Natus est Ergo Hic beatus Columbanus

Columbanus

 

Some of the works of Columbanus provide access to a body of knowledge and learning in ancient Ireland going back many centuries before the arrival of Christianity in the 5th century.

Presented below are some digital images of plates of MSS which are now very difficult to access otherwise. For this reason they are in relatively  high resolution,

and please scroll down to see them in detail.The earliest manuscript evidence of a Cicero text was identified by Amadeo Peyron in the first decade of the 19th

century among vellum manuscripts in the National University library of Turin which had originally belonged to the monastery in Bobbio which Columbanus

founded in the early 7th century. These vellum leaves were in a Codex numbered "a. II. 2*". This Codex was destroyed by fire in 1904. Fortunately, these 

Turin Palimpsests had been photographed earlier, and were published by Carlo Cipolla in Codici Bobbiesi in 1907, in a very limited edition of only 175 copies.

Up to now, Cipolla's very rare work was the only place these could be seen. PDF and other electronic versions of the University of Toronto copy of Vol I can be 

found at http://www.archive.org/details/codicibobbieside01turiuoft, which has text versions of MSS with commentary in Italian. However, the Plates of the

MSS are in Vol II which has not been released till now. The images below are now published from our copy for the benefit of all. It will be seen that these

leaves are palimpsests. The first hand on them is in rustic capitals of the 4th century, and has the Cicero texts. Some of Cicero's orations are known only

from these. The vellum was scrubbed down and reused, and the second hand is that of an Irish monk in the 6th or 7th century writing a St Augustine text.

When they were being examined 200 years ago for their earliest content, various chemical reagents were used to highlight the Cicero texts. Unfortunately,

those chemicals have caused the MSS on which they were used to blacken over time to illegibility in many cases at the present time. So even for those MS

which survived fire, we are lucky to have photo's of them from a time when the texts were still visable. The fact that such early Cicero texts with an Irish

connection existed is very significant with respect to early Irish learning. The earliest examples of the Irish Ogam alphabet are on stone inscriptions dating as

far back as the 2nd century AD. In his study of these inscriptions in the UK, Prof Charles Thomas' (University of Wales 1994) notes a coincidence between

the 20 letters of the Ogam Alphabet, with the 20 letters which sufficed to perpetuate Cicero's works; virtually all of his works could be written in

Ogam (page 32). Scholars in Ireland, on the other hand, have been very reluctant to accept the presence of classical texts in their own country

before the 7th century, and are now just about coming around to it! As one senior academic stated recently, "we have all been 'brought' up to believe

that there were no uncial MSS from Ireland (not to talk of any with script older than uncial!!), and few have ever questioned the dogma." That latter

conventional academic 'wisdom' survived despite the existence of early Irish stone inscriptions which include both those scripts, and also the Ogam

script.Another Bobbio MS in Turin, a survivor of the fire, is the 4th century E. IV. 24, which has a copy part of the Easter Song composed by

Sedulius - that being the Latinized version of his Irish name 'Siadhail', and rendered as 'Sheil' in English. Because of the author's origin, there was

every reason why the Bobbio library would have a copy of his works. This MS is written in both capitals and uncial, and the are even corrections

done in an Irish script! Images of both recto and verso are included. The scribe can be seen to drift from his formal rustic capital hand to one where 

his 'D' and 'E' in particular are in the Irish form, leading to the conclusion that he was familiar with both scripts. In his Life of Columbanus written 

about 642 AD, the monk Jonas remarked that the only delicacy they had in the monastery at Bobbio was 'fattening butter from Ireland'. So when 

these holy monks could be so troubled about obesity due to Irish butter imports, then the intellectual commerce on which the butter was carried had 

to have been quite substantial in each direction.

 

What We Do

We publish studies and data which throw new light on Ireland's ancient history and culture. Because of small market size, this material will not be thought of as having a commercial benefit to book publishers. What is published here will have been reviewed by scholars.

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The site is owned by Michael Heery, an Irish historian.

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Codici Bobbiesi is a work published in Milan in 1907. There are two Volumes, the second has approx 100 plates of MSS brought from Columbans' monastery at Bobbio to Turin in the 17th cent. 175 copies of the Codici were printed, and it is now very rare indeed. Up until now, it has been the only place to see images of some these MSS.

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