A Palaeographical Study of Michigan Manuscript 147 ff. 1r-5r and Its Place in the Transmission of Juvenal
How the modem world has come to possess the writings of antiquity is an interesting inquiry. The printing press was not invented until the middle of the fifteenth century, and before that, literature and knowledge was passed on in handwritten manuscripts. Each copying could potentially introduce more and more inconsistencies and mistakes. Copyists who felt they knew more than the original author would often rewrite sections of older writing or add marginal notes, which later scribes could mistake for part of the original text and pass on. From the heyday of ancient Rome, literature had to pass through numerous periods of inexpert learning, which could seriously damage the original sense of the piece; some works were even discarded or lost. In addition, political, social, religious and economic factors have played a critical role in affecting the choice of manuscripts to be copied and the extent of their circulation. Just as many sculptures from the classical world, as enduring as stone is, have passed to the modem era damaged, so too, have works in the less permanent medium of parchment and ink come to us in a not unaltered state. The focus of this project is a study of one particular manuscript of Juvenal's Satires written in Renaissance Florence, an age of renewed interest in ancient authors. The story of the transmission of Juvenal's text is one with unusual twists and turns, which have long been the topic of scholarly debate. In the middle ages, Juvenal was one of the most beloved ancient authors, and he was regularly copied even when other, equally adept, ancient authors were not. But this was not always so. For the first few hundred years after he published his Satires, no record of anyone having studied them exists. Yet, like other ancient authors, his manuscripts managed to survive this disinterest and have traveled the ages to modem times, not totally intact, but in over five hundred manuscripts, one of the largest numbers of manuscripts of all classical authors. Since the Roman book world did not spring forth fully formed, it is necessary to set it in a broader context by first surveying the development of writing modes and materials up to the date Juvenal enters the scene. Afterwards, the later scholars and modes of transmission of classical texts, particularly Juvenal, will be discussed. The final and most important section of this project is a detailed palaeographical study of one particular Juvenal manuscript, Michigan MS. 147 from fifteenth century Florence, and its place in the transmission of Juvenal's Satires. This manuscript is particularly interesting as it was written in the Renaissance, the era of the greatest interest in classical authors before modem times. It is a superb example of the most characteristic features of humanistic script and a beautiful manuscript, written just at the time the printing press was starting to take over the job of copying and transmitting texts.