The palimpsest codex, about which I spoke in the preface to the Fragment of the Gospel of S. Luke, I have read entirely, hardly any excepted, and I have found fragments of two works, which, as far as I know, are unedited, the first, which is by far the greatest part of the codex, [is unedited] in the Latin version, but the second, I believe, entirely. Forty folios include a little more than the fourth part of Little Genesis or the Book of Jubilees, but an eigth part of the Assumption of Moses, all from the old Latin version. From each book and from each codex there are a few.
I have read nearly the entire palimpsest codex, and I had discovered what it includes of those [texts] of the ancients which are included in Frabricius, Cod. Pseud. V. Test., Edit. II. T. I, p. 839-47, 849-64, when I happened on a note of a Book of Jubilees edited by Dillmann a year later, which I hardly doubt was the same as the Little Genesis. When on the occasion of my travelling to Paris I asked H. Zotenberg, to whom Reinaud, the President etc. of the Parisian Asiatic Society, referred me as one most expert in these things, he most humanely resolved my doubts and made certain from the German version edited long ago from [begin column 9b] Ethiopic by the same Dillmann in Jahrbuccher der BW., edited by Ewald, Jahrb. II, III. I compared each work, and from the inspection of them I was more moved to publish the Latin version of Little Genesis also. For although it is incredibly mutilated, nevertheless I have discovered that they convey many things in the cruxes of the text of our book. For my part I am not one who judges the goodness of a codex by its age, but of course whatever is part of a book from a codex of the fifth century, the edition of which has been made from much more recent apographs, the condition of which is a little corrupt, as the editor himself admits in the preface to the Ethiopic edition, and this so much more so if this part has another origin [this sentence lacks a verb in the original]. What is more, our version, as is plain to anyone who barely glances at it, is so strict to the Hebrew archetype against the very laws of the Latin language that it must be considered the most faithful witness to the Hebrew archetype. Nevertheless I do not intend to affirm whether it derived immediately from the Hebrew, because it can be shown by us that men who knew nothing of Hebrew repeated from a Greek version copied slavishly from the Hebrew, as has obviously been done in the old versions of the Latin Psalms from the Septuagent. Careful examination of the book undertaken for this purpose shows perhaps expressions and [begin column 10a] sphalmata recurring from the Greek text. Finally, I hope that our version will add something for the interpretation itself of the Ethiopic text; how great an addition it will be, Dillmann himself will judge, or whoever will labor on a new version of it. But whatever all these things are, the learned, I trust, will not call an unpleasing gift an edition of fragments of an old Latin version of a hitherto unknown and most curious work, which the Greeks very much seized upon, the Latins knew, and which seems to have had some use among the Hebrews themselves. Those who pay attention to old Latin orthography have a good document in our parchments. But I do not have time to inquire carefully into all these things, and I think I preferably leave them to others, so that I can do my best with the unedited or poorly edited works of the Ambrosiana codexes.
Nor will I mention at all things which the ancients preserve from our book; let him who wishes consult Fabricius in the place cited, and Dillman at the end of the German version, who has commented many things about this book, and the authors who cite the same thing in the preface to the Ethiopic edition, p. X. Nevertheless, I will note that Eusebius in the Chronicon, ed. Mai, S.V.N.C., VIII p. 281 ff. often states “jubilees according to the Hebrews, after the tradition of the Jews” and similar things, but which consist in fifty years, although in ours they number 49. Where he draws this from, and what possible relation they have with our text, I have not investigated. Addam also finds a passage of a Decretum of Gelasius, which Fabricius thus cites (loc. cit., p. 864): “The book which is called About the Daughters of Adam or Geneseos.” This title occurs in other collections of the Councils; I believe that it is written more fully and more correctly in the old codexes in Mansi, Conciliorum Collectio, vol. VIII, col. 167-8, [begin column 10b] in which after “The book of the Daughters of Adam”one adds “Licto Ageneseos”, another “Lectum Geneseos apg. [apographon?=copy],” another “That is Leptogenesis, apocryphon”, another, however, gives this whole passage “The book which is called Lepto Geneseos of Adam”. From these it appears that our book is truly the same with that one, and only the Greek title was very corruptly written in many places, especially if you say that the title of two works combined in those codexes, which nevertheless I don't believe. For even the title About the Daughters of Adam is perhaps able to be put on our book, as others among the Ethiopians do, who indeed are more correct. For a speech exactly about the daughters of Adam occurs in the book, although Genesis includes no specific mention of them.
A part of the Assumption of Moses follows continuously from Parva Genesis, as is evident from the identical script and from the number of quires (which I will indicate in the notes) following immediately from these of the latter book. This text, I believe, is entirely unedited, if in fact it is entirely other than the book Petirat Mosceh, about which you have some things in Fabricius, loc. cit., and especially Edward Bernhard in Josephi Hebrei antiquitates Iudeorum, book 4, the last chapter, which are also available in the edition of Havercampus. It happens that I have not read the Hebrew book. But even if it were the same as our Assumptio, no one, I hope, will condemn fragments of a very ancient Latin version. Read the same Fabricius, loc. cit. for others things which the ancients took from this book. From it I point out a passage in Acta concilii Niceani (which is transmitted in the first folio of our codex). Compare with it, and it is testified about the authenticity of the Assumption of Moses in our parchments. This is the passage: [there follows a Greek passage which runs from 10b-11a].
This book equally, which had a stichos of 1100 or 1400 (cf. Fabricius, loc. cit. p. 840, Crit. Sacr. ed. Amstel, vol. 8, p. iii col. 7), has been mutilated in our parchments, and covers only eight folios. Nor in fact am I certain, whether all of that pertains to it. Probably the fourth folio is a continuation of the third from the context, and I add the fifth to it, although a lacuna is in between, since the related material is continued, but let others judge otherwise, it is OK with me. I seem in my opinion to have put the other folios in order correctly from the bond by which the one is joined to the other.
I don't have anything by which I can determine in which tongue this book was first written down. The Latin seems from many passages to have been derived from Greek, either the archetype or a translation. A passage of the letter of Evodius to St. Augustine in Fabricius, loc. cit. p. 845, in which the Assumption of Moses is alluded to, perhaps supports this, after comparing them to the things which preceed on pages 842-3 from Clement of Alexandria. Finally whether our book exists in that treasure of Ethiopic apocrypha, I don't know. But look at what H. Zotenberg replied to me, who pays much attention to Ethiopic litterature and briefly turned his attention to these documents: “Among the new apocryphal books which you cite in your letter, there are only two which are not found also in the Ethiopic canon. These are the Assumption of Moses and the Book of the Revelations of Baruch. Perhaps they exist also.”
Now some things about the Codex. It was once in the library of the monks of Bodio, as I said in the Preface to the Fragments of St. Luke, p. 1 (compare this passage with a work of Amedeus Peyron [begin column 11b] reported at the same place). But let readers note that a part of the excerpts of Eugyppius from St. Augustine has a second copy, so that they who have been scattered into other libraries (the Vatican of course, Turin, perhaps others as well) may ask if anything else of our works is found in any copy which exists from part of the same codex at Bobio.
The palimpsest manuscript has two columns and margins of the parchment are so wide that nothing has been destroyed in the new use. Hardly one or the other folio is attached to another by a natural bond, and nearly the whole codex consists of individual folios mixed up and confused in every way, as appears from the number which they bear for the overlaid writing and which I have placed at the beginning of every page of the codex. For I preserved the lines themselves from the codex, but have joined the two columns in one and note with a and b where each begins. Therefore the 48 pages of the edition show the 96 pages of the codex. I have arranged them in the Little Genesis as the Ethiopic version showed, but in the Assumption of Moses from the connection of things. The number, expressed in Roman numerals in the margion of the edition of the first work reflects the chapters stated by Dillmann in the Ethiopic and German versions of the same work. Each page is nearly 29 centimeters high and nearly 24 wide. The columns are nearly 21 high, except that the numbers are outside of the lines, and they are a little more than 8 wide, 19 total width including the interior margin, but in each column the initial letters are written in front by the space of nearly half the letter, and often at the end of a line the scribe marches past a little, almost always with small letters. There are 24 lines in each column unless—this is rare—one line or words are added below. I have given all these things exactly as the exist in the codex. The initial letters, which also occur sometimes in ruling, [begin column 12a] are a little larger than the others. I have given them where I have found them. Punctuation, which is at the top of the letter, is very rare. Where I have seen it, I have marked it down, but the condition of the palimpsest parchments does not permit that it should be harvested everywhere. I touch on abbreviations and other minor things before the notes, since I will be able to speak more fully after a new treatment in the course of the edition itself. Peyron assigns the first hand to the fifth century (loc. cit. p. 131); who would oppose such a judge? Given an opportunity, perhaps I will offer a specimen.
