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Manuscript Context, Modified Text, and Missing Pieces

by Christina Bruno, Fordham University

While Cecil Grayson has already delineated the manuscript context of the Deiphira in preparing his 1973 edition, the purpose of this essay is to place one particular manuscript witness, Harvard Houghton Library MS Typ 422, into that context.1Cecil Grayson, “Deifira,” in Opere volgari III (Rome: Laterza, 1973), 221-245, 381-394; hereafter Grayson.In seeking to understand a particular manuscript witness, and that from afar, this treatment is necessarily impressionistic and occasionally must be speculative. But the value of this project, part traditional manuscript study and translation, part internet sleuthing, lies not only in the evidence our team uncovered together, but in the ways we learned to work around trying circumstances, and to work together.  What follows is a preliminary survey of MS Typ 422’s paleographical and codicological issues in light of our own, virtual, examination of the manuscript; a discussion of those peculiarities in light of Grayson’s edition and conclusions about Deiphira; and some potential new directions for research, once in-person consultation of manuscripts is again possible.

Manuscript Context

The team had ample opportunity to examine MS Typ 422 using FromThePage, becoming intimately acquainted with MS Typ 422’s paleographical and codicological peculiarities; while the distance imposed by the pandemic proved troubling in most applications, close group study of a single manuscript thrives online with high quality images. MS Typ 422 is a small, attractive parchment manuscript with a beautiful opening illustration, the gold outer border of which seems to have been slightly cut off on the outer edge due to trimming. It is written in a neat, rounded humanist hand, in brownish ink, with 15 lines per page. Grayson knew it, designating it MS H in his edition, but he put distance between the textual tradition he judged most reliable (that of his MS F1, a Florentine miscellany of Alberti’s works)2Florence Biblioteca Nazionale Cod. II.IV.38; see Grayson, 382.and that represented by MS Typ 422.

As we began our transcription, it became apparent that MS Typ 422 contains frequent minor scribal errors, often corrected in a second hand with darker ink, especially in the case of run-of-the-mill mistakes like missing words, or phrases out of order. 3See f. 13v and f. 8r, respectively. There are three large lacunae due to two missing bifolia after ff. 13v/15v and f. 28v. See our manuscript collation for more details.

f 3r as example of previous pagination

There are three large lacunae due to two missing bifolia after ff. 13v/15v and f. 28v. See our manuscript collation for more details. [/mfn]We also quickly noted that MS Typ 422 bears traces of a previous foliation at the bottom of its pages, indicating that the text once began on folio 70. The earlier foliation was scraped out and partially renumbered, clearly visible on folio 3r.

This suggests that MS Typ 422 was once part of a larger manuscript, a point to which I will return.

