Burgess collection illuminated letter

Burgess Collection

Burgess Collection MS 1

Lucius Annaeus Florus, Epitome of Roman History
and Sextus Ruffus, Contents of Livy's History of Rome

Latin, 2 pages with illuminated borders and historiated initials, 3 large initials, 212 smaller initials

[Italy, mid-15th century]

Scanned Images of MS 1:

BindingBorderInitialsScriptCoat of Arms
FrontFolio 1rHistoriated Initial (f. 1r)Folio 32vFolio 1r
Front: Close Up Historiated Initial (f. 89v)

I. Material
II. Construction
III. Preparation of the Page 
IV. Text
VII. Binding


I. Material

The manuscript contains 164 leaves of fine vellum and one front flyleaf, also of fine vellum. The edges of most of the leaves are soiled from use and the corners (especially the upper ones) toward the front and the back are stained. 25 x 16.5 cm.

II. Construction

110 - 1610 1-160 Lucius Annaeus Florus, Epitome of Roman History (1-89r) and Sextus Ruffus, Contents of Livy's History of Rome (89v-163r)
174 161-164

III. Preparation of the Page

Pricking marks for the lines of the double vertical frame are clearly visible on most pages (especially on the bottom of pages). Pricking marks for the lines of the text are rarely visible on the outer edge of the leaves. It appears that most of them were cut away when the leaves were trimmed. The writing space is constant throughout at an area of 16.5 x 8.5 cm.

The ruling in light brown varies from very light and hardly visible (e.g., f. 81) to rather dark and clearly visible (e.g., f. 110). Two vertical lines on each side of the writing space (0.7 cm. apart) form a double frame that extends the length of the page. The lines of the frame were drawn by an instrument known as lead point, or plummet. This instrument was one of the writing tools known as metal point. The mark made by the instrument varied in appearance according to the type of metal used. A silver-gray mark was made by a type of lead alloy (often silver and lead). Sometimes the metal was contained in a holder. This was the precursor to the modern pencil. This type of instrument began to be widely used in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. (Brown, Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts, pp. 78, 86; E.M. Thompson, p. 43) The text is written in single columns of 24 lines. The lines of the text are 0.7 cm. apart.

IV. Text

A. Contents
1. Lucius Annaeus Florus, Epitome of Roman History (ff. 1-89r)

a. Book 1, ff. 1-19v
Inc. Lucii Annei Flori continentiae librorum IIII factorum memorabilium ab urbe condita usque ad tempora caesaris augustii secundi imperatoris liber primus foeliciter incipit. . . Popvlvs Romanvs a Rege Romulo in Cæsarem Augustum Septingentos per annos tantum operum pace belloque gessit...
Ex. Talis domi ac foris talis pace belloque populus romanus fretrum illud adolescentiæ idest secundiam imperii ætatem habuit in qua totam terras alpes fretrumque italiam et armis aubegit. Lucii annei flori de memorabilibus factus Romanorum liber primus finit.

b. Book 2, ff. 19v-42r
Inc. Eiusdem Liber secundus incipit. Et tertia ætas populi Romani iuuentus . . . Domita subactaque italia populus Romanus prope quingentesimum annum agens cum bona fide adoleuisset...
Ex. Quippe cum contra fas deum moresque maiorem medicaminibus impuris in id tempus sacrosancta romana arma uiolasset. Lvcii Annei Flori liber secundus finit.

c. Book 3, ff. 42r-67r
Inc. Incipit Liber Tertius. Bellum Iugurtinum. Haec ad orientem: et sed non ad occidentem plagam eadem quies.
Ex. Ibique morbo [...] interiit uictoresque non temere alias in ciuilibus beliis pace contenti fuerunt. Lvcii annei flori liber tertius finit.

d. Book 4, ff. 67r-89r
Inc. Eiusdem quartus et ultimus liber incipit. Coniuratio Catilinæ. Catilinam luxuria primum.
Ex. ...ut scilicet tamtum dum colit terraque ipso nomine et titulo consecraretur. Lucii Annei flori factorum memorabilium ad urbe condita usque ad tempora caesaris augusti liber quartus et vltimus finit

It is quite clear that this text is the Epitome of Roman History of Lucius Annaeus Florus. The scribe has written the name of the author in each phrase that begins and/or ends the four books of the text (see above). The text is complete and follows fairly closely John Selby Watson's translation of Florus' Epitome of Roman History. (Watson, pp. 287-424) The text also follows closely the copy of Florus contained in MS 36. Indeed, these two texts are worded in a nearly identical manner.

