BMCR 2024.07.02

Ars Riuipullensis. Commentum anonymum in Artem Donati

, Ars Riuipullensis. Commentum anonymum in Artem Donati. Opere perdute e anonime (secoli III-XV), 4. Firenze: Sismel Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2023. Pp. xi, 300. ISBN 9788892902275.

Open access


The historical and critical study of Latin grammar received its modern foundation with the publication of the Grammatici Latini under the general editorship of Heinrich Keil (1855-1880). In the twentieth and early twenty-first century, our knowledge of the development of the study of Latin grammar in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages has been enriched by the publication of critical editions in the Grammatici Hibernici Carolini Aevi in the Continuatio Mediaevalis series (40-40E) as well as the publications of the Biblioteca Weidmanniana’s Collectanea grammatica latina. Daniela Gallo’s editio princeps of the Ars Riuipullensis (hereafter, AR) presents a welcome addition to the growing fund of primary sources available, as well as a solid introduction to the study of Donatus in Carolingian Europe. In addition, her commentary to the AR is an invaluable aid to understanding the complex network of sources used in the AR and a reliable guide for understanding Latin grammatical vocabulary and doctrine. It is also a great benefit to have Gallo’s edition available through open access.

Gallo provides an Introduction, Text, Commentary, and Indices in her edition of the AR. The Introduction gives a brief, standard summary of the study of Latin grammar from Aelius Donatus in the middle of the fourth century CE, through the Christianizing Insular grammarians of the sixth though eighth centuries, up to its study under the Carolingians. During these centuries Donatus’s Ars minor formed the foundation of all grammatical study, but its sparse, elliptical style necessitated commentary as it began to be used to teach Latin grammar to non-native speakers. Insular scholars supplied additional nominal verbal paradigms and, after Alcuin’s efforts to reintroduce Priscian’s Ars to the grammatical curriculum, Carolingian scholars used passages from Priscian (and other grammatical authorities) to comment upon Donatus. The AR represents just such an effort to comment upon and contextualize Donatus’ Ars minor (and often book two of the Ars maior, also dealing with the partes orationis) with other grammarians. The result of a “mechanical and impersonal” methodology of “cut-and-paste” (19), the AR is an excellent example of the kind of ad hoc didactic tools scholars crafted for their own study.

The text of the AR survives in two manuscripts: R (=Barcelona, Archivo de la Corona de Aragòn, Ripoll 46, s. X2, Santa Maria de Ripoll) and V (=Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 3318, s. X2, perhaps Southern France). Both manuscripts contain collections of grammatical texts dealing with the partes orationis, followed by material from Donatus’ Ars maior books one and three, a typical inversion of topics found in many manuscripts of the ninth and tenth centuries. Gallo suggests that while both manuscripts of the AR contain similar collections of grammatical material, one has not been copied from the other. In the case of the AR both manuscripts contain unique errors, which leads Gallo to hypothesize a Spanish archetype from which both R and V were copied. As for the place of composition of the AR, Gallo presents a strong argument based on textual and contextual evidence for Fleury, a well-known intellectual center during the eighth and ninth centuries with demonstrable ties to Ripoll.

The text of the AR edited by Gallo is quite sound. She presents the AR in a regularized orthography for the reader’s ease and to conform to the scribes’ usual spellings, but also provides a full apparatus of variants (pp. 36-39) – I do, however, wonder why Gallo prints trizesimus rather than tricesimus at line 20. The orthographica do pose an interesting question for the study of Latin grammar in the early Middle Ages. How might Latin learners and scholars have thought about the mistakes they encountered in grammatical texts?

The typography of the edition is to be very much commended. The use of single inverted commas for grammatical examples, double inverted commas for direct speech, italics for citations from authorities, and small capitals for lemmata from Donatus, allow for an easy and quick understanding of how the text of the AR has been constructed by the author. The brief accessus to the AR analyzes the word ‘title’ and then continues onto the context of the production of Donatus’ Ars minor, divided into three parts: persona, locus, and tempus. Then there follows a commentary on the title of the work and art and grammar in general, after which the commentary on the eight parts of speech begins in earnest. The AR follows the order presented by Donatus in both the Ars minor and maior, i.e. nomen, pronomen, uerbum, aduerbium, participium, coniunctio, praepositio, and interiectio. (Priscian begins his account of the partes orationis with nomen, verbum, etc.) As noted in the Introduction, the working method of the commentator resembles a mechanical “cut-and-paste” process, whereby the laconic text of the Ars minor is supplemented by extracts from other grammarians, most notably Priscian and Smaragdus of Saint-Mihiel. Of course, the tralatitious process of organizing extracts from other authors is never straightforward, especially in early medieval texts. Gallo has exhaustively cited the sources used in the AR in her apparatus fontium (something that has come to be expected in CCCM volumes) but has also taken the further step of providing the full text of the authorities cited in the apparatus fontium in her commentary.

Scholars of the grammatical learning of the early Middle Ages will be the most thankful for Gallo’s commentary. It contextualizes the AR with other grammatical manuscripts and texts circulating in the ninth and tenth centuries. By citing the authorities used by the AR in full Gallo makes it easy to compare the two and come to a better appreciation of how the AR has subtly edited its sources, something which is usually quite a chore for those without access to a good library. For example, in Gallo’s comments to lines 661-668 on the difference between pronouns and articles, she shows how the commentator draws the first major distinction not from Donatus’ Ars maior, who defines pronouns as capable of signifying on their own (hic), while articles must be joined to an antecedent (quis), but instead from Smaragdus, who writes that pronouns can stand on their own in place of a noun (hic), whereas articles are always joined to nouns (hic discipulus). She also notes that the following etymology of articulus is derived from Smaragdus but presented in opposite order: the AR first presents an etymology from arto, -are, (to join), then an etymology from the articuli manus (joints of the hand). The difference between the sources and the AR are subtle, but Gallo provides a lucid paraphrase of the Latin as well as enlightening discussion about how the sources are used and how the AR presents the system of Latin grammar to its audience. Gallo’s commentary is comprehensive and leaves no line of the AR without scholarly notes and paraphrase. In effect, it provides a full translation and explication of the AR; its footnotes acquaint readers with up-to-date linguistic and philological research on early medieval Latin grammars; and it provides a great wealth of cited materials to familiarize neophytes with the often bewildering array of Latin grammatical texts.

There is only one place in the text where Gallo errs. At line 65, she prints “Quid est ‘quot’? ‘Quot’ nomen est interrogatiuum {in}finitum,” when the manuscript reading (infinitum) should surely be maintained. Gallo states that finitum corresponds to indeclinabile (p. 138 n. 65), but I can find no such meaning for the term finitus in Samantha Schad’s A Lexicon of Latin Grammatical Terminology. The term infinitus is likely taken from Priscian’s Ars (GL 2.61.7): infinitum est interrogativorum contrarium, ut ‘quis’, ‘qualis’, ‘quantus’, ‘quot’ (Schad, s.v. infinitus, p. 217). The commentator is here simply remarking that quot is an interrogative noun that refers to an indefinite (infinitum) number. Quot is also indeclinabile, but indeclinabile cannot be synonymous with finitum.

Another broader editorial problem I have with the text of the AR concerns the reporting of corrections from the text of Priscian (corr. ex Prisc.). In many cases, additions to the text of the AR are marked with angled brackets and deletions with curled brackets, sometimes, however, the additions are also reported in the apparatus criticus with corr. ex Prisc. (if the addition is a single letter within a word) or suppl. ex Prisc. (if the addition is a whole word, e.g. at line 1001). At other places in the text, like at lines 963-66, Gallo prints praeter<i>it, praesenti{s}, and instanti{s}, but leaves no indication in the apparatus criticus that the emendations derive from Priscian, a fact which is clear from Gallo’s own commentary. The inconsistency in reporting does not weaken the validity of Gallo’s text nor the sharpness of her critical acumen, but it does create some confusion concerning the editorial process.

These two minor quibbles aside, I very highly recommend Gallo’s edition of the Ars Riuipullensis to any scholar looking for a thorough, textually based introduction to the study of Latin grammar in the ninth and tenth centuries. This book will also be of great interest to scholars more familiar with the Latin grammatical culture of the early Middle Ages, who will find a philologically exact and stimulating study of an anonymous grammatical treatise. In both cases, we should be thankful to have such a fine editio princeps of a medieval Latin grammar.