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Salvian, On the Government of God (1930) Preface to the online edition

Salvian of Marseilles wrote a number of works, many now lost.  The following survive: De gubernatione dei (On the government of God); Ad ecclesiam (To the church, on greed); and nine letters.

The translation following of On the Government of God was published in 1930.  A search of copyright records reveals that the copyright was not renewed after 28 years, and so the translation is in the public domain in the USA.

A public domain translation exists of Ad ecclesiam: "Quis diues saluus. = How a rich man may be saued. Written to the Catholike Church, by Saluianus priest, afterwards Bishop of Massilia in France, about the yeare of Christ 480. With annotations out of the Holy Fathers. Translated into English by N.T" -- translated by Joseph Creswell, printed at the English College Press at Saint-Omer in 1618.  A reprint was made in 1973, ISBN 0859671429, in the series "English recusant literature, 1558-1640 ; vol. 170".  However the text is incomplete, as the text to fill various lacunae, including a missing prologue, were only discovered in the 20th century.

No public domain translation of the letters seems to exist.

The most recent English translation, which includes all the works, was made by Jeremiah F. O'Sullivan, The writings of Salvian, the presbyter, in the Fathers of the Church series (vol. 3), and published by the Catholic University of America Press in 1947, reprint 1978 (ISBN 0813200032), and is available from

Manuscripts of De gubernatione dei

When Salvian wrote, his work was disseminated by hand-written copies; and further copies made from those copies, and so on, down the years.  The oldest copies available to us are three medieval copies-of-copies-of-copies.



Shelfmark & Notes

Date /

 A Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Français BNF lat. 13385.   This manuscript comes from the abbey of St. Peter at Corbie, in North France.  It is no doubt the copy which is listed in the catalogues of the 11th century.  During the wars of the 17th century, it was removed with other Corbie Mss. to the new headquarters of the Benedictine order, the abbey at Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. At the revolution their property was seized, and the manuscripts passed into the Bibliothèque Nationale.

The manuscript contains 69 folios of parchment, each 245 x 225 mm in size.  A much later paper leaf precedes these, indicating the author, the supposed title (De Prouidentia), the origin (Corbiensis monasterii), and the shelf mark (Sti Germani a Pratis, n. 776, olim 248).  The 69 leaves are in 9 quires of 8 leaves, so 3 folios are lacking -- one at the front and two at the end.  The text thus commences in the middle of the preface.  There are 23 lines per page.  There are two sets of corrections in the manuscript, of the same date as the script, both correcting the text against the original copy.

10th-11th century 
B Brussells, Bibliothèque Royale BR 10615-729 (for De gubernatione, code 10628).  The codex contains a great many other works, including poetry and works by Paulinus of Nola.

It is unclear where the codex was written.  L. Traube suggested the scriptorium of St.Eucher of Treves, but did not convince others.  It was discovered somewhere by Nicholas of Cues (Cusanus) in the 15th century, and all the renaissance copies were made directly or indirectly from it.  On Cusanus' death, his library went to a charitable foundation in his home town, Bernkastel-Kues, where it still is.  However B is found some time later in the hands of the Bollandists at Anvers, from whom it passed into the library of the Dukes of Bourgogne.  The French revolutionaries conquered Belgium, and B then briefly entered the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris; but it returned to Belgium in 1815, and entered the Royal library in Brussells where it still is.

The parchment leaves are 272 x 185 mm, and contain up to 70 lines.  The scribe appears to have tried to cram as much writing on the pages as possible, and for this reason some works in this codex have still not been edited scientifically.  The text of De gubernatione is found on ff. 22-35, and is thankfully clearly legible.  Two different hands have corrected the manuscript.  The incipit reads: In hoc codice continentur sancti Saluiani epi[scopi] libri numero octo dati ad sanctum Salonium episcopum.  De gubernatione dei.  Incipit liber primus sancto episcopo [salonio added in margin by corrector B2] Saluianus in domino episcopus salutem.  Omnes admodum... etc.  Then after the preface and before book 1 is a marker inviting us to look at the head of the page where it reads: De iusto dei p[rae]sentique iudicio incipiunt dialogi disputantis. (In Mss. A and C this text is at the end of the preface).

13th century?
C Troyes, Bibliothèque  municipale Bib.Mun. 895.  This manuscript was written at the abbey at Clairvaux: there are two ex libris (on folio 1v and 194v) of the 12th century (liber sante Marie Clareuallensis), and of the 14th century (liber sante Marie Clareuallis).  There are also some ancient shelfmarks of the abbey: B 43 (f. 1v, in a hand of the end of the 14th century), E 31 (f.1v, 15th century) and E 13 (f.1v, f.193v, and inside of the end-board).  This last reflects the catalogue of Pierre de Viery, made in 1472.  

The manuscript contains three independent parts, which were put together in one manuscript in the middle ages, and are of different page sizes.  The first (ff. 1-81, 220 x 132 mm, 10 quaternions and fol.81 in quires of 8, 29 lines per page) contains De gubernatione.  The second (ff. 82-121, 218x140mm, 27 lines per page) contains Epistula VII of Ferrandus of Carthage, Ad Reginum Comitem (PL 67, col. 928-950), followed by 6 unpublished verses attributed to the same author, and Vigilius of Thapsus, Dialogus contra Arianos (PL 62, col. 155-180), although the name of the author is not given in the manuscript.  The third part (ff. 122-194, 220 x 135/140mm, 8 quaternions and 1 quinion, of which the last leaf is missing, 27 lines per page) contains Victorinus of Pettau, Commentarii in Apocalypsim (recensio Hieronymi) (this is MS. 'C' in CSEL 49), and Angelome de Luxeuil, Ennarationes in Cantica Canticorum (PL 115, col. 551-628).

The manuscript of De gubernatione was made by a careful, skilled scribe, who avoided the crass errors of many medieval scribes.  Two contemporary corrector hands are visible, who use the original exemplar to make corrections.  The Incipit is the same as in B, (In hoc codice...Omnes admodum) except that prefatio replaces the mistaken liber primus in B.

12th century

B became known first; A is a better manuscript; C is of the same family as B, but not descended from it.  A common ancestor must have existed in late antiquity, from which two copies descended.  The first of these is the ancestor of A; the other of B and C.

A number of more recent manuscripts exist, all derived from B.



Shelfmark & Notes

Date /

 P Milan, Ambrosian Library Bibl. Ambros. D 35 sup. / R 7883.  Written on parchment.  Three initial leaves; 126 folios of 223 x 148 mm.  Folios 86-93 are blank.  Written in long lines, 34 lines per page.  Gold illuminated initials on ff. 2r and 96v.  A very recent hand has written the contents of the codex on the folio before the text: B. Saluiani|De uero iuditio et prudentia (sic) Dei | ex ipsius gubernatione Libri octo | Item | Cassiodorus quo ordine diuini libri | in sectionibus adhibendi sint libri duo.  Folio 1 contains the notice of Gennadius on Salvian, with the orthography Saluanus.  The text commences on the verso.  Salvian is on ff.1v-85v; 93v-126 contain Cassiodorus, Institutiones, liber I : diuinarum litterarum (PL 70, col. 1105-1150).

It belonged to Francesco Pizolpasso, Archbishop of Milan, who had met Cusanus at the Council of Basle in May 1432, and copied it from B.  He bequeathed it to the library of the Cathedral chapter.  In 1605 it was acquired by Cardinal Frederick Borromeo for the Ambrosian library.  

a Milan, Ambrosian Library Bibl. Ambr. P 18 sup. / R 7883.  Written on paper.  It contains on ff.41r-58v a portion of De gubernatione (preface, books 1-2, start of book 3).  It is a very faulty copy of P, with the orthography Saluanus in the incipit.  It was unfinished, as time was not taken to copy the rubrics. 15th
M Venice, Biblioteca Marciana Bibl. Marc. Mss. Latini Cl. 2 No 76 (provenienza: Zeno Apostolo 211; collocazione 2080); now Lat. II, 76.  Written on paper, on 156 folios.  Only contains our text. 15th
K Ferrara, Bibl. communale Ariostea Bibl. Com. Ariost. II 137.  334 folios, with De gubernatione on ff.211-290.  260 x 185 mm.   14-15th. Must be later than 1430.
F Florence, Bibliotheca Mediceo-Laurenziana Bibl. Laur. pluteus XXV, codex VII (Ms. L in Pauly's edition).  Parchment.  Quarto.  78 folios contain our text. 15th
W Vienna, Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek O.N. 826 Univ. 102.  Parchment.  130 folios, quarto size.  At the foot of fol. 1 are the arms of Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary.  Many annotations and corrections in the hand of the first editor of a printed text, J. Brassicanus, who clearly borrowed it to use for his edition. 15th
U Rome, Vatican, Bibliotheca apostolica Vaticana. Vaticanus Urbin. latinus 524.  Older shelfmarks 132 and (at Urbino) 94.  Parchment, very attractive copy.  Written at Florence, judging by the illuminations, which are like those in W.  It comprises 146 folios, 217 x 140 mm. 15th
V Rome, Vatican, Bibliotheca apostolica Vaticana. Vaticanus latinus 554.  Another art manuscriptm on parchment, one initial leaf, then 110 folios, 242 x 166 mm.  Lots of decoration.  On fol. 1 the arms of Cardinal Guillaume d'Estouteville (1439-1483). 15th
V' Rome, Vatican, Bibliotheca apostolica Vaticana. Vaticanus latinus 5034.  Parchment.  243 folios.  De gubernatione on ff. 1-103.  Followed by the sermons of Ephrem Syrus. 15th
T Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Français Bibl. Nat. lat. 2174.  Older shelfmarks: Colbert 3791; Reg. 41713.3.  The first part of the codex (ff.1-112, 253 x 178 mm) contains our text, with 24 lines to the page.  The bottom of f.109v and the remainder to 112v are blank.  The manuscript comes from the abbey of Santa Maria Bianca de Casoreto or Caserto, near Milan, according to an ex libris at the foot of fol. 1.  It belonged successively to A. de Thou, N. Colbert, and finally the royal library.  There follow some folios (113-115) containing the first fragment of Ms. C of the letters of Salvian, and finally a leaf containing a paper note by the editor, G. Halm. 15th
T' Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Français Bibl. Nat. lat. 2786.  Older shelfmarks: Colbert 5495; Regius 43336. Siglum t in Pauly's edition.  Parchment.  95 folios.  210 x 150 mm.  The first two leaves contain bibliographical notes about Salvian, written in the 17th century.  Ff.3-95 contain De gubernatione.  Pauly considered that the decoration etc may indicate a connection with Matthias Corvinus. Second half of the 15th century.
Lost - was Turin, Biblioteca royale Bib. roy. Athenaei 678 (d. I. 48).  Now lost.  Listed in Pasini's catalogue of 1749.  Humanist correspondence of the 15th century cites the incipits, which permits us to consider it a child of B. 15th
Lost - was Murano, Bibl. S. Michel. Bib. S. Michel 807 (m).  Now lost.  Listed in Mittarelli's catalogue of 1779.  Likewise a child of B, judging from humanist references. 15th
Berne, Bibl. mun. Bibl. mun. 109.  On fol. 136r are two short quotations from De gubernatione.  The manuscript starts with Priscian, Ars Grammatica; then there are pages full of quotations.  The quotes are not useful for the history of the text, being too short. 10th

All the recentiores are descended from P, itself copied from B.  M, K, F and V and a are direct copies of P; U and W are copied from F (the Florence group); V' is copied from V, T from V', T' from T.

The first printed edition appeared at Basle from Froben in 1530, edited by J. A. Brassicanus, using W as his source.  Unfortunately some of the pasges in books VII and VIII were in a strange order.  This was fixed in the 1564 edition by P. Galesini, who otherwise copied Brassicanus.  The first edition of all the works of Salvian appeared in Paris in 1580, edited by Pierre Pithou, who used T and T' to correct the text of Brassicanus.  Many reprints then occurred, among them that of Conrad Rittershausen (Altdorf, 1611), with an abundant commentary.  Etienne Baluze did an edition in Paris in 1663, in which he made use of A, and based his edition on it, comparing it against the text of Pithou.  A second edition with further notes appeared in 1669; a definitive third edition, often reprinted, in 1684.  The Patrologia Latina text (Migne, t. 53, col. 26-158, Paris, 1865) is a reprint of Baluze's 3rd edition.  G. Halm for the MGH (Berlin 1877) collated A and T, with a collation of B; F. Pauly, in the CSEL 8 edition (Vienna, 1883) recollated A, T, T', W, and made some use of B.


Georges LAGARRIGUE, Salvien de Marseille: Oeuvres. t. 2. Du gouvernement de Dieu.  Sources Chrétiennes 220.  Paris (1975).  t.1 of Salvian is SC 176.  This is the source for the manuscript information above. 

Roger Pearse
8th August, 2005

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This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2005. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.

Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.

Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts