Plautus, The Twelve ‘New’ Comedies

  • A. 1456-1461; parchment; mm 385 × 220; ff. 154
  • San Daniele del Friuli, ‘Biblioteca Civica Guarneriana’, 53

A codex of Plautus’ comedies copied for Guarnerio by Nicolò de Collibus, young notary-student, probably from a manuscript that had belonged to Giovanni of Spilimbergo.

Of the twenty-one Plautus’ comedies that are currently known and were assessed by Marcus Terentius Varro as surely authentic only eight had a wide spread in the Middle Ages: Amphitruo, Asinaria, Aulularia, Captivi, Curculio, Casina, Cistellaria, Epidicus; they are therefore referred to as the ‘comedies of the Medieval tradition’, and are transmitted by the ms. 54 of the Guarneriana library, a particularly relevant codex, for it is the first dated manuscript thereof and an autograph by Guarnerio himself who copied it in 1436, perhaps from a manuscript that had belonged to Giovanni of Spilimbergo. The twelve comedies transmitted by the Guarnerianus ms. 53, on the other hand, make up the group of the so-called ‘new comedies’, since they had been discovered by Nicholas of Cusa in a codex of Cologne, in 1429. A copy of this precious witness was drawn out by Guarino Veronese who promptly gave notice thereon to Giovanni da Spilimbergo in that same year 1432. Yet the Friulian humanist could not have that precious novelty as soon as 1445. It is then probable that the Guarnerianus ms. 53 was also copied by a manuscript belonging to Giovanni da Spilimbergo. The codex, copied by another young notary-student, Nicolò de Collibus, appears for the first time in Guarnerio’s inventory of 1461. On f. 1r «a ribbon knotted initial (Q), in green and carmine, dotted and outlined in lead white, with short vegetal endings, on a gilded and chiselled foil».

f. 1r, tied neck-knotted initial on gilded foil

f. 1r, tied neck-knotted initial on gilded foil

f. 151v, Niccolò de Collibus’ subscription

f. 151v, Niccolò de Collibus’ subscription

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