Liberal Arts and Education
BPL 43 (France?, 1100-1200): Vergilius, Aeneis (Aeneid), parchment, 113 fols., 307 x 183 mm, 1-2 cols., 30-62 lines.

Virgil’s Aeneid, in which he describes the story of the Trojan war hero Aeneas, is probably the most popular Latin poem of Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The text was used as a textbook of Latin from at least the second century AD. Even contemporary students of Latin are often encouraged to study the poem, along with the Aeneid, which is also contained within this manuscript. The numerous glosses1, especially those in the beginning of the manuscript, show us how thoroughly this particular text was studied. The manuscript is considered a “holster book”, owing to its dimensions of 307 x 183 mm. This tells us that it was probably used by a teacher (see also BPL 137 D). The unusual, oblong, size was convenient for teachers, as the books could easily be held in one hand while walking through the classroom.

The manuscript consists of two parts. The first part was written in the eleventh century and ends with verse 3.116. The second part was written in the twelfth century and is a continuation starting at verse 3.117. This part was probably added to replace text that was lost. The lay-out2 of the two sections are very different from one another, even though they have the same size leaves. The text of the first part was written in one column of 30 lines, while the second part was written in two columns with 62 lines, making both parts independent codicological units. The colors of the decorated initials are, however, quite similar.

(Gumbert, 2009, p. 30) (Gumbert, 2004, pp. 18-19)


  1. Mistakes are made in a split-second. Even scribes who carefully copied their text, a few words at the time, would ultimately make mistakes. Can you give three examples in this manuscript where a part of the text was corrected? Note how the mistakes were corrected.
  2. Most manuscripts lack miniatures and the colorful decoration that medieval books are so well known for. The reason for this absence is usually pragmatic: there was no need for such decorative elements or the reader lacked the financial means for them. However, many medieval books contain some color, however little or rudimentary. Make an inventory of all colors present in this manuscript, from the main text (what color is it, does its color vary or is it constant?) and the chapter titles, to any other colorful element the book may have. What other colors than that of the main text are present and what purpose do they serve? In other words, why were other colors than the regular brown or black ink of the main text added to the manuscript?


  1. Gumbert, J. P. (2009). Illustrated Inventory of Medieval Manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Verloren.
  2. Gumbert, J. P. (2004). Codicologische eenheden : opzet voor een terminologie. Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen.