The manuscripts of Plautus
Here is a list of our MSS.1
- The “Ambrosian Palimpsest,” now in the Ambrosian
Library at Milan, formerly, it seems, in the library of the
Irish monastery of Bobbio in North Italy. It is written
in capitals of the fourth century. Its readings2 in the
critical apparatus of editors of Plautus are indicated by the
- The “Codex Vetus,” now in the Vatican Library,
formerly in the Palatine Library at Heidelberg. It was
written in Germany in the tenth century. Its symbol in
editors' critical apparatus is B.
- The “Codex Decurtatus,” in the Palatine collection at
Heidelberg, written in Germany in the eleventh century.
Its symbol is C.
- The “Codex Ursinianus,” in the Vatican Library,
written in Germany in the eleventh century. It was this
MS. whose discovery at the Renaissance caused so much
enthusiasm; and all MSS. of the fifteenth century and later
which contain the last twelve plays are copied from it. Its
symbol is D.
Of these four MSS., which are our leading authorities
for the text of Plautus, A
contained all the twenty plays
and also the Vidularia,
but only a fragment of the MS. has
been preserved to us; B
contains all the twenty plays;
only the last twelve (in this order, the order also of B
— Bacchides, Mostellaria, Menacchmi, Miles Gloriosus,
Mercator, Pseudolus, Poenulus, Persa, Rudens, Stichus, Trinummus,
the first three (Amphitruo, Asinaria,
), with vv. 1-503 of the fourth, the Captivi,
by the last twelve.
To these we may add three twelfth-century MSS. which
contain only the first eight plays in the same order as B
(Amphitruo, Asinaria, Aulularia, Captivi, Curculio, Casina,
- A MS. at Milan (E).
- A MS. at Leyden (V).
- A MS. in the British Museum (J).
- Also a fragment of a MS. in the Vatican Library, containing
about 150 lines of the Captivi (vv. 400-555). This
fragment belongs to the eleventh century, and is designated
by the letter O. Of a lost MS., designated by T, a MS. used
by the scholar Turnebus, we have only isolated readings preserved.
They show that T was very like B, and therefore
of great value.
We have seen that all these minuscule MSS. are ultimately
copies of a single lost minuscule codex, assigned to
the eighth or ninth century. The readings of this lost
archetype, which we can infer from the readings of BCDEVJ
etc., are, for convenience, designated by the symbol P
that, for example, in Stich. 595
, where the minuscule MSS.
have all of them the corruption una
instead of vasa
Ambrosian Palimpsest, we may indicate3
the two readings in
this way: una
A. The relationship of the several
members of this family, the “Palatine” family, of MSS.
seems to be as follows4
The first eight plays in B
and the first three and a half
were copied from the same original, a ninth- or early
tenth-century MS., now lost. But this part of B
from a much better MS., perhaps the archetype itself.
were all copied immediately or ultimately from one
original—a MS. possibly of the tenth or early eleventh
century, which was itself a copy of the original of BD,
that their text is not of much value. The second part
, containing the last twelve plays, is probably copied
directly from the archetype. In the latter portion of
the MS. the task of copying was divided between a number
of scribes, to each of whom only a short piece of the
original was assigned, with the result that the last seven
plays (Pseud., Poen., Pers., Rud., Stich., Trin., Truc.)
copied with extraordinary fidelity (see above, p. 2). C
(last twelve plays) are copies, made apparently in
the same scriptorium, of a lost (ninth- or tenth-century?)
MS., which was probably, like B,
a direct copy of the
If we put these results in the form of a stemma codicum,
It is probable that P,
the archetype, was directly copied
from a MS. in capitals (i.e. not later than the fifth century);
so that our authorities for the text of Plautus resolve themselves
into two ancient MSS. in capitals—one preserved,
though in a fragmentary condition, viz. the Ambrosian
Palimpsest; the other lost, viz. the original from which P