Trend-setting illumination: the oldest evidence of Virgil's work in a Late Antique manuscript from the 4th century

Vergilius Augusteus

Rome (Italy) — Second half of the 4th century

Vergilius Augusteus

Vergilius Augusteus

Rome (Italy) — Second half of the 4th century

  1. This Virgil (70-19 BC) manuscript is of interest to philologists, paleographers, and art historians alike

  2. The 4th century manuscript has 15 decorative initials that were trendsetting for illumination

  3. Although only 284 of the nearly 13,000 original verses are preserved, they are among the very oldest testimonies to Virgil's work

Vergilius Augusteus

Vergilius Augusteus – Cod. lat. fol. 416 et Cod. lat. Vat. 3256 – Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The Vergilius Augusteus is a famous document that is of interest to the scholars and researchers of manifold disciplines. The manuscript is significant for the work by Virgil it contains, the script in which it was written down, and the decoration that aided the comprehension of the text.

Vergilius Augusteus

What makes the Vergilius Augusteus so famous? The philologist will answer that it is one of the oldest extant copies of Virgil’s work. However, at the same time he will have to admit that the modest number of verses – 284 out of originally nearly 13,000 – limits its importance as a textual witness considerably. In fact, had the fragments never appeared, it would have made little difference to the current critical edition of Virgil’s opera maiora. The paleographer will uphold the Vergilius Augusteus as one of the few remains of a rare form of Late-Classical majuscule script, the Capitalis quadrata. However, being a somewhat artificial branch on the tree of Latin handwriting, this particular form of lettering was of short duration and did not notably influence the development that followed. For the art historian the Vergilius Augusteus is a document of primary historical importance, since its fifteen decorated initials mark the beginning of the development that in due time would lead to the virtually numberless initials in thousands upon thousands of Medieval manuscripts. Thus, it may be said that the greatest importance of the Vergilius Augusteus resides in its decoration, for all the latter’s seeming modesty.

Codicology

Size / Format
14 pages / 42.0 x 34.5 cm
Date
Second half of the 4th century
Language
Illustrations
14 ornamental letters

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Vergilius Augusteus“

Vergilius Augusteus
Vergilius Augusteus – Cod. lat. fol. 416 et Cod. lat. Vat. 3256 – Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany)
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Vergilius Augusteus

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1976
Binding
Half leather
Commentary
1 volume (32 pages) by C. Nordenfalk
Languages: English, German

C. Nordenfalk, Stockholm. 32 pp. text, 5 illustrations.
Details
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
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