European studies blog

07 February 2017

“Ex musaeo” on a Latin title page = “from the library of” or “edited by”?

On a Latin title page the author and title are only a small element: early printers just had to tell you where an author came from, his offices and distinctions (very important in an age of hierarchy) and the grandee to whom he dedicated his work (often in hope of patronage).

A phrase which turns up from time to time and which had puzzled me is: “ex musaeo”. Now, “museum” could mean “library”, and I often assumed that this meant that the edition had been prepared from a copy (presumably manuscript) “in the possession of” a certain party.

This seems to have be in the mind of the British Museum Library cataloguer who produced this record:

Musaeo Catalogue entry

Museo Maiansius 92.c.26

And of course there are examples when “ex musaeo” does clearly mean this. Take a look at the plate between columns 1011 and 1012 of Fortunius Licetus, De Lucernis Antiquorum reconditis libb. sex …. (Oldenburg, 1652; 810.l.18.): ‘Ex Musaeo Cl. V. Joan. Galvani. J. C. Pat.’

Museo plate

Proof positive that this means “in the possession of” is given in the text: “Inter alia quamplura cimelia Ioannes Galuanus Pt. I. C. in suo Gazophilacio pulcherrimam habet ... imaginem” [Among many other treasures Ioannes Galuanus has this most beautiful statue in his gallery]

In a textual context, “e museo” (note the variant “ex Museio”) does indeed mean “from the collection of”, as in the case of: J. Scaligeri ... Poemata omnia, ex Museio P. Schriverii. ([Leyden], 1615; 1213.b.6.). Schriverius writes (p. 12): “Quare cùm intellexissent quidam docti et venusti homines servari inscriniis meis integriora et auctiora Scaligeri poëmata ...”[When certain learned and distinguished men discovered that better and fuller poems of Scaliger were held on my shelves ...]

But I think it’s just as likely (if not more so) that “ex musaeo” indicates the labours of the editor.

These all have prologues by the editors which make no mention of where their copy-texts were to be found.

Museo Petronius 1489.a.26

Petronius, Satyricon. Extrema editio ex musæo ... J. A. Gonsali de Salas. (Frankfiort, 1629) 1489.a.26.

González de Salas says the text is “seriò castigatum, et nonnullis locis auctum, partim ex ingenio, partim ex Lutetianâ editione ann. 1595” [seriously corrected, and in a number of places increased, partly out of [my own] invention, partly from the Paris edition of 1595].

Guilielmi Postelli De republica seu magistratibus Atheniensium liber. Ex Musaeo Joan. Balesdeni, In Principe Senatu Advocati. Accessit A. Thysii Discursus politicus de eadem materia, et Collatio Atticarum et Romanarum legum. (Leyden, 1645). 9025.a.14.

Apuleius Madaurensis Platonicus serio castigatus. Ex musæo Pet. Scriverii. (Amsterdam , 1624) 1079.a.5.

Thesaurus novus Theologico-Philologicus, sive Sylloge Dissertationum Exegeticarum ad selectiora atque insigniora Veteris et Novi Instrumenti loca; a Theologis Protestantibus maximum partem in Germania diversis temporibus separatim editarum, nunc vero secundum seriem librorum, capitum et commatum digestarum, junctimque recusarum, additis indicibus ... ex Musæo T. Hasæi et C. Ikenii. Lugduni Batavorum ; Amstelodami, 1732. 5.g.7,8.

So, although unrecorded, I deduce “museum” here draws on a particular use of “Musae” to mean “sciences, studies” (Lewis and Short, citing Cicero no less).

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies


D. J. Shaw, “‘Ars formularia’: Neo-Latin Synonyms for Printing”, The Library, 6th series, 11:3 (1989) 220-30.

Silvia Rizzo, Il lessico filologico degli umanisti. (Rome, 1973). X.900/14989.