Nearly nothing is known of Florus, other than the fact that he wrote the Epitome. It is apparent that he lived during the reign of Trajan (98-117 C.E.), because he noted in the preface of the Epitome that the empire "raises its arms under the emperor Trajan." (ff. 2r, lines 3-4: sub traiano principe mouet lacertos) His name Annaeus has led scholars to believe that he was a native of Spain. Watson noted that, "as a historian, [Florus] is of little authority. (Watson, p. xii) Watson also observed that "his work . . . is rather a panegyric on the Romans, than an accurate history of their actions." (Watson, xii-xiii)

2. Sextus Ruffus, Contents of Livy's History of Rome (ff. 89v-163r)

Inc. Sexti ruffi ex T. Livii ab urbe condita primo libro incipit foeliciter. Adventvs æneæ in italiam et res gestæ Ascanius...
Ex. ...laudatus est a Cæsare augusto uictrico et supremis eius plures honores dedit. Sexti ruffi abbreuiatura secundum librorum ordinem ex T. Liuio patauino: foeliciter finit.

Current provenance information identifies this text as the Rerum Romanorum Breviarium of Sextus Rufus. (See, for example, Faye and Bond, pp. 432-3) However, C. Pierce and J. Fox, in their efforts to identify this text for a Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript Exhibition in 1989 at the University of Oregon Libraries, referred to the text as the Breviarium rerum gestarum populi Romani of Festus Rufus. It will be beneficial to discard this second identification from the outset. The Breviarium of Festus has been edited by J. W. Eadie, and contains 30 very short chapters. Our text, however, contains 139 relatively short chapters. Likewise, the chapters of the Breviarium do not match up with any of the chapters of our text. The probable reason for the association of our text with the Breviarium of Festus is the existence of a manuscript (Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale 4659) of the Breviarium that gives the name of its author as Sextus Ruffus. (Eadie, pp. 4, 26) Eadie has noted that this Sextus was "probably a misreading of Festus in the minuscule exemplar." (Eadie, p. 4) He assumed this because all other manuscripts of this particular Breviarium identify either Festus or Festus Rufus as the author. (Eadie, p. 4)

Concerning the other identification, it is understandable that this text has hitherto been referred to as the Rerum Romanorum breviarium. Despite the fact that this phrase does not appear at the beginning or anywhere else in the text, the work does fit the description of a breviarium. J.W. Eadie has defined breviarium as a "brief Roman history, compiled from two or more sources, commencing with the founding of Rome and brought down to the author's own time." (Eadie, p. 11). Indeed, our text is quite brief and it does begin with the founding of Rome. It also seems quite clear that the original author of the text was named Sextus Ruffus. This is indicated by the initial and closing comments of the scribe (see above). The scribe's comments provide a clue as to the contents of the text. The scribe refers to Sextus Ruffus as the author in both phrases. But the scribe also notes that the work of Sextus Ruffus is from the ab urbe condita (or patavina) of Titus Livius (Livy). The closing comment indicates that Sextus Ruffus had abbreviated the above mentioned history, "following the order of books from Titus Livius' patavina." (Both ab urbe condita and patavina are alternate names for Livy's History of Rome.) This analysis is corroborated when one compares our text with Livy's History of Rome. The number of books match up exactly to those of Livy's history, except for the fact that the scribe of our text misplaced one of the markers that he used to denote the beginning of each book. (This may have occurred because of an imperfect exemplar.) According to Livy's History of Rome, book 66 should begin on f. 135v, line 23 (Iugurta pulsus a Caio Mario...). However, our scribe began book 66 on f. 136r, line 6 (Marcus aurelius scaurus legatus...), at which place book 67 should begin. (See Baker, vol. 2, p. 526.) Thus, such markers used by the scribe are off by one book from book 66 through book 139.

It is likely that our text is actually a copy of the contents of Livy's History of Rome. Each of the books of our text match up quite closely with the contents of Livy's history. Indeed, many are nearly identical to the contents. George Baker has translated and edited the contents of the 140 books, as well as the entirety of each of the 35 books that are currently extant. He indicated that others have posited that the compiler of the contents of this history was Livy himself, or possibly Florus (the author of the first text in MS 1). However, Baker noted that the compiler could not be known from the existing evidence at the time of publication of his edition (1830). (Baker, vol. 1, p. iv) Our text was perhaps not known to Baker and the others of whom he writes. But it certainly seems possible that the Sextus Ruffus to whom our scribe attributed this abbreviated version of Livy was the original compiler of the contents.

