A (slightly) hidden scribal name   3 comments

One of the unendingly amusing parts of colophons (at least those composed by Christians) are the almost grandiloquent means with which scribes tout their now trumpeted humility: gloomy and unfavorable adjective piled upon gloomy and unfavorable adjective, lexical competition with other monastic scribes to find the most picturesque expression for assumed wickedness, &c. A nearly ubiquitous topos goes something like, “…written by the hands of the lowliest of God’s servants, whose name is not worthy to be mentioned…” The scribe nevertheless in most cases goes on to mention his name “on account of the prayers of the brothers”, that is, so that his fellow monk-readers will be able to pray for him (and his family) by name. The scribe of Church of the Forty Martyrs (Mardin) no. 496 (olim Dayr Al-Zaʿfarān 142), an 18th century copy of Bar ʿEbrāyā’s grammatical work called The Book of Splendors (Ktābā d-ṣemḥē), was rather more inventive. In the course of the colophon, written in the dodecasyllabic meter of Jacob of Sarug and with almost every line concluding with the Syriac adverbial ending -āʾit, he says (text in the image below),

If you want to know my name, our brother, read and observe in enlightenment with your great intelligence: Pray to the Lord to grant sincerely in his mercy a good reward to the one who prays lovingly, on whom may the Lord’s mercy be continually.

CFMM 496, p 450

It doesn’t take “great intelligence” to note the rubricated letters in the scribe’s request for prayer. Taking these together, we have the name Ṣlibā, several other examples of which can be found in Wright’s “General Index” to his catalog of the Syriac manuscripts then at the British Museum (p. 1319). While we know no more of his name than Ṣlibā, and that he copied the book in 2026 AG,* we will probably not be mistaken to imagine his having smiled at this playful finishing of his work.

* Also given are 1717 AD and 1127 AH, but these don’t match the AG year exactly.

About these ads

3 responses to “A (slightly) hidden scribal name

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. ha! wonderful. this copyist also attempted to be cryptic (and perhaps clever) with his name http://bit.ly/Hz1sPE ;)

    • Thanks, Evyn! I find things like this to be good reminders of the real-lifeness of those whose work we study day after day: there are always people behind the texts.

      • so true, Adam! and for me these actors are essentially what makes the work so compelling. enjoy your work today!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 184 other followers

%d bloggers like this: