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les Enluminures

SALLUST, De Catilinae coniuratione (On the Conspiracy of Catiline); and De bello Iugurthino (On the Jugurthine War); anonymous short summaries of De Catilinae coniuratione and De bello Iugurthino

In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment
Northern Italy, c. 1440-1460

TM 969
mss in the curriculum

iv (paper) + 75 folios on parchment, modern foliation in pencil in upper recto corners, incomplete (collation i-ii10 iii8 [-6, one leaf after f. 25 with text loss] iv-vii10 viii8 [-7, one leaf after f. 74 with text loss] ix2 [-1, one leaf with text loss, final leaf appended as singleton]), some catchwords at center of bottom margin (ff. 10 and 20) or vertically in minute script at outer bottom corner (ff. 37 and 67), visible pricking, ruled with plummet in two columns of 32-34 lines (justification 104-93 x 75-72 mm.) but written in a single column by three experienced scribes in running humanistic bookhands, influenced by Gothic bookhands: scribe 1, ff. 1-25v; scribe 2, ff. 26-74v; and scribe 3, f. 75rv in a smaller hand on only 29 (f. 75) and 22 (f. 75v) of the ruled lines, many initials stroked in yellow, opening titles in green (f. 1) and blue (f. 26), in-text and marginal rubrics in red, one- to five-line initials in red with occasional flourishing (incomplete in quires iv, vi, and vii), eleven-line initial on f. 26, four-line initial on f. 37, ten-line initial on f. 59, and five-line initial on f. 70v, all drawn in black ink to look like tree branches with short twigs, small tears at edges of ff. 24 and 66, minor text abrasion on ff. 15 and 39v with text still legible, occasional stains and signs of use throughout, large mold stain in outer margins of ff. 59v-60 and 74v but no text loss, final folio considerably weathered, but overall good condition.  Folded parchment binding (16th-18thcentury), with three chamois thongs woven through front and back cover near spine and secured to inner cover, red and white endbands, label “Sallu[s]-tius” in black at top of spine, opening edge of front cover eaten away by rodents, staining and discoloration with minor worming on back, now-illegible notes on front and back in brown ink, bottom support and endband exposed through damage to spine, remnants of chamois ties on first flyleaf and matching holes for lost ties on back cover, despite wear binding is considerably secure. Dimensions 158 x 108 mm.    

These two historical works by Sallust (the earliest Roman historian whose works survive), were the most widely read texts by any classical historian.  Basic texts for the Renaissance classroom, the format, decoration, and added notes, including two anonymous summaries of these texts, are evidence that this was manuscript used by students.  This is an appealing witness to the popularity of Sallust’s rhetorical, and moralizing interpretations of Roman history in Italian humanist thought and education. 


1. Written by three scribes in Northern Italy around the middle of the fifteenth century, c. 1440-1460, as indicated by the script, the distinctive capitals used for the headings, and the idiosyncratic “twig” decoration.  The first hand in particular shows the influence of Gothic shading and angularity, despite the use of humanistic letter forms. The monogram at the end of the short text on f. 75v is unidentified but might be that of an early owner, or even the scribe.

Several features of its production may suggest this was not copied in a commercial workshop. The scribes selected parchment lined for two-columns but wrote in a single column, and apparently drew from a varied pile of prepared parchment (see below).  One also might expect more consistent initial style and completion in a commercial production.  The contemporary marginal notes and corrections suggest that it was copied from an imperfect manuscript exemplar and quickly reached several readers (rather than a single owner).

2. Owned by Domine de Pousolz, who donated it to the College of Jesuits in Puy-en-Velay, probably in 1593 when it was added to their catalogue (inscriptions top and bottom margin, f. 1).  He was also the donor of a two-part incunable of Statius’ works printed by Piero Quarengi of Venice in 1498/99, now Puy-en-Velay, BM, R 5758, with a nearly identical inscription recording his first name, Franciscus (Frasson-Cochet and Aquilon, 2006, p. 151, §257). His surname refers to the medieval fortress and village of Pouzols, part of the barony of Le Pouget in the Occitan region of Southern France; it was not an uncommon name in the sixteenth century.

3. The College of Jesuits in Puy-en-Velay opened in 1588; although starting with only fourteen Jesuit fathers, by the end of the century it had 500 enrolled students (Cubizolles, 2005, p. 284).  The College remained under Jesuit administration until 1763, at which point it passed to the care of secular priests until its dissolution during the French Revolution. The blue stamp of the Seminary of Notre-Dame-du-Puy (est. 1652) in the outer bottom corner indicates that this manuscript moved, at some point in the nineteenth century, from the former College library to the Seminary (today’s Grand-Séminaire).

