The cultural renaissance that occurred during the Carolingian era was - to a large extent -
a revival of learning: a pursuit of knowledge and an educational reform movement. The Admonitio
generalis (789) and the Epistola de litteris colendis (790's), which were both issued in
the name of Charlemagne and unequivocally intended to establish a kingdom-wide policy, show this
clearly. They emphasise the importance of the proper use of Latin, the correct performance of liturgy,
proper manuscript copying, etc. Although some scholars have stressed the obvious disjunction between
ideals on the one hand and results on the other, it is universally accepted that under Charlemagne
and his sons and grandsons - especially Louis the Pious and Charles the Bald - the schools of Carolingian Europe
flourished. Monasteries and cathedrals served as principal centres in the production of manuscripts,
libraries were built up, teaching materials were created and masters were recruited to teach a new
generation of students. Education became a booming bussiness in the large monastic centres of the time.
The content and methods of Carolingian education, however, are less easy to
establish. It is clear that the Bible and the Church Fathers are the focal point of the educational
programme, but there is also no doubt that classical authors were accepted into the literary canon
and that it centred as well around the ancient canon of the seven liberal arts (Riché 1989;
Butzer & Lohrmann 1993; McKitterick 1994; Contreni 1995).
The Carolingian kings not only promoted education; their courts played a more active role in the
pursuit of knowledge. At the royal palace, monarch and masters engaged in intellectual conversations
about a wide range of theological subjects: the cult of images, predestination, the Trinity, etc.
(Freeman 1985; Chazelle 2001). Secular subjects - which have until now largely been neglected in modern
scholarship - seem to have been treated in a similar manner. Classical texts were subjected to textual
criticism, corrected and provided with annotations; these enriched texts were brought into circulation.
Questions raised by these texts were discussed, and - where possible - solved. A striking example is the
theme of the music of the spheres, the perfect harmony brought forth by the planets, about which
Carolingian scholars had found widely differing theories in their late-antique sources. The commentaries
on these texts show lively debates on this subject, in which consensus was not necessarily achieved
(Teeuwen 2002; Eastwood 2001).
One of the richest texts in this respect is Martianus Capella's De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii,
a fifth-century encyclopaedia of the seven liberal arts, embellished with the mythological frame-story of
the marriage between Philology (learning) and Mercury (eloquence). To this text, an anonymous commentary
was added, roughly around 830, which explained the text on different levels. Grammar, syntax, and vocabulary
received attention, but the commentary also gave a full introduction (accessus) that set author and
work in historical and literary context. Furthermore, the mythological background was treated in detail, and
close attention was given to numerical speculation, the movements of the heavens, the harmony of the cosmos,
This commentary survives in sixteen manuscripts, twelve of which are dated in the ninth-century; and it
is only in part available in a modern edition (Lutz 1944). The first and most glaring desideratum was,
therefore, an edition of the complete text.
An analysis of the manuscript tradition of text and
commentary has led to the conclusion that it can be dated roughly between 820 and 840. Most manuscripts are dated to the reigns of Louis the Pious and Charles the Bald. On the basis of codicological and
palaeographical arguments the manuscripts can be placed at the heart of the Carolingian kingdom: Auxerre,
Corbie, Reims, and North(east) France have been suggested as their places of origin (Leonardi 1959-1960;
Préaux 1978; Teeuwen 2002).
In modern scholarship, several names have been suggested as possible
authors, but none has stuck. Lutz (Lutz 1944), for example, suggested the Irish bishop Dunchad as its
author; Préaux put Martin of Laon forward, who is known to have taught the arts and Greek at Laon
(Préaux 1953); Shanzer established links with Lupus of Ferrières (Shanzer 1986). In contemporary
sources, however, the commentary has remained anonymous. Text and commentary were almost always copied together,
in manuscripts especially laid-out for this purpose (with ample space around the text), which strongly suggests
that the commentary was perceived as an integral part of the text.
In a previous study I have suggested that the commentary on De nuptiis, which fits so well within
the educational ideal as animated by Alcuin, was a collective scholarly venture, perhaps produced by intellectual
circles at the courts of Louis the Pious or Charles the Bald (Teeuwen 2002). To put flesh on this hypothesis,
the content of the commentary has been researched in much greater detail. The comparison of glosses on Martianus Capella
with those on Boethius, for example, or Virgil, shows that Carolingian readers were still
in touch with the late-antique legacy. The intertextuality and overlapping of these commentary traditions suggest that the antique and late-antique texts functioned as a backbone of secular learning, and that the copies of these texts were treated as stepping stones from one authority to another. The commentary traditions gathered in single, exemplary manuscripts are to be interpreted not as school texts, but as encyclopedic collections of secular learning, created by and for the intellectual elites of the great Carolingian monasteries and courts.
In this site, the earliest commentary tradition on Martianus Capella will be, for the first time, presented in its entirety. The text has been edited by Cora Lutz (Lutz 1944), but this is only a partial edition, based on a single, rather late manuscript. Two problems have kept Latinists from making a complete edition: 1. the text is very diverse and requires an intimate knowledge of rare specialties such as early medieval astronomy and mathematics; and 2. the manuscript tradition is deeply complicated. In order to work around the first difficulty, this project has involved a network of specialists for the edition of the material on each of the nine books. Specialists on the disciplines of grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, geometry, arithmetic
and astronomy have been approached and asked to each produce an edition of their part of the commentary. The result
was - very much in line with the content - a collective scholarly venture, enabled by an online working environment which included the photo's of several manuscripts and transcription screens which could be filled from desks anywhere in the world.
The following scholars are involved:
- Drs. Thomas Brouwer, University of Leiden (correction and improvement of book 4, Dialectica)
- Prof.dr. Bruce Eastwood, University of Kentucky (book 8, Astronomia)
- Dr. Mary Garrison, University of York (initial transcription of books 4 and 5, Dialectica and Rhetorica)
- Prof.dr. Jean-Yves Guillaumin, Université de Franche-Comté (advise, correction and improvement of book 7, Arithmetica)
- Prof.dr. Natalia Lozovsky, independent scholar, currently at University of California, Berkeley, USA (book 6, Geometria)
- Prof.dr. Arpad Orbán, Universiteit Utrecht and Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen (advisor on book 3, Grammatica)
- Dr. Sinead O'Sullivan, The Queen's University of Belfast (books 1 and 2, narrative of Mercury and Philology)
- Aleksander Sroczynski, University of Utrecht (correction and improvement of book 5, Rhetorica)
- Dr. Mariken Teeuwen, Huygens Instituut - KNAW (Den Haag) (book 9, Harmonia (Musica), initial transcription of books 7 (Arithmetica), 3 (Grammatica), 4 (Dialectica) and 5 (Rhetorica), overall coordinator)
The second difficulty, the complex nature of the material, perhaps needs more explanation. The editor of a set of glosses and annotations to a text is not only confronted with the two layers of text and glosses (each with their own apparatus criticus), but the literary status of the glosses is also deeply different from that of traditional texts. No two manuscripts have the same corpus of glosses, and even those that are closest
to each other are different in many respects: words that are annotated in one manuscript are without glosses
in the next, and individual glosses are transmitted with a fair amount of variants. The fluidity of their
transmission, even when they form a coherent and official corpus, seems to be an essential part of their
literary status (Zetzel 2005). In order to work around this difficulty, the following pragmatic approach has been chosen: the edition is a semi-diplomatic edition based on the critical reading of one central manuscript, Leiden, UB, Vossianus Latinus Folio 48. The reading of this central manuscript has been checked and corrected against three others: Besancon, BM, Ms. 594, Leiden, UB, BPL 88, and Vatican, BAV, Reg.lat. 1987. Furthermore, the editions of the commentaries of 'Dunchad', John the Scot and Remigius of Auxerre have been used to check and correct transcriptions.
To address the bigger historical issues, separate articles have been published or will be published in the near future. I participated, for example in the international collaboration Storehouses of Wholesome Learning: Accumulation and Dissemination of Encyclopedic Knowledge in the Early Middle Ages, and addressed consecutively the dissemination of De nuptiis, the practice of learning as illustrated by the glosses on De nuptiis, the limits of their learning and the fruits of their learning. The first two volumes are out, the third and fourth will be published in the near future (see the folder Publications). In September 2008, furthermore, I organised the symposium Carolingian Scholarship and Martianus Capella in Leiden (Scaliger Institute) and The Hague (Huygens Institute), in which the intellectual context of the oldest commentary tradition on Martianus and commentary traditions on other authors such as Boethius were considered. Participants: Prof.dr. Calvin M. Bower (Chicago, USA & München, Germany), Dr. André Bouwman (Leiden), Prof.dr. Malcolm Godden (Oxford, UK), Dr. Rohini Jayatilaka (Oxford, UK), Prof.dr. Mayke de Jong (Utrecht, NL), Prof.dr. Henry Mayr-Harting (Oxford, UK), Prof.dr. Stephen McCluskey (Morgantown (WVU), USA), Prof.dr. R. McKitterick (Cambridge, UK), Prof.dr. Patrizia Lendinara (Palermo, Italy), Dr. Anneli Luhtala (Helsinki, Finland), Dr. Ilaria Ramelli (Milano, Italy), Dr. S. O’Sullivan (Belfast, Ireland), Dr. Mariken Teeuwen (Huygens Institute, The Hague), Drs. Joris van Zundert (Huygens Institute, The Hague). The proceedings of this symposium were edited by Sinead O’Sullivan and myself, and are currently being published by Brepols (Turnhout) in their series Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Volume 12. It is schedule to come out in June 2011.
In 2010-2012, the commentary tradition will also be published in books: we plan to publish two volumes in the Brepols series Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Medievalis. The first volume has now come out: a critical edition of the commentary tradition on books I-II of De nuptiis (ed. S. O’Sullivan, CCCM Vol. 237), the second volume will be a semi-diplomatic edition of books 3-5 (trivial arts) and 6-9 (quadrivial arts).
M. Bernhard & C.M. Bower (eds.), Glossa maior in institutionem musicam Boethii, 4 Bände,
München 1993, 1994, 1996, -.
P.L. Butzer & D. Lohrmann (eds.), Science in Western and Eastern Civilization in Carolingian
Times, Basel etc., 1993.
C. Chazelle, The Crucified God in the Carolingian Era, Cambridge 2001.
J. Contreni, 'The Carolingian Renaissance: Education and Literary Culture', in: The New
Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. II, Cambridge 1995, pp. 709-757.
A. Freeman, 'Carolingian Orthodoxy and the Fate of the Libri Carolini', in:
Viator 16 (1985), pp. 65-108.
C. Leonardi, I codici di Marziano Capella I-II, in: Aevum 33 (1959), pp. 443-489,
and 34 (1960), pp. 1-99; 411-524.
C.E. Lutz (ed.), Dunchad Glossae in Martianum, Lancaster 1944.
R. McKitterick (ed.), Carolingian Culture: Emulation and Innovation, Cambridge 1994.
J. Préaux, 'Le commentaire de Martin de Laon sur l'oeuvre de Martianus Capella',
in: Latomus 12 (1953), pp. 437-459.
J. Préaux, 'Les manuscrits principaux du De nuptiis de Martianus Capella',
in: Lettres latines, Bruxelles 1978, pp. 76-128.
P. Riché, Ecoles et enseignement dans le haut moyen âge, 2nd ed., Paris 1989.
D. Shanzer, 'Review article', in: Classical Philology 81 (1986), pp. 62-81.
M.J. Teeuwen, Harmony and the music of the spheres, Leiden, New York, Köln 2002.
J.E.G. Zetzel, Marginal scholarship and textual deviance. The Commentum Cornuti and the early scholia on Persius, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies Supplement 84, London 2005.