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Histories & Historiography Timeline

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1,000 BCE – 300 BCE

How Herodotus Used Writing and Messages in his Histories Circa 450 BCE – 420 BCE

As Herodotus (Ἡρόδοτος) was the founder of historical writing, references to written or archival records in his Histories (The History) are of particular interest. By the mid-fifth century BCE writing in Greece had existed for only about 300 years. Because writing was relatively new, and only a small portion of society was literate, it may not be surprising that Herodotus appears to have consulted few written sources in compiling his Histories. From Herodotus's own account it seems that most often he did not find it necessary, or perhaps practical, to verify information that he compiled from personal observation through the consultation of written records. Herodotus also expected his Histories to be read aloud, in which case citing written sources within the Histories might have been a kind of distraction.

Herodotus begins his Histories with a sentence that has been translated in various ways: "Herodotus of Halicarnassus here presents his research so that human events do not fade with time."  Another translation of the same sentence reads, "What follows is a performance of the enquiries of Herodotus from Halicarnassus." According to Robert Strassler, editor of The Landmark Herodotus (2007) 3, Proem.b, "This almost certainly implies that Herodotus performed (read aloud) his text, in whole or in part, to an audience gathered to hear him."

Herodotus usually refers to records in the context of government, law, or communication. He often refers to dispatches sent by leaders as part of political or military negotiations, such as dispatches sent in the context of war. He describes attempts to send secret messages. He also refers to records used for the enforcement of laws, which were, of course, in written form. He is aware of both the advantages and disadvantages of writing over oral communication.

"Herodotus recognized the usefulness of writing for interpersonal communication, but he also knew that it could be problematic. Because writing fixed a message in time and space, a written document that seemed objective and straightforward could also be full of paradoxes. In the generation after Herodotus, Socrates would complain (in the dialogue Phaedrus, set down by Plato) that writing represented 'no true wisdom, . . . but only its semblance.' Written words 'seem to talk to you as though they were intelligent,' the philosopher said, 'but if you ask them anything about what they say, from a desire to be instructed, they go on telling you the same thing for ever.' Even worse, once something is put in writing it 'drifts all over the place, getting into the hands not only of those who understand it, but equally of those who have no business with it; it doesn't know how to address the right people, and not address the wrong. '  

"Like Socrates, Herodotus knew that writing was full of ambiguities. Since a written document could not be cross-examined as a speaking person could, it might be used not to inform but to deceive. Themistocles, the Athenian general who led the resistance to the invasion of Xerxes. knew this too. Both sides in the war were vying for the help of the Ionians, descendants of Greek settlers who had colonized the Aegean islands and the adjacent mainland coastal areas of present-day Turkey. Most Ionians sided with the Persians, their powerful near-neighbours, but the Greeks sought their aid on the grounds of common ancestry. Themistocles used the ambiguity of writing to enlist their help, or at least to minimize the potential harm they might do to the Greek cause. He sent men to the "drinkable-water places" where Ionian ships put in for resupply, and he had them cut written messages into the rocks there, urging the Ionians to abandon Xerxes and join the Greek side. His plan was clever: either the Ionians who read the messages would be persuaded to rebel against the Persians, he reasoned, or Xerxes himself would see the messages and distrust his allies, withholding them from the order of battle (8.22). As it happened, only a few Ionians defected to the Greeks (see 8.85), but a more important point had been made: writing could send a deliberately confusing message as well as a direct one. Writing was not always so straightforward as it appeared to be.

"Writing could also be useful for sending messages in secret, and Herodotus provided several examples of how written records promoted secrecy. There was a danger in committing anything to writing since, if the document were intercepted, secrecy would be lost. Histiaeus, who had been made Despot of Miletus by Darius, learned this lesson when he sought through secret messages to stir up a revolt against his benefactor. The King's brother intercepted these letters, read them, and then sent them on to their original destination, having meanwhile profited from knowing what plans were afoot. When the revolt came, the loyal forces 'killed a great number ... when they were thus revealed' (6.4). Still, writing out a message and smuggling it to a confederate could be safer than entrusting it orally to a messenger, who could be bribed or tortured into talking if apprehended. Because of the possibility of such discovery, special care was needed over secret communications, and Herodotus found several instances of such security precautions.

"These stories present the historian at his anecdotal best, and we may well doubt whether any of them actually happened. Their very dramatic content, however, highlights the problem Socrates complained of; namely, writing drifting 'all over the place' and getting into the wrong hands. In one case, a Mede named Harpagus plotted with Cyrus to overthrow the King and install the young man in his place. 'Because the roads were guarded,' a secret message had to be smuggled through by some 'contrivance.' Harpagus took a hare and split open its belly, leaving the fur intact. Next, he inserted "a paper on which he wrote what he wanted," stitched the animal back together, and entrusted it to a servant, disguised as an innocuous huntsman. The servant made it past the guards along the road and delivered the message to its intended recipient (1.123; the text of the message itself is at 1.124)" (O'Toole, "Herodotus and the Written Record," Archivaria 33 [1991-92] 153-54).

Whatever Herodotus's ideas regarding the written record, his Histories survived because he wrote them down, and because they were re-copied. According to Roger Pearse, tertullian.org, 18 papyrus fragments of Herdotus survived, all fragments of a page, with little overlap. Most of these fragments date from the first or second centuries CE. Pearse cites nine medieval manuscript exemplars. The earliest, Laurentian 70, 3, known as Codex A, dates from the 10th century C.E. This was carefully written by two scribes in succession. The text contains marginal summaries and the remains of scholia, copied from its exemplar, as well as much later marginal notes, especially in book 1.

Pearse provides the following general comments on the surviving sources for Herodotus: "The manuscripts and papyri do not give us information on all the forms of the text of Herodotus that were known in antiquity. This we can see from the quotations of the text in other ancient authors. . . . Both the manuscripts and papyri appear to derive from a common ancient edition which was widely circulated in the early centuries AD. Who made this is unknown. . . ."

(This entry was last revised on 04-24-2014.)

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30 CE – 500 CE

Reconstruction of the Contents of the Library of Eusebius Circa 280 CE – 339 CE

So few codices and papyrus rolls have survived from the third and fourth centuries—the period of transition from the roll to the codex— that we know remarkably little about the specific contents of any public and private libraries from the time. One exception is the library of the bishop and historian Eusebius of Caesarea (Eusebius Pamphili). No catalogue of his library survived, but since Eusebius referenced so many specific sources in his voluminous writings, it was possible to work backwards from those references to reconstruct at least part of the library that Eusebius used from around 280 to 339. This was done by Andrew James Carriker in The Library of Eusebius of Caesarea (2003).

"Despite Jerome's reference to this library as the bibliotheca Origenis et Pamphili, the two men who endowed it with its greatest bibliographic wealth, the modern investigation of the library at Caesarea must focus on the library in the possession of Eusebius, Pamphilus' pupil, for Eusebius furnishes the most evidence of its contents in his voluminuous extant writings. Four of these works contain the most important evidence and have according been given the most attention: the Chronicon for historical works; the Historia Ecclesiastica (HE) for Jewish and Christian works; the Praeparatio Evangelica (PE) for Jewish and Christian works; and the Vita Constantini (VC) for contemporary documents. The primary work of this book is thus to reconstruct the contents of the library from the quotations and references in these four works. Some of the difficulties of this task, most notably the problem of establishing whether Eusebius used his sources firsthand or through intermediaries, are treated in chapter two." (Carriker, xiii-xiv).

Perhaps because Eusebius's writings remained central to the early history of Christianity, his writings remained in circulation through the Middle Ages up to the present, and have generated many editions and commentaries, beginning soon after Eusebius's death. Working through the primary sources and the main commentaries, Carriker was able to produce on pp. 299-311 of his very extensively footnoted study, a list of 288 or more specific works that Eusebius owned or used in the fields of Philosophy, Poetry, Oratory, History, Jewish Literature, and  Christianity. Carriker believed that the actual number of books in Eusebius's library would have been larger, perhaps 400.

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Eusebius Introduces His Tabular Timeline System Circa 308 CE – 326 CE

Between 308 and 311 Eusebius Caesariensis (Eusebius of Caesarea, Eusebius Pamphili), a Roman historian, Christian polemicist, and Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, wrote The Chronicon, or Chronicle (Greek, Pantodape historia, "Universal history").  For the next 18 years Eusebius continued to revise this work, and though Eusebius's Greek text was lost, the work was preserved in Eusebius's final draft (326) by its translation into Latin by Jerome, and by its translation into Armenian.  

One of Eusebius's innovations in this work was a tabular system to coordinate events drawn from several distinct historiographic traditions. His use of the tabular format was influenced by the columnar arrangement of Origen's Hexapla, with which he was familiar. Eusebius's Chronicon became a fundamental text for the development of historical writing in the Middle Ages. 

As Anthony Grafton and Megan Williams wrote in Christianity and the Transformation of the Book (2006, p. 136), Eusebius's Chronicle made it possible "to fix a whole world on paper" by aligning data from various strands of biblical and Near Eastern historiography. Eusebius divided his Chronicle into two parts, the Chronography and the Canons. The Chronography is a tabular list of synchronisms of Greek, Roman, and Jewish history; the Canons is a systematic chronicle of world history and following nineteen ancient states down through time, culminating in one column representing the Roman empire. To Grafton and Williams the importance of the Hexapla for Eusebius was that it trained him to read parallel texts "word by word", comparing them closely and allowing the discrepancies to remain (pp. 169-170).

As first compiled, the Chronicon consisted of two parts: in the first (‘the chronography’),

"Eusebius treated the history of each ancient people or empire separately, listing their rulers or magistrates, the years of their reigns, and the events which took place in those years; in the second (‘the chronological canons’), he tried to reconcile the various chronologies and historical narratives current in the ancient world, by laying out their histories in a tabular format which would allow the reader to look across the columns and to compare what was going on in the different kingdoms at the same time. It was second part which was revolutionary, and it was this section which was translated and made available to the Latin West by Jerome. Eusebius’ Chronicle no longer survives in the original Greek. An Armenian translation exists in two versions, though the end of book one and start and end of book two are lost in both.  

"The tabular layout was achieved by making use of a new type of manuscript, the codex. Consisting of sheets folded and stitched together in the manner of a modern book, this type of book largely supplanted the scroll between the second and fourth centuries. Eusebius took each ‘opening’ in his codex and divided it up into vertical columns. The events of the period were listed in two broad columns, one at the centre of each of the opposing pages. To their left and right were columns of numbers giving the years according to the regnal chronologies current in the period in question. Into the column to the extreme left Eusebius put an index of years divided into ten year intervals, the next he headed as [Kings] of the Persians (or of whichever empire was dominant at the time), and that to the extreme right he headed [Kings] of the Egyptians for as long as they lasted. When a new power came along he added an extra column for them, and when they failed their column vanished with them. The ascent of a new king was placed in the column of his kingdom, but, given a horizontal line of its own, as though it had happened between years. Thereafter the series of numbers in this kingdom’s column would be restarted, running 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on.  

"Merton 315 illustrates this layout. Consider, for example, fols. 49v and 50r, which cover the years 1196–1182 BC in Eusebius’s reckoning. It is to these years that Eusebius assigns the Trojan War. In this opening three rulers come to the throne: the judges of the Jews Esebon and Labdon, and the pharaoh of the Egyptians Thuoris. Some attempt has been made to distinguish the columns by using different coloured inks—red, green and black. Notice also that the entries on folio 49v are very much concerned with issues of chronology: ‘In the book of Judges [11:26], Jephthah says from the era of Moses to himself is reckoned to be 300 years’; ‘After Hesebon in the book of the Hebrews, Aelon is considered to have ruled as Judge over the people for ten years, which the seventy translators do not have.’  

Further into the text, once the Romans have overrun the other major empires of the Mediterranean world, the need for multiple columns is reduced, and the work proceeds on single pages rather than by two-page openings. Note also that Eusebius starts his tables, not with the date of Creation, but with the earliest date in the Biblical narrative which he could correlate securely with the chronologies of the other peoples—namely, the birth of Abraham. He places this event in the 43rd year of the reign of Ninus, king of the Assyrians—2016 years before the birth of Christ. Writing in 379 or 380, Jerome, for his part, extended Eusebius’s coverage from AD 327 to 378—or as he puts it in his preface, from the twentieth year of Constantine to the second of the Emperor Valentinian. But note also that Jerome claims to have modified and added much to the annals between the Fall of Troy and 327/the twentieth year of Constantine.  

"Theories as to the purpose of this chronicle vary. One common view is that Eusebius produced the work as a preparatory step towards the writing of his Ecclesiastical History, because he needed to reconcile the chronological data from various Greek sources—Porphyry, Castor, Erastothenes, and so on—with that found in Scripture. The problem with this view is that the chronological scope of the two works is so very different. Another view is that the aim was to show how the national histories of the Mediterranean world fitted into the overarching scheme of Salvation History—how, that is, they fitted into God’s grand plan for the redemption of humanity. The problem with this theory is that Eusebius starts, not with creation, but with the birth of Abraham—at a point when the world was already, according to his reckoning, 3,184 years old. Another approach focuses on Eusebius’s revision of the received Christian chronology of Sextus Julius Africanus. Whereas Sextus had placed Christ’s death in the 5,500th year of world, Eusebius’s chronology implied that Christ was born in its 5,199th year. This can be seen as an attempt to deflate millennial expectations, because the former dating when combined with the belief that the world would last six millennia—an idea that Sextus had helped to promote—implied that the Second Coming would take place in AD 500. Eusebius’s revised chronology, on the other hand, rejuvenated the world, implying that the sixth age would continue until 799/800. The problem with this theory is that Eusebius does not use annus-mundi chronology as his fundamental system of reference, nor does he make mention in his chronicle of the dangers of millennarianism. There were chroniclers who were much involved with countering this danger, such as Bede and Isidore of Seville, but they are wholly explicit about their concerns, and they use annus-mundi chronology to organise their annals.  

"Another view is that the purpose was to help new converts to the faith to assimilate the historical traditions of the Middle East and the Jews—traditions which would have been alien to those who had been educated according to the established norms of Greco-Roman education. ‘Visually and succintly’, as McKitterick puts it, ‘it sets out and locates in time the relationship between the various elements of an educated Christian’s universe.’ Of the various theories this one is the most in keeping with the words of Eusebius’s preface, which stresses the simple utility of his tabular arrangement for translating dates from one chronological system to another. We have, he explains, placed the series of years in opposition to each other ‘so as to provide a simple method for discovering in which era, Greek or barbarian, the prophets, kings, and priests of the Hebrews existed, likewise when falsely-believed gods of various nations existed, when demi-gods, when any city was founded, concerning illustrious men, when philosophers, poets, princes, and writers of various works appeared, and any other ancient event, if it was thought deserving of recording’ "(http://www.lancs.ac.uk/staff/haywardp/hist424/seminars/Merton315.htm, accessed12-23-2012).

"Ancient and medieval historians had their own techniques of chronological notation. From the fourth century in Europe, the most powerful and typical of these was the table. Though ancient chronologies were inscribed in many different forms, among scholars the table form had a normative quality much as the timeline does today. In part, the importance of the chronological table after the fourth century can be credited to the Roman Christian scholar Eusebius. Already in the fourth century Eusebius had developed a sophisticated table structure to organize and reconcile chronologies drawn from historical sources from all over the world. To clearly present the relations between Jewish, pagan, and Christian histories, Eusebius laid out their chronologies in parallel columns that began with the patriarch Abraham and the founding of Assyria. The reader who moved through Eusebius's history, page by page, saw empires and kingdoms rise and fall, until all of them—even the kingdom of the Jews—came under Rome's universal rule, just in time to make the Savior's message accessible to all of humanity. By comparing individual histories to one another and the unform progress of the years, the reader could see the hand of providence at work.

"Eusebius created his visually lucid Chronicle just when he and other Christians were first adopting the codex, or bound book, in place of the scroll. Like other Christian innovations in book design, the parallel tables and lucid, year-by-year, decade-by-decade order of the Chronicle reflected the desire of early Christian scholars to make the Bible and the sources vital for understanding it available and readily accessible for quick reference. The Chronicle was widely read, copied, and imitated in the Middle Ages. And it catered to a desire for precision that other popular forms—like the genealogical tree—could not satisfy" (Rosenberg & Grafton, Cartographies of Time. A History of the Timeline [2010] 15-16).

One of the earliest surviving manuscripts of Jerome's translation is Bodleian Codex  Lat. Auct. T. II. 26, most of which was written in Italy in an uncial hand about the middle of the fifth century (Lowe, Codices Latini Antiquiores II [1935] No. 233a.)

"Ff. 1-32 years, are in a late (s.XV?) hand in the priores (long-lines) format. The remainder (A. Abr. 555-2394) is in a fifth century hand, the last leaf is missing, and the one-leaf summary replacing it is either by the same or a contemporary hand. There are marginalia dating from around 1400.

"The manuscript was acquired from an unknown source by Jean de Tillet, Bishop of Meaux, who died in 1570. Du Tillet had obtained authority from Francis I to collect Mss from French libraries; there are reasons to suppose that the Ms. was in the South of France ca. 1400. Pontacus borrowed it from him and cites it by the name of the Meldensis (M). Sirmond, in his edition of Marcellinus (1619, 1696) refers to it as being in Tillet's library. It then passed to the Jesuit College of Clermont at Paris. This library was sold in 1764, when it was acquired by Meerman. On the sale of his library in 1824, it was bought by Gaisford for the Bodleian." This was edited and published in facsimile by John Knight Fotheringham as The Bodleian Manuscript of Jerome's Version of the Chronicle of Eusebius Reproduced in Collotype (1905). In December 2012 an online English translation of this manuscript was available at this link.

Eusebius's Chronicon was first published in print by Philippus de Lavagnia of Milan about 1474-75. The text published was the Latin translation of Jerome with the continuations of Prosper Aquitanus and Matthaeus Palmerius Florentinus. The first printed edition is undated, and the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC) ie00116000 states that the edition is "also recorded as [not after 1468?]." As explanation for their estimation of the date of this undated edition, the ISTC states:

"The printer's name appears on the first leaf. The copy in Parma Palatina belonged to Nicodemo Tranchedini who listed this book, among others, in his Zibaldone [an early form of commonplace book] under the date 19 June 1475 (P. Parodi, in Giornale storico delle province parmensi 20 (1920) pp.162-64)

"P. Scapecchi, in L. Fabbri and M. Tacconi (edd.), I libri del Duomo di Firenze (Firenze, 1997) pp.168-70, reports the MS. date 1468 in the copy at Firenze N. Cf. also Ganda(Lavagna) pp.87-88."

Carriker, The Library of Eusebius of Caesarea (2003) 38-40.

(This entry was last revised on 01-05-2014.)

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The First Full Length Historical Narrative Written from the Christian Point of View Circa 313 CE – 326 CE

Between 313 and 314 CE Roman historian and Christian polemicist Eusebius (Eusebius of Caesarea, Eusebius Pamphili) wrote Historia ecclesiastica or Historia ecclesiae, a chronological account of the development of Early Christianity from the 1st to 4th century. This was the first full length historical narrative written from the Christian point of view. Eusebius prepared his final edition of the work from 325 to 326.

Eusebius wrote in Koine Greek, but the earliest surviving texts of the work are Latin, Armenian, and Syriac manuscripts, one of the earliest of which, National Library of Russia, Codex Syriac 1, dates to 462 CE. 

"In the early 5th century two advocates in Constantinople, Socrates Scholasticus and Sozomen, and a bishop, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Syria, wrote continuations of Eusebius' church history, establishing the convention of continuators that would determine to a great extent the way history was written for the next thousand years. Eusebius' Chronicle, that attempted to lay out a comparative timeline of pagan and Old Testament history, set the model for the other historiographical genre, the medieval chronicle or universal history.

"Eusebius had access to the Theological Library of Caesarea and made use of many ecclesiastical monuments and documents, acts of the martyrs, letters, extracts from earlier Christian writings, lists of bishops, and similar sources, often quoting the originals at great length so that his work contains materials not elsewhere preserved. For example he wrote that Matthew composed the Gospel according to the Hebrews and his Church Catalogue suggests that it was the only Jewish gospel. It is therefore of historical value, though it pretends neither to completeness nor to the observance of due proportion in the treatment of the subject-matter. Nor does it present in a connected and systematic way the history of the early Christian Church. It is to no small extent a vindication of the Christian religion, though the author did not primarily intend it as such. Eusebius has been often accused of intentional falsification of the truth; in judging persons or facts he is not entirely unbiased" (Wikipedia article on Church History (Eusebius), accessed 12-23-2012).

Eusebius's Historia ecclesiastica, as translated by Rufinus Aquileiensis, was first published in print by Nicholaus Ketelaer and Gerardus de Leempt of Utrecht in 1474. ISTC No.: ie00124000.

Carriker, The Library of Eusebius of Caesarea (2003) 38-40.

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The Last Major Surviving Historical Account of the Late Roman Empire Circa 385 CE

About 385 Roman historian, Ammianus Marcellinus, wrote Res gestae libri XXI, the last major surviving historical account of the late Roman empire. His work chronicled the history of Rome from 96 to 378, although only the sections covering the period 353 - 378 remain extant.

“This is the history of events from the reign of the emperor Nerva to the death of Valens, which I, a former soldier and a Greek (miles quondam et Graecus), have composed to the best of my ability. It claims to be the truth, which I have never ventured to pervert either by silence or a lie.” (Amm. Marc. 31.16.9)

“An accurate and faithful guide, who has composed the history of his own times without indulging the prejudices and passions which usually affect the mind of a contemporary.” (Edward Gibbon)

The above quotations are from the introduction to the Ammianus Marcellinus Online Project directed by Jan Willem Drijvers of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. This site concerns the biography, bibliography, editions, translations, commentaries, concordances, etc. of Ammianus Marcellinus.

"His [Ammianus's] work has suffered terribly from the manuscript transmission. Aside from the loss of the first thirteen books, the remaining eighteen are in many places corrupt and lacunose. The sole surviving manuscript from which almost every other is derived is a ninth-century Carolingian text, Vatican lat. 1873 (V), produced in Fulda from an insular exemplar. The only independent textual source for Ammianus lies in Fragmenta Marbugensia (M), another ninth-century Frankish codex which was taken apart to provide covers for account-books during the fifteenth century. Only six leaves of M survive; however, before this manuscript was dismantled the Abbot of Hersfeld lent the manuscript to Sigismund Gelenius, who used it in preparing the text of the second Froben edition (G). The dates and relationship of V and M were long disputed until 1936 when R. P. Robinson demonstrated persuasively that V was copied from M. As L.D. Reynolds summarizes, 'M is thus a fragment of the archetype; symptoms of an insular pre-archetype are evident.'

"His handling from his earliest printers was little better. The editio princeps was printed in 1474 in Rome by Georg Sachsel and Bartholomaeus Golsch from 'the worst of the recentiores', which broke off at the end of Book 26. The next edition (Bologna, 1517) suffered from its editor's 'monstrously bad conjectures' upon the poor text of the 1474 edition; the 1474 edition was pirated for the first Froben edition (Basle, 1518). It wasn't until 1533 that the last five books of Ammianus' history was put into print by Silvanus Otmar and edited by Mariangelus Accurius. The first modern edition was produced by C.U. Clark (Berlin, 1910-1913). The first English translations were by Philemon Holland in 1609, and later by C.D. Yonge in 1862" (Wikipedia article on Ammianus Marcellinus, accessed 12-29-2013).

The editio princeps of Ammianus Marcellinus, Historia, libri XIV-XXVI, edited by Angelus Sabinus, was issued in Rome by printers Georgius Sachsel and Bartholmaeus Golsch on June 7, 1474. ISTC. No. ia00564000. In February 2014 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

(This entry was last revised on 05-06-2014.)

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Augustine's Six Ages of the World Circa 400 CE

The Six Ages of the World (Sex aetates mundi; also Seven Ages of the World, Septem aetates mundi), was a Christian historical periodization scheme first written about by Saint Augustine circa 400 CE in De catechizandis rudibus (On the catechizing of the uninstructed), Chapter 22. 

Augustine's scheme

"was based upon Christian religious events, from the creation of Adam to the events of Revelation. The six ages of history, with each age (Latin: aetas) lasting approximately 1,000 years, were widely believed and in use throughout the Middle Ages, and until the Enlightenment, the writing of history was mostly the filling out of all or some part of this outline.

"The outline accounts for Seven Ages, just as there are seven days of the week, with the Seventh Age being eternal rest after the Final Judgement and End Times, just as the seventh day of the week is reserved for restIt was normally called the Six Ages of the World because in Augustine's schema they were the ages of the world, of history, while the Seventh Age was not of this world but, as Bede later elaborated, ran parallel to the six ages of the world. Augustine's presentation deliberately counters chiliastic and millennial ideas that the Seventh Age, World to Come, would come after the sixth. . . .

"Augustine was not the first to conceive of the Six Ages, which had its roots in the Jewish tradition, but he was the first Christian to write about it, and as his ideas became central to the church so did his authority.

The theory originated from a passage in II Peter:

"But of this one thing be not ignorant, my beloved, that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (II Peter 3:8)

"The interpretation was taken to mean that mankind would live through six 1,000 year periods (or "days"), with the seventh being eternity in heaven or according to the Nicene Creed, a World to Come.

"Medieval Christian scholars believed it was possible to determine the overall time of human history, starting with Adam, by counting forward how long each generation had lived up to the time of Jesus, based on the ages recorded in the Bible. While the exact age of the earth was a matter of biblical interpretive debate, it was generally agreed man was somewhere in the last and final thousand years, the Sixth Age, and the final Seventh Age could happen at any time. The world was seen as an old place, the future would be much shorter than the past, a common image was of the world growing old.

"While Augustine was the first to write of the Six Ages, early Christians prior to Augustine found no end of evidence in the Jewish traditions of the Old Testament, and initially set the date for the End of the World at the year 500. Hippolytus said that the measurements of the Ark of the Covenant added up to five and one-half cubits, meaning five and a half thousand years. Since Jesus had been born in the "sixth hour", or halfway through a day (or, five hundred years into an Age), and since five kingdoms (five thousand years) had already fallen according to Revelation, plus the half day of Jesus (the body of Jesus replacing the Ark of the Jews), it meant that five-thousand five-hundred years had already passed when Jesus was born and another 500 years would mark the end of the world. An alternative scheme had set the date to the year 202, but when this date passed without event, people expected the end in the year 500.

"By the 3rd century, Christians no longer believed the "End of the Ages" would occur in their lifetime, as was common among the earliest Christians" (Wikipedia article on Six Ages of the World, accessed 10-26-2014).

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The Last Victory Achieved by the Western Roman Empire 451 CE

In 451 Roman General Flavius Aetius and Visigothic King Theodoric I defeated the Huns under the command of Attila at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains (or Fields), also called the Battle of Châlons sur Marne (now Châlons-en-Champagne).

Of this battle Gibbon wrote, "Attila's retreat across the Rhine confessed the last victory which was achieved in the name of the Western Roman Empire."

"John Julius Norwich, the historian known for his works on Venice and on Byzantium, said of the battle of Chalons:

" 'It should never be forgotten that in the summer of 451 and again in 452, the whole fate of western civilization hung in the balance. Had the Hunnish army not been halted in these two successive campaigns, had its leader toppled Valentinian from his throne and set up his own capital at Ravenna or Rome, there is little doubt that both Gaul and Italy would have been reduced to spiritual and cultural deserts.

"He goes on to say that though the battle in 451 was 'indecisive insofar as both sides sustained immense losses and neither was left master of the field, it had the effect of halting the Huns' advance.'

"There are a couple of reasons why this combat has kept its epic importance down the centuries. One is that—ignoring the Battle of Qarqar (Karkar), which was forgotten at this time—this was the first significant conflict that involved large alliances on both sides. No single nation dominated either side; rather, two alliances met and fought in surprising coordination for the time. Arthur Ferrill, addressing this issue, goes on to say:

"After he secured the Rhine, Attila moved into central Gaul and put Orleans under siege. Had he gained his objective, he would have been in a strong position to subdue the Visigoths in Aquitaine, but Aetius had put together a formidable coalition against the Hun. Working frenetically, the Roman leader had built a powerful alliance of Visigoths, Alans and Burgundians, uniting them with their traditional enemy, the Romans, for the defense of Gaul. Even though all parties to the protection of the Western Roman Empire had a common hatred of the Huns, it was still a remarkable achievement on Aëtius' part to have drawn them into an effective military relationship.

"Addressing Attila's fearsome reputation, and the importance of this battle, Gibbon noted that it was from his enemies we hear of his terrible deeds, not from friendly chroniclers, emphasizing that the former had no reason to elevate Attila's reign of terror, and the importance of the Battle of Chalons in proving Attila to be merely mortal and defeatable" (Wikipedia article on Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, accessed 05-10-2009).

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"A Bibliography of Works on Medieval Communication" 476 CE – 1500

In November 2014 I obtained a copy of A Bibliography of Works on Medieval Communication by Marco Mostert of the University of Utrecht, published by Brepols in Turnhout, Belgium in 2012. This bibliography includes 6,843 publications under sixteen headings— far more publications on many more topics than I would have guessed were in existence. In due time, as I work through selected studies listed in this bibliography, entries citing it will undoubtedly appear in HistoryofInformation.com. As a bibliographer myself I am particularly interested in the ways that information is organized. Therefore I have quoted the entire Contents organizational scheme of the book below:

Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction

How to Use This Bibliography

Chapter 1. Introductions

1.1 Theory of Literacy and (Written) Communication
1.2 Anthropological and Sociological Contributions to the Debate
1.3 Psychological Contributions to the Debate
1.4 Linguistic Contributions to the Debate
1.5 Literacy and (Written) Communication (in the Middle Ages)
1.5.1 The Münster School
1.5.2 The Freiburg School

Chapter 2. Surveys of the Introduction and Development of Written Culture

2.1 From Antiquity to the Present
2.2 Antiquity
2.2.1 Biblical Antiquity and Early Christianity
2.2.2 Classical Antiquity
2.2.3 Greek Antiquity
2.2.4 Roman Antiquity
2.2.5 Late Antiquity
2.3 Byzantium
2.4 The Middle Ages
2.4.1 Early Middle Ages
2.4.2 Later Middle Ages
2.5 Italy
2.5.1 Italy in the Early Middle Ages
2.5.2 Italy in the Later Middle Ages
2.6 Iberian Peninsula
2.7 France
2.8 Germany
2.8.1 Germany in the Early Middle Ages
2.8.2 Germany in the Later Middle Ages
2.9 Low Countries
2.10 England
2.10.1 England in the Early Middle Ages
2.10.2 England in the Later Middle Ages
2.11 Ireland and the ‘Celtic Fringe’
2.12 Scandinavia
12.13 The Eastern Baltic Shores
2.14 East Central and Eastern Europe
2.14.1 East Central Europe: Bohemia, Hungary and Poland
2.14.2 The Balkans (without Byzantium)
2.14.3 Eastern Europe: The Russias
2.15 Jews
2.16 The Islamic World
2.17 After the Middle Ages

Chapter 3. Forms of Non-Verbal Communication

3.1 Middle Ages – General
3.2 Symbolic Spaces, Public and Private
3.3 The Senses
3.3.1 Smells
3.3.2 Flavours
3.4 Colours
3.5 Visual Images
3.5.1 Visual Images in Antiquity
3.5.2 Visual Images in Byzantium
3.5.3 Visual Images in the Middle Ages
3.5.3.1 Visual Images in the Early Middle Ages
3.5.3.2 Visual Images in the Later Middle Ages
3.5.4 Visual Images after the Middle Ages
3.6 Visual Images and Texts
3.6.1 General
3.6.1.1 Visual Images and the Illiterate
3.6.2 Visual Images and Texts in Antiquity
3.6.3 Visual Images and Texts in Byzantium
3.6.4 Visual Images and Texts in Islam
3.6.5 Visual Images and Texts in the Middle Ages
3.6.5.1 Visual Images and Texts in the Early Middle Ages
3.6.5.2 Visual Images and Texts in the Later Middle Ages
3.6.6 Visual Images and Texts after the Middle Ages
3.7 Sound and Noise
3.7.1 Music
3.8 The Human Body
3.9 Gestures
3.9.1 Gestures from Antiquity to the Present
3.9.2 Gestures in Antiquity
3.9.3 Gestures in Byzantium
3.9.4 Gestures in the Middle Ages
3.9.4.1 Gestures in the Early Middle Ages
3.9.4.2 Gestures in the Later Middle Ages
3.9.5 Gestures after the Middle Ages
3.10 Sign Language
3.11 Dance
3.12 Clothes
3.13 Symbolic Objects
3.14 Laughter

Chapter 4. Ritual

4.1 Theory of Ritual
4.2 (Ritualised) Emotions
4.3 Ritual – General Surveys
4.4 Ritual in the Middle Ages
4.5 Ritual in Early Modern Europe
4.6 Forms of Ritual
4.6.1 Forms of Ritual: Feasts
4.6.2 Forms of Ritual: Meals and Banquets
4.6.3 Forms of Ritual: (Table) Manners
4.7 Representation, Political Ritual and Ceremony
4.7.1 Representation
4.7.2 The Notion of Political Ritual
4.7.3 Political Ritual – General Surveys
4.7.4 Political Ritual in Antiquity
4.7.5 Political Ritual in the Middle Ages
4.7.5.1 Political Ritual in Early Medieval Europe
4.7.5.2 Political Ritual in Later Medieval Europe
4.7.6 Rituals of Rule: Acclamations, Coronations and Investitures
4.7.7 Rituals of Rule: Festive Entries
4.7.8 Rituals of Rule: The Meeting of Rulers
4.7.9 Rituals of Rule: Assemblies, Councils and Counsel
4.7.10 Rituals of Rule: The Lit de Justice
4.7.11 Rituals of Rule: Oaths, Pacts and Peace-Making
4.7.12 Rituals of Rule: On The Battlefield
4.7.13 Rituals of Rule: Staged Emotions
4.7.14 Rituals of Rule: Weddings
4.7.15 Rituals of Rule: Funerals
4.7.16 Rituals of Rule: The Papacy
4.7.17 Rituals of Rule: The Aristocracy
4.7.18 Rituals of Rule: The Towns
4.8 Rituals in Literature

Chapter 5. Language

5.1 Thinking about Language
5.2 Language in Antiquity
5.3 The Problem of Latin
5.3.1 Latin: General
5.3.2 Christian and Late Latin
5.3.3 Latin as Mother Tongue: From Latin to Romance
5.3.4 Latin as Father Tongue: Medieval Latin
5.3.5 Neo-Latin
5.4 The Problem of the Vernaculars
5.5 The Problem of Translation
5.6 Languages in Europe
5.6.1 Languages in the Italian Peninsula
5.6.2 Languages in the Iberian Peninsula
5.6.3 Languages in France
5.6.4 Languages in Switzerland
5.6.5 Languages in the German-speaking World
5.6.6 Languages in the Low Countries
5.6.7 Languages in the British Isles: Generalities
5.6.7.1 Languages in the British Isles: England
5.6.7.2 Languages in the British Isles: Scotland
5.6.7.3 Languages in the British Isles: The ‘Celtic Fringe’
5.6.7.3.1Languages in the British Isles: Ireland
5.6.7.3.2Languages in the British Isles: Wales
5.6.8 Languages in Scandinavia
5.6.9 Languages on the Eastern Shores of the Baltic
5.6.10 Languages in East Central and Eastern Europe: Generalities
5.6.10.1 Languages in East Central Europe: Bohemia, Poland and Hungary
5.6.10.2 Languages in Eastern Europe: The Russias
5.6.11 Languages in South Eastern Europe (Including Byzantium)
5.6.12 Languages in the Middle East
5.7 Language as a Means of Distinction
5.8 Forms of Oral Communication
5.8.1 Forms of Oral Communication: Silence
5.8.2 Forms of Oral Communication: Battles of Words
5.8.3 Forms of Oral Communication: Proverbs
5.8.4 Forms of Oral Communication: Riddles
5.8.5 Forms of Oral Communication: Gossip
5.8.6 Forms of Oral Communication: Addressing the Ruler
5.8.7 Forms of Oral Communication: Law and Justice
5.8.8 Forms of Oral Communication: Administration
5.8.9 Forms of Oral Communication: Blasphemy, Curses and Other Verbal Injuries
5.8.10 Forms of Oral Communication: Parliamentary Rhetoric
5.8.11 Forms of Oral Communication: Battlefield Language
5.8.12 Forms of Oral Communication: Shouting

Chapter 6. Oral and Written Memory

6.1 Classical Antiquity
6.2 Middle Ages
6.3 “Lieux de Mémoire”
6.4 The Past in Primarily Oral Societies
6.5 Oral Tradition
6.5.1 Oral Tradition in Antiquity
6.5.2 Oral Tradition in the Middle Ages
6.5.2.1 Oral Tradition in the Early Middle Ages
6.5.2.2 Oral Tradition in the Later Middle Ages
6.5.3 Oral Tradition in Literary Texts
6.5.4 Oral Tradition in Historiography

Chapter 7. Teaching, Mainly of Reading and Writing

7.1 Teaching in Antiquity
7.2 Teaching in the Middle Ages
7.2.1 Teaching in the Early Middle Ages
7.2.2 Teaching in the Later Middle Ages
7.2.3 The Medieval University
7.3 Teaching in Islam
7.4 Jewish Education

Chapter 8. Production and Use of Written Texts

8.1 Script and Script Forms
8.2 Runes, Inscriptions, Graffiti and Wax Tablets
8.3 Book Production and Use
8.3.1 Book Production in Antiquity, Byzantium and the Islamic World
8.3.2 Book Production in the Middle Ages
8.3.2.1 Book Production in the Early Middle Ages
8.3.2.2 Book Production in the Later Middle Ages
8.4 Producing Charters and Archival Documents
8.5 Reading and the Reception of Texts
8.5.1 Reading in Antiquity
8.5.2 Reading in Byzantium
8.5.3 Reading in the Middle Ages
8.5.3.1 Reading in the Early Middle Ages
8.5.3.2 Reading in the Later Middle Ages
8.5.4 Reading in Early Modern Times
8.5.5 Reading, Lay-out, Manuscript Research and Editorial Techniques
8.6 The Printed Word

Chapter 9. The Preservation and Wilful Destruction of Written Texts

Chapter 10. Correspondence, Messengers and the Postal System

10.1 Messengers and Ambassadors

Chapter 11. Mandarin Literacy

Chapter 12. The Use of Writing by Different Social Groups

12.1 Clergy and Laymen
12.1.1 Secular Clergy
12.1.2 Regular Clergy
12.2 Aristocrats
12.3 Peasants
12.4 Town Dwellers
12.5 Women
12.5.1 Women Before the Middle Ages
12.5.2 Women in the Middle Ages
12.5.3 Women in the Early Middle Ages
12.5.4 Women in the Later Middle Ages
12.5.5 Religious Women
12.5.6 Lay Women: Queens and Noblewomen
12.5.7 Lay Women: Town Dwellers

Chapter 13. Uses of Writing in Government, Management and Trade

13.1 Legislation and Law
13.2 Charters
13.3 Jurisdiction and Dispute Settlement
13.4 Government
13.5 Notaries Public and Their Work
13.6 Management
13.7 Trade

Chapter 14. Literature

14.1 ‘Oral’ Literature
14.2 (Oral) Epic
14.3 The Composition of (Mainly) Oral Literature
14.4 Performance
14.5 The Bible as Literature
14.6 Classical Literature
14.6.1 Classical Greek Literature
14.6.2 Classical Latin Literature
14.6.3 Late Antique Literature
14.7 Byzantine Literature
14.8 Medieval Literature
14.8.1 Medieval Latin Literature
14.8.2 Literature in the Italian Peninsula
14.8.3 Literature in the Iberian Peninsula
14.8.4 Literature in France
14.8.5 Literature in the German-Speaking World
14.8.6 Literature in the Low Countries
14.7.9 Literature in the British Isles
14.7.9.1 Literature in the British Isles: England in the Early Middle Ages
14.7.9.2 Literature in the British Isles: England in the Later Middle Ages
14.7.9.3 Literature in the British Isles: The ‘Celtic Fringe’
14.7.10 Literature in Scandinavia
14.7.11 Literature in East Central and Eastern Europe
14.7.12 Literature in the (mainly Arabic) Middle East
14.8 Drama, Theatre, Feast and Spectacle

Chapter 15. Religion and Writing

15.1 Before the Middle Ages and Generalities
15.2 Middle Ages
15.3 Mission
15.4 Liturgy
15.5 Sermons and Preaching
15.6 Hagiography
15.7 Visions, Dreams and Prophecy
15.8 The Magic of the Written Word

Chapter 16. The Symbolism of the Book

Subject Index

Index of Modern Authors and Editors

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700 – 800

Charles Martel Stops Muslim Expansion at the Battle of Tours 732

Charles de Steuben's 'Bataille de Poitiers,' created at sometime between 1834 and 1837, now located at Musée du château de Versailles, France.(View Larger)

At the Battle of Tours (also called the Battle of Poitiers), fought in 732 in an area between the cities of Poitiers and Tours, in north-central France, near the village of Moussais-la-Bataille (Vouneuil-sur-Vienne), about 20 km northeast of Poitiers, the Frankish king Charles Martel ("Charles the Hammer") decisively stopped the Muslim army's advance into Northern Europe.

"The Battle of Tours earned Charles the cognomen "Martel" ('Hammer'), for the merciless way he hammered his enemies. Many historians, including the great military historian Sir Edward Creasy, believe that had he failed at Tours, Islam would probably have overrun Gaul, and perhaps the remainder of western Christian Europe. Gibbon made clear his belief that the Umayyad armies would have conquered from Rome to the Rhine, and even England, having the English Channel for protection, with ease, had Martel not prevailed. Creasy said "the great victory won by Charles Martel ... gave a decisive check to the career of Arab conquest in Western Europe, rescued Christendom from Islam, [and] preserved the relics of ancient and the germs of modern civilization." Gibbon's belief that the fate of Christianity hinged on this battle is echoed by other historians including John B. Bury, and was very popular for most of modern historiography. It fell somewhat out of style in the twentieth century, when historians such as Bernard Lewis contended that Arabs had little intention of occupying northern France. More recently, however, many historians have tended once again to view the Battle of Tours as a very significant event in the history of Europe and Christianity. Equally, many, such as William Watson, still believe this battle was one of macrohistorical world-changing importance, if they do not go so far as Gibbon does rhetorically" (Wikipedia article on Battle of Tours, accessed 12-14-2008).

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800 – 900

The Text of Tacitus' Annals and Histories Survived in Only Two Manuscripts Circa 850 – 1050

Roman Senator and historian Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus, who lived from 56 CE to after 117 CE, wrote the Annales (Annals) and the Historiae (Histories), spanning the history of the Roman Empire from the death of Augustus in 14 to the years of the First Jewish–Roman War in 70 and the death of Domitian in 96. First published separately, with the Histories written and issued first, these two works were meant to form a continuous historical narrative in thirty books. Only about half of Tacitus's original thirty books survived, and their survival was dependent on just two manuscripts.

The first six books of the Annals survived in a single manuscript written in Germany about 850, probably in the Benedictine Abbey of Fulda. This manuscript was later at Corvey Abbey, and is now in Florence at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (MS. plut. 68.1.) and referred to as MS M.

"The script is a pre-carolingian hand which the scribe is changing to Carolingian minuscule, together with occasional small plain majuscules (a 9th century derivative of rustic capitals), a more ornamental version of these letters with decorative shading and some uncial elements, and also a few much larger and heavier capitals of essentially rustic form.  It is generally agreed that it was copied from a text written in 'insular' script which was copied from a manuscript in 'rustic capitals', and it has been suggested that this latter was at least 4th and probably 3rd century, based on an analysis of errors made in copying the titulature and colophons of each book, which are most easily explained if these errors occurred in copying a volume written in the early period in which prose texts were normally written in comparatively large letters and very narrow columns, and the colophons were not laid out in the manner common in 5th century and later books.

"At some time after it was written, the MS was transferred to the monastery of Corvey, in Saxony. There it remained, apparently without ever being copied.

"In 1508 the volume was removed from the library. A letter of Pope Leo X of December 1, 1517 indicates that it had been stolen, and that Leo had paid a large amount of money for it. At all events it passed into the hands of Pope Leo X.

"Leo gave the MS to Filippo Beraldo the Younger, who used it to produce the first edition in 1515, and left numerous annotations in the margins of the MS. The monks of Corvey, who petitioned the Pope for the return of their treasure, were instead sent a copy of the printed volume together with an indulgence to make up the balance" (http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/tacitus/#2, accessed 11-20-2013).

Books 11-16 of the Annals, and what remains of the Histories, also survived in a single manuscript, written at the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino, and also preserved in the Laurentian library (MS. plut 68.2.) This is referred to as M. II or 'second Medicean', to distinguish it from the unique codex of Annals 1-6. 

"This MS is written in the difficult Beneventan hand. It was written at Monte Cassino, perhaps during the abbacy of Richer (1038-55 AD). It derives from an ancestor written in Rustic Capitals, as it contains errors of transcription natural to that bookhand.  There is some evidence that it was copied only once in about ten centuries, and that this copy was made from an original in rustic capitals of the 5th century or earlier, but other scholars believe that it was copied via at least one intermediate copy written in a minuscule hand.

"How the MS came to leave Monte Cassino is a matter of mystery.  It was still at Monte Cassino, and was used by Paulus Venetus, Bishop of Puzzuoli, sometime between 1331 and 1344.  However Boccaccio had certainly seen the text by 1371, and the MS is listed among the books given by him at his death to the monastery of S. Spirito in Florence.  Whether he had 'liberated' it, or acquired it from another collector who had done so has been extensively debated, without final result.

"The MS is next seen in 1427, in the hands of the book-collector Niccolo Niccoli, who had furnished bookcases for Boccaccio's collection at S. Spirito. That Niccolo had not acquired the MS legitimately is suggested by a letter to him from his friend Poggio Bracciolini, asking to see it and promising to keep quiet about it.  Knowledge of the text among the humanists is correspondingly limited in this period.

"Poggio returned the MS to Niccolo, complaining about its barbarous script, and comparing it unfavourably with a copy of it in humanist script held by another mutual friend, Salutati.

"At Niccolo's death in 1437, the MS passed with his books to the monastery of San Marco at Florence with the Medici as executors, and the humanist copies all date from this period or later" (http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/tacitus/#2, accessed 11-20-2013. 

E. A. Lowe, "The Unique Manuscript of Tacitus' Histories," in Beiler (ed) Palaeographical Papers 1907-1965 I (1972) 289-302, has this to say relative to Boccaccio and Tacitus on p. 296 (footnotes not included as usual):

"The manuscripts of Varro, Tacitus, and Apuleius probably left Monte Cassino at the same time. They were rescued, as the phrase goes, by some humanist, who was probably none other than Boccaccio. To Petrarch the works of Tacitus and Varro were only known in name. The first to use these authors was Boccaccio; and this good fortune was granted him towards the end of his life. There can be no doubt that he possessed the Beneventan manuscripts of Tacitus and Varro which are now in the Laurentian library. This may be seen, on the one hand, from the copies of these manuscripts which he left in the Convent of S. Spirito in Florence, which correspond perfectly with the original; and from the fact that Boccaccio's citations from Varro and Tacitus, in his Geneologia deorum and De claris mulieribus, as Pierre de Nolhac has shown, are taken only from books preserved in the Beneventan manuscripts, and from no others.

"How these manuscripts came into Boccaccio's hands we do not know, but we can make a shrewd guess. We have reason to believe they were not presented to him during his visits to Monte Cassino. Attracted by the fame of the abbey, as he told his pupil Benvenuto da Imola, he paid it a visit. He found the library shamefully neglected, without bolt or lock, grass growing in the windows, dust thick on the books, monks using the precious manuscripts for turning out prayer-books, which they sold for a few soldi to women and children. Grieved unto tears he left the library 'dolens  et illacrymans recessit.' But none of this I fear, is to be taken seriously. It all sounds uncommonly like an apology. He seems to be anxious to show that it was only act of simple piety to remove the precious classics to a place of safety, say to Florence. The letter which he wrote in 1371 to the Calabrian abbot Niccolò di Montefalcone requesting the return of a quire from the Tacitus, suggests that he probably had accomplices. But no one can doubt that the Tacitus manuscript was dishonestly obtained after reading Poggio's letter of 27 September 1427 to Niccolò Niccoli: "Cornelium Tacitum cum venerit, observabo penes me occulte. Scio enim omnem illam cantilenam, et unde exierit et per quem et quis eum sibi vendicet; sed nil dubites, non exibit a me ne verbo quidem.' "

Poggio's statement was translated as, "When the Cornelius Tacitus comes I shall keep it hidden with me for I know that whole song, 'Where did it come from and who brought it here? Who claims it for his own?' But do not worry, not a word shall escape me." (Two Renaissance Book Hunters. The Letters of Poggius Bracciolini to Nicolaus de Niccolis, Translated from the Latin and edited by Phyllis Walter Goodhart Gordan [1974] 116.)

Tacitus's Opera, containing the Annales XI-XVI and the Historiae, was first published in print in Venice by Vindelinus de Spira, about 1471-72. ISTC. No. it00006000. In February 2014 a digital facsimile of this edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

Reynolds, Texts and Transmission. A Survey of the Latin Classics  (1983) 406-409.

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The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: The First Continuous History Written by Europeans in their Own Language 890

The initial page of the Peterborough Chronicle, marked secondarily by the librarian of the Laud collection in the Bodelian Library. The manuscript is an autograph of the monastic scribes of Peterborough, and the opening sections were likely scribed around 1150. The section displayed is prior to the First Continuation. (View Larger)

 

About 890 Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in south-west England, ordered monks to compile the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a collection of annals narrating the history of the Anglo-Saxons and their settlement in Britain. The original manuscript of the Chronicle was probably created in Wessex. Copies were were distributed to monasteries across England, where they were independently updated. In one case, the Chronicle was still being actively updated in 1154.

Much of the information in these documents consists of rumors of events that happened elsewhere and may be unreliable. However for some periods and places, the chronicle is the only substantial surviving source of information. "After the original chronicle was compiled, copies were kept at various monasteries and were updated independently. Sometimes with items important to the locals, such as the fertility of the harvest or the paucity of bees, would be eagerly recorded, whereas distant political events could be overlooked. A combination of the individual annals allows us to develop an overall picture, a document that was the first continuous history written by Europeans in their own language."

There are nine surviving manuscripts of the Chronicle, of which eight are written entirely in Anglo-Saxon, while the ninth is in Anglo-Saxon with a translation of each annal into Latin. The oldest (Corpus Christi MS 173) is known as the Winchester Chronicle or the Parker Chronicle, after Matthew Parker who once owned it. This manuscript, preserved in the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, dates from the actual time of compilation—the last decade of the ninth century.

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1100 – 1200

Layamon's "Brut", the Earliest Source of the Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table 1190 – 1215

Brut, a Middle English poem compiled and recast by the English priest Layamon (Laȝamon or Laȝamonn; occasionally written Lawman), was the first historigraphy written in English after the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and the first work in the English language to discuss the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It survived in two manuscripts both preserved in the Cottonian Library in the British Library: MS. Cotton Caligula A ix, dating from the third quarter of the 13th century, and the Cotton Otho C xiii, copied about fifty years later.

Layamon who lived at Areley Kings in Worcestershire, and wrote at a time in English history when most prose and poetry was composed in French, chose to write in English for his illiterate, impoverished religious audience. His poem is considered one of the best examples of early Middle English.

The work was first published in print as Laȝamon's Brut, or Chronicle of Britain, a Poetical Semi-Saxon Parapharase of the Brut of Wace. Now First published from the Cottonian Manuscripts in the British Museum accompanied by a Literal Translation, Notes and a Grammatical Glossary by Sir Frederick Madden (3 vols., London: The Society of Antiquaries, 1847.

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1300 – 1400

Islamic History Containing the Earliest Notice of Chinese Printing from a Non-Chinese Source 1307

A scene from Rashid al-Din Tabib's 'Jami al-Tawarikh' in which the Ghazan Khan is converted to Islam. (View Larger)

In 1307 Persian physician of Jewish origin, polymathic writer and historian from HamadanRashīd al-Dīn Tabīb (Persian: رشیدالدین طبیب) also Rashīd al-Dīn Fadhl-allāh Hamadānī (Persian: رشیدالدین فضل‌الله همدانی), a convert to Islam, wrote in the Persian language a history, very long for the time, entitled Jami al-Tawarikh.  

"It was in three volumes with a total of approximately 400 pages, with versions in Persian, Arabic and Mongol. The work describes cultures and major events in world history from China to Europe; in addition, it covers Mongol history, as a way of establishing their cultural legacy. The lavish illustrations and calligraphy required the efforts of hundreds of scribes and artists, with the intent that two new copies (one in Persian, and one in Arabic) would be created each year and distributed to schools and cities around the Ilkhanate, in the Middle East, Central Asia, Asia Minor, and the Indian sub-continent. Approximately 20 illustrated copies were made of the work during Rashid al-Din's lifetime, but only a few portions remain, and the complete text has not survived. The oldest known copy is an Arabic version, of which half has been lost, but one set of pages is currently in the Khalili Collection, comprising 59 folios from the second volume of the work. Another set of pages, with 151 folios from the same volume, is owned by the Edinburgh University Library. Two Persian copies from the first generation of manuscripts survive in the Topkapi Palace Library in Istanbul. The early illustrated manuscripts together represent 'one of the most important surviving examples of Ilkhanid art in any medium' and are the largest surviving body of early examples of the Persian miniature"( Wikipedia article on Jami al-Tawarikh, accessed 01-25-2012).

This history contained a discussion of printing in China. The description of the printing process bears very strong resemblance to the processes used in the large printing ventures in China under Feng Dao (932–953):

"When any book was desired, a copy was made by a skillful calligrapher on tablets and carefully corrected by proof-readers whose names were inscribed on the back of the tablets. The letters were then cut out by expert engravers, and all pages of the books consecutively numbered. When completed, the tablets were placed in sealed bags to be kept by reliable persons, and if anyone wanted a copy of the book, he paid the charges fixed by the government. The tablets were then taken out of the bags and imposed on leaves of paper to obtain the printed sheets as desired. In this way, alterations could not be made and documents could be faithfully transmitted. Under this system he had copies made, lent them to friends, and urged them to transcribe them and return the originals. He had Arabic translations made of those works he composed in Persian, and Persian translations of works composed in Arabic. When the translations had been prepared, he deposited them in the mosque library of the Rab'-e Rashidi" (Wikipedia article on Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, accessed 08-20-2014).

"This is the earliest notice of Chinese printing, aside from the making of paper money, outside of East Asiatic sources. It is evident that Rashid had a reasonably reliable source of information and that the printing in which he was interested was the printing of books, especially historical records. Where he failed was in not grasping the importance of the new art as an economical means of disseminating literature and in seeing it merely as a means of authenticating the exact text—a characteristic of Chinese official printing that has already been noticed . . . ." (Carter, Invention of Printing in China 2nd ed[1955] 173).

In 1980, a 120-page illuminated version of Rashīd al-Dīn's manuscript in Arabic was sold at Sotheby's to Nasser David Khalili of London for £850,000, then the highest price ever paid for an Arabic manuscript. In August 2014 an extensive description of Khalili manuscript was available from Saudi Aramco World at this link.

♦ Also in August 2014 a digital facsimile of the Jami al-Twarikh of Rashid al-Din in Edinburgh University Library, which was considered another portion of the identical manuscript from which the Khalili portion originated, was available from Edinburgh University Library at this link. The Edinburgh portion was collected by Colonel John Baillie and donated to Edinburgh University in 1876.

(This entry was last revised on 08-20-2014.)

 

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1400 – 1450

Origins of the Three-Period Framework of History: Ancient, Middle Ages, and Modern Circa 1442

In 1442 the three-period framework of history— Ancient, Middle Ages, and Modern— was pioneered by humanist historian Leonardo Bruni (Leonardo Aretino, Leonardus Brunus Aretinus) of Florence in his Historiae Florentini populi. Roughly simultaneously with Bruni, humanist historian Flavio Biondo (Flavius Blondus) of Rome published Historiarum ab inclinatione romanorum imperii —a history of Europe using the same three-period framework.

"Bruni's most notable work is History of the Florentine People, which has been called the first modern history book. Bruni was the first historian to write using the three-period view of history: Antiquity, Middle Ages, and Modern. The dates Bruni used to define the periods are not exactly what modern historians use today, but he laid the conceptual groundwork for a tripartite division of history. While it probably was not Bruni's intention to secularize history, the three period view of history is unquestionably secular and for that Bruni has been called the first modern historian. The foundation of Bruni's conception can be found with Petrarch, who distinguished the classical period from later cultural decline, or tenebrae (literally "darkness"). Bruni argued that Italy had revived in recent centuries and could therefore be described as entering a new age" (Wikipedia article on Leonardo Bruni, accessed 01-31-2013).

Bruni's Historiae florentini was first published in print by Jacobus Rubeus of Venice on February 12, 1476 in the Italian translation by Donatus Acciaiolus. ISTC No. ib01247000.  In January 2013 a digital facsimile of this edition was available from Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

Between 1439 and 1453 Flavio Biondo published Historiarum ab inclinatione Romanorum imperii (Decades of History from the Deterioration of the Roman Empire), a history of Europe in thirty-two books, from the plunder of Rome in 410 by the Visigoths, to contemporary Italy.

"As a historian he [Biondo] was the first to devise a general history of Italy, showing a continuity since the fifth century, and to conceive a 'media aetas' standing between Antiquity and his own times" (Weiss, The Renaissance Discovery of Classical Antiquity [1969] 66).

Like Bruni, Biondo used a three-period framework building up to the revival of Italy in his own time, breaking free of medieval constraints.

"The Decades embodies a model of historical writing recently established by Leonardo Bruni, notably in his Florentine History. Although Bruni was writing as offical historiographer of the city of Florence, his new concept of historiography can be characterized as more objective as it involved the exercise of critical judgment upon a variety of sources. Unlike Bruni, whose history of Florence involved a highly national view but one which is Florentine, not Italian, Biondo expanded the frame of reference and took in his Decades a national view of Italy. Whereas Bruni believed that decline started with the end of the Republic, Biondo originated the treatment of the medieval period as a historical epoch, and we still use his term. He developed the concept that decline began at the end of the Roman Empire. In Historiarum Decades Biondo intended to continue Italian history from the point 410 A.D., at which earlier writers had stopped. The scope of his history was the fall of empire and the ensuing disasters, as well as the origins and vicissitudes of modern peoples (partciuarly in Italy) down to his own time (1441). His history demonstrated as well the emerging awareness of modern Italy as distinct from its ancient past, as the Plinian sense of Italy as a geographical entity gives way to an utlimately political sense of Italian identity." (Catherine J. Castner, Biondo Flavio's Italia Illustrata. Text, Translation and Commentary, Vol.1: Northern Italy [2005] xxiii).

Biondo's work was first published in print by Octavianus Scotus of Venice, with additions by Johannes Antonius Campanus, on July 16, 1483. ISTC No. ib00698000.  A second edition with the additions of Pius II: Abbreviatio supra Decades Blondi was issued also in Venice by Thomas de Blavis, de Alexandria, 28 June 1484. (ISTC No. ib00699000). In January 2013 a digital facsimile of the 1484 edition was available from the University of Koelhn at this link.

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The First Historical Geography 1448 – 1458

Between 1448 and 1458 Italian humanist, historian and proto-archaeologist Flavio Biondo (Flavius Blondus) of Rome published Italia illustrata. Based on Biondo's personal travels through eighteen Italian provinces, this was the first historical geography.

"Unlike medieval geographers, whose focus was regional, Biondo, taking Strabo for his model, reinstated the idea of Italy to include the whole of the peninsula. Through topography, he intended to link Antiquity with modern times, with descriptions of each location, the etymology of its toponym and its changes through time, with a synopsis of important events connected with each location. This first historical geography starts with the Roman Republic and Empire, through 400 years of barbarian invasions and an analysis of Charlemagne and later Holy Roman Emperors. He gives an excellent description of the humanist revival and restoration of the classics during the first half of the fifteenth century." (Wikipedia article on Flavio Biondo, accessed 02-02-2013).

Italia illustrata was edited by Gaspar Blondus and first published in print by Johannes Philippus de Lignamine of Rome "[not before 10] December 1474." ISTC No. ib00700000.

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1450 – 1500

The Library of Hartmann Schedel, One of the Largest Libraries Formed by an Individual in the 15th Century 1450 – 1571

A woodcut from the Nuremburg Chronicle, showing Erfurt, 1493.

Portrait of Johann Jakob Fugger, 1541.

16th century portrait of Albert V, Duke of Bavaria by Hans Mielich.

The library of Hartmann Schedel, physician and author of the Nuremberg Chronicle, was unequalled in fifteenth-century Germany. Schedel was interested in virtually all areas of knowledge of the late Middle Ages: rhetoric, astronomy, philosophy, classical and humanist literature, historiography, geography and cosmography, medicine, law, and theology. As early as the 1450s and 1460s, during his studies at the universities of Leipzig and Padua, he transcribed many works in his own hand. Later Schedel took advantage of the growing supply of printed books in Nuremberg, a center of European trade and publishing. He also made use of an international network of correspondents and suppliers to acquire new publications from other places. At the end of his long life, Schedel's library comprised nearly 700 volumes, including many composite volumes with several items. 

Even though Schedel stipulated in his last will that his library should remain a family heirloom, Schedel's grandson and heir, Melchior (1516-1571), an imperial soldier, sold his grandfather's books to the Augsburg merchant Johann Jakob Fugger in 1552. In 1571 Fugger sold his library, incorporating Schedel's, to Duke Albert V of Bavaria. It became the cornerstone of the what is now the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Today, more than 370 manuscripts and 460 printed items from Schedel's collection are preserved in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. This is the largest private collection of books that survived from fifteenth century Germany.

In November 2014, honoring the 500th anniversary of Schedel's death, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek opened a physical and virtual exhibition of books from Schedel's library. In November 2014 the home page of the virtual exhibition, with links to many downloads of digital editions, including all five editions of the Nuremberg Chronicle, was available at this link.

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The First Latin Translation of Thucydides 1452 – 1483

Lorenzo Valla (View Larger)

In 1452 Italian priest, humanist, rhetorician and orator Lorenzo Valla finished the first complete Latin translation of Thucydides (Θουκυδίδης, Thoukydídēs) History of the Peloponnesian War. Valla's translation was commissioned by humanist Pope Nicholas V as part of the pope's project–never completed for obvious reasons–to have all Greek literature translated into Latin. Valla began the translation in the spring of 1448, and the difficult task occupied him for two years. The manuscript of the final text, written by the scribe Johannes Lamperti de Rodenberg, with numerous corrections and explanatory notes in Valla's hand, is preserved in the Vatican Library (Vat. lat. 1801). An image of this is published in Grafton, "The Vatican and Its Library," Grafton (ed) Rome Reborn. The Vatican Library and Renaissance Culture (1993) 35. Specifically Valla sanctioned this manuscript as the archetypus, the standard text from which he expected the text to be diffused through copying.

In his dedication of the manuscript to the pope Valla compared "Pope Nicholas V to a Roman emperor who, while he himself remained in Rome, bade his generals conquer foreign lands and add them to the Empire, i.e., translate their literature into Latin. . . . Valla's province, Thucydides, had proved especially arduous. Valla also mentioned in the dedication that it was Bessarion who suggested to the pope that he commission the Latin Thucydides from Valla" (Pade, "Thucydides," Brown, Hankins, Kaster [eds] Catalogus translationum et commentariorum VIII [2003] 120).

Valla's translation was widely copied, and in the process corrupted. When Valla's text of Thucydides was first printed, probably in Treviso by Joannes Rubeus Vercellensis in 1483, the editor, Bartholomaeus Parthenius, stated that the copy or copies of Valla's translation to which he had access were so corrupt that he had to refer to a Greek manuscript to determine the correct text. Nevertheless Parthenius's printed text was also widely criticized by later scholars. Remarkably, Parthenius's edition was the only printed edition of Thucydides issued in the 15th century. (ISTC no. it00359000) In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the first printed edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link

The Greek text or texts from which Valla worked do not seem to have been identified. During the Middle Ages in Europe, in which there was limited knowledge of Greek and Greek texts generally, Thucydides was known in the West only through mentions in the Latin writings of ancient Rome. The earliest surviving translation of Thucydides is a translation into Aragonese of thirty-eight speeches from the Historiae made at the request of Juan Fernández de Heredia, Grand Master of Rhodes, who also commissioned Aragonese translations of other classical works. Pade (p. 111) believed that this translation was done from "an intermediary version in demotic Greek compiled for Heredia by the Greek scholar Dimitri Calodiqui between 1384 and 1396."

The earliest surviving Greek text of Thucydides may be the tenth century codex preserved in Florence at the Laurentian Library, Plut. 1xix.

(This entry was last revised on 04-24-2014.)

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William Caxton Issues the First Book Printed in English 1473 – 1474

At Bruges in 1473 or 1474 English merchant, diplomat, writer, and printer William Caxton issued Caxton's English translation of Raoul Lefèvre's French courtly romance, Recueil des Histoires de Troye. The printed book, entitled The Recuyell of the Histories of Troyewas the first book printed in English. Caxton published the book with scribe, bookseller and printer, Colard Mansion, from whom Caxton probably learned the art of printing, 

A presentation copy with a specially made engraving showing Caxton presenting the book to his patroness, Margaret of York, is preserved in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California. Regarding the technical bibliographical aspects of this copy see Hellinga, "William Caxton, Colard Mansion, and the Printer in Type 1," Bulletin du bibliophile (2011) 106, footnote 2.

ISTC no.  il00117000.

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The First Printed Editions of Herodotus 1474 – April 20, 1475

Before December 1474 French printer Jacques le Rouge, whose name was Latinized to Jacobus Rubeus, issued the first printed edition of the Historiae of Herodotus from Venice. The text Rubeus used was the Latin translation by humanist Lorenzo Valla, who had also produced the first Latin translation of Thucydides. For Rubeus's edition Valla's translation was edited by Benedictus Brognolus (Benedetto Brognolo). In April 2014 a digital facsimile of this edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

Less than a year later, on April 20, 1475, printer Arnold Pannartz in Rome issued the second printed edition of Herodotus's work, also in Valla's Latin translation, but this time with the text revised by humanist Johannes Andreas de Bussis (Giovanni Andrea Bussi), bishop of Aléria. Bussi was  the chief editor for the printing house of Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz after it moved from Subiaco to Rome. The partnership had dissolved in 1473, but in the following year Pannartz resumed publication on his own account, eventually producing another dozen books. 

Three other editions of Herodotus in Latin appeared in the 15th century. In 1494 Johannes and Gregorius de Gregoriis, de Forlivio, of Venice re-issued Valla's Latin translation, this time edited by humanist pedagogue, grammarian, and rhetorician Antonio Mancinelli of Velletri. In April 2014 a digital facsimile of that edition was available from the Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek at this link. The following year Simon Bevilaqua of Venice reissued Mancinelli's edition together with Isocrates, Oratio de laudibus Helenae. In 1498 another version of that combination of texts was issued by Christophorus de Pensis, De Mandello, also in Venice.

1474 edition: ISTC No. ih00088000

1475 edition: ISTC No. ih00089000

1494 edition: ISTC No. ih00090000

1495 edition: ISTC No. ii00211000

1498 edition: ISTC No. ii00212000

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1500 – 1550

Aldus Manutius Publishes the Editiones Principes of Thucydides, Sophocles, and Herodotus 1502

1502 was a year of remarkable scholarship and publishing productivity for the scholar printer Aldus Manutius. On May 14 he completed the first edition of Thucydides in Greek (editio princeps), and only a few months later, in September, he completed the first edition of Herodotus in Greek. Between the two, in the month of August, he was able to issue the editio princeps of Sophocles, his first edition of a Greek text in his octavo portable book format. The following year Aldus also published an edition of the Scholia to Thucydides, resulting from his editorial work on that text.

This entry will briefly discuss Aldus's achievements in publishing the editiones principes of the two leading ancient Greek historians. Though Aldus frequently employed editors to prepare his texts, he was apparently interested enough in both Thucydides and Herodotus to edit their texts himself. From a sentence in the dedicatory epistle of his edition of Thucydides we learn that during that period of his life, at least, he insisted on having at least three manuscripts of an author before printing:

"eram daturus . . .τα τε ΧενοΦϖντος, Πλνθωνος, . . .sed quia non habebam minum tria exemplaria, distulimus in aliud tempus."

In his paper, "The Aldine Scholia to Thucydides," Classical Quarterly 30, No. 3/4 (July-October 1936) 146-50, from which Aldus's statement is quoted, J. Enoch Powell reconstructed the texts that Aldus consulted, identifying in theory the three codices that Aldus probably used, and elements of their subsequent history. He also indicated (on p. 147) that "nothing seems to be known about the ultimate fate of Aldus' private library: all that I can find is that according to his will his property of every kind was divided equally between his three sons; the family became extinct in 1601." In April 2014 a listing of the extant exemplars of Thucydides were available from Roger Pearse's tertullian.org at this link. It was unclear how those correlated with the manuscripts mentioned in Powell's paper.

Similarly in his dedication to his editio princeps of Herodotus, Aldus claimed that he corrected the text from multiple exemplars. While Lorenzo Valla had used manuscripts of Herodotus from Rome for his Latin translation of Herodotus, Aldus obtained manuscripts from Florence, which contained variant readings. In 1993 Brigitte Mondrain discovered Aldus's manuscript for the editio princeps of Herodotus in a library in Nuremberg: Mondrain, "Un nouveau manuscrit d’Hérodote: le modèle de l’impression aldine," Scriptorium 49 (1995) 263-273. (When I wrote this entry in April 2014 I had not had the opportunity to read Mondrain's paper, which I assumed would fill in signficant details.)

Aldus designed his editions of Thucydides and Herodotus as a matching set. The editions share the same paper stock, all types, and the number of lines per page. 

The Aldine Press: Catalogue of the Ahmanson-Murphy Collection of Books by or Relating to the Press in the Library of the University of California, Los Angeles (2001) Nos. 57 (Thucydides) and 62 (Herodotus).

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1550 – 1600

Hubert Goltzius Issues the First Book Extensively Illustrated with Chiaroscuro Woodcuts 1557

Engraved portrait of Hubert Golzius by Simon Frisius c. 1610.

A self-portrait by Parmagianino c. 1524.

In 1557 German painter, engraver, and printer Hubert Goltzius, issued a folio volume from the press of Copen (?) Diesthem in Antwerp, Belgium, entitled Lebendige Bilder gar nach all Keyersern, von C. Julio Caesare, bisz auff Carolum.V. und Ferdinandum seinem Bruder, auxz den alten Medalien . . . . Goltzius also issued this book in Latin and Italian in 1557, in French in 1559, and in Spanish in 1560.  Besides illustrating medallic portraits of Roman emperors, Goltzius provided histories of their reigns. According to the Wikipedia, Golzius worked on this book for 12 years before it was published.

"Although the chiaroscuro woodcut was primarily a technique for making individual prints in imitation of drawings, it was occasionally used for book illustration. Hubert Goltzius, a pioneering numismatist, employed it to reproduce antique medals bearing portraits of the Roman emperors. . . .That book. . . was one of the earliest uses of chiaroscuro in a book and the first use of the technique in the Netherlands.

"The chiaroscuro process, with its different shades of the same hue and white highlights, defines light and tone but not local color; it was thus especiately appropriate for the reproduction of monochrome relief medals. One of the characteristics of Goltzius's work, the use of an etched plate for the black outlines and details, had earlier been invented by Parmagianino, but was not widely adopted by practioneers of chiaroscuro active in the sixteenth century. . . ." (Friedman, Color Printing in England 1487-1870 [1978] No. 2).

Strauss, Chiaroscuro. The Clair-Obscur Woodcuts by the German and Netherlandish Masters of the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries (1973) No. 113.

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Perrissin & Tortorel Issue the First Extended Series of Prints Attempting to Depict Great Events of the Recent Past 1569 – 1570

Between 1569 and 1570 French painter, engraver and architect Jean Perrissin, French printmaker Jacques Tortorel, and French printmaker Jacques Le Challeux — all Protestants (Huguenots) who had fled to Geneva to escape religious persecution in France— issued from Geneva an album of prints entitled Premier volume. Contentant quarante tableaux ou histoire diverse qui son memorables touchant les guerres, massacres & troubles advenus en France en ces dernieres annees. Le tout receuilli selon le tesmoignage de ceux qui y on esté en personne, & qui les on veus, lesquels son pourtrais à la verité. (First Volume, Containing Forty Tableaux or Diverse Memorable Histories Concerning the Wars, Massacres and Troubles that have Occurred in France in These Last Years. All Gathered from the Testimony of Those Who Were There in Person and Saw Them, and Truly Portrayed.) The images, of which some were copperplate engravings and some of which were woodcuts, consisted of the elaborate engraved title page and thirty-nine images, each measuring roughly 32 x 50 cm, depicting significant "wars, massacres, and troubles" in the French Wars of Religion between 1559 and 1570.

Remarkably the contract for this project between Perrissin, Le Challeux and the Geneva publishers Nicolas Castellin and Pierre le Vignon, drawn by the Genevan notary Aimé Santeur and signed on April 18, 1569, remains preserved in the archives of Geneva.

Typically attributed to Perrissin and Tortorel, as they were the artists who signed most of the plates, this work was:

"the first extended print series offering a pictorial account of recent events where the images do not simply illustrate a written history but carry the burden of telling the story themselves, and that was intended not to glorify a ruler's deeds but to show a broad general public the events of their time" (Philip Benedict, Graphic History. The Wars, Massacres and Troubles of Tortorel and Perrissin [2007] 4).

"Like so many works in this century when printing was still new and the Renaissance and Reformation were destabilizing old cultural forms and encouraging new ones, the Quarante Tableaux was an experimental work. It was experimental in the sense that it was produced by a group of artists and entrepreneurs with no prior experience in producing such a work. It was experimental in the more profound sense that no exact generic precedents could guide the series. Some earlier graphic works had sought to carry a historical narrative through pictures and accompanying text, but these were typically accounts of the victories of a great ruler, containing a strong element of panegyric. In proclaiming their goal to be the presentation of an impartial eyewitness view of the events in question, the makers of the Quarante Tableaux took this emerging genre in a new direciton, one inspired by both the growing market for single-sheet news prints that claimed to offer true portraits of individual events, and the prevailing rhetoric of written historiography in Geneva. . . The manner in which the creators of the series chose to relate printed text to image further heightened this indeterminacy or open-ended-ness. Reliance on Protestant networks of information recurrently subverted the creators' proclaimed goal of offering an impartial view of events, yet they used multiple informants and made a clear effort to transcend a purely partisan or one-sided view of events. The end result was a complex, even internally contradictory work that invited different forms of appropriation" (Benedict 10-11).

"The episodes depicted in the volume run from the special meeting of the Parlement of Paris in June 1559 at which Anne Du Bourg spoke out before Henry II against the harsh repression of Protestanism through a minor skirmish betwwen Huguenot and Catholic forces along the Rhône in March 1570. The first dozen or so plates show the events that led up to the outbreak of open civil war in spring 1562. The remainder of the series is composed of events from the first three French Wars of Religion (1562-1563, 1567-1568, 1578-70). Above all it is a compendium of battles (15 pictures), sieges (5 pictures, raids (4 pictures) and massacres (3 pictures-5 if the massacres prior to the outbreak of the First Civil War are included)" (Benedict 6).

Benedict reproduces all the images in fold out plates with commentaries on each image on facing pages so that the commentary may be studied with the image. In an appendix he also reproduces the original publishing contract for the work.  Through records of the quantity of paper that the publisher Castellin purchased during the printing Benedict shows that the work was a commercial success, and he traces different states of several of the prints with texts in different languages. Whether a second volume was planned remains unknown, though indication of "Premier volume" on the title page would imply as much. Unfortunately, any such project was definitively cut short by an outbreak of plague in Geneva in 1571, which killed three of Pierre Le Vignon's four children, and also killed Castellin and his three children.  Prior to that outbreak the artists Perrissin, Tortorel and Le Challeux had returned to France in 1570 once the Peace of Saint-Germain ended the civil war, and retored rights of worship in France.

Kunzel, The Early Comic Strip. Narrative Strips and Picture Stories in the European Broadsheet from c. 1450 to 1825 (1973) 40.

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1600 – 1650

Justus Lipsius Issues the First "Major" History of Libraries 1602

De bibliothecis syntagma, a pamphlet of 34 pages published in Antwerp at the Plantin-Moretus Press in 1602, has been called, in spite of its brevity, the first "major" history of libraries. It was written by the Southern-Netherlandish (Belgian) philologist and humanist Joose Lips, or Josse Lips, best-known through the Latinization of his name, Justus Lipsius. "Based primarily on the writings of classical Greek and Roman authors, it surveyed the libraries of antiquity by describing their locations, buildings, storage methods, and, to a small extent, their contents" (Walker, Justus Lipsius and the Historiography of Libraries," Libraries & Culture XXVI [1991] 49-65.)

In 1907 librarian John Cotton Dana issued an English translation of the second edition (1607) of Lipsius's work as A Brief Outline of the History of Libraries.

In spite of its brevity because of the paucity of surviving information, and its dependence mostly on secondary sources, Lipsius's work remained widely consulted and underwent numerous editions through the 18th and early 19th centuries. It was superceded to a certain extent by the much more extensive work of Louis Jacob (1644), but replaced mainly by the work of Edward Edwards (1859). See Thomas D. Walker, "Ancient Authors on Libraries: An Analysis and Bibliographic History of De Bibliothecis Syntagma by Justus Lipsius," Justus Lipsius Europae Lumen et Columen: Proceedings of the International Colloquium... (Leiden, 1999) 233-247.

(This entry was last revised on 06-10-2015).

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1700 – 1750

Popol Vuh, The Book of the People, Known from a Single Manuscript 1701 – 2012

Between 1701 and 1703 Domincan priest, scholar and linguist Francesco Ximénez, serving in the parish at Santo Tomás Chichicastenango, a town in the El Quiché department of Guatemala, transcribed the corpus of mytho-historical narratives of the Post Classic K'iche' kingdom known as Popol Vuh (Popol Buj, "Book of the Community", "Book of the Council", "Book of the People"). All editions of this work, written in the Classical K'iche' language, are based on the single manuscript that Father Ximénez transcribed, which is preserved in the Newberry Library, Chicago. Ximénez's manuscript recorded parallel texts in K'iche' and Spanish. What Ximénez transcribed was presumably a codex written shortly after the Spanish conquest by a Quiché native, who had learned to read and write Spanish, containing cosmological concepts and ancient traditions of this aboriginal American people, their history and origin, and the chronology of their kings down to the year 1550. The fate of the original manuscript after its transcription by Ximénez is unknown.

Prior to its arrival at the Newberry, the manuscript passed through several hands. In 1855, French writer, ethnographer, historian and archaeologist Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg found Ximénez's writings in the university library in Guatemala City, and perhaps absconded with the volume and took it to France. In 1861 Brasseur de Bourbourg published in Paris a French translation of the text as Popol Vuh, Le livre sacré et les mythes de l'antiquité américaine. After Brasseur's death in 1874 the Mexico-Guatémalienne collection containing Popol Vuh passed to French explorer, philologist, and ethnographer Alphonse Pinart, through whom it was sold to businessman and collector Edward E. Ayer, who donated his vast library on the history of native Americans in North and Central America to The Newberry Library in 1911. 

Father Ximénez's manuscript was reproduced online, with K'iche' text and Spanish and English translations by The Ohio State University

The first English translation of Popol Vuh was made by Delia Goetz and Sylvanus Griswold Morley from a translation into Spanish by Adrián Recinos and published in 1950 as The Book of the People: Popol Vuh. The National Book of the Ancient Quiché Maya. In 1954 this edition was reissued by the Limited Editions Club, finely printed by Saul Marks at The Plantin Press, Los Angeles. Late in 2012 I acquired copy of the the LEC edition. In their introduction to the translation (p. xv) the translators state that:

"Besides the Mansuscrito de Chichicastenango, the following are the original original Quiché documents which are preserved:

"1. The original manuscript of the Historia Quiché by Don Juan de Torres, dated October 24, 1580, which differens from the manuscript which Fuentes y Guzmán cites and which contains the account of the kings and lords, chiefs of the Great Houses, and of the chinamitales or calpules of the Quiché;

"2. The Spanish translation of the Títulos de los antiquos nuestros antepasados, los que ganaron las tierras de Otzoyá, written apparently in 1524 and bearing the signature of Don Pedro de Alvarado;

"3. The Spanish translation of the Título de los Señores de Totonicapán, dated 1554; and

"4. The Papel de Origen de los Señores included in the Descripción de Zapolitlán y Suchitepec, año de 1579.

"Despite thier brevity, these documents contain interesting accounts of the origin, political organization, and history of the Quiché people, which supplement the information given in the Popol Vuh."

♦ I had been unaware of the Popol Vuh until the later part of 2012 when various articles began appearing in the press concerning what was characterized as the 2012 phenomenon, "a range of eschatological beliefs that cataclysmic or transformative events would occur around 21 December 2012. This date was regarded as the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, and as such, Mayan festivities to commemorate the end of the b'ak'tun 13 took place on 21 December 2012 in the countries that were part of the Mayan empire (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), with main events at Chichén Itzá in Mexico, and Tikal in Guatemala." Because 12-21-12 happened to be my daughter Alex's 21st birthday, the topic became a source of amusement around our house.

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Johann Christoph Heilbronner Publishes One of the Earliest Histories of a Science 1742

In 1742 German mathematical historian and theologian Johann Christoph Heilbronner issued Historia matheseos universae a mundo condito ad seculum from Leipzig. Heilbronner’s work, of which an abbreviated German edition ("Erster Theil") was published in 1739, was the first to use the term “mathematical history.” It is one of the earliest histories of any science, predating Jean-Etienne Montucla's Histoire des mathématiques, which began publication in 1758. Perhaps mathematics was the first science to be studied historically since it was the first scientific subject required in all curricula—a requirement since the medieval quadrivium, and perhaps earlier. 

Heilbronner’s complete Latin edition, containing about 1000 pages (roughly 800 more pages than the abbreviated German edition) contains chapters on mathematics and its uses, 602 biographies of famous mathematicians, bio-bibliographies of mathematical textbook writers, a chapter on Chinese mathematics, and a special study of arithmetic, including sections on arithmetical writers and even arithmetical poetry and divination. Of particular interest is a section listing mathematical manuscripts in important Italian, French, German and British libraries; some of the materials cited here may no longer be extant

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1750 – 1800

Jeremy Belknap Founds the First Historical Society in the United States January 24, 1791

On January 24, 1791 American clergyman and historian Jeremy Belknap founded the Massachusetts Historical Society, the first historical society in the United States.

"As he [Belknap] envisioned it, the MHS would become a repository and a publisher collecting, preserving, and disseminating resources for the study of American history. Through their pledges of family papers, books, and artifacts the founding members made the Society the nation's most important historical repository by the end of their initial meeting. With the appearance of their first title at the start of 1792, they also made the MHS the nation's first institution of any description to publish in its field."

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1850 – 1875

Historians Stanhope, Macaulay & Carlyle Found the National Portrait Gallery December 2, 1856

On December 2, 1856 biographers and historians Philip Henry Stanhope, Thomas Babington Macaulay and Thomas Carlyle founded the National Portrait Gallery in London as:

" '...a gallery of original portraits, such portraits to consist as far as possible of those persons who are most honourably commemorated in British history as warriors or as statesmen, or in arts, in literature or in science' " (http://www.npg.org.uk/about/history.php, accessed 02-25-2009).

Among the founder Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery were Stanhope as Chairman, Macaulay, Benjamin Disraeli and Lord Ellesmere, a former Trustee of the National Gallery, who offered to the nation the so-called Chandos portrait of Shakespeare, which became the first picture to enter the Gallery's collection. On Ellesmere's death in 1857 Carlyle became a Trustee.

"The National Portrait Gallery was established with the criteria that the Gallery was to be about history, not about art, and about the status of the sitter, rather than the quality or character of a particular image considered as a work of art" (from the link cited above).

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2000 – 2005

On the Value of the History of Science in Scientific Research 2000

Jean-Pierre Dupuy

"Although the history of science and ideas is not my field, I could not  imagine adopting Alfred North Whitehead's opinion that every science, in order to avoid stagnation, must forget its founders. To the contrary, it seems to me that the ignorance displayed by most scientists with regard to the history of their discipline, far from being a source of dynamism, acts as a brake on their creativity. To assign the history of science a role separate from that of research itself therefore seems to me mistaken. Science, like philosophy, needs to look back over its past from time to time, to inquire into its origins and to take a fresh look at models, ideas, and paths of  investigation that had previously been explored but then for one reason or another were abandoned, great though the promise was. Many examples could be cited that confirm the usefulness of consulting history and, conversely, the wasted opportunities to which a neglect of history often leads. Thus we have witnessed in recent years, in the form of the theory of deterministic chaos, the rediscovery of Poincaré's dazzling intuitions and early results concerning nonlinear dynamics; the retum to macroscopic physics, and the study of fluid dynamics and disordered systems, when previously only the infinitely small and the infinitely large had seemed worthy of the attention of physicists; the revival of interest in embryology, ethology, and ecology, casting off the leaden cloak that molecular biology had placed over the study of living things; the renewed appreciation of Keynes's profound insights into the role of individual and collective expectations in market regulation, buried for almost fifty years by the tide of vidgar Keynesianism; and, last but not least, since it is one of the main themes of this book, the rediscovery by cognitive science of the cybernetic model devised by McCulloch and Pitts, known now by the name of 'neoconnectionism' or 'neural networks,' after several decades of domination by the cognitivist model' " (Dupuy, The Mechanization of the Mind: On the Origins of Cognitive Science, trans. M. B. DeBevoise [2000], p. x.)

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2005 – 2010

Darnton's Case for Books: Past, Present and Future September 14, 2009

"In The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future, Robert Darnton, a pioneer in the field of the history of the book, offers an in-depth examination of the book from its earliest beginnings to its changing—some even say threatened—place in culture, commerce and the academy. But to predict the death of the book is to ignore its centuries-long history of survival. The following are some of Darnton's observations.

"1. The Future. Whatever the future may be, it will be digital. The present is a time of transition, when printed and digital modes of communication coexist and new technology soon becomes obsolete. Already we are witnessing the disappearance of familiar objects: the typewriter, now consigned to antique shops; the postcard, a curiosity; the handwritten letter, beyond the capacity of most young people, who cannot write in cursive script; the daily newspaper, extinct in many cities; the local bookshop, replaced by chains, which themselves are threatened by Internet distributors like Amazon. And the library? It can look like the most archaic institution of all. Yet its past bodes well for its future, because libraries were never warehouses of books. They have always been and always will be centers of learning. Their central position in the world of learning makes them ideally suited to mediate between the printed and the digital modes of communication. Books, too, can accommodate both modes. Whether printed on paper or stored in servers, they embody knowledge, and their authority derives from a great deal more than the technology that went into them.

"2. Preservation. Bits become degraded over time. Documents may get lost in cyberspace, owing to the obsolescence of the medium in which they are encoded. Hardware and software become extinct at a distressing rate. Unless the vexatious problem of digital preservation is solved, all texts “born digital” belong to an endangered species. The obsession with developing new media has inhibited efforts to preserve the old. We have lost 80% of all silent films and 50% of all films made before World War II. Nothing preserves texts better than ink imbedded in paper, especially paper manufactured before the 19th century, except texts written in parchment or engraved in stone. The best preservation system ever invented was the old-fashioned, pre-modern book.

"3. Reading… and Writing. Time was when readers kept commonplace books. Whenever they came across a pithy passage, they copied it into a notebook under an appropriate heading, adding observations made in the course of daily life. The practice spread everywhere in early modern England, among ordinary readers as well as famous writers like Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, John Milton, and John Locke. It involved a special way of taking in the printed word. Unlike modern readers, who follow the flow of a narrative from beginning to end (unless they are digital natives and click through texts on machines), early modern Englishmen read in fits and starts and jumped from book to book. They broke texts into fragments and assembled them into new patterns by transcribing them in different sections of their notebooks. Then they reread the copies and rearranged the patterns while adding more excerpts. Reading and writing were therefore inseparable activities. They belonged to a continuous effort to make sense of things, for the world was full of signs: you could read your way through it, and by keeping an account of your readings, you made a book of your own, one stamped with your personality. 

"4. Piracy. Voltaire toyed with his texts so much that booksellers complained. As soon as they sold one edition of a work, another would appear, featuring additions and corrections by the author. Customers protested. Some even said that they would not buy an edition of Voltaire's complete works—and there were many, each different from the others—until he died, an event eagerly anticipated by retailers throughout the book trade. Piracy was so pervasive in early modern Europe that bestsellers could not be blockbusters as they are today. Instead of being produced in huge numbers by one publisher, they were printed simultaneously in many small editions by many publishers, each racing to make the most of a market unconstrained by copyright. Few pirates attempted to produce accurate counterfeits of the original editions. They abridged, expanded, and reworked texts as they pleased, without worrying about the authors' intentions. 

"5. E-Books. I want to write an electronic book. Here is how my fantasy takes shape. An “e-book,” unlike a printed codex, can contain many layers arranged in the shape of a pyramid. Readers can download the text and skim the topmost layer, which will be written like an ordinary monograph. If it satisfies them, they can print it out, bind it (binding machines can now be attached to computers and printers), and study it at their convenience in the form of a custom-made paperback. If they come upon something that especially interests them, they can click down a layer to a supplementary essay or appendix. They can continue deeper through the book, through bodies of documents, bibliography, historiography, iconography, background music, everything I can provide to give the fullest possible understanding of my subject. In the end, they will make the subject theirs, because they will find their own paths through it, reading horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, wherever the electronic links may lead. 

"6. Authorship. Despite the proliferation of biographies of great writers, the basic conditions of authorship remain obscure for most periods of history. At what point did writers free themselves from the patronage of wealthy noblemen and the state in order to live by their pens? What was the nature of a literary career, and how was it pursued? How did writers deal with publishers, printers, booksellers, reviewers, and one another? Until those questions are answered, we will not have a full understanding of the transmission of texts. Voltaire was able to manipulate secret alliances with pirate publishers because he did not depend on writing for a living. A century later, Zola proclaimed that a writer's independence came from selling his prose to the highest bidder. How did this transformation take place?

"7. The Book Trade. It may seem hopeless to conceive of book history as a single subject, to be studied from a comparative perspective across the whole range of historical disciplines. But books themselves do not respect limits either linguistic or national. They have often been written by authors who belonged to an international republic of letters, composed by printers who did not work in their native tongue, sold by booksellers who operated across national boundaries, and read in one language by readers who spoke another. Books also refuse to be contained within the confines of a single discipline when treated as objects of study. Neither history nor literature nor economics nor sociology nor bibliography can do justice to all aspects of the life of a book. By its very nature, therefore, the history of books must be international in scale and interdisciplinary in method. But it need not lack conceptual coherence, because books belong to circuits of communication that operate in consistent patterns, however complex they may be. By unearthing those circuits, historians can show that books do not merely recount history; they make it.(http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6696290.html)"

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2010 – 2012

"Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline" 2010

In 2010 American intellectual historians Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton issued Cartographies of Time through the Princeton Architectural Press in New York. A fully illustrated history of graphic visualization of time and timelines from circa 400 CE to the present, this beautifully designed and produced work is an authoritative contribution to the history of information graphics with respect to time. In writing this work the authors drew attention to an aspect of historical writing that is generally undervalued by historians:

"Another reason for the gap in our historical and theoretical understanding of timelines is the relatively low status that we generally grant to chronology as a kind of study. Though we use chronologies all the time, and could not do without them, we typically see them as only distillations of complex historical narratives and ideas. Chronologies work, and—as far as most people are concerned—that's enough. But, as we will show in this book, it wasn't always so; from the classical period to the Renaissance in Europe, chronology was among the most revered of scholarly pursuits. Indeed, in some respects, it held a status higher than the study of history itself. While history dealt in stories, chronology dealt in facts. Moreover, the facts of chronology had significant implications outside of the academic study of history. For Christians, getting chronology right was the key to many practical matters such as knowing when to cleebrate Easter and weightly ones such as knowing when the Apocalypse was nigh.

"Yet, as historian Hayden White has argued, despite the clear cultural importance of chronology, it has been difficult to induce Western historians to think of it as anything more than a rudimentary form of historiography. The traditional account of the birth of modern historical thinking traces a path from the enumerated (but not yet narrated) medieval date lists called annals, through the narrated (but not yet narrative) accounts called chronicles, to fully narrative forms of historiography that emerge with modernity itself. According to this account, for something to qualify as historiography, it is not enough that it 'deal in real, rather than merely imaginery, events; and it is not enough that [it represent] events in its order of discourse according to the chronological framework in which they originally occurred. The events must be...revealed as possessing a structure, an order of meaning, that they do not possess as mere sequence. Long thought of as 'mere sequences,' in our histories of history, chronologies have usually been left out.

"But, as White argues, there is nothing 'mere' in the problem of assembiing coherent chronologies nor their visual analogues. Like their modern successors, traditional chronographic forms performed both rote historical work and heavy conceptual lifting. They assembled, selected, and organized diverse bits of historical information in the form of dated lists. And the chronologies of a given period may tell us as much about its visions of past and future as do its historical narratives" (Rosenberg & Grafon p. 11).

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2012 – 2016

Launching of "Founders Online" June 13, 2013

On June 13, 2013 the National Archives issued the beta release of Founders Online, a database consisting of over 119,000 searchable documents, fully annotated, representing the correspondence and other writings of six major shapers of the United States: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison.

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