Page images

XVI. A Picture Map of Rome in a Manuscript
of Valerius Maximus



The manuscript of Valerius Maximus with which we are concerned was purchased for the library of the University of Michigan in 1924, and is numbered 148 in the inventory of manuscripts. It contains the nine books of the Facta et dicta memorabilia, without the addition of the tract De Praenominibus. It is of Italian origin and is written on 126 leaves of parchment of good quality, the size averaging 268 × 205 mm. The first seventy-one leaves are in a larger hand, with 32-34 lines to the page; the rest are in a small hand with 35-39 lines to the page. Since the relation of the two hands in point of time has an important bearing on the date of the illuminations, I asked Professor Sanders to present his conclusions regarding the work of the two scribes.2

1 The first page of the text (recto of leaf 5 of the manuscript) with the picture map is shown in Plate 1, with a reduction of nearly one half in size. At the end of book Ix, after the words supplicio coegit we read:

Deo gratias. Amen.

Valerii maximi dictorum memorabilium et factorum liber nonus explicit. Deo gratias. Amen.

2 "The first seven quires," says Professor Sanders, "are of a characteristic fourteenth century hand, though I prefer to call it late fourteenth. The remaining six quires are written in a smaller vertical hand of considerable elegance, which one would be inclined to call fifteenth century. It is in fact a close parallel to a well-known Cicero manuscript containing the Brutus, a facsimile page of which appears in Chatelain, Plate xx, where it is dated fifteenth century. "These facts were doubtless recognized by a former owner, for on the first flyleaf there is an Italian note referring the first hand to the end of the fourteenth century and the second hand to the beginning of the fifteenth. I cannot, however, accept this view, for the following reasons:

"1. The parchment is all goatskin and similar in appearance throughout. It is plain that the parchment for the entire MS. was secured at one purchase. It is not likely that six quires of unused parchment would have been kept with an unfinished book for a number of years.

"2. Both first and second hands regularly omitted the capitula and section

In this paper it is not possible to deal either with the text of the MS., which although written at the end of the fourteenth century was, on the whole, carefully copied and is in line with the best manuscript tradition of the work; or with the conventional sketch maps of Hesperia, Thessaly, and the world in circular diagrams which precede the text; or with a diagram of the zodiac on the verso of the last leaf, in which the correspondence of the months with the zodiacal constellations and the spheres of the seven planets are shown; or, finally, with small conventional sketch maps of the world, Thessaly, and Hesperia, in circular form, which appear on the same page. Our discussion must be confined to the illuminated letters, with a particular study of the miniature at the beginning.

The illuminated letters are of three types.

headings, which were later supplied in red ink by the same scribe throughout the MS. This third scribe wrote a hand similar to scribe No. 2, but the two are not identical. He may be the same as the illuminator who put in the ornamental initial letters throughout the MS., for the ink is the same shade.

"3. The entire MS. was corrected by a single scholar, who also added numerous marginal glosses. Some glosses had been inserted by each of the original scribes.

This corrector wrote a hand similar to the additions in red, but smaller. I do not think it was the same scribe as the one who supplied the red. "Thus in all probability two scribes and the illuminator worked over the entire MS. at one time. Before their work was done the MS. was unusable and without beauty. It does not seem probable that half a MS. could have remained long incomplete at the end of the fourteenth century. This consideration, together with the identity of the parchment throughout, points to the completion of the writing of the MS. within a reasonable time after it was begun, probably by two scribes copying at the same time.

"To these reasons we must add that the MS. was divided as evenly as possible between the two scribes, and that the division point came at the end of a quire. It seems likely that this division was planned at the start. It was desired to produce the volume as quickly as possible and so the work was divided among those available.

"If this explanation is correct—and it seems unavoidable then the first scribe must have been an older man, who had not changed his style of writing. The other three scribes as well as the illuminator used forms of letters common to the fifteenth century. Under these circumstances it seems best to date the MS. as early as these later hands can possibly be placed; in that case it is quite possible for an older scribe to have shared in the work. The MS. should therefore be dated within the first few years of the fifteenth century, or approximately 1400 A.D."

First, at the beginnings of paragraphs throughout the MS. large letters are usually found, part in vermilion and part in a deep (or a dull) blue, alternating from one color to the other. As a guide to the illuminator, the scribes, in accordance with a common practice, put a small letter in the space left for the initial at the beginning of lines. All these monochrome initials were supplied by the same hand. In the four pages of the first two leaves of the text (cf. Plate II) and the recto of the third, the first scribe had not yet adopted the system of paragraphing which he followed later, and here the illuminator had to content himself with breaking up the text by inserting blue and vermilion paragraph marks.

Second, still larger initial letters in the two colors are regularly placed at the beginnings of the chapters; there are some exceptions, in cases where the scribe had not left enough room for the illumination. In these larger initials the body of the letter is vermilion or blue, while the ornamentation is supplied by fine vertical lines and flourishes in the other color. In some cases similar letters in two colors but of smaller size are used at the beginnings of paragraphs, in place of the monochrome initials. Vermilion is regularly used also in the chapter headings and lists of contents.

Finally, at the beginning of each of the nine books still larger and more elaborate initial letters appear. In these, in addition to burnished gold, a palette of four colors was used. On the first page of the text we find the initial U of URBIS, which contains the picture map. This is linked with a vine motive which runs along the margin on the left side of the page and over the top (Plate 1). The picture map is six centimeters in height. The initial U is shaped so as to form a roughly oval border, colored in old rose with white along the margins. Surfaces of burnished gold are supplied at the right and left of the border, and in the lower part of it at the right a leaf has been painted in vermilion over it, making a projection below. In the vine motive also flecks of burnished gold are freely used, and the same colors, vermilion, old rose, olive

green, and dull blue, emphasize the diversity of the different elements of the design.

The large initials at the beginning of the other eight books are worked out in a similar color scheme, with designs that harmonize with the vine motive of the first page; and white dots often accentuate the shades of color by contrast. So in the D of Dives at the beginning of book II we find the letter treated as in the first initial, so as to form an oval border of old rose. In this border there is enclosed a blue field in which a conventional plant in vermilion and olive-green springs from a kind of calyx below, while the outer edges of the border letter are reinforced with gold. In the initial at the beginning of book IV, T in Transgrediar, the T is less conventionalized. It is painted in old rose, while under one arm, at the left, is a field with gold background, on which a plant design appears in vermilion, blue, and green; under the right arm the field is blue, with a plant design in the other colors. The N of Nunc at the beginning of book VIII has gold in a plant design on the blue background enclosed by the letter, which is painted in old rose; so also has the B of Blandum, at the beginning of book IX, which is perhaps the most pleasing of these more ambitious initials (Plate III, 1).

From this rapid survey of the illuminated letters we see that, while the work is not of a high order in respect to either originality or artistic merit, the characteristic handling of the color scheme and plant motives proves that all the large initials were painted by the same hand, probably the hand that filled in the small initials; the gold was undoubtedly applied by a special craftsman. It is also obvious that the picture map in the first initial stands alone, having no kinship with the ornamentation of the initial letter of which it forms a part or with the designs found elsewhere in the manuscript.

It is by no means certain that this miniature was filled in by the same hand that executed the initial border. The appearance at the edges suggests rather that the picture map may have been executed first and the initial added later. Be that as

it may, the grey tones of the city wall and buildings, brightened here and there by a light bluish wash, stand out by contrast with the dark background of the sky, the shadows in the gates, and the water of the Tiber. The bridge in the foreground is accentuated by a touch of yellow (Plate IV).

The record of topographical representations of Rome is the history of map making. No other city, and no other country, can boast so profuse a documentation on the material side. From the period of the great marble plan, affixed in the Middle Empire to the northeast wall of the so-called Templum Sacrae Urbis, and of the monument of the Haterii with its representation of a part of the Sacred Way, to the most recent guidebooks, this topographic documentation has proceeded along two lines. The plan prepared by the surveyors for the Marble Plan was the forerunner of the ordinary maps of Rome; and representations such as that of the monument of the Haterii foreshadowed the perspective plan, or picture map, which aims to represent the buildings of the whole city, or of a special part, as seen from a particular point of view.

The foundation for the study of the picture maps of Rome was laid by Giovanni Battista de Rossi in his Piante icnografiche e prospettiche di Roma anteriori al secolo XVI, which was published in 1879. This presented perspective plans from the earliest known representation of the kind, dating before the year 1277, to the end of the fifteenth century. The examples were chiefly taken from manuscripts. Unique in its class is a gold medallion of Louis of Bavaria, struck about the year 1328 (Plate III, 2). This is of interest in connection with our picture map because it is even smaller, and is circular in shape.

The point of view of the medallion is north, and we are looking toward the south and southeast. On the right or west side of the Tiber we are able to distinguish the mausoleum of Hadrian, The date of the Marble Plan in situ can hardly be earlier than Aurelian, as shown by recent studies of the wall to which the Marble Plan was affixed: La Chiesa dei SS. Cosma e Damiano al Foro Romano e gli Edifici preesistenti, by Giovanni Biasiotti and Philip B. Whitehead, in Rendiconti della Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia, m (1925), 83-122.

« PreviousContinue »