This large volume arising from the international colloquium of the same title held at the University of Geneva in February 2010 comprises twenty-five essays besides a presentation by its editor, Nadia Togni, and two further essays by way of introduction (by Michel Grandjean) and conclusion (by Pierre-Maurice Bogaert osb). To each essay, written in French or Italian, is appended a bibliography and an English abstract; black-and-white illustrations follow the articles, while colour plates are printed at the end of the volume. The topics are clustered into four main sections (palaeography and codicology; art history; textual traditions; and monastic and ecclesiastical contexts) with some further contributions regarding giant Bibles north of the Alps (Falmagne) and individual descriptions (six ‘notices complémentaires’), as well as an updated inventory of the known ‘Atlantic’ codices. When set beside the exhibition catalogue Le Bibbie Atlantiche (Milan, 2000), the present list adds two manuscript Bibles to make a total of ninety-nine extant codices and contributes a further ten groups of fragments from which nineteen further original exemplars now only partially and fortuitously preserved can be inferred. Four detailed indexes provide useful cross-references for the users of this rich volume. All contributions are of the highest scholarly standard and focus on or usefully expand the topic by taking the reader from detailed examinations to panoramic overviews of the contexts in which the Bibles were produced and read. In approaching this field of study the non-initiated could benefit from starting at the end. In his conclusion, Bogaert presents a definition of the ‘Atlantic Bible’ (a terminology, as also discussed in the introduction, in common use since the early twentieth century and alluding to the giant Atlas, rather than his ocean) together with a synthesis of previous scholarship on the Bibles and a sketch of the issues at stake in their interpretation. The corpus is defined by similarity in size (over 500 mm) and decoration, particularly of the ornamented initials, as well as by uniformity in the order of biblical books and of their paratexts; the dating of the codices, between the mid-eleventh and the mid-twelfth centuries, is necessarily approximate because of the absence of colophons; and the provenance of the manufacture of these giant Bibles is Italian. Despite the detailed and painstaking studies of hands and decorative styles, the exact whereabouts of the ateliers where these special codices were made is unknown. The question of how far these types of book were exported beyond the centre of the Italian peninsula for the practical purpose of being used around the choir lectern, or rather were adopted or donated for ideological reasons as signs of belonging to the universal, reformed Church as it emerged in the second half of the eleventh century, remains a point of debate in several contributions to this volume. Although by its title the book aligns itself with a closer appreciation of a connection between reform and an ‘extra-large size’ edition of the Bible, vigorously expressed in Guy Lobrichon's paper, it also gives space to counter-arguments and more cautious, if not downright sceptical, voices. New evidence strengthens the connection with Umbria: Togni's discovery and presentation of two further Bibles from the Monastery of San Pietro at Perugia provides material for tracing the spread of this type of book through the action of reform-minded monks, abbots, and high prelates: she stresses the personal input that these ecclesiastics had in favouring the acquisition of Atlantic Bibles for key institutions. Giustino Farnedi's historical retrospective on the monastery of San Pietro itself presents a suggestive picture of the monastery's subsequent self-perception as closely tied to the papal curia of the eleventh century. Striking portraits of Matilde di Canossa, Peter Damian, and Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida, among others, were painted in the 1590s in the monastery's basilica, a display that went hand in hand with the writing of a hagiographical compendium where Humbert is recorded as having effected union with the Greeks in 1051 (p. 395). This notice is unusual, since Humbert is universally held responsible for causing schism with the Greeks in 1054. Remarkably, the painter is a Venetian with a Greek surname, ‘Antonio Vassilachis, detto l'Aliense’. Picking up this Greek thread not only reflects my own interests as a Byzantinist, but may in fact provide a key to read at least in part what was going on in this connubium between the champions of a reformed church and the vogue (or as Bogaert puts it, the ‘engouement’ or glut) for giant Bibles. For it seems clear that the individual specimens were made to order rather than mass-produced, which may go some way towards explaining why, as Bogaert notes, the Gallican version of the Psalter is more common than the expected Roman. This element appears in open discrepancy both with the Italian origin and with the supposed aim of stamping the Roman seal of uniformity on the world through the diffusion of such monumental books. Advocating a broader meaning for the ‘reform’, Bogaert also points to the foundation of churches and monasteries as suitable occasions for the endowment of such special Bibles, calling for closer studies connecting book and architectural history. A form of encaenia would seem appropriate for the display of a newly acquired symbol of the faith in the form of a giant Old Testament (for it appears that the New Testament, even where present, was not written out with the same monumentality). Several places mentioned in this book as receivers of Atlantic Bibles had connections with the Byzantine East. Southern Italy is the most obvious. Cardinal Humbert was appointed archbishop of Sicily in 1050, and, as Gaetano Scarpignato reports, there are extant witnesses from the area of Messina. At the beginning of the twelfth century, the choice of Bishop William II to endow the Cathedral of Troia in Puglia, famous for its bronze doors, with a set of Atlantic manuscripts takes place within East-West relations (as recalled by Federica Toniolo, pp. 84–85, with further bibliography). But also north of the Alps, Gebhardt of Salzburg, the patron behind the Admont copies, had travelled to Constantinople on important missions in the 1060s; this perspective might indeed lend some support to the theory that the letter of Alexander the Great to Aristotle could be connected to the production of the Admont Bibles, as the article by Hans-Walter Stork and Manuel Gosch tentatively argues. Finally, even the abbey of St Panteleimon at Cologne, where Henry of Gladbach became abbot in 1052 (see Thomas Falmagne's contribution, p. 446), had close ties with Byzantium at the time, as witnessed not only by the name of its dedication, but also by a Greek Psalter copied for it in 1066. Although the Echternach connection is technically severed from the Italian nucleus of Atlantic Bibles proper, because of clear signs of a local production, it is in this respect participating in a network of monastic foundations that spread its influence towards, and quite intentionally kept active links with, the Greek area. Further evidence in this direction is provided by reading in contemporary hagiography not only generic patterns of Eastern sources but specific texts such as the Life of St Alexius taken as model for St Romuald as suggested by Maurizio Perugi. The context for this narrative operation specifically points to the Roman community of Sts Boniface and Alexius, where St Adalbert and St Nilus interacted at the time. Montecassino is almost the next obvious step in this East-West landscape, and the slightly unexpected focus of Mariano Dell’Omo's paper on the discussion of the Eucharist in the Berengarian dispute, that made use of logical weapons as presented and transmitted in the manuscript tradition of logical texts and their diagrams, again brings to the fore Humbert, the papal legate in charge of handling this controversy in both West and East. That Rome was fully at the heart of these pro-Eastern moves is recognized in Maria Alessandra Bilotta's discussion of the decoration of the Old Lateran palace, revealing exceptional continuity in the overall understanding of the role of the papacy in keeping the unity of Christians. These signs, gathered together from the rich information spread across the volume, appear to suggest that the function of these special Bibles, as indeed of the other texts copied in this stately format, was to affirm and enact a solidarity of Christian belief with the East, based on the Scriptures, and in particular on the shared effort in actively reading the Old Testament/Septuagint text, as the liturgical annotations in the codices confirm. Further research on the textual recension of these Bibles may be useful in this respect to pinpoint any more precise echoes of the Greek textual tradition. It would seem important to keep in mind the interaction of reformers with Eastern Christendom at the crucial time of the start of the crusading effort (as Perugi points out) in the further exploration of the Atlantic Bibles and of their spiritual and symbolic, as well as political, import. The database ‘Biblion’ at the University of Geneva (www.unige.ch/BiblesAtlantiques) aims at making this corpus available online with detailed data about each codex. This project will be very useful for future research, especially for palaeographical and codicological studies, where distinguishing hands and establishing similarities between different productions is still a very difficult enterprise (see the contributions of Noemi Larocca, Erica Orezzi, and Caterina Motta). Art- historical studies, which still largely rely on such pioneering works as E. B. Garrison's Studies in the History of Medieval Italian Painting (Florence, 1953–62) and Knut Berg's Studies in Tuscan Twelfth Century Illumination (Oslo, 1968), as the descriptive terminology for the initials (full- or hollow-shaft, in English in the volume) and the periodization of the styles show, will also benefit from the availability of full colour images. That such digital enterprises might actually take longer than expected will not discourage in this case. The example of a lengthy project is lovingly described in this volume by a posthumous publication from the doyen of biblical studies, Dom Réginald Grégoire, to whom the entire volume is fittingly dedicated. From 1933 to 1983, a special monastery dedicated to St Jerome was set up in Rome to house and sustain the activity of the editorial revision of the text of the Vulgate, staffed by Benedictines whose work was to assemble and collate all the manuscript evidence for this purpose. Samples of the manual collations are printed as illustrations to this first-person account of the technical and human aspects involved in this pretechnological endeavour, providing a mirror to papal-orchestrated biblical activity that can be partially used, mutatis mutandis, for the understanding of a well- structured set-up in carrying out larger-than-life work. Togni's courage and enthusiasm, and her dedication to this topic, which began with her doctoral dissertation on the Atlantic Bibles from Geneva and Sion (2008), is evident throughout. She is herself responsible for six essays among the contributions, revealing her commitment to the development of current scholarship around this fascinating subject. Togni's volume clearly shows that the field is still open to exciting new discoveries: she has successfully combined contributions from the experts in the field with those of a number of younger scholars, together demonstrating both the weight and the dynamism of research around this outstanding corpus of medieval Latin manuscripts. © The Author 2018; all rights reserved This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
The Library – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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