Presents the first comprehensive study of the material aspects of the oldest surviving manuscripts of Latin secular poetry


Before the invention of printing, all forms of writing were done by hand. For a literary text to circulate among readers, and to be transmitted from one period in time to another, it had to be copied by scribes. As a result, two copies of an ancient book were different from one another, and each individual book or manuscript has its own history. The oldest of these books, those that are the closest to the time in which the texts were composed, are few, usually damaged, and have been often neglected in the scholarship. Ancient Latin Poetry Books presents a detailed study of the oldest manuscripts still extant that contain texts by Latin poets, such as Virgil, Terence, and Ovid. Analyzing their physical characteristics, their script, and the historical contexts in which they were produced and used, this volume shows how manuscripts can help us gain a better understanding of the history of texts, as well as of reading habits over the centuries. Since the manuscripts originated in various places of the Latin-speaking world, Ancient Latin Poetry Books investigates the readership and reception of Latin poetry in many different contexts, such schools in the Egyptian desert, aristocratic circles in southern Italy, and the Christian élite in late antique Rome. The research also contributes to our knowledge about the use of writing and the importance of the written text in antiquity. This is an innovative approach to the study of ancient literature, one that takes the materiality of texts into consideration.

Gabriel Nocchi Macedo is Postdoctoral Fellow at Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique, Belgium.

“This book will be of interest to university students following courses in Latin literature and Latin philology. Scholars will profit as well from having all this material collected, judiciously arranged, and wisely digested, with all the relevant and most up-to-date bibliography carefully scrutinized and assessed.”
—Sergio Casali, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”

- Sergio Casali, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”

“For the first time, all the documents concerning the materiality of the Latin poetry book have been taken into account in order to thoroughly study their specific characteristics. The author not only applied a new method that produced excellent and innovative results, but also, whenever possible, read and studied the originals of the papyri and codices. In this way he draws on new elements which are very useful for the research on Latin poetry.”
—Tiziano Dorandi, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

- Tiziano Dorandi, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

"In bearing witness to these surviving fragments, and accounting in such great detail for their material formats and the way in which they registered rhythm and meter, Nocchi Macedo’s book is certainly a valuable contribution to knowledge in the field."
Bryn Mawr Classical Review

- Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"The perception that interpretation changes over time received somewhat greater acceptance as what had been called the classical tradition evolved into reception studies, but the material turn that became more pronounced in postclassical studies did not seem to offer much promise for a period in which most texts survive only in books and manuscripts from later centuries. Ancient Latin Poetry Books shows that far more can be done here than has generally been imagined."
The Classical Review

- The Classical Review