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In the context of research carried out in Paris during his Sabbatical Leave (September 2013–August 2014), Dr Jacopo Bisagni has recently made a number of discoveries (some of which were made in collaboration with Dr Immo Warntjes, of Queen’s University, Belfast) in manuscripts of medieval computus preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France: a brief summary is given here.
Dr Bisagni has identified a hitherto unknown copy of the text commonly known as ‘Apuleian Sphere’ (or ‘Sphere of Apuleius’, or ‘Sphere of Life and Death’) in the tenth-century manuscript BNF Lat. 7569. The Apuleian Sphere is a short prognostic text, whose purpose is to predict by means of numerical operations whether an individual affected by some form of illness will die or survive. This text is known from a great number of manuscripts of various date and provenance, but the newly found copy is important for three main reasons: (1) it preserves two different versions of the Apuleian Sphere, which were copied one after the other; while one of the two versions is very common, the other is known only from a handful of manuscripts; (2) this copy seems to be the only one to provide an explicit source for the Apuleian Sphere: the text is here said to have been taken from a mysterious liber mulochiari… ; (3) this is the only copy that provides some explicit evidence for a possible Irish transmission of this text.
Moreover, Dr Bisagni and Dr Warntjes have discovered a new Irish computus (which Dr Warntjes has been able to date to AD 754) in BNF Lat. 6400B (a tenth-century manuscript, possibly from Fleury). While the section of the manuscript which contains the computus had already attracted some scholarly attention by virtue of containing two glosses in Old Breton, the actual contents of the computus itself had never been studied. This computus presents many interesting features, among which the following may be mentioned: (1) a vernacular Irish form embedded in the main text; (2) a passage presenting what may be one of the earliest eclipse predictions in the Medieval Latin West; (3) a citation from a (lost?) work of Columbanus.
Interestingly, Dr Bisagni has subsequently identified a number of previously overlooked exclusive parallels between the Irish computus in Lat. 6400B and computistical materials in BNF Lat. 7418A, an eleventh-century manuscript whose Breton provenance is shown by the mention of several Breton and Irish saints in the unpublished calendar found in the first few folios. These discoveries shed new light not only on the Irish contribution to computus during the eighth century, but also on the transmission of texts between Ireland, Brittany and Northern France in the Early Middle Ages.