4. 19th- or early 20th century inscription in cursive, f. 1, “J. Vacheron.” A Canon named Jean Vacheron served as chaplain in the men’s hospice in Clermont in 1905 (Charon-Bordas, 1982, p. 375); Puy-en-Velay is adjacent to, and suffragan of the archdiocese of Clermont. Perhaps this Jean Vacheron owned the manuscript once it left the Seminary library.


ff. 1-25v, SALUSTII ROMANI LIBER INCIPIT, incipit, “OMnis homines qui sese student praestare ceteris animalibus … homo militaris qui amplius xxx annos tribunus atque prefectus aut legatus aut pretor cum magna gloria//”;

Caius Sallustius Crispus, De Catilinae coniuratione, chapters1-59; edited often, including Kurfess, 1954, and Reynolds, 1991. The manuscript lacks a single folio at the end of this work, resulting in the loss of ±14 words of chapter 59 and its final chapters (60 and 61). It is otherwise complete. Multiple rubrics in a tiny script, perhaps by the same scribe as the main text, are placed in the margin of nearly all folios to announce the characters in the adjacent narrative. There are also multiple marginal text corrections by two tiny contemporary hands in very light grey-brown ink.

ff. 26-74, IUGURTINUS, incipit, “Falso queritur de natura sua genus humanum … Ceteris obtruncatis, Iugurta Sillae vinctus traditur: Et ab eo ad marium deductus est.”;

Caius Sallustius Crispus, Bellum Iugurthinum, chapters 1-113; edited often, including Kurfess, 1954, and Reynolds, 1991; lacking the last folio, resulting in the loss of the short final chapter, but otherwise complete. Although copied by a different scribe, the main text is augmented by the same tiny red rubrics as De Catilinae coniuratione, but only until f. 41v. Marginal notes – mostly corrections but some acting as rubrics – are frequently added by the same two tiny contemporary hands found in the previous text. The main text is written by a single scribe, but the mise-en-page of ff. 48-57v and ff. 68-74 differs from the rest of the volume; the scribe clearly drew his leaves from a varied pile of already-prepared parchment. Initials were left incomplete on ff. 37v, 61, 63v, 64rv, and 73v.

Studies have uncovered a somewhat complicated medieval recension of Bellum Iugurthinum in particular, which was transmitted in two versions:  one is longer with 114 full chapters (called integri by scholars), and the other lacks part of Chapter 103 through the beginning of Chapter 112 (called mutili; see the thorough description of these versions in Reynolds,1983, pp. 341-47). The version found in this manuscript is the integri, as are all late medieval copies (Reynolds,1983, p. 341).  Sallust’s works were first printed in Venice by Vindelinus de Spira in 1470 (the manuscript’s text varies from that of this first edition and was probably copied before it).

f. 75, incipit, “//neque in pace. neque in bello sit. Postremo Catilina causa purgandi se se in Senatum venit … bellum fiat cum Gaio Antonio. Ibique fortissime pugnatus confoditur.”;

Unidentified summary of Sallust’s De Catilinae coniuratione, now beginning imperfectly; we deduce based on its contents that it was likely always a very short text that began on the now-lost first leaf of a bifolium.  The text summarizes Cicero’s denouncement of Catiline in the Senate (the so-called First Oration against Catiline), his flight from Rome under the guise of voluntary exile, the trapping of his army between those of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer and Gaius Antonius Hybrida, and his death in battle against the latter. Three empty lines remain after the summary’s completion.

f. 75v, De Iugurtino, incipit, “MIcipsa filius Masimissae [sic] cuius amicicia [sic] semper … Mario consule Iugurtam captum et [vin]ctum Romam accipiunt. MvoÆ” [concluding with a monogram of the letters ‘M’ ‘AE’ and ‘V’ and possibly ‘o’].

Unidentified summary of Sallust’s Bellum Iugurthinum. As with the summary of De Catilinae coniuratione on this last folio’s recto, this text is remarkably abridged. It covers Iugurtha’s killing of his cousin-brother Hiempsal over their divided kingdom, his subsequent warring with his other cousin-brother Adherbal, and the following Roman intervention. It ends with Gaius Marius bringing Iugurtha captured and chained to Rome. The monogram at the end of this text is unidentified.

Sallust (c. 86-35 BCE) was a Roman politician and contemporary of Julius Caesar and Cicero. From a wealthy Sabine plebian family, he rose through the political ranks of the Republic to claim a seat in the Senate in his thirties. He is best known as a historian and is in fact the earliest known Roman historian with surviving works. After retirement from politics, he composed two monographs found in this manuscript: De Catilinae coniuratione, about the second Cataline conspiracy in 63-62 BCE, and Bellum Iugurthinum, recounting the war undertaken by the Romans against Jugurtha, King of Numidia in 112-106 BCE. Both survive in full, while his Historiae of Rome between 78-67 BCE is extant only in fragments. Sallust did not merely record these events for posterity: his rhetorical works were intended as criticism of what was, from his perspective, the moral and ethical decline of Rome, and particularly of its ruling class. 

Widely read during classical Antiquity – he was praised by Martial and Tacitus, and St. Augustine, among others (Rolfe 1921/31, pp. xvii-xviii), Sallust was rediscovered in the ninth-century by Lupus of Ferrières and others.  The more than five hundred surviving manuscripts testify to the popularity of these texts (Reynolds,1983, p. 345, n. 24).  Over 700 entries are recorded in the Schoenberg Database, many of which were produced in fifteenth-century Italy.

The value of Sallust for the study of rhetoric made him more widely read than any other classical historian.  Much appreciated for his mastery of the Latin language, with a style quite unlike that of Caesar and Cicero, Sallust took as his model in the writing of history Thucydides, whose brevity of expression he also imitated and, according to Seneca Rhetor, even surpassed. The orations included in Sallust’s works were greatly admired in Antiquity, and collections of them were made for use in the schools of rhetoric in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is quite probable the present copy was used for didactic purposes: “Sallust was commonly listed in the section classified as ars grammatica.  Boys learned their history, in ancient and medieval classrooms alike, in the margin of grammar and rhetoric:  history and mythology guided them to understand the allusions in literary texts and supplied a quarry of exempla for the orator to draw upon” (Smalley, 1971, p. 168). 

Sallust remains highly relevant in current scholarship on (among other themes), the author, medieval education, and the place of the Latin classics in Italian Humanism. Although not rare, this manuscript is appealing, both as an example of a text with an astoundingly broad readership over some 2000 years and for its apparently unique summaries, somewhat resembling the short summaries on the backs of today’s books, that were probably composed by the scribe who added them. It also holds aesthetic charm as a handheld copy featuring a transitional script, and initials made of twigs more rustic and bucolic than the sleek white-vine initials of its more luxurious contemporaries.


Charon-Bordas, J. Cultes. Chanoines: dossiers personnels, par diocèse (1830-1905). Index des noms géographiques et de personnes (F/19/2814-F/19/2856), Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, 1982.

Available at https://www.siv.archives-nationales.culture.gouv.fr/siv/rechercheconsultation/consultation/ir/pdfIR.action?irId=FRAN_IR_003948

Cubizolles, Pierre. Le diocèse du Puy-en-Velay des origines à nos jours, Nonette, 2005.

Ernout, A., ed. Salluste. La conjuration de Catilina. La guerre de Jugurtha. Fragments des histoires, texte établi et traduit par Alfred Ernout, Paris, 1941 [most recent rev. 2007].

Frasson-Cochet, Dominique, and Pierre Aquilon. Catalogues régionaux des incunables des bibliothèques publiques de France: Auvergne, Geneva, 2006.

Kurfess, A., ed. C. Sallusti Crispi Catilina, Iugurtha, Fragmenta Ampliora, Leipzig, 1954 (reprinted often, most recently, 1991).

Reynolds, L.D. “Sallust,” in Texts and Transmission: A Survey of Latin Classics, ed. by L. D. Reynolds, Oxford, 1983, pp. 341-52.

Reynolds, L.D., ed. C. Sallusti Crispi: Catilina; Iugurtha; Historiarum Fragmenta Selecta; Appendix Sallustiana, Oxford, 1991.

Smalley, Beryl. “Sallust in the Middle Ages,” in Classical Influences on European Culture A.D. 500 to 1500, Vol. 1, ed. R. R. Bolgar, Cambridge, 1971, pp. 165-76.

Syme, Ronald., with foreword by Ronald Mellor. Sallust, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2002 [first pub. 1964].

Online Resource

Rolfe, John C., trans. and intro., Sallust, The War with Catiline. The War with Jugurtha, Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library, 1921 (rev. 1931).

Sallustius, De Catilinae coniuratione and Bellum Iugurthinum

TM 969