The Stemma of Boethius


This page offers online links to many (if not all) of the known early manuscript drawings of the arbor porphyriana found in the Commentary on Porphyry's Isagoge by Boethius. There is no full English translation of this text that I am aware of, though a small section of the Commentary can be read in Paul Vincent Spade, Five Texts on the Mediaeval Problem of Universals.

No proof has ever been offered that Porphyry had any hand in devising the diagram. Adolf Busse's critical edition of the Isagoge, gathering that version of the original Greek text of Porphyry which remains and correcting it in the light of the translations to Latin, Syriac and Arabic, contains neither the diagram nor the words of introduction to it, nor does the more recent edition of the Latin texts by Lorenzo Minio-Paluello. [*]Busse, Adolf. Porphyrii Isagoge et in Aristoteles Categorias Commentarium. Berlin: Reimer, 1887. Minio-Paluello, Lorenzo. Categoriarum Supplementa: Porphyrii Isagoge Translatio Boethii et Anonymi Fragmentum Vulgo vocatum ‘Liber Sex Principiorum’, Accedunt Isagoges Fragmenta M. Victorini Interprete et Specimina Translationum Recentiorum Categoriarum. Corpus Philosophorum Medii Aevi. Bruges: Descl�e de Brouwer, 1966. See the useful list by Roger Pearse) of some of those manuscripts, and look for example at BAV, (fols 1-20; Greek), BAV Vat.sir.158 (Syriac) or Karlsruhe, Aug. perg. 172 (fol 16r-20v; Latin) to note that where there are scholia, they contain a great many diagrams by commentators, but that none are the arbor and none is attributed to Porphyry himself.

It is therefore a proper and cautious policy to assume that the diagram is the work of Boethius, not Porphyry, and I term the diagram here the Stemma of Boethius. That certainly fits well with the proclivity of Boethius to demonstrate many matters diagrammatically, as in his Musica (e.g. clm 14372 in Munich).

The diagram is referred to at III. 3 of the second book of the Commentary, and is variously shown at the beginning of the work as a frontispiece, set into the body of the text at III.3, or placed in a margin near that text. There is a detailed discussion of how it works on my Boethius page.

This listing is similar to the tabulation I created for my own use for the Great Stemma. Since it may be useful to others, I am placing it online.

My tabulation is based on the list of manuscripts in the Codices Boethiani: a Conspectus of Manuscripts of the Works of Boethius edited by the late Margaret Gibson, Lesley Smith, Marina Passalacqua and others. Only four of the planned seven volumes have been issued so far, so the following list is incomplete for Germany and France, for which volumes have yet to be published. This list is limited to those codices which contain the second or "posterior" commentary (2 in Isag. is the abbreviation for it in the Conspectus), and any manuscripts that do not include the diagram have been shifted to the bottom of the table and marked XX.

For French and German manuscripts, I have relied on the introduction to the older critical edition, edited by Samuel Brandt in 1906 for the CSEL series (accessible at The conspectus there begins at page xlii. The Stemma of Boethius is reproduced as a diagram in the Brandt edition's text of the posterior commentary at III.3 (page 209) with the following note (the letters are the sigla, reproduced in my table below):

figuram supra depictam exhibent P (est altera de duabus ipsa quoque a m1 facta, prior minus dilucida est), nisi quod ad pr. animal add. sensibile et rationale post post, animal pos., et E, in quo ordo nominum cato plato cicero est, simillima est in G, sed extrema pars homo— Cicero deest, et in H, nomina tamen socrates plato cicero sunt; in S uoces mediae tantum substantia— homo extant, sub uoce homo unum nomen est FVLCO GONCL (explicare non potuimus); figura deest in CFLNR, in F post ponat exemplum est SVBSTANTIA.

The older Patrologia Latina edition contains an engraving of the diagram at PL 64: 103: C-D.

For German catalogs, many of them new, consult the Manuscripta Mediaevalia web index. The 19th-century French catalogs are mostly online and can be tracked down using the Gatt� list. Brigitte Pfeil's portal, Handschriftenkataloge Online, is especially helpful in finding digitized catalogs.

As with my other lists, I primarily checked for digitizations in Manuscripta Mediaevalia. Repeat searches at a later date for the manuscripts that have been digitized should be conducted through the Digital Scriptorium and other web portals including Manuscrits Enlumin�s in France and Austria's Mittelalterliche Handschriften in �sterreichischen Bibliotheken. Please write to me if you can add to or correct the list.

The manuscript-creation dates in the right column of the table are obviously very approximate, and are only included so the table will be ultimately sortable: click on the headers to arrange the materials by date, by language, or grouping what has been digitized, and so on.

