Liberal Arts and Education
BPL 1715 (Apennine Peninsula, Italy, 1458): Festus, Epitome (Epitome), paper, 93 fols., 235 x 159 mm, 1 col., 27 lines.

This manuscript contains a summary of Sextus Pompeius Festus’ De verborum significatione (On the Meaning of Words). It was written by the Benedictine monk and teacher Paul the Deacon, who was the first historian of Germany. Paul’s literary achievements earned him a position in Charlemagne’s court. It was here that he wrote a summary of De verborum significatione for the famous emperor’s library. Only one copy of Festus’ original version has survived. Unfortunately, this eleventh-century manuscript is in very bad condition due to fire damage. Paul the Deacon’s summary is, therefore, the most important source for the contents of Festus’ work.

De verborum significatione is a lexicon with etymologies and definitions of Latin words. When a copy of Paul the Deacon’s version of this lexicon was discovered by scholars in the early fifteenth century it attracted renewed interest and study. In addition to insight into Latin grammar, the manuscript also addresses Roman law, culture, history and politics. The words are ordered alphabetically, and each letter is introduced by a colored initial. This manuscript was copied by a scribe named Christopher in 1458. In the sixteenth century it belonged to the Convent of St. Barnabas in Brescia, Italy.

(Gumbert, 2009, p. 108)


  1. Before a scribe could begin to fill the quires with text, the layout of the page needed to be designed and prepared. What instruments did the scribe of this manuscript use to prepare the pages?
  2. Some manuscripts were produced by one individual that undertook all production stages, including designing the page, copying the text, adding rubrication, and correcting the book. Many others, however, are the product of two or more individuals. How many people worked on this manuscript and how can you tell? Use any observation for your verdict, including how the letters were executed. Can you for example see any notable differences in the execution of the script?


  1. Gumbert, J. P. (2009). Illustrated Inventory of Medieval Manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Verloren.