Codex Vaticanus Ottobonianus Latinus 25

In 1946 the Swedish scholar M. Gosta Claesson, Reader in Philology at Upsalla, discovered in the Ottoboni collection of manuscripts in the Vatican library a manuscript which contained extracts of 4 treatises by Tertullian1. The manuscript once belonged to Queen Christina of Sweden and was brought by her to Rome5 6.  It is no. 1479 in the catalogue of Montfaucon (cf. Studi e Testi, 238 (1964), p.84)6.  It does not date to the s.XIV as Claesson suggested but rather was copied in France in s.XIII (according to François Avril).6  

The date has been narrowed down by Patricia Stirnemann to "Champagne méridionale, 1200-1210."7  The collection of treatises by Tertullian was probably assembled in France in the second part of the 12th century (perhaps in the milieu in which the Florilegium Gallicum was composed?)  The four treatises included are all attested as existing in that location at that time in various collections: De pudicitia in the Corpus Corbiense, De paenitentia and De patientia in the Agobardinus (when it was complete) and the Corpus Cluniacense, De spectaculis in the Corpus Corbiense and the Agobardinus.7

The text was written by the same scribe as the codex Ambrosianus S 51 sup.(φ) of the Apologeticum.

Bibliographic details

The manuscript is bound in red decorated with gold and carries the arms of Pope Pius IX. It contains two leaves from another manuscript which are almost illegible, followed by 261 leaves (folios) measuring 210 x 142 mm. Each page consists of 32 lines in a neat and easilly legible hand. The form of the letters suggests that the manuscript was written in France, probably in the 14th century 1 or possibly even the 13th century5.

The codes is a codex miscellaneus, which contains extracts of the writings of church writers of different epochs:1,5

Folios (leaves) Works
3-186 5 Sermons of Pierre le Mangeur (Petrus Comestor, † 1179)5 and Hildebert (both 12th Century)1
187-241v Lactantius 5
241v-255r Tertullian 5
255r-261 Cyprian 5

On folios 241verso to 255recto, immediately before the extracts of Cyprian, appear the fragments of text from the works of Tertullian, De pudicitia, De paenitentia, De patientia and De spectaculis, in that order. This is the only manuscript we possess of De pudicitia, and prior to its discovery we knew that work only through the edition of Martin Mesnart in 1545. The name of Tertullian appears nowhere in the text; however, there is a note written in handwriting of the 17th or 18th century written in the margin of the text of De spectaculis : Est excerptum ex Tertull. de Spect. (=This an excerpt of Tertullian's De Spectaculis(RP))1.

Notes on the text

No work is given to us complete. However the copyist has taken a lot of care to ensure that his extracts make sense, and where necessary (to obtain a continuous readable text) has inserted words, seemingly of his own invention, to connect two extracts which would otherwise not join together in a sensible way. He has also been willing to abridge at points where he found words or groups of words superfluous. In addition, to improve readability he has altered at some points the order of words in the sentence. Needless to say all these changes are of no importance in establishing the authentic text. However there are other variants which are of interest1.

The material faults of this manuscrit (dittography, errors, omissions, additions) are rare2. Borleffs considers that the text form is superior to the generally excellent Codex Trecensis1. It agrees at various points with the early edition of Mesnart against the Codex Agobardinus, although not at others, but it also has its share of aberrant readings. Interestingly, it also agrees with some of the corrections that Ghelen made to Mesnart's text. In conclusion therefore, it has an interesting text, but cannot be used exclusively for the chapters it contains2.

How does it relate to the other manuscripts and collections?

It often agrees in text with the Codex Trecensis. However, the two codices contain different works - only De paenitentia is in common between them - so we cannot very well see this codex as another example of the same collection of works as the Trecensis1.

In fact no other extant manuscript of the works of Tertullian contains these 4 works together. The Codex Agobardinus never contained De pudicitia, as the table of contents makes clear, and in any event the text of the other 3 works, which it does contain, is not particularly close to that our the Ottobonianus1.