It must be noted that, originally, Livy produced 142 books, but the contents of only 140 of them are currently extant. It is interesting that our copy of Sextus also only contains the contents of 140 books. This indicates that the contents of the two lost books have probably been lost since at least the 15th century. (Baker, vol. 1, p. iv)

The identity of this particular Sextus Ruffus is not known. The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology lists two men named Sextus Rufus who were historians. (Smith, p. 814) One of these was the above mentioned Sextus Ruffus who was reported to have been the author of the Breviarium of Festus. However, Eadie has shown that a scribe probably misread Festus as Sextus. Thus, it is likely that there was only one historian known as Sextus Rufus. The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology notes that this Sextus Rufus was the author of a tract entitled De Regionibus Urbis Romae. Unfortunately, nothing else is known of this person. (Smith, p. 814) It is possible that the author of our text is this Sextus Rufus. However, this cannot be known for sure.

B. Script

The text is written in the tradition of the Humanistic System of scripts. This system is believed to have begun in Florence just prior to 1400. The development of this system was a conscious reformation of scripts with the aesthetic intentions of reviving clarity and legibility in book production. The system comprises three different types of script: Humanistic Book Script, Humanistic Cursive Book Script and Humanistic Cursive. MS 12 is written in Humanistic Book Script, but contains certain features of Humanistic Cursive Book Script (invented by Niccolò Niccoli by c. 1420). All three of these scripts were influenced by examples of Caroline Minuscule dating from the late twelfth century. Humanistic Cursive Book Script differs from Humanistic Book Script mainly in its more cursive ductus. This was caused by the fact that Humanistic Cursive Book Script was developed with the primary intention of being an alternate, more rapid form of Humanistic Book Script. (Brown, Western Historical Scripts, pp. 126-7, 130-3)

Although the script of MS 1 has only a slightly cursive ductus, it does contain other features of Humanistic Cursive Book Script. Because one of the goals of the humanistic system was to restore clarity and legibility to scripts, there was also a strong desire to reduce the need for abbreviation. Nonetheless, certain abbreviations remained. This was generally the case with Humanistic Cursive Book Script. Because this script was intended as a more rapid form, it is understandable that more abbreviations were used. (Compare, for example, Brown, Western Historical Scripts, plates 50, 51.) Certain abbreviations are used consistently in MS 1. These include abbreviations for terminal letters as well as the common abbreviations for m, que, qui and quod.

MS 1 was written by one scribe. Light brown ink was used throughout. Common features of the script include the application of serifs to the descenders of p and q and feet to minims. Ligatures of s-t and c-t are most common, but e is often linked by a hairline to the following letter. Joined letters are frequent throughout. Fusion of letters is rare. The Humanistic feature of the two-compartment g is common throughout. Both the tall s (a prominent feature of Humanistic Cursive Book Script) and the round s are common as initial letters, while the tall s is also common as a medial letter and the round s is common as a final letter. However, pointed a, another feature of Humanistic Cursive Book Script, is absent. (Brown, Western Historical Scripts, p. 132) The ampersand (&) is commonly used as the suffix -et, while et is used only at the beginning of a paragraph.

V. Decoration

A. Initials

MS 1 contains two historiated initials, three large initials and 212 small initials. Each text of MS 1 begins with one of the historiated initials. Florus begins with an initial that spans 7.5 lines. A blue and crimson P containing the head of Florus is painted on a gold background. Green vines with blue and crimson flowers surround the P. Sextus Ruffus begins with an initial that spans 5.5 lines. A crimson A on an embossed and highly burnished gold background contains a portrait of Sextus on blue back ground ornamented with gold arabesque. The initial is surrounded with green vines with blue flowers.

Books II, III and IV of Florus begin with large initials, each spanning 4.5 lines. The initials are in crimson and are veiled with white curling leaf decoration. They are painted on burnished gold oblongs with concave edges. Green vines with blue flowers surround the initials. Each of these initials is extended with marginal green vines with crimson, blue and gold flowers and eight gold discs with black spiked spindles. Such gold discs and black spindles are Italian decorative devices that were prevalent in the late fourteenth to late fifteenth centuries. (See, for example, De Hamel, plates 224, 229, 231)

Each chapter of Florus and each book of Sextus Ruffus begin with small initials, each spanning 2.5 lines. All have burnished gold capitals on a colored oblong with concave edges. Each oblong contains three vivid masses of color (blue, green and red) that are variously disposed and ornamented with white penwork. Each of these initials is extended with marginal leaf spray with a central gold disc with black spiked spindles.

