrector worked after the main text  on fol. 44r had been written.

Firey has an ultimate point:

Furthermore, in several instances, the Caroline hands transcribe material from the Dionysiana that is not in the HGA as represented in Vat. lat. 1341: at some point, the ‘a-b’ exemplar would seem to have been passed to the Caroline scriptorium for final revisions to Hamilton 132.

This is another observation that does not compel anybody to posit collaboration in the production of Hamilton 132. Otherwise, the phenomenon Firey notices has an explanation, but it does not lie in the putative circulation of exemplars between scriptoria. We will look at one instance in which Caroline scribes copy Dionysio-Hadriana text, highlighted by Firey in support of this final point, to explain how it came to be that Caroline scribes, adding Hispana material to a Dionysio-Hadriana manuscript, found themselves in the position, occasionally, of recopying Dionysio-Hadriana material. Here I am dependent upon Paul Hinschius’s study.[2]

At fol. 106, Caroline scribes copy J3 1182, a decretal of Simplicius from the Dionysio-Hadriana that is not present in the Hispana. Why do they do so? We must begin by recognizing, along with Firey, that Hamilton 132 is badly misbound. The folios that ought to precede 106 are therefore not the folios that actually precede it in the present binding; rather, the immediate sequence begins at fol. 96 and continues through fols. 97, 104, 105 and then finally 106. All but fol. 106 are a-b folios. On fol. 96 we have the beginning of the Hilarius decretals from the Dionysio-Hadriana (though these letters recur in the Hispana as well), and this sequence continues through fols. 97, 104 and 105. Yet the Hispana has more Hilarius letters than the Dionysio-Hadriana, and so at fol. 105 our Caroline redactors erase the beginning of the Simplicius dossier that originally followed Hilarius in their Dionysio-Hadriana, in order to create more room for Hispana supplements. These supplements have to go here if the chronological order is to be maintained and the Hilarius material is to be kept together, all in one block. The Caroline scribes then continue to add two pieces of Simplicius correspondence from the Hispana, directly after their Hispana supplements to the Hilarius decretals. Then, finally, they recopy the Simplicius decretal from the Dionysio-Hadriana, J3 1182, that they obliterated to make way for their expansions to Hilarius. They do this on fol. 106, which is tipped in.

The process of supplementing chronologically arranged canonical collections, in other words, occasionally required both cutting and pasting to maintain the pope-by-pope sequence of decretals. This implies nothing about collaboration, though in this case it does show that the Caroline scribes wished to retain Dionysio-Hadriana material alongside their supplementary Hispana texts.


[1] See Kéry, Canonical Collections of the Early Middle Ages (Washington DC, 1999), 84.

[2] Die kanonistischen Handschriften der Hamilton’schen Sammlung im Kupferstich-Kabinett des königlichen Museums zu Berlin, Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 6 (1884), 193-246, at 228.