Welcome to De civitate Dei.

Photo of Augustine
Statue of St. Augustine in Córdoba’s stunning Mezquita (photo my own).

 

These pages host an ongoing research project to produce a digital semi-diplomatic edition of the oldest surviving manuscript of St. Augustine’s De civitate Dei Contra Paganos.

While I don’t have permission to publish the images of the manuscript online, everything else I produce is available to download and reuse from this project’s GitHub repository.

 

The manuscript is housed in the Biblioteca Capitolare of Verona, where it is catalogued as MS XXVIII (26), and it is the oldest surviving manuscript of St. Augustine’s De civitate Dei contra Paganos. Augustine wrote De civitate Dei in 22 books but only books 11-16 survive in MS XXVIII(26).
While we have no concrete evidence of its exact production date, codicological and palaeographical studies place it sometime around or after 420 CE. It is, therefore, contemporary to Augustine himself. One of the oldest uncial manuscripts in existence (C.L.A. 4 p. IX), MS XXVIII(26) is made up of 253 folia or leaves and measures 290 x 190mm. It’s held together as a codex by parchment binding and is in an overall fairly good condition. It preserves annotations (scholia) by Archdeacon Pacificus. The text doesn’t make use of word breaks (scriptura continua), punctuation nor chapter divisions but contains rare abbreviations and interesting linguistic features. Contrary to past conjectures, the low quality of the parchment, as well as the many spelling and grammatical mistakes present throughout the text, suggest this work was a study-copy rather than a deluxe codex.
Part of my research aims at proving the much debated North African provenance of this manuscript by looking at its palaeographical and philological features, as well as at its historical and geographical contexts.

The manuscript is in fairly good condition with the exception of a few severely damaged leaves. The damage is partly natural, partly artificial. Ink corrosion and bleed-through, as well as humidity marks, are classic examples of natural degradation. Ink corrosion is due to a chemical reaction produced by the ink itself, which slowly eats in the parchment. If the pages are very thin, the text on the verso (back of the page) bleeds through the recto (front of the page) producing a mesh of characters and thus making it very difficult to read. There are two types of corrosion in this manuscript: one is a result of the ‘original’ ink, the other due to a restoration process carried out in the 1920s at the Vatican Library. In an attempt to read the faded text, conservators of the time covered the illegible sections with a chemical substance, which allowed the temporary retrieval of the text but eventually caused more damage than when it entered the restoration laboratory. This damage was by no means intentional but a consequence of the rudimental restoration techniques of the early 1900s.

The language this manuscript is written in is Christian Latin. Christian Latin borrowed many words from the Greek as well as ‘vulgarisms’, words and expressions spoken by the mass. Vulgar Latin was seen as the language of the poor, the language of God. De civitate Dei and MS XXVIII(26) contain words such as deliramentum, seminatio, fornicatio and appretiare, all terms belonging to the ‘living language’ that was Christian Latin.

 

I’m interested in hearing from people who have or know of reusable (digital) transcriptions of other De civitate Dei manuscripts which I can include in this research. If that’s you, do get in touch! I’m open to collaboration!