N Repository Online Shelfmark Fol Evol Text Cent Format Notes Date
A Klosterneuberg, Stiftsbibliothek   Cod. 672     38b-77b     Catalog; 38r-77v; Pfeiffer-Cern�k IV 866-867: f 78 sequitur: brevis definitio et fidei. Hill MML.
CH Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek Digitized 315 (605) 53r     X inset One of the finest presentations of the diagram. With Socrates as example of man.  
CH Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek 338   E 2-271 X   This must contain the figure, as Brandt said he partly based his reconstruction on it; not online
CH St Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek Digitized 831 184v XI   1050
DE K�ln, Dombibliothek Digitized 188 45v H     margin Exceptional for having Socrates as an example of a man. Library. Image file. Also of interest is the diagram of Philosophiae namque sunt tres partes late in the codex: folio and folio 199v.  
DE K�ln, Dombibliothek Digitized 189 1r       front Image file. Library  
DE K�ln, Dombibliothek Digitized 191 4r Γ     margin Image file. Library  
DE M�nchen, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek   clm 6403 53r C   X front New Catalog; Old Catalog; OPAC; Brandt states that C does not contain the figure, yet the current catalog describes it thus: Schema ... Substantia: corporeum/ incorporeum mit Ver�stelungen. 1000
DK Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek   Thott 167 2�     16-102 X   1r described as "several xiln definitions". Jorgensen catalog, page 366. Link to old catalog, page 290.
ES C�rdoba, Catedral 78 41v Conspectus confirms diagram on this folio.
FR Paris, Biblioth�que Nationale de France Digitized Latin 11129 73v P   XI inset Curious because drawn twice in the same page (is the second a correction?); used by Brandt as the basis of his version of the diagram. Catalog. 1050
FR Paris, Biblioth�que Nationale de France Digitized Latin 12958 38r S   IX-X inset Diagram exceptional for having Fulco Goncl, whoever he was, as the specimen man; Catalog 0900
FR Paris, Biblioth�que Nationale de France Digitized Latin 13955 22r G   X inset Brandt said he partly based his reconstruction on this figure; Catalog 0950
FR Paris, Biblioth�que Nationale de France NAL 1611   Δ   XI   Catalog 1000
FR Paris, IRHT   CP 368 2r     XII   Fmr Phillipps 16236, now privately owned; description lodged at IRHT is by Pieter Beullens; see Scriptorium. 1125
FR Paris, IRHT   CP 368 130v     XIII   Second diagram in fmr Phillipps 16236 (above, q.v.), a composite ms. 1210
IT Bergamo               "vis animae on 1r". See Catalog.  
IT Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana Digitized plut 89 sup.80 3r     X margin Discussed by Brandt, but no siglum. Catalog  
IT Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana Digitized plut 89 sup.80 41r     X margin Discussed by Brandt, but no siglum. Catalog  
IT Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana San Marco 102 25v            
IT Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana San Marco 113           try 83v-88r  
IT Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana   San Marco 130 25v            
IT Pistoia, Archivio Capitolare   C 77         Library, three images from same  
IT Venezia, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana   lat. Z 272     31r-64v        
VA Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Digitized Reg. lat. 1240 28v         Pointed out by @LatinAristotle 950
VA Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Digitized Ott. lat. 1149 2v         Not old, but distinctive for its treelike ornament 1450
VA Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Digitized Reg. lat. 1332 17r R       Brandt wrongly states that "R" does not contain the figure; is it possible he did not in fact consult it?  
VA Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana   Rossi 537 38v            
XX Klosterneuberg, Stiftsbibliothek   Cod. 296   1r-v,
    Catalog; fragment, no diagram.  
XX Bamberg   325 N 2b-25a     Brandt states that N does not contain the figure.  
DE Erlangen   579   Ψ 2a-9a     XII century. Not in catalog.  
XX K�ln, Dombibliothek Digitized 187 F 22v-32v XI   No diagram visible. Brandt confirms that F does not contain it. An incomplete Commentary text.  
XX M�nchen, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Digitized clm 4621 76r-120v     Diagram unfound. Text present mainly as marginal notes to Porphyry; Brandt says text resembles H. Catalog  
XX M�nchen, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Digitized clm 14516   L
12r-49r XI   New Catalog. Old Catalog. Brandt states that L does not contain the figure, and visual inspection confirms this. Note other diagrams at 1v and 7r before the start. 1050
XX Oxford, Bodleian Library Laud lat. 49 27vb-28vc     Fragment only
XX Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana Digitized plut 71.6         No diagram visible: not the diagram at 150r. Catalog.  
XX Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Digitized Urb. lat 188     1-25a     Online, but definitely does not contain any arbor  
XX Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Digitized Vat. lat. 566 73v?     XII   Discussed by Brandt, but he gives it no siglum. Online, but no arbor visible, though note the fig on 72v  

Creative Commons License The Library of Latin Diagrams by Jean-Baptiste Piggin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.