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Manuscripts and Libraries in the Carolingian World

Villa Barberini, Piazza San Pietro, 25-29 May 2003 

The approximately 7,000 extant manuscripts dating from the late eighth and the ninth century are the major surviving monuments from the period. Although they constitute an invaluable resource for the historian, their potential has not yet been fully exploited. Many of the texts preserved in these manuscripts are in need of a new edition and many interesting works have yet to be printed. Nearly all the manuscripts could benefit from detailed study. This colloquium is designed for historians who are interested in confronting the challenge represented by the enormous legacy of Carolingian manuscripts as well as for experts in manuscript studies and art history. 

The colloquium will provide an opportunity to discuss contributions made to Carolingian studies during the past decade and to determine how they can be used to revise our understanding of the period. The most important achievement in recent years was the appearance in 1998 of the first volume of Bernhard Bischoff's Katalog of Carolingian manuscripts and fragments, which Birgit Ebersperger compiled from drafts and notes. The scholar now has a handy list of about one-third of the extant ninth-century manuscripts with a brief description and Bischoff's opinion of their date and origin. The second volume, covering ninth-century manuscripts from Laon to Paderborn, will appear in 2002, and the final volume (Padua to Zwettl) will be published a few years later. 

Nearly ten years ago Claudia Villa explained how the list of works that had been used by Bernhard Bischoff to create the theory of 'the court library' originated in Verona. According to Bischoff, the list in Berlin Diez. B. Sant. 66 (CLA 8.1044) was supposed to be the catalogue of rare classical works available in Charlemagne's library. In fact, the document is not a library catalogue, nor is it related to a hypothetical 'court library'. Bischoff's theory was influential for several decades after it was launched in 1965. The 'court scriptorium' is another theory in need of revision, as Lawrence Nees has recently noted. 

Cristina La Rocca's interpretation of the legend of Pacificus that was created at Verona in the course of the eleventh century was another important achievement in Carolingian studies during the 1990s. Although we await a new study of the various manuscripts that have traditionally been attributed to Pacificus, La Rocca has explained how the traditional image of Pacificus corresponds to what the canons at the cathedral of Verona wanted their fellow citizens in the eleventh century to think about Pacificus, not to historical reality. 

Now that we can take advantage of new discoveries and achievements and set aside old myths and legends, it is necessary to re-evaluate the standard accounts of the cultural and literary history of the Carolingian period. The output of scriptoria must be placed in the context of the economic conditions of abbeys and cathedrals, since only the richest could acquire books and create important libraries. We must reassess where and why specific manuscripts were created in the Carolingian world, and also how libraries developed. Then we can provide new interpretations of the importance of manuscripts and libraries during the Carolingian era. 

the colloquium 

This colloquium is designed to be an informal event, where the emphasis is on meeting people in a pleasant environment and exchanging ideas and information. 

The schedule for the colloquium will feature about twenty 30-minute talks from Monday to Thursday, to be presented in a leisurely format, four in the morning (900-1230) and three in the afternoon (1630-1845). The papers will be scheduled in order to leave two mornings free to visit libraries and other sites in and near Rome. 

Participants will be lodged in the Villa Barberini, a conference center located in Piazza San Pietro. From the sixteenth century on, this was the pleasure home of the Barberini family, of which only the facade remains. The conference center was created in 1999 when the building was renovated. All rooms are comfortable and air-conditioned, with modern marble bathrooms. An aperitivo will be served each evening at 7 in the courtyard looking out on St Peter's Square, with dinner at 8. Since the conference center is managed by a religious order, the front door is closed from 11 in the evening until 6 in the morning. Appropriate attire for women would be a dress or skirt and men should avoid short pants or t-shirts. 

The event is conceived as a residential colloquium. Participants should plan to arrive on Sunday and leave on Friday. Participants who cannot be present at the colloquium for all four days should not consider attending. There is no provision for the speaker who wishes to arrive one day, read a paper and then leave a day or two later, or for the participant who wishes to be present at one or two sessions. 

The organisers plan to keep the fee covering the hotel room and meals for the four days and five nights of the colloquium to under $400. The assumption is that expenses will be reimbursed by your institution. 

If you would like to attend or submit a topic for a presentation, send a message to the colloquium secretary, Michael Gorman, michael.gorman@fastwebnet.it. The number of participants will not exceed 40. The deadline for proposals is 1 November 2002

Your proposal should include a one-paragraph summary of your paper and a one-paragraph description of your research interests with a brief list of the relevant publications. Submit your proposal by attaching it as an RTF Word file. This material will be distributed to participants. The program containing your proposal and information will be distributed by e-mail before 1 December 2002. Scholars who wish to speak should submit a topic of general interest that is based on new and original research. In principle proposals should be exciting and brilliant! Please do not submit a topic that you have already treated in a publication or in a talk at another colloquium. The languages of the colloquium are Italian, French, German and English. 

The conference is sponsored by the Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum and by The Medieval Institute at the University of Notre Dame. 


Bernhard Bischoff, Katalog der festländischen Handschriften des neunten Jahrhunderts (mit Ausnahme der wisigotischen). Teil I: Aachen - Lambach, ed. Birgit Ebersperger (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1998). 

Hartmut Hoffmann, 'Bernhard Bischoff und die Palaeographie des 9. Jahrhunderts', Deutsches Archiv 55 (1999), p. 549-590. An interesting article by one of the authorities in the field, who noted (p. 558): 'Es fehlt -- und das ist das, was ein gewissenhafter Leser wohl am meisten bedauern wird -- in dem Katalog im allgemeinen eine Begründung für die vorgeschlagene Schriftheimat und Entstehungszeit.' 

Michael Gorman, 'Bernhard Bischoff's Handlist of Carolingian Manuscripts', Scrittura e civiltà 25 (2001), p. 93-116. 

Claudia Villa, 'La tradizione di Orazio e ''la biblioteca di Carlo Magno'': per l'elenco di opere nel codice Berlin Diez. B. 66', Formative Stages of Classical Traditions: Latin Texts from Antiquity to the Renaissance, Proceedings of a conference held at Erice, 16-22 October 1993 (Spoleto, 1996), p. 299-322. See also Claudia Villa, 'Cultura classica e tradizioni longobarde: tra latino e volgari', Paolo Diacono: Uno scrittore fra tradizione longobarda e rinnovamento carolingio, ed. Paolo Chiesa (Udine: Forum, 2000), p. 575-600. 

Bernhard Bischoff, 'The Court Library of Charlemagne', Manuscripts and Libraries in the Age of Charlemagne, Cambridge Studies in Palaeography & Codicology 1, trans. & ed. Michael M. Gorman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 56-75, the definitive version of the essay, with updated bibliography and Bischoff's corrections and additions to the original 1965 German version, which was first printed as 'Die Hofbibliothek Karls des Großen', Karl der Große: Lebenswerk und Nachleben, II. Das geistige Leben (Düsseldorf, 1965), p. 42-62, and then reprinted in Mittelalterliche Studien 3 (Stuttgart, 1981), p. 149-169. 

Michael Gorman, 'Peter of Pisa and the Quaestiunculae Copied for Charlemagne in Brussels II 2572: With a Note on the Codex Diezianus from Verona', Revue Bénédictine 110 (2000), p. 238-260; the list of works found in Verona that is contained in the Codex Diezianus is presented in a readable format for the first time on p. 260. 

Cristina La Rocca, Pacifico di Verona: Il passato carolingio nella costruzione della memoria urbana (Roma: Istituto storico italiano, 1995). See also Cristina La Rocca, 'A man for all seasons: Pacificus of Verona and the creation of a local Carolingian past', The Uses of the Past in the early Middle Ages, ed. Yitzhak Hen & Matthew Innes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 250-279, a convenient summary of the 1995 volume. 

Lawrence Nees, 'On Carolingian Book Painters: The Ottoboni Gospels and its Transfiguration Master', The Art Bulletin 83 (2001), p. 209-239.

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