The Commedia commentaries of Iacomo della Lana in the fifteenth century in Bodleian manuscripts

From Emma Barlow:

A focus on the materiality of manuscripts in cataloguing serves the purpose of better understanding the production processes behind their composition, and this can then lead to the application of this knowledge to the dichotomous changes that can be seen throughout the history of the manuscript. One must be conscious of the conservative nature of manuscript production; to a scribe copying the physical appearance of an exemplar, the material organization of the manuscript was paramount (sometimes even to the detriment of the text itself), and so the current trend towards studies of manuscript materiality is a positive one. The manuscript tradition of Dante’s Commedia is particularly vast and complicated due to the enormous number of extant manuscripts and the initial widespread transmission of the text, and so to have a deeper and more thorough understanding of the historical processes at work behind this tradition would prove invaluable to further scholarship in this area.

As part of a recent project, I wished to discover the features of the codicological and palaeographical development of Iacomo della Lana’s Commedia commentaries from the fourteenth to the fifteenth centuries. To this end, I catalogued four manuscripts contained in the Bodleian in order to compare their codicological and palaeographical features with those of fourteenth-century manuscripts of a similar tradition as described by Boschi Rotiroti in her Codicologia trecentesca della ‘Commedia’ (Rome 2004). The manuscripts I catalogued were MS. D’Orville 552, MS. Canon. Ital. 113, MS. Canon. Ital. 115 and MS. Canon. Ital. 116. The first is from the D’Orville collection, dated 1448 and acquired by the Bodleian in 1804. The latter three manuscripts belong to the Canonici collection, bought by the Bodleian in 1817, and are datable to the first half of the fifteenth century.

Completing a modern cataloguing of these manuscripts was an essential first step in commencing this project; all four manuscripts have been catalogued in various forms since the nineteenth century, but no attempt was ever made to detail their material features. This cataloguing was completed in accordance with the house style of the Bodleian Library, in particular with the descriptive catalogue of Würzburg manuscripts in the Bodleian by Daniela Mairhofer (Oxford 2014), and including details of not merely the contents but also the materiality of the manuscripts. One area of my cataloguing is slightly diverse, and that is in the codicological descriptions of the layout of the manuscripts. I followed the cataloguing norms of the “Manoscritti Datati d’Italia”, which are the norms used by Boschi Rotiroti in her cataloguing, to compare and contrast the codicological features, particularly the specific textual layouts, of the fourteenth-century Iacomo della Lana commentaries catalogued by Boschi Rotiroti with those of the fifteenth-century manuscripts that I catalogued. In this way it became possible to determine similarities and differences between the manuscripts, and detect patterns in their formation, to better understand the diachronic evolution of this particular manuscript tradition over one century.

In the four Bodleian manuscripts, three methods of manuscript production were displayed: an entire text displayed in two columns, a text displayed with commentary surrounding it in a frame, and a text with breaks between quires due to multiple scribes being involved in the copying process. Of the nineteen Boschi Rotiroti manuscripts, nine are presented in part or in whole as one column of the text of the Commedia with the commentary appearing in a frame surrounding the text (MS. Vat. Urb. lat. 367, MS. Vat. lat. 4776; Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS. Pluteo 40.36, MS. Ashburnham 832 (partly) and MS. Strozzi 169 (partly); Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, MS. 1005 and MS.1014 (partly); Milan, Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, MS. AG.XII.2; Rimini, Biblioteca Civica Gambalunga, MS. S.C. 1162; Roma, Biblioteca dell’Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei e Corsiniana, MS. 44.F.3). Of the Bodleian manuscripts I catalogued, one (MS. Canon. Ital. 115) is presented entirely in this manner, and two (MS. D’Orville 552 and MS. Canon. Ital. 116) are presented partly in this way. This is not a feature particular to commentaries of Iacomo della Lana, but rather a feature of Italian Humanistic manuscripts, in particular texts accompanied by commentaries, and so it is unsurprising that these manuscripts share such a feature. The three Bodleian manuscripts seem to be most similar in layout to the Boschi Rotiroti manuscript Biblioteca dell’Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei e Corsiniana MS. 44.F.3, which features a simple rectangular text block and a plain frame of commentary surrounding it, with no complex double justifications of any kind. Aside from one manuscript (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS. Mediceo Palatino 74), which has a variable layout, the remaining nine Boschi Rotiroti manuscripts are shaped in two columns (MS. Vat. Barb. lat. 4071, MS. Vat. Cappon. lat. 263, MS. Vat. Ott. lat, 2358; Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS. Pluteo 90 sup. 121; Frankfurt am Main, Stadt- und Universitätsbibliothek, MS. lat. Qu. 57; Lucca, Archivio di Stato, Biblioteca manoscritti 93 and Biblioteca manoscritti 247, Frammento dantesco L 1592; Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS. A.40 inf., and Rome, Collezione dei Marchesi Guidi di Bagno), and this is another layout found in the manuscripts I have catalogued, specifically MS. D’Orville 552 and MS. Canon. Ital. 113. Again, this is a well-documented mise en page for the time period and geographical origin of these manuscripts.

