The 'Corbie' Collection
(Corpus Corbiense)

This collection of texts is attested in the catalogues of Cologne (9th century) and Corbie (12th century).  The latter manuscript had already been used by Paschasius Radbert, Abbot of Corbie in the middle of the 9th century, who cited De pudicitia and De ieiunio -- works found in no other collection -- in his works 4.  The evidence was drawn together by Dom Dekkers.3 In the 16th century we have evidence that a copy existed at Malmesbury in England, the Codex Masburensis, which John Leland sent to Beatus Rhenanus; Gelenius used for the 1550 edition; and Pamelius for the 1583/4 edition. We have no evidence that any other copies ever existed.

There are no examples of this collection now known to exist. However a number of examples did exist in the 16th century. The only portion of any of these to survive is a single folio known as the Keppel fragment, and containing a portion of De Spectaculis.2

Information about these manuscripts can only be derived from three sources; (a) mediaeval library catalogues (b) 16th century editions which used them (c) any collations made at that time in the margins of early editions.

As well as two works found elsewhere, the collection contained works present in no other collection. In particular it contained Tertullian's Montanist works, together with two works by Novatian under the name of Tertullian. It has been suggested that the collection must have been assembled in non-orthodox circles (probably Novatianist) in late antiquity, perhaps in the south of France. However there is no positive evidence of this.

The collection contained the following works.  (See Dekker's article for details).

De resurrectione mortuorum
De trinitate
De spectaculis
De praescriptione haereticorum
De ieiunio adversus psychicos
De monogamia
De pudicita

The Cologne MS did not identify the author of the works, as the catalogue entry makes clear:

De resurrectione mortuorum. lib. I et de fide lib. II. De praescriptionibus hereticorum lib. I. De jejuniis adversum phisicos lib. I. De monogamia lib. I. De pudicitia lib. I in uno corpore. Sed auctorem ignoramus.

The texts contained in the collection were first printed in 1545 as part of the 4th edition by Gagny. It is likely that he had a single manuscript of this collection, although he clearly had access to MSS of other families also. However he tells us nothing of his manuscripts.

The Keppel fragment was written at Cologne, and dismembered before the time of Pamelius. Its history is unknown.

The text of works in this collection is hard to evaluate. The text of De Spectaculis given by Mesnart is generally superior to that of the only extant MS, the Agobardinus. De ieiunio was present in no other collection, and so there is no manuscript of this work extant today.

The Montanist works contained in this collection include those most openly attacking the 'worldly' (psychicus) elements in the church, and assailing the authority of a bishop.  The sentiments have been characterised as violent invective, and find few friends today.  To some it may seem surprising that they were ever copied, once the Montanists passed into history.  However none of these works contain anything offensive to the feelings of a Carolingian monk, himself accustomed to living a more stringent life than the church ordained for most people.  Monks irritated by the interference of secular bishops may have found these works of Tertullian were congenial company! Perhaps this explains why such anti-establishment works were preserved.


1. Some notes on the MSS at Corbie are available on this site here.

2. Some notes on the Keppel fragment are available on this site here.

3. The existence of this corpus was divined by the late Dom E. DEKKERS, Note sur les fragments recemment decouverts de Tertullien, in Sacris Erudiri 4 (1952) pp372-383.also in English translation

4 Pierre PETITMENGIN, Tertullien entre la fin du XIIe et le début du XVIe siècle, in M. CORTESI (ed), Padri Greci e Latini a confronto: Atti del Convegno di studi della Società Internazionale per lo Studio del Medioevo Latino.  Firenze: SISMEL (2004).  pp. 63-88.  Checked.  

Updated 14th April 2001.

This page has been online since 16th January 2001.

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