Collection Highlights in the Burnam Classics Library

The Classics Collection


A facsimile from 1898 of the "Papyrus of Ani," in a display case in the Classics Library’s Reading Room, features the Egyptian so-called Book of the Dead with a translation by E.A. Wallis Budge, the same copy Prof. John Miller Burnam (1864-1921) is examining in the portrait above the case. It features the royal scribe Ani and his wife Thuthu entering the Hall of Judgement in Duat, the Underworld, the dog god Anubis testing the tongue of balance, the baboon god Thoth, the god of writing and hieroglyphs, recording the result with Ammit, the Devourer of the Unjustified (crocodile, leopard, hippo composite), standing by to devour the unjust, in the presence of the falcon god Horus, Anubis leading a just Ani to the god of the dead, Osiris. Osiris is throned with Isis and Nephthys standing behind the throne. During the New Kingdom (ca. 1500-50 BCE) the dead were entombed with a copy of the Book of the Dead as a provision on their journey to the Afterlife. During the burial ceremony, a priest would read from this book. The texts that it contained depicted in much detail the stages of rebirth, one of which was the weighing of the soul. The dead person's heart, the seat of the soul in ancient Egypt, was put in one pan of a scale, and in the other was placed the feather of the bird goddess Ma'at (goddess of justice and truth). The sacred writing (hieroglyphs) told the story along with colored vignettes on rolls from the papyrus plant.  The original "Papyrus of Ani" is in the British Museum.  

book from Venice

Original manuscripts of legal documents from medieval and Renaissance Venice. The manuscripts in Latin, French, and Italian cursive contain glimpses into Venetian life during a time when Venice was a leading European economic and trading power. They contain wills, marriage contracts, real estate. There were many prominent and powerful families living in the Veneto area who are continuously referenced in the records. Many of the records regard the area around Treviso, and the nearby settlements on the Piave, and many regard Vicenza. In one group are a number of property records for the Venetian patrician family Da Mula. They were a “new family” in the 15th and 16th centuries, whose name is still attached to a palace on the Grand Canal, not far from the Guggenheim Museum in Dorsoduro.

Spanish paleography book

The field closest to Burnam’s heart was Latin Palaeography in Spain and Portugal. He never got to finish his monumental Palæographia iberica examining the manuscripts from the Iberian Peninsula before his untimely death in 1921. The book featured above is Esteban Paluzie y Cantalozella’s Paleografía Española, Barcelona 1846, with a summary of the history of writing illustrated with the ancient and modern characters of various languages; a summary of the alphabets of unknown letters found in the oldest monuments of Spain, published by d. Luis José Velazquez; a sample of the alphabet of early Spanish from d. Juan Bautista Erro y Azpiroz; a dictionary of Roman abbreviations found on tombstones; various Roman, Gothic, Arabic, Hebrew, and Christian inscriptions; and a discourse on Catalan palaeography.

Geography facsimile

Rare Belser facsimile of a manuscript now in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Cod. Urb. lat. 277). The Geography (in the Greek original, Γεωγραφικὴ Ὑφήγησις, and in Latin, Geographia or Cosmographia) is a gazetteer, an atlas, and a treatise on cartography, assembling the geographic knowledge of 2nd century CE Rome. Originally written by the Egyptian astronomer, mathematician, and geographer Claudius Ptolemaeus (ca. 100-170 CE), the work was a revision of a now-lost atlas by Syriac-Greek geographer and cartographer Marinus of Tyre (ca. 70-130 CE) and other sources. This facsimile of the earliest translation into Latin in 1406 by the Florentine Renaissance scholar Jacopo D'Angelo was highly influential for the geographic knowledge and cartographic traditions of Renaissance Europe.

Rare book from Florence

Facsimile. The Laurentian manuscript of Sophocles (Codex Laurentianus 32.9, Bibliotheca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence). The oldest of the codices (ca. 800 CE) of the Sophoclean opera.

Facsimile of the works of Virgil

Rare facsimile of Vergilius Romanus (Biblioteca Apostolica, Cod. Vat.  Lat. 3867) or the Roman Vergil, is a 5th-century illustrated manuscript of the works of Vergil. It contains the Aeneid, the Georgics, and some of the Eclogues. It is considered one of the oldest and most important Vergilian manuscripts. The image above shows scenes from the Georgics.

Book by Horace owned by Petrarch

Rare facsimile of the works of Roman poet Horace (65-27 BCE) (Cod. Laur. Med. Pluteus 34.1). Late 10th or early 11th century. Once the property of the influential Italian Renaissance poet and scholar Petrarch (1304-1374) with marginal annotations and now in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence. The image below shows Horace’s poem Carmen Saeculare, commissioned by Emperor Augustus on the occasion of the ludi saeculares to celebrate the end of one saeculum and the beginning of another.

Carmen Saeculare by Horace
Manuscript of the works of Ovid

Publii Ovidii Nasonis. Metamorphoseon Libri XV. From Book 15, the last book, of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Reproduction from manuscript (Ms. IV F 3) in the Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli. The notes of scribes and correctors frequently include marginal illustrations.

Illustration from the Iliad

Homer’s Iliad (here featured book 1) with miniatures by Francesco Rosselli. Facsimile. Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana. Cod. Plut. 32.4, fol. 43r. 15th century.

Book by Menander

Facsimile of the Cairo codex of Menander (P. Cair. J.43227) at the Institute of Classical Studies, University of London.

Comedy play

Terence. Andria (the Girl from Andros) with Simo (Flat Nosed), an Athenian nobleman and his freedman Sosia (Saved) from Act 1.  Facsimile. Cod. Vat. Lat. 3868, ca. 825 CE. Also below.


Terence. Phormio. Facsimile. Cod. Vat. Lat. 3868. 9th century.

Greek god Zeus

“Zeus, in answer to Agamemnon’s supplication, sends the Greeks an eagle as a favorable omen” (the Iliad, lib. 28, vv. 236, 247). Facsimile ed. Ilias AmbrosianaCod. F. 205 P. inf., Bibliothecae Ambrosianae Mediolanensis. See also below.

Greek god Ares

“Ares complains to Zeus, in the presence of Hera, Athena and Apollo, that he has been wounded by a mortal” (the Iliad, lib. 23, vv. 872, 888, 907). Facsimile ed. Ilias AmbrosianaCod. F. 205 P. inf., Bibliothecae Ambrosianae Mediolanensis.

Greek poetry

Bacchylides. Facsimile of a papyrus fragment in the British Museum (Pap. DCCXXXIII).

Facsimile of Livy

Livy, Ab urbe condita 34, 37, 8-38, 2. Facsimile fragment. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. Codex Vat. Lat. 10696. 4th-5th century.

Book of Tacitus

Tacitus. Agricola. Facsimile. Codex Vaticanus Latinus 3429. 15th century.

Germania by Tacitus

Facsimile. Tacitus. Germania. Cod. Vat. Lat. 1862. 15th century.

Text reuse

Palimpsest. A literary text reuse can be gleaned through the cover binding of an early edition of Ovid’s Heroides from 1551.

Homer's Iliad facsimile

Facsimile. Venetus A (Codex Marcianus Graecus 454, now 822) in the Biblioteca Marciana, Venice, 10th c. The most famous manuscript of the Homeric Iliad along with parts of Proclus' Chrestomathy (Life of Homer), and summaries of all of the Epic Cycle except for the Cypria; it features annotations, glosses, and commentaries known as the "A scholia," such as those from Aristarchus' edition of the Iliad. See also the image below.

Images in facsimile from Venice
medieval manuscript of Aesop

Original leaf from a richly illuminated manuscript Psalter - Prayer-book. 21-23 lines of Latin text. Written in unusual gothic cursive script on vellum.  Northern Germany, probably Hildesheim, ca. 1524. Three 3-line illuminated initials in gold and silver on red, violet, and brown ground with gold and silver tracery. Elaborate panel borders with full gold ground, strewn with diverse floral motifs and a fox trying to reach a rooster that is perched atop a flower, and (verso) a dog leaping across the bottom of the page – reminiscent of Aesop’s Fable. The illuminated “D” begins the prayer “Deus qui Beate Marie…”. The illuminated “G” begins the prayer: “Gloriosa dicta…”.

Manuscript fragments have recently been acknowledged as valuable pursuits of research, a research field known as fragmentology. See, for example, a recent exhibition at Ohio State University:

Another at Ohio University:

This project aims to collect manuscript leaves and other fragments to identify the original manuscripts and their history with many institutions contributing such as the Vatican Library, Yale, Stanford, the Bodleian Libraries, the British Library, Harvard, and others:

The Rare Book School at the University of Virginia:

The Scholarly Commons at the University of Pennsylvania:

The Library of Congress:

A useful database to help identify manuscript leaves and fragments is "The Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts" at UPenn:

Aesop manuscript
Book of plants and animals

Facsimile. Liber Floridus ("Book of Flowers") is a medieval encyclopedia compiled between 1090 and 1120 by Lambert, Canon of Saint-Omer. It reflects the knowledge of and beliefs about science, geography, zoology, botany, and mythology in the high Middle Ages. It is also a medieval bestiary. The oldest of the known copies of the manuscript is in the Library of the University of Ghent (MS Gandensis 92).

Velvet cover

Facsimile with beautiful velvet cover. Le Bréviaire Grimani or Breviarium Grimani is one of the largest and most famous Dutch manuscripts with miniatures. It is dated to ca. 1510-1520. Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice.  This unusual facsimile was printed in Venice on September 28, 1905, as one of only 500 copies in French. Six colored plates are the work of Venetian Mannerist sculptor Alessandro Vittoria (1525–1608) and four miniatures of Flemish painter Hans Memling (1430-1494). The 110 numbered plates are reproductions of miniatures ascribed to several famous Flemish painters, besides Hans Memling also Simon Bening (1483–1561) and Gerard David (1460–1523) and others. The Grimani Breviary is a masterpiece among Flemish illuminated manuscripts. It was produced in Ghent and Bruges ca. 1515-1520 and owned by Domenico Grimani (1461-1523), a well-known Italian nobleman, theologian and cardinal born in Venice and the son of Antonio Grimani, featured in the medallion.

Book with four evangelists

Illustration. "The Four Evangelists." Gospels. Rheims, early 9th c. Aachen, Cathedral Treasury. Codex Aureus, fol. 13r.

wooden cover of book on writing

Rare wooden cover. From The Origin and Progress of the Art of Writing by Henry Noel Humphreys. London: Day and Son, 1855. Henry Noel Humphreys (1810-1879) was a British illustrator and entomologist who studied medieval manuscripts, Greek and Roman coins, archaeology, printing, and, as witnessed by this book, also the art of writing. The classics library, in large measure thanks to John Miller Burnam, UC Professor of Latin Paleography 1900-1921, owns a large and unique collection of rare tomes on palaeography. Humphreys’ book on the history of writing forms part of that collection.

Illustrated breviary

Illustration of a beautifully illuminated leaf. Cod. Pal. Germ. 329, fol. 25v (no. 20, Hugo von Montfort). From Cimelia Heidelbergensia: 30 illuminierte Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert, 1975.

illustrated manuscript facsimile

Another illustrated leaf from the same volume. Cod. Pal. Germ. 329. Vellum. Illuminated by Heinrich Aurhaym, Austria, after 1414.

Illustrated cover

Beautifully illustrated cover of “Astronomical Zodiac Man” from the famous Book of Hours Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, created between 1412 and 1416 for the Duke of Berry by the Limbourg Brothers. The original manuscript is at Musée Condé, Chantilly.  Book from Codices illustres: The World’s Most Famous Illuminated Manuscripts by Ingo F. Walther and Norbert Wolf. Taschen, 2001. 

illustrated music manuscript facsimile

Facsimile. PMsc.19, Fol. 24v. Illumination depicting the "Annunciation to the Shepherds." 

illustrated ornate leaf with marginalia

Facsimile. PMsc. 13, Fol. 9. Ornate marginalia on a medieval breviary leaf.

Ornate breviary leaf facsimile

Facsimile. PMsc. 13, Fol. 240. Another ornate medieval breviary leaf.

Islamic manuscript title

The ornamental heading of a Sura, from a large Arabic Kurān written in Egypt around 1490. From Bernard Quaritch’s Illustrations.

Illustrated bible

Late medieval picture Bible. Ms. 334. Beckmann, J.H. & I. Schroth (eds.). Deutsche Bilderbibel aus dem späten Mittelalter; Handschrift 334 der Universitätsbibliothek Freiburg i. Br. und M. 719-720 der Pierpont Morgan Library, New York.

