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'Laying it on the Line': Layout and Diagrammatic Notation in an Eleventh-Century Rhetorical Manuscript of Cicero (Oxford Bod. Laud Lat. 49)

Irene A. O'Daly

My research, conducted as part of the project 'Turning Over a New Leaf: Manuscript Innovation in the Twelfth-Century Renaissance' (Leiden University, Netherlands, broadly focuses on the role of schematic diagrams in Ciceronian rhetorical manuscripts dating from the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The accommodation of diagrams within a manuscript seems to have presented an intriguing challenge from the point of view of textual layout practices: some manuscripts appear to have been designed to receive diagrams, others accumulated a diagrammatic apparatus in a more haphazard fashion, seemingly independent of the original intentions of the copyist.

My paper shall examine the layout of a single manuscript in detail, Oxford, Bodleian Laud Lat. 49, with a view to establishing how its layout influenced an accretion of diagrams. The manuscript was produced in southern Germany in the last quarter of the eleventh century and contains a number of rhetorical and dialectical works, including a copy of Cicero's De Inventione. It is unique in several respects. First, it is large (347x280mm), one of the largest surviving manuscripts of Cicero's rhetorical work; secondly, the text of the De Inventione is laid out in three columns, which is atypical for rhetorical manuscripts of this type; thirdly, the margins and inter-columnar spaces are filled with a gloss and series of schematic diagrams commenting on and illuminating the text.

The paper shall discuss why Bod. Laud Lat. 49 contains so many diagrams, and assess the relationship between their layout and that of the principal and glossing texts. Was the manuscript consciously designed to accommodate diagrammatic notation? If not, why did such an elaborate and unusual diagrammatic apparatus develop in its blank spaces? The paper shall speculate that Bod. Laud Lat. 49 exemplifies a new culture of reading: the information contained in the diagrams could not be read aloud, but the page had to be contemplated and studied silently, a characteristic of the increasing individuation of the practice of reading in this period.

Therefore, the diagrammatic notations in the margins of the text served as a way to record, disseminate, and create ideas. Interpreted this way, the diagrams are substitutes for texts, not their adjuncts. The layout and presence of diagrammatic notation suggests that a dialogue between copyist and reader was anticipated, which may point to its use in an educational setting. By studying the content of the diagrams (and identifying the source, when possible), a picture of the environment in which Bod. Laud Lat. 49 was used can be created. In this instance, layout and content appear to influence and inspire each other; this paper shall demonstrate the mechanics of this fascinating process.

Session/Panel Title

Rhetoric of the Page in Latin Manuscripts of the Middle Ages

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