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In the year 1816, Niebuhr noticed in the library of the Cathedral Chapter at Verona a manuscript in which certain compositions of Saint Jerome had been written over some prior writings, which in certain places had themselves been superposed on some still earlier inscription. On communication with Von Savigny, Niebuhr came to the conclusion that the lowest or earliest inscription was an elementary treatise on Roman Law by Gaius, a treatise hitherto only known, or principally known, to Roman lawyers by a barbarous epitome of its contents inserted in the code of Alaric 2, king of the Visigoths. The palimpsest or rewritten manuscript originally contained 129 folios, three of which are now lost. One folio belonging to the Fourth Book (§ 136–9 144) having been detached by some accident from its fellows, had been published by Maffei in his Historia Teologica, A.D. 1740, and republished by Haubold in the very year in which Niebuhr discovered the rest of the codex.
Each page of the MS. generally contains twenty-four lines, each line thirty-nine letters ; but sometimes as many as forty-five. On sixty pages, or about a fourth of the whole, the codex is doubly palimpsest, i.e. there are three inscriptions on the parchment. About a tenth of the whole is lost or completely illegible, but part of this may be restored from Justinian's Institutes, or from other sources ; accordingly, of the whole Institutions about one thirteenth is wanting, one half of which belongs to the Fourth Book.
From the style of the handwriting the MS. is judged to be older than Justinian or the sixth century after Christ; but probably did not precede that monarch by a long interval. The word Dimissum, often used in the code of Alaric 2, in the unclassical sense of lega