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Vergilius Augusteus
Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Cod. lat. fol. 416 et Cod. lat. Vat. 3256, Rome, 2nd half of the 4th century

CODICES SELECTI, Vol. LVI

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What makes the Vergilius Augusteus so famous? The philologist will answer that it is one of the very extant copies of the Vergilian text. However, at the same time he will have to admit that the modest number of verses – 284 out of originally nearly 13,000 – limits its importance as a textual witness considerably. In fact, had the fragments never appeared, it would have made little difference to the current critical edition of Vergil’s opera maiora.

The palaeographer will feature the Vergilius Augusteus as one of the few remains of a rare form of Late-Classical majuscle script, The Capitalis quadrata. However, being a somewhat artificial branch on the tree of Latin handwriting, this particular form of lettering was of short duration and did not notably influence the development that followed.

For the art historian the Vergilius Augusteus is a document of primary historical importance, since ist fifteen decorated letters mark the beginning of the development which in due time would lead to the virtually numberless initial in thousands upon thousands of Medieval manuscripts. Thus, it may be said that the greatest importance of the Vergilius Augusteus resides in its decoration, for all the latter’s seeming modesty.

   
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