Illustrated manuscript Metz

Facsimile of the Sacramentary of Metz. Fragment. Ms. Lat. 1141, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

Manuscript facsimile from Uppsala

A facsimile edition of an Echternach gospel-book of the eleventh century (publ. in 1971 in connection with the 350th anniversary of the University Library of Uppsala University, Carolina Rediviva).

manuscript facsimile from Addis Abbeba

Facsimile of an illuminated manuscript from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, showing a leaf illustrating the Gospel of Matthew.

Bible moralise

Facsimile edition of Bible moraliséeCodex Vindobonensis 2554 d. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek.

Codex in Heidelberg

Facsimile of Cod. Pal. Germ. 329. Illumination by Heinrich Aurhaym, c.  1414.  Universitātbibliothek Heidelberg.

The Byzantine and Modern Greek Collection

Roll of Joshua, the Hebrew Bible

Codex Vat. Pal. Graec. 431. The Joshua Roll is a Byzantine illuminated manuscript of highly unusual format for a codex, probably of the 10th century Macedonian Renaissance, believed to have been created by artists of the Imperial workshops in Constantinople, and now in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. The “papyrus-like” scroll format was probably to honor the importance and antiquity of the Hebrew Bible, the format of the Torah, but could possibly also imitate an original papyrus scroll since lost, or the columns of Roman emperors narrating the stories of their battles such as the Column of Trajan and that of Marcus Aurelius. The Roll narrates Joshua’s military successes.

Book on Turkish dress

Colorful engravings of Turkish dress and manners from the early 19th century by Octavian Dalvimart.

Cavafy's signature

Constantine Peter Cavafy (Κωνσταντίνος Π. Καβάφης, Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis, 1863–1933) considered one of the greatest Greek poets of the 20th century was born in Alexandria where several of his poetry collections were self-published. The Library’s copy bears the author’s signature in his own hand.

Ghikas, Greek artist

Greek Cubist artist Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas' (Νίκος Χατζηκυριάκος–Γκίκας), 1906–1994, illustrations to the famous Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis' (Νίκος Καζαντζάκης),1883–1957, The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, including 34 color plates and a facsimile of a letter from Kazantzakis to Ghika from 1944.

Justinian manuscript facsimile

Original leaf from a medieval manuscript of Justinian’s Digest XVII 1,10 and XII, 1,8.

Magnificent cover of gospel book

Facsimile with magnificent cover. Codex Petropolitanus Purpureus. 6th-century Greek New Testament codex gospel book. The extant folios of the manuscript are kept in various libraries, but the majority at the National Library of Russia in Saint Petersburg and in the Library of the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian on the island of Patmos. The name derives from the manuscript's purple-colored parchment.

Illustrated Pseudo-Callisthenes

Pseudo-Callisthenes. Historia Alexandri Magni. “He spent some time in Egypt and built a wondrous city there, in which he prayed to the God of heaven and earth and condemned the idols.” A facsimile edition of Codex Gr. 5 held at il Istituto Ellenico, Venice.

Illustrated gospel

“Mabâ' Sĕyôn and his companion are led by night to the river by a bright star; out of the darkness the Devil appears, hissing like a snake, but he is put to flight by the Lamb of Life which comes down from heaven in answer to the prayers of the saint.” The lives of Mabâ' Sĕyôn and Gabra Krĕstôs. The Ethiopic text ed. with an English translation and a chapter on the illustrations of Ethiopic mss., by E. A. Wallis Budge. With ninety-two colored plates and thirty-three illustrations. Lady Meux manuscript, no. 1. Three hundred copies only, printed for private circulation, of which this is no. 66.

Table facsimile

Canon Table with St. John and St. Matthew. The Rabbula Gospels, a facsimile edition of the miniatures of the Syriac manuscript Plut. I, 56 in the Medicaean-Laurentian Library, Florence. 586 CE. Also below.

Rabbula gospel

Letter of Eusebius to Carpianus.  The Rabbula Gospels, a facsimile edition of the miniatures of the Syriac manuscript Plut. I, 56 in the Medicaean-Laurentian Library, Florence. 586 CE.

image of gold leaves

The Menologion of Basil II is an illuminated manuscript designed as a church calendar or Eastern Orthodox Church service book. Compiled ca. 1000 CE for the Byzantine Emperor Basil II (976–1025). Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Cod. Vat. gr. 1613).

Basil facsimile

The Menologion of Basil.  Facsimile reproduction of two miniatures by Symeon of Blachernae from Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Cod. Vat. Gr. 1613. 10th century.