A number of aesthetic features of the manuscripts I catalogued are also worthy of comparison with the Boschi Rotiroti manuscript catalogues. MS. D’Orville 552 contains yellow rubrication, as do the Boschi Rotiroti MS. Vat. Cappon. lat. 263, MS. Ott. lat. 2358 and Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS. Pluteo 40.36 and Mediceo Palatino 74, unusual given the usual red coloring of rubrication and indicating a possible connection between these manuscript traditions. There are also similarities in the presence of illustrations; MS. Canon. Ital. 115 contains a number of ink and lead illustrations copied from the Gradenighiana codex with spaces reserved for further illustrations. In the Boschi Rotiroti manuscripts, MS. Vat. lat. 4776 contains illustrations in Inferno, sketches for illustrations in Paradiso and spaces reserved for illustrations in Purgatorio, while MS. Medieceo Palatino 74 contains spaces reserved for illustrations throughout. The most interesting, however, is Rimini, Biblioteca Civica Gambalunga, MS. S.C. 1162, which is in fact the very Gradenighiana codex from which MS. Canon. Ital. 115 and 116 are copied (unfortunately, Boschi Rotiroti’s catalogue does not include measurements of the mise-en-page of S.C. 1162, and so the respective mise en page of MS. Canon. Ital. 115 and 116 could not be compared to it; this is something that would be very much worthwhile exploring further in a future project).

Another significant feature of these manuscripts is the texts that accompany them. In the Boschi Rotiroti manuscripts, MS. Vat. lat. 4776 and MS. Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Strozzi 169 contain the commentary of Iacomo della Lana interspersed with the Ottimo commentary; this is also true for MS. D’Orville 552, wherein the commentary of Purgatorio and Paradiso is a mélange of the commentaries of Iacomo della Lana and the Ottimo, so this trend appears to have been commonplace in the manuscript tradition. Collezione dei Marchesi Guidi di Bagno contains the so-called Piccolo Credo as the final text in the manuscript, while MS. Canon. Ital. 116 also includes it as one of the complementary texts at the end of the manuscript. Three of the Boschi Rotiroti manuscripts (Florence MS. Strozzi 169, Frankfurt MS. lat. Qu. 57, and Rimini MS. S.C. 1162) are accompanied by segments of the Capitolo by Jacopo Alighieri, a feature also of MS. Canon. Ital. 115 and 116 (unsurprising given that these manuscripts are copied from S.C. 1162). Another two texts found in S.C. 1162, the Capitolo of Menghino Mezzani and the Brieve raccoglimento of Boccaccio, are also found in MS. Canon. Ital. 115 (Mezzani and Boccaccio) and MS. Canon. Ital. 116 (Boccaccio), another clear indication that these manuscripts very much belong to the same tradition.

A comprehensive examination such as this can reveal much about the manuscript tradition of a particular commentary over a long time period, and about the methods of manuscript production behind the end products themselves. Further detailed and thorough cataloguing of medieval and Renaissance Italian manuscripts containing the commentaries of Iacomo della Lana in other libraries around the world could lead to a comprehensive understanding of the complete history of this commentary tradition, which at this time is incomplete, as while much is known about the original manuscripts in which the commentary survives, little is known about the precise manner of its subsequent textual transmission from manuscript to printed tradition. With the above comparative codicological and palaeographical analysis, I hope to have facilitated the eventual closing of this gap in our collective knowledge.