Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Jean-Baptiste Piggin - The Great Stemma: a Late Antique diagram of Christ's descent from Adam


The annotated diagram which spans eight folios of Florence Laurenziana Plutei 20.54, ff 38r-45v is demonstrably Late Antique in origin. This little-studied Latin work, partly published by Wilhelm Neuss and Bonifatius Fischer, presents a genealogy from Adam to Christ. It is also found in a cluster of Spanish bibles and the Apocalypse commentary of Beatus of Liébana. The anonymous author worked entirely from the Vetus Latina rather than from Jerome's Vulgate. We can study how a Late Antique author used complex graphics in place of prose to include a non-canonical figure, Joachim, as father of the Virgin within the genealogy of Christ. He structured the diagram around a timeline based on Eusebius's Chronological Canons. The paper will present a reconstruction of the diagram's archetype, arguing that it was originally a chart displaying synchronisms between scripture and history. It suggests that information graphics were a tool in early Christian literature.

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