Modified Text

As soon as we moved from transcription to translation, our touchstone became Grayson’s 1973 edition of Deiphira, part of his three-volume Opere volgari of Alberti. In the case of omissions, or obscure passages, Grayson served as an invaluable point of reference. Moreover, his discussion of the manuscript context of Deiphira proved essential, and suggested to us several ways in which MS Typ 422 is unusual.  First, we learned that although the text known as Deiphira is a minor work, it survives in quite a few manuscript copies, and in no fewer than ten early modern editions.4The early modern editions (in which the Deiphira often appear alongside Alberti’s Ecatonfilea) are: (1) Baptistae de Albertis poetae laureati opus praeclarum in amoris rimedium feliciter incipit (Padua: L. Canozzi, 1471); (2) Cominicia il dialago de Palimaco et de Piliarco composito per lo eximio et magnifico poeta messere Angelo Crazulo de Neapoli (Rome: Sixtus Riessinger, 1473/1475); (3) Deiphira (Venice: Bernardino da Cremona, 1491); (4) Di messer Leon Battista Alberti, Hecatomphila che ne insegnia l’ingeniosa arte d’amore. Deiphira che ne mostra fuggir il mal principiato amore (Venice: Antonio da Sabbio, 1528); (5) Hecatomphila che ne insegnia l’ingeniosa arte d’amore: Deiphira che ne mostra fuggir il mal principiato amore (Venice: M. Sessa, 1528); (6) Deiphira di messer Leon Battista Alberto Firentino (Venice: Fr. Bindoni e M. Pasini, 1534); (7) Hecatomphila de misser Leon Battista Alberto…. (Venice: M. Sessa, 1534); (8) Hecatomphila di messere Leon Battista Alberto Fiorentino (Venice, n.p., 1545); (9) La Deiphira de M. Leon Battista Alberto…La Déiphire de M. Léon Baptiste Albert (Paris: G. Corrozet, 1547), which includes the Italian original as well as a French translation; (10) Deifira in Opuscoli morali di Leon Battista Alberti (Venice, n.p., 1568).Grayson identified sixteen manuscript witnesses of Deiphira, which he divided into several strands, but representing a unified textual tradition, as indicated in Table I below.5Grayson, 388. MS Typ 422 belongs to a small branch, and Grayson determined that its text corresponds most closely with Verona Biblioteca Capitolare Cod. 186.6Grayson, 387. Further, however, we learned that there was an alternate textual tradition of Deiphira, constituted by what Grayson called an “apocryphal” or “contaminated” text with passages interpolated from works by Boccaccio.7Grayson lists seven manuscripts of this apocryphal version, though he notes it is not exhaustive: (1) Florence Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Cod. Magl. VI.83; (2) Cod. Magl. VII Var. 376; (3) II, IX, 108; (4) Pal. 241; (5) Florence Biblioteca Riccardiana MS 1063; (6) 2060, and (7) Venice Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana Italiani Classe XI cod. 27 (7224). See Grayson, 386 note 1.Grayson, who examined this “apocryphal” version elsewhere, argued that both texts circulated during Alberti’s lifetime (though with no involvement from Alberti himself), perhaps the work of Antonio di Guido de’Magnoli.8Cecil Grayson, “Four love-letters attributed to Alberti,” in Essays on Italian Language and Literature presented to kathleen Speight (Manchester, 1971), 30-44, 31. This alternate text forms the basis for Anicio Bonucci’s 1845 edition, part of his three-volume Opere volgari of Alberti.9Anicio Bonucci, Opere volgari di Leon Battista Alberti III (Florence: Tipografia Galileiana, 1845), 365-409. Grayson characterizes Bonucci’s decision to use this version as based on “strane congetture,” 386 note 1. Apart from the interpolations from Boccaccio, this text also renames the characters: Philarco becomes Pulidoro or Polidoro, and Pallimacro becomes Filomeno. 

We have yet to undertake a systematic comparison of these two texts, and Grayson did not use any manuscripts of the “apocryphal” text for his edition, but at this stage it complicates conclusive identification of further manuscripts of Deiphira until they can be examined in more detail. Consulting the online Iter Italicum, and searching for both Latinate and Italian spellings (Filarco/Philarco, Deifira/ Deiphira), we found the six additional manuscripts (see Table II below), although it is too early to tell how many, if any, of these manuscripts contain the uninterpolated version of Deiphira. Based on renamed characters we can most likely eliminate at least two. Of particular interest, however, is Harvard Houghton Library MS Typ 1086, a previously unknown witness of both Deifira and another of Alberti’s texts on love, the Ecatonfilearecently acquired by Harvard.

Missing Pieces

While definitive statements must await a thorough in-person examination of the manuscripts, we may summarize some of our contingent conclusions here, especially in view of what we know about MS Typ 422’s paleography and codicology, and the textual tradition of Deiphira. First, as the tables below illustrate, MS Typ 422 is a comparative rarity in its parchment support. None of the other manuscripts Grayson identified and only two of the further manuscripts we identified are parchment. Second, this manuscript is also unusual in that it contains Deiphira alonealthough, in view of the previous foliation, this was perhaps not always the case. Comparing the sixteen manuscripts Grayson identifies, and for which detailed information about content may be found, all but two have the short text of Deiphira along with at least one other text on love, and more often as part of a miscellany of texts on love, poetry, and love letters, by Alberti and sometimes also others. While it is not always possible to determine when such miscellanies came together, the Deiphira often appears directly alongside Alberti’s Ecatonfilea. Judging by the printed editions (the earliest of which appears in 1471, a year before Alberti’s death), they seem even early on to have functioned as a unit, with Ecatonfilea teaching how to acquire love and Deiphira how to get over it. Often, though not exclusively, Ecatonfileaappears first, Deiphira second. For example, one 1528 edition of the two works together entitles itself “Hecatomphila che ne insegnia l’ingeniosa arte d’amore: Deiphira che ne mostra fuggir il mal principiato amore” (“Hecatomphila which teaches the ingenious art of love: Deiphira which shows how to flee a love begun badly”).10Leon Battista Alberti, Hecatomfilea (Venice: Fratelli da Sabbio, 1528). These two texts appear together in nine of sixteen manuscripts of both texts; in two of four known parchment copies; and in five of ten early modern editions.