B. Paragraph Signs

This manuscript contains no paragraph signs.

C. Line Endings

This manuscript contains no line endings.

D. Border Decorations

The manuscript contains two fully illuminated folios: ff. 1r, 89v. These folios, which begin each of the above mentioned histories, are richly illuminated with elegant Renaissance borders. Italian Renaissance manuscripts such as MS 1 were famous for their splendor. Illuminators of this period usually painted quite elaborate initials and borders on the opening folios of manuscripts. White vines were often woven throughout the initials and borders, along with putti, insects, birds, butterflies and coats-of-arms within wreaths. (De Hamel, pp. 248-9)

The first of these two folios is richly illuminated with a Renaissance border containing five large roundels that depict scenes from Roman history: Romulus and Remus cast into the Tiber, Romulus and Remus suckled by the wolf, little Romulus receiving instruction from Faustulus, Romulus and his warriors setting forth and Romulus and his warriors victorious in battle. Seven small portrait medallions depict profiles of Roman emperors. The central upper medallion presents the face of Christ. (JB, box 6, folder 16) At left, the illuminated letter P contains the portrait of Florus. Above and below the initial, putti play in the foliage. The vines that weave throughout the border and initial are green, not the white vines of typical Renaissance manuscript illumination. (Compare, for example, De Hamel, plates 229-231.) In the lower margin is the coat of arms of the original owner. It contains a shield with gold stars on a diagonal strip of azure, on a held of red and gold diagonal strap work. A blue helmet is located above the shield and red and gold acanthus leaves surround the shield.

The second of these pages also contains a Renaissance border. Green vines spiral throughout the border, coil into gold centers and open into flowers of crimson, red and blue. At the base of the border, a putto holds two blue and crimson trumpets, from which the vines extend. At left, below the historiated initial containing a portrait of Sextus, a blue dragon with outspread wings holds the upper spray of vines in its mouth. Gold discs with black spiked spindles are interspersed throughout the border.

VI. Illustration

This manuscript contains no illustrations other than those described under border decorations.

VII. Binding

The manuscript is bound in the original brown morocco over wooden boards. An arabesque centerpiece has been stamped on the front and back cover. Each cover also has an elaborate border of linked arabesque circles within a frame of double fillets with corner fleurons. There are remains of gilt tooling in each border. Such borders are a typical Italian design with heavy Persian influence. (Hobson, p. 54; Needham, p. 124) Each cover also contains an outer border of blind fillets. The backstrip is in seven panels, crossed by diagonal lines extended into points on the front and back covers. The edges are gilt and gauffered. The inside edges are beveled. There are attachments of four missing clasps.

VIII. Additions to Manuscript

A. Each folio is numbered on the recto in the upper right hand corner (in light pencil).

B. Inside front cover, upper left corner: "[...]. 22" (in pencil).

C. Inside front cover, upper left corner: "Florus, XV cent." (in pencil).

D. Inside front cover, left side: unintelligible writing (in brown ink).

E. Recto of front flyleaf, top, center: "F. PHEDRI S.B.A." (in brown ink).

F. Recto of front flyleaf, upper right corner: "Burgess Ms. 1" (in pencil).

G. Inside back cover, entire page: several lines of notes in at least two hands (in brown ink).

IX. Provenance

Current provenance information notes that the Coat of Arms in the border of f. 1r is possibly that of the De Haye family, who may have been the original owners of the manuscript. (Faye and Bond, pp. 432-3) The writing on the front flyleaf (F. PHEDRI S.B.A) may indicate a former owner. Also, the sixth line of notes inside the back cover (L'oratione in la morti di papa giulio iii) indicates that this section of notes was probably written in 1555, the year of Pope Julius III's death. Unfortunately, the manuscript contains no other evidence as to ownership.

Julia Burgess purchased MS 1 from L'Art Ancien S.A., Zurich, in 1940. She then donated it to the University of Oregon Libraries where it was added to the collection of books and manuscripts previously donated by and purchased from Miss Burgess.


Unpublished Source

Julia Burgess Papers. Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. UO Coll. 209, 9 boxes and 9 separate volumes. [Referred to above as JB.]

Published Sources

Last revision: 10/30/06 by N. Helmer
Created by Ian Rush for Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries