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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Photostatic Facsimiles of Medieval Manuscripts: Home

A guide to the Avianus, Jerome, and Mappae Clavicula manuscript facsimiles in the Literature and Library collection.


William Abbott Oldfather, a founding member of the UIUC Department of Classical Studies and a scholar of Latin, compiled a list of manuscript and incunabulae of the Ysopet-Avionnett tradition in order to reference them in his 1919 Critical Edition of the text. He then requested that the UIUC Library order photostatic facsimiles of these manuscripts, which the Library still has to this day in the Main Stacks. He furthermore compiled a critical edition of the manuscripts of St. Jerome's hagiographies in 1943, and supported the study of manuscripts of the Mappae Clavicula.

This guide provides a list of manuscripts of Avianus, Jerome, and the Mappae Clavicula organized by country and city of holding library, gives background on the now-obsolete but once transformative photostat technology, and contains a small collection of facsimiles that have been digitized and can be accessed by the general public for free.

About Oldfather

From Ysopet-Avionnett: 

"The text here published consists of a collection of Aesopic fables in Latin verse, accompanied by a fourteenth century French translation..."

A Biography of William Abbot Oldfather​​​​​​

Biography of Professor William Abbot Oldfather from the University of Illinois archives. 

New Manuscript Material for the Study of Avianus (1911)

Primary text written by Oldfather about photostat Avianus manuscripts. 

Bibliographical Notes on the Fables of Avianus 

Oldfather's notes on Léopold Hervieux's Les Fabulistes Latins (1893), which contained an extensive bibliographic record of Avianus's works. He was impressed by this record, but asserts that it's imperfections reveal that classicists have work to do before Avianus bibliographies can be considered complete.


Oldfather's 1919 critical edition on Aesopic fables in latin verse, translated to fourteenth-century Old French. Many of the manuscripts mentioned in this text are those that are listed in his 1914-1920 list (see 'Avianus manuscripts' page). Available on open internet archive.


Avianus and French Fables Background

Who was Avianus?

Avianus was a latin writer of fables. Some of his critics believe he was writing in the age of the Antonines (~138-180 CE), others believe he was writing as late as the 6th century AD. There are 42 fables that he is credited to have written, dedicated to someone called Theodosius. His fables became a popular school book that were widely read and distributed in medieval Europe. All of Oldfather's photostatic manuscripts are from cities throughout Europe, and contain different versions of the fables.

Source: Encyclopedia Brittanica

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 

Background on Medieval Fables and Bestiaries

The following resources are helpful background resources about the cultures and time periods within which these fable manuscripts were originally created. 

Moralized Beasts: The Development of Medieval Fable and Bestiary (Arnold Clay Henderson) 

  • An examination of medieval versions of classical bestiaries (animal fables)

The History of French Fable Manuscripts (George C. Keidel)

  • Background information on fables translated into the Northern French vernacular during the middle ages. Provides a list of extant manuscripts written in this dialect and their locations. 

Producing, Distributing, and Using Manuscripts For Teaching Purposes in the Late Middle Ages (Michael Baldzuhn)

  • This essay "provides a short survey of the production and distribution of manuscripts for academic purposes at European Universities in the late middle ages." May be helpful in understanding the context through which many of Oldfather's collection of French Avianus was created and distributed.

Classics Library Collection

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Classics Library Collection at the Literatures & Languages Library
225 Main Library
1408 W. Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL 61801
(217) 333-2220
Subjects: Classics, Philosophy


The Literatures and Languages Library is grateful to Kalyn Nowlan and Benjamin Eskin Shapson for their help in researching the material presented here and in creating the guide as part of their practicum work in fall 2022 and spring 2023.