Two of the four were together in the lost manuscript or manuscripts used by Mesnart and Ghelen for their editions, about which we know little. Ghelen tells us that he used a manuscrit brought to Europe by the scholar John Leland, who died in 1552, and who got it from an English monastery. If Ghelen is telling the truth - and why shouldn't he? - then it is very unlikely that the Codex Ottobonianus was copied from that manuscript, since it was in England in the 14th century, when our codex was written1.

The manuscript of the Englishman John Clements (Codex Johannis Clementis Angli), used by Jacques de Pamele for his edition of 1679 contained only De pudicitia and De spectaculis, and not the other two, apparently1.

Since one group of manuscripts contains two of the works, and another the other two, it might be argued that our codex is simply copied from two manuscripts, two from each. However, the order of the works makes this improbable. Surely the copyist would have copied De pudicitia and De spectaculis together, and then the other two together, had that been the case1.

So if our codex is derived from a single manuscript, rather than copied from two, the conclusion is unavoidable that there existed yet another collection of the works of Tertullian in the middle ages, containing these four works together. That unknown collections did exist is shown from the Codex Trecensis with its 5 works which are found together nowhere else, and by the Codex Johannis Clementis Angli which contained 6 works not otherwise found together (as the presence in it of De pudicitia shows)1.

Notes on its De pudicitia

This is contained in folios 241v-244v3. They contain about 20% of the work4.

Notes on its De Spectaculis

The fragments of De spectaculis occupy folios 251 recto to 255 recto. It starts in ch 2, 3 (ab hac secta) and ends in 15,2 (Deus praecipit Spiritum Sanctum). However there are many gaps, ranging from a few words to more than 20 lines. The main absences are2:

From To
1, 4 (Atquin hoc cum maxime) 2, 3 (Dei transiguntur)
16, 7 (si quid horum) the end of ch 16
17, 2 (quam denique pantominus) 17, 3 (praedicatur ; etiam)
17, 6 (si et doctrinam saecularis) 19, 1 (expectabimus)
19, 5 (sed haec ethnicis respondi) 19, 5 (quam meminisse)
21, 4 (et qui insigniori) 22, 2 (et ornamentis quibusdam)
23, 6 (proinde uocem) 23, 7 (ut uapulandi deficiant)
25, 1 (pacem opinor) 25, 4 (spongias retiariorum)
26, 4 (quid luci) 28, 1 (inuitator ipsorum est)
28, 2 (lugeamus ergo) 28, 3 (tunc quoque pariter lugeamus)
30, 3 (item praesides) 30, 4 (redituras affirmabant)


1. J. W. Ph. BORLEFFS, Un nouveau manuscrit de Tertullien, in Vigiliae Christianae 5 (1951), p65ff. Checked. In French. This is the main source for everything I've said above.

2. Marie TURCAN, Tertullien : Les Spectacles, Sources Chretiennes 332, 1986, p11-12. Checked. French critical edition, with extensive notes and introduction.

3. CSCL II, p1280.

4. Claudio MICAELLI and Charles MUNIER, Tertullien : La pudicitie, Sources Chretiennes 394, (1993), p118. Checked. Another French critical edition, with extensive notes and introduction.

5. Charles MUNIER, Tertullien : La Penitence, Sources Chretiennes 316, (1984), p.108. Checked. French critical edition, with extensive notes and introduction. For the Swedish origin of the codex, see note 12. The Swedish army sacked many monasteries in Lower Germany during the 30 Years War (see Karl CHRIST, bibliography) and a number of manuscripts from them were sold by the Swedes to Archbishop LAUD (see SOUTER, Text of the New Testament, p29, bibliography). The Codex Argenteus at Upsala was in the monastery of Werden in the 16th century (ibid, p69). Clearly a fair number of manuscripts went to Sweden as booty at that time.

6. CTC 1997, §11, reviewing Die Literatur des Umbruchs.  Von der römischen zur christlichen Literatur, 117-284 n. Chr., Hrsg. von Klaus SALLMANN, München : Beck, 1997. (Handbuch der lateinischen Literatur der Antike, 4). pp.438-511 deal with Tertullian.

7. -- 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

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