Figures of Speech from the Heptateuch


Presented here is a manuscript dating from around 750 to 770 of Saint Augustine of Hippo’s Quaestiones et Locutiones in Heptateuchum (Figures of speech from the Heptateuch). Composed in 419‒20, the work concerns the first seven books of the Old Testament (of which the first four are shown here), and mainly deals with obscurities of expression arising from the literal (and sometimes inaccurate) quality of Latin translations of those books. The manuscript is written in a Merovingian minuscule of "a-z" type from Laon (northern France), a designation given for the unusual way in which both the letter a and the letter z are written. The text consists of 165 folios of long lines in brown ink upon parchment. It opens with a diptych consisting of a portico surrounding a large cross surmounted with an eagle (folio C verso), and an incipit page (folio 1). The manuscript includes many ornate initials and/or zoomorphic representations (in imitation of Merovingian metalworking), as well as decorative titles. From Laon, the manuscript was given very early to the Saint-Pierre de Corbie Abbey, where it was corrected in the early ninth century, in the scriptorium of Maurdramne. It bears the ex libris of this library, from the 17th century: "ex libris S. Petri Corbeiensis," on folio A verso. The manuscript was sent to Saint-Germain-des-Prés Abbey, Paris, in 1638 (ex libris "Sti. Germani a Pratis", folio B, and old shelfmarks "N. 736 olim 226"); it was eventually handed over to the National Library of France in 1796 with other Saint-Germain-des-Prés Abbey manuscripts. The binding of red goatskin is signed Zoubre (1851). The manuscript is also stamped Bibliothèque nationale (Revolution), 1792‒1802. The Merovingians were a Frankish dynasty that ruled France from 476 to 750, following the end of Roman rule in Gaul.

Last updated: August 15, 2017