Combining MS Typ 422’s unusual parchment support, its previous foliation, and the frequency with which Deiphira and Ecatonfilea appear together, then, we may begin to conjecture about MS Typ 422’s earlier circumstances, including the manuscript to which it may have originally belonged. We have therefore begun searching for parchment copies of Ecatonfilea,either alone or at least without an accompanying Deiphira, as possible candidates for MS Typ 422’s previous companion. In his edition of Ecatonfilea, Grayson lists a single parchment manuscript of that text, which appears without an accompanying Deiphira: Oxford Bodleian MS Canon. Ital. 76.11Grayson’s edition of Ecatonfilea appears in Grayson III, 195-219, 366-380. For a description of the Bodleian manuscript, see Grayson III, 368-369. For more on the manuscript tradition of Ecatonfilea, see Samantha Benedetti, “Edizione critica e commentata dell’Ecatonfilea di Leon Battista Alberti,” [Tesi di laurea magistrale in filologia e letteratura italiana], Università Ca’Foscari Venezia,  2020, 35-54. This is a composite manuscript with three components brought together at a later date, the first two of which are parchment and the third of which is paper. Ecatonfilea is written in the second (parchment) part of this composite manuscript. We have not been able to consult it yet, but according to its description, it is written in a humanistic hand, and is furnished with an opening illustration. While not conclusive, it could be a possible mate to MS Typ 422, and is suggestive of what we might find as we search further for copies of Ecatonfilea.

Table I: 16 Manuscripts of Deiphira per Grayson (1973)
CountryCityRepositoryShelfmarkSupportWithEcatonfilea?Description in Grayson Opere volgari
ItalyBolognaBiblioteca UniversitariaCod. 12 busta VI.6paper III, 381
ItalyFlorenceArchivio di StatoArchivio Cerchi cod. 16.paperyesIII, 367
ItalyFlorenceBiblioteca Nazionale CentraleCod. Pal. 212paper II, 384
ItalyFlorenceBiblioteca Nazionale CentraleII.IV.38paperyesI, 367-368
ItalyFlorenceBiblioteca Nazionale CentraleCod. Magl. VIII.33paperyesII, 448-449
ItalyMantuaBiblioteca ComunaleCod. A.1.15paperyesIII, 367
ItalyMilanBiblioteca AmbrosianaFondo Trotti 141paper III, 382-383
ItalyRomePrivately ownedn/apaper III, 383
ItalyVeniceBiblioteca Nazionale MarcianaItaliani Classe XI cod. 17 (7223)paper III, 384
ItalyVeniceBiblioteca Nazionale MarcianaItaliani Classe IX cod. 169 (6204)paper III, 384
ItalyVeniceBiblioteca Nazionale MarcianaCod. Ital. II.15 (5190)paper III, 383-384
ItalyVeronaBiblioteca CapitolareCCCCLXXXVI (330)paper III, 384
ItalyVeronaBiblioteca CapitolareCCCCLXXI (314)paperyesIII, 369
USACambridgeHarvard University, Houghton LibraryMS Typ 422parchment III, 381
USANew YorkColumbia University LibraryPlimpton MS 180paperyesIII, 368
Vatican CityVatican CityBiblioteca Apostolica VaticanaFondo Barberiniano Latino 4051 (XLV 145)paperyesII, 408
Table II: Six New Witnesses of Deiphira
GreeceAthensEthnike Bibliotheke1682sec. XVpaperapocryphal(?)
BelgiumBrusselsBibliotheque Royale Albert IerII 595sec. XV-XVIpaperunknown
USACambridgeHarvard University, Houghton LibraryMS Typ 1086sec. XVparchment uninterpolated
Vatican CityVatican CityBiblioteca Apostolica VaticanaFondo Patetta 1002sec. XVIpaperunknown
Vatican CityVatican CityBiblioteca Apostolica VaticanaFondo Patetta 1016sec. XVparchmentunknown
ItalyVeniceMuseo Civico Correr, BibliotecaFondo Correr ms. 843sec. XVpaperapocryphal(?)

Recommended citation:

Bruno, M. Christina. “Manuscript Context, Modified Text, and Missing Pieces.” A Transcription and Translation of Leon Battista Alberti’s Deiphira, Houghton MS Typ. 422. Georgetown University, September 22, 2021.