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Trinity College Library Dublin: Descriptive Catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance Latin Manuscripts, 2 vols.

Few important collections of manuscripts have been more in need of a new catalogue than that of Trinity College Dublin, and there will be a general welcome for this one. It has been under way since 1958 and is generously supported by a number of trusts, especially American, as well as by the devoted labours of Professor Marvin Colker, Professor of Classics at the University of Virginia. It covers fully only Latin manuscripts written before c. 1550 and a selection from after that date, for catalogues of vernacular manuscripts are to follow and Latin texts which are in predominantly vernacular volumes will be described with them: here they are just listed, in five appendices covering |certain modern Latin manuscripts': (A) catalogues listing one or more manuscripts; (B) works of later schoolmen; (C) James Ussher's continental transcripts; (D) commentaries on classical and mediaeval works; (E) liturgy..

Of entries in a descriptive catalogue one may ask whether they are (I) accurate, (2) comprehensive, (3) clear and (4) whether bibliographical references are up to date. About the first two points one can be sure only if one uses the manuscripts, but certainly the text seems to be accurate in the avoidance of literals, and the usually lengthy descriptions cover the points one expects. Bibliographical references |up to about 1986' are included. At first sight the clarity is striking: a very clear type-face is used, with plenty of space between lines, and layout is sensible. A typical entry (MS 193) begins |1 30.sup.V. Petrus Lombardus, Sententiae (PL 192:521-962); edn. in Spicilegium Bonauenturianum 4- 5 [1971, 1981]', then proceeds to a further thirteen lines on textual matters and, in later paragraphs, to physical points and provenance. Discontent arises, however, from the undifferentiated typography and total lack of indentation. In 1,393 pages of descriptions, apart from bold numbers and a comment on the origin and date (e.g., |193 England, 13 cent. (2nd half'), there are no indents, no variations in type-size and no variations in weight. hat great visual monotony results hardly matters; what does matter is that speed of consultation is impaired, and one hopes that later catalogues will adopt a more sophisticated lay-out. It is ironical that mediaeval scribes, with their knowledge of hierarchies of scripts, the use of litterae notabiliores and mise-en-page in general, can show far more sophistication and awareness of how to present information for quick consultation than a modern designer.

There are four indexes: the |General Index' is elaborate and seems to work well, although it is eccentric not to provide a general entry |Provenance' but to collect the separate place-names under |Manuscripts - Once at or perhaps once at (in mediaeval period)'. The |Index of opening words' reasonably excludes initia which can be found in the major repertories (which are named). The third index is an |Index of numerical references to short pieces of verse (chiefly anonymous), proverbs, and to anonymous hymns' and strikes one as misconceived, not in purpose but in execution. References are to B[rown and] R[obbins], C [Schaller and Konsgen], Chev[alierl, R[obbins and] C[utler], S (Walther's Sprichworter) and W (Walther's Initia) but instead of each of these being listed separately, they are mixed together in one untidy sequence through which one picks one's way slowly. Index IV is an index of illustrations in the manuscripts. There are eighteen interesting plates, the captions or list of which could helpfully have indicated the scale. Plate XVIII raises doubts about whether the manuscript (694) is not older than the sixteenth century to which it is ascribed (it suggests at least that, after being written in France - as the description tells us it was in England in the early sixteenth century) and further suggests that the description could have risked fuller transcriptions of the damaged names, all three of which begin with an intact |Thomas', but of which each is in a different hand of a different date and at least two are followed by different surnames.

An |Introduction to the collections' is provided by William O'Sullivan, formerly Keeper of Manuscripts, to whom one has long been indebted for work on Ussher as a collector. His present chapter is mainly concerned with earlier catalogues, the physical arrangement of the books and the various pressmarks that resulted from that. One consequence of recent moves has been that, with the re-shelving of the volumes in new accommodation in numerical order, the old system of shelfmarks (A. 5.3, and such like) has fallen out of use within the library. Since the old system survives in numerous publications, not all of which cite the numbers too, one is grateful for the table which shows the relationship of the various shelfmarks, even though it is in the numerical order of the present catalogue and not in the order of the disused shelfmarks.
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Author:Watson, Andrew G.
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1992
Words:807
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