Monday, March 7, 2011


Francesca Schironi, To Mega Biblion: Book-Ends, End-Titles and Coronides in Papyri with Hexametric Poetry. American Studies in Papyrology 48. Durham, NC: American Society of Papyrologists, 2010. Pp. x, 260. ISBN 9780979975806. $88.00.

Reviewed by Gianluca Del Mastro, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II (

Version at BMCR home site

Francesca Schironi's is the first work entirely devoted to book-ends and end-titles in ancient manuscripts, in both roll and codex form. The subject of beginning-titles has already been amply addressed by Menico Caroli.1

Part 1 provides an extensive methodological introduction and Part 2 lengthy analysis of the results of the study. Here the reader is given information about signs used at the end of ancient manuscripts, end-titles (and their relationship with beginning-titles, if present), the number of books contained in one roll (in terms of the internal organization of the roll itself), the position of two books within the same volumen, and the layout of book-ends. All of these aspects are examined for rolls as well as codices. This part of the book concludes with a brief survey of detached titles and end-titles in other genres and a final chapter providing a general overview of the results of Schironi's research.

Part 3 is the real focus of the work and presents a database of manuscripts containing works of hexametric poetry with end-titles. Fifty-five cases of end-titles (papyrus and parchment, rolls and codices) are considered. Each record comprises 11 fields: Database number; Name; Mertens-Pack3 number; Edition; Inventory number and conservation site; Provenance; Date; Material; Format; Content; Description. The database is followed by seven useful appendices: Comprehensive List of Manuscripts Considered; Comprehensive List of Results; Distribution of Rolls and Codices among Manuscripts Considered; Characteristics of End-Titles among Manuscripts Considered; List of Beginning-Titles in Papyri with Hexametric Poetry; Detached Titles in Papyri with Hexametric Poetry; List of End-Titles in Papyri with Non-Hexametric Poetry and Prose. The book ends with detailed bibliographical references and indices.

The focus on manuscripts containing hexametric poetry is motivated by the fact that there exist more witnesses to these texts than in other genres. Naturally, most of these manuscripts contain Homeric poetry. Indeed, 51 of the 55 manuscripts examined contain lines from the Iliad or the Odyssey. The manuscripts range in time from the III century B.C. to the VI century A.D., and in the database are numbered sequentially from the earliest to the most recent. Of the 55 manuscripts, 40 contain the Iliad and 11 the Odyssey, 2 contain works of Hesiod, 1 contains Eratosthenes' Hermes and 1 Oppian's Halieutica. There are a total of 44 rolls and 11 codices. Schironi's analysis confirms that rolls were the most common book form up until the II century A.D., while between the III and IV centuries both rolls and codices were used. From the IV century onwards, the majority of texts were written in codices. The author includes a high-definition image (B/W) for each manuscript, except for P.Ross.Georg. 1.4 and 1.5, which are accompanied by two facsimile drawings. Drawings are also provided with the images of the so-called "Cureton Homer" (MP3 897.1), a palimpsest codex difficult to read in photographic reproductions. Only in 38 out of 55 manuscripts (29 rolls and 9 codices) does the title appear, in full or in part, with certainty. In 31 of the 55 cases the margins (right or left), which may have contained marks, are missing. In many cases the lower margin has been lost and it is impossible to ascertain whether there was originally an end-title. The author pays particular attention to the question of versus reclamantes (the first line of a book that was copied immediately after the last line of the previous book so that the reader could more easily find the following one). Since the versus reclamans was used to help identify the next book in another roll, Schironi (p. 33) advances the appealing hypothesis that papyri containing versus reclamantes had neither external nor internal beginning-titles. The use of the reclamans started to become less common in the II century A.D., and Schironi (p. 40) argues that this was due to the increased use of titles.

The first chapter in Part 2 examines signs marking book-ends as well as the position and form of end-titles.

Schironi stresses the fact that despite the lack of any set rules regarding the form and position of titles, in Homeric papyri the first line generally contains the title of the work and the second line the number of the book. In many cases both are surrounded by some kind of decoration. The name of Homer, considered ὁ ποιητήϲ par excellence, is absent (another of Schironi's hypotheses, this one rather more difficult to support, is that the name was omitted because of debate as to the author's identity). Schironi explains the use of the genitive form of the title as being short for the formula ΤΕΛΟC EXEI (with the book number as the subject), which is found written in full in P.Lond.Lit. 5 (Harris Homer codex).2 If the author is not Homer, the name appears in the genitive followed by the title in the nominative, except in the case of Eratosthenes, where the title precedes the author's name.3 In papyri with hexametric poetry the end-title is normally placed underneath the last column and the letters are the same size as the text or slightly larger. An attempt is made to achieve a certain symmetry and the book number is, in most cases, centred beneath the title.4 As regards the presence or absence of end-marks (paragraphos5 and coronis), versus reclamantes6 and end-titles, the author gives all possible combinations. Cases are always analysed on the basis of their chronological distribution and are presented in tables.

The author also engages in a long discussion on the number of books that might have been contained in one roll. As far as hexametric texts are concerned, a detailed analysis of witnesses leads Schironi to the conclusion that during the Roman period a roll could contain on average between 2 and 3 (shorter) Homeric books. However, it seems that some rolls contained either 1 or more than 3 books (the data are discussed and presented in detailed tables). Leaving aside any uncertain and ambiguous cases, the author concludes that there are only 6 certain cases where we find the remains of the end of one book and the beginning of the next. Except in one case (P.Lond.Lit.27),7 the end of one book is followed by the beginning of the next in the same column.

The same analysis is performed on codices. In 9 cases we find a transition from one book to the next (in 3 the transition is uncertain). As regards signs, the paragraphos is never found alone as an end-mark but is always combined with a coronis. In codices, too, the title is normally in the genitive and followed by the book number (the number is repeated twice in P.Amh. inv. G 202). A lone numeral in the same codex marks the transition from one book to another. Other signs sometimes appear around the end-title of codices. Schironi argues that this is partly because the coronis seems by now to have lost its function as an end-mark and to have become more ornamental. As regards the capacity of codices containing hexametric texts, we can be certain that in 9 cases out of 11 the codex contained at least two books. Available witnesses confirm that codices could obviously contain more books than rolls and there are indeed cases in which the entire Odyssey (P.Ryl.1.53) and the entire Iliad (such as in the "Cureton Homer" and in MS 109 of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, the famous Ilias Ambrosiana) are known to have existed in a single manuscript. As a rule, in codices, too, one book follows the next on the same page.

Ample discussion is also given to end-titles in papyri containing other genres. In the titles of these manuscripts the name of the author may precede the title of the work or vice versa. The former case is mainly found in manuscripts containing works in prose. However, there are also texts, predominantly grammatical texts (such as glossaries or collections of λέξειϲ and text-books), where the name of the author is omitted (I could hypothesize that these copies were intended for personal use only). The author also lists occurrences of paragraphos and coronis at the end of these texts. As regards the formulae found in end-titles listed in Appendix 7, Schironi's presentation is clear and schematic, though it lacks the title of the type Πρόϲ + accusative, which appears, for example, in the sillybos preserved in P.Oxy. 47.3318 (Πρὸϲ Ἐμπεδοκλέα),8 as well as in the end-titles of P.Herc. 208 (Πρὸϲ τὸν Πλάτωνοϲ Λύϲιν) and P.Herc. 1032 (Πρὸϲ τὸν Πλάτωνοϲ Eὐθύδημον, both by Colotes).9

It must, in fact, be said that neither the first part of the book nor Appendix 7 (dealing with titles of non-hexametric manuscripts) offers any references to the Herculaneum papyri,10 which contain almost a hundred titles (beginning and/or end). These titles are often accompanied by stichometric annotations and bibliological notes and are almost always analysed in editions of the texts (and presented in their respective Introductions) or in specific works.11 Except in two papyri by Xenophon (P.Oxy. 4.698 and P.Vind. 24658), versus reclamantes are not generally found in manuscripts containing non-hexametric texts. The second part of the book ends with an extensive chapter of conclusions, followed by detailed records providing the papyrologist and scholars of book form in antiquity with a mine of invaluable information and images.


1.   Il titolo iniziale nel rotolo librario greco-egizio, Bari 2007.
2.   The same explanation (the book number being the subject without any need for the formula ΤΕΛΟC EXEI) is given by Caroli (op. cit., p. 72) for beginning-titles.
3.   In PSI inv. 1914 (MP3 769.11, fragment of a roll dated between I B.C. and I A.D.), the name of the episode, as it was traditionally known (the ἀριϲτεία of Diomedes), appears between the end of Book V and the beginning of Book VI.
4.   Cf. also P.Herc. 873, where the book number is completely off-centre compared to the title.
5.   Schironi argues that between the III and I centuries B.C. at least, the paragraphos seems to be the only sign used to separate books in papyri with hexametric poetry, whereas the coronis came on the scene much later. By extrapolating data provided by Schironi herself in Appendix 7 and, we would add, from evidence found in the oldest Herculaneum papyri, we know that the coronis could also mark the end of books in papyri with non-hexametric texts datable to the III-II centuries B.C.
6.   In the case of P.Mert. 2.52, where Book II of the Odyssey comes at the end of the roll, the first line of Book III appears as a reclamans. The "obscure notes" found a little further down may, in my opinion, have been written by a student practising his copying: a name can be read several times, in one case with a probable copying error, as well as the calculation of some measurements, cf. the edition of the papyrus, p. 6.
7.   This is a restored papyrus fragment. I would also refer the reader to E. Puglia, La cura del libro nel mondo antico, Napoli 1997, p. 38.
8.   This work, written by Hermarchus (cf. Hermarchus, fr. 27 Longo Auricchio), is also cited in Philodemus' De pietate (col. 39.1103-1105 Obbink). In Diogenes Laertius (X 25), this title appears in the form Περὶ Ἐμπεδοκλέουϲ.
9.   See also P.Herc. 1005.
10.   The author herself states that this collection was not included in her study (p. 63 no. 154).
11.   A collective work on titles in the Herculaneum papyri is currently being edited by the writer of this review.

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