The Mappae clavicula is a medieval Latin text, a compilation containing manufacturing recipes for a number of crafts materials, including for metalwork, dyeing and mosaic, and paints and colorations. It consists of about 200 recipes altogether, each presented tersely. Most of the Mappae Clavicula text is also in a medieval Latin text called the Compositiones ad Tingenda (English: "Recipes for Coloring (or tingeing)"). The core was probably originally compiled around AD 600, perhaps in Alexandria. The core contains items traceable to earlier Alexandrian Greek texts, particularly the Stockholm papyrus and Leiden Papyrus X, which are Greek texts dated 2nd or 3rd century AD that contain some of the same and similar recipes. The first few recipes in the Phillips-Corning MS of the Mappae clavicula were long considered integral, but they form a distinct separate entity, the De coloribus et mixtionibus, which survives (in whole or in part) in at least 62 manuscripts. The core of the Latin Mappae clavicula is very likely a translation of a Greek text, although the original Greek text (if it existed) does not exist today.
The principal manuscripts are:
- The Lucca MS, Lucca, Biblioteca Capitolare Feliniana, Codex 490, the oldest witness, c.800.
- The Sélestat MS, Sélestat, Bibliothèque Humaniste, MS 17. A very full yet old witness, early ninth century.
- The Codex Matritensis ('Madrid codex'), Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS A.16 (Was: MS A.19), c.1130.
- The Phillipps-Corning Manuscript, Corning Museum of Glass, MS 5, late twelfth century, perhaps the fullest collection. (available online in full text)
The title, Mappae clavicula, is absurd, translating approximately as 'the little key to the small cloth'. The best explanation is that it is a mis-translation from a Greek original, in which χειρόκμητον kheirókmēton ('knack' or 'trick of the trade') was mis-read as χειρόμακτρον kheirómaktron ('hand-towel'). This is consistent with the observation that certain recipes derive from the Greek technical papyri, the Leyden papyrus X and the Stockholm papyrus.
Published Latin Edition
Sir Thomas Phillipps, "A transcript of a manuscript treatise on the preparation of pigments, and on various processes of the decorative arts practised during the Middle Ages, written in the twelfth century, and entitled Mappae Clavicula." Published in journal Archaeologia, volume XXXII, pages 183–244, year 1847. Downloadable at Archive.org.
Smith, C. S. and J. G. Hawthorne (1974) ‘Mappae Clavicula: A Little Key to the World of Medieval Techniques’, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society: Held at Philadelphia for promoting useful knowledge (new series) 64 (4) [occupies whole issue].
- "Notes on Some Manuscripts of the Mappae Clavicula", by Rozelle P. Johnson, year 1935. A Review of Compositiones variae from Codex 490, Biblioteca Capitolare, by Lynn White, year 1940. Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture, by William Eamon, year 1996, pages 32-36.
- Clarke, M. (2001) The Art of All Colours: Mediaeval Recipe Books for Painters and Illuminators. London: Archetype Publications.
- Clarke 2001 op. cit.
- Smith, C. S. and J. G. Hawthorne (1974) ‘Mappae Clavicula: A Little Key to the World of Medieval Techniques’, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society: Held at Philadelphia for promoting useful knowledge (new series) 64 (4) [occupies whole issue].
- Clarke 2001 op. cit.
- Robert Halleux, 'Recettes d'artisan, recettes d'alchimiste', in: R. Jansen-Sieben (ed.) Artes mechanicae, Archives et bibliothèques de Belgique, no. spécial 34 (Brussels, 1989), p. 28