The codex does not commend itself by great amendment, especially in the Assumption of Moses. For excepting the things which must be repeated from the tenacious translation of the words and also sin amazingly against grammar, there are many things which can only be attributed to the sleepiness of the copyist. No one corrected the sphalmata of an earlier kind, since they repeat the original translation, nor is it fitting for us to be remakers of the translation, but editors. Of the other things, a lot of them, since they concern the Latin structure, anyone will easily correct by himself, and better than me, since these things are hammered out by learned men; many things are only able to be emended from another codex, or in the Little Genesis, by the help of the Ethiopic text, of which someone will acquire at least the German version in the help of our version and therefore is able to do it by himself. For I shudder away from conjectures which, even if many, do not make the text whole, but obtrude the comments of the editor himself. I have judged this only to belong to my office: to show the codex as faithfully as I am able from repeated inspection of the parchments. What I was not able to represent in the edition itself, I have mentioned in the notes.
It is not necessary that I speak about my own experiences in reading the codex. Part of the codex is easy, part is difficult, here and there very difficult or [begin column 12b] even such as I am not able to read and have indicated with points (periods). I have taken up the Ethiopic text and its translation after reading the entire codex, if you except five or six pages in all, adding up even the least lacuna; from these aids I discovered a few other readings, taking care nevertheless not to persuade myself to read from those which I do not truly find in the codex. Perhaps it will happen that the very few remaining gaps will make sense in a new investigation of the codex and by a mind renewed from tediousness of this kind of thing and made more active. Furthermore, if anyone wants to inspect the parchments and attempt a reading, it is fine by me. Let him know, however, that they may not be tested with any new chemical help. For I know how incautiously some try this, when they are able to read by this method, or think they can, or care nothing about destroying parchments which aren't their own, removing documents from posterity which, with two inventions of the science of chemistry, they read safely or at least subject to new studies. whatever is able to be done with the parchments remaining safe, for instance done by my friend D. Antonio Ponzio, who is assigned to the Milanese Diplomatic Archives, who has very diligently cultivated the art of aids for reading vanishing letters and palimpsest codexes. Readers owe many pages of our codex to him, and I give him the greatest thanks for the substance and for the readiness with which, his own convenience set aside, he often came to the library at hours which were most convenient for me, to offer his aid.
Finally, those who have discussed the palimpsest codex who are known to me are Card. Mai, I believe, and Peyron. I don't know of anyone earlier. I claim from a kind of chemical help applied to nearly half of the parchments that the former (Card. Mai), when he was assigned to the library, tried this codex and other palimpsests which exist in the library; [begin column 13a] I don't know whether he transcribed anything. It is certain that he did not read the whole codex because many pages which had not been tested were entirely unable to be read without chemical aid. As for Peyron, see loc. cit. where he gives two specimens of our works. He chose from Little Genesis (pg. 79), and from Assumption of Moses (a part of page 86). He classifies the latter with the Apocrypha, the former with Italian antiquity, having been pursuaded by the fact that page 79 [begin column 13b] agrees with the sacred text with hardly a phrase omitted. But since this fragment exists in a work from which no-one expected such things, therefore I think that he evaded the learned men whom I read treating the Book of Jubilees, and Dillmann himself, by a curious chance, since Peyron's book was published in 1824 at Stuttgart and Tübingen, while the Ethiopic version first became known in the latter city though H. Ewald and afterwards was translated by Dillman.