An examination note in French   1 comment

Sometimes the extra bits in a manuscript—such as colophons, marginal notes, ownership notes, etc.—are as interesting, or even more interesting than the distinct text(s) the manuscript contains. While studying manuscripts from Dayr al-Za`farān, the Monastery of Mor Gabriel, the Church of the Forty Martyrs, and elsewhere over the past year and a half, I have especially become enamored of colophons and I have collected several hundred lines of interest for various reasons, not least of which is the multitudinous ways in which scribes might underscore their worthlessness! In notes of various kinds scattered about a manuscript we sometimes run across names we know well.

Here, from the Monastery of Mor Gabriel, is an examination note (in French, not Arabic or Garšūnī!) from a young Afram Barsoum, author of a number of books still used by Syriac scholars[1] and who would later on (1933) become Syriac Orthodox Patriarch.

Mor Gabriel ms 177, p. 819

At the time of this note in Oct 1909, Barsoum, born in 1887, had been a priest about one year, and had been a monk at Dayr al-Za`farān about two years.[2] This thick 18th century manuscript contains part of Bar Bahlul’s Lexicon and Bar `Ebrāyā’s Ktābā d-ṣemḥē.

(These examination notes in the manuscripts I have read are usually Arabic or Garšūnī, with the main verb being naẓartu, but laḥaẓtu also occurs, as in Church of the Forty Martyrs ms 104.)

Notes such as this one, and even more so the lengthier colophons, give us an often unique snapshot of specific people, times, and places, and so they deserve attention alongside the texts they accompany.

[1] Notably his اللؤلؤ المنثور, English’d by Matti Moosa and published by Gorgias Press as The Scattered Pearls: A History of Syriac Literature and Sciences (2004). His History of the Za`faran Monastery and History of Tur Abdin are also very useful.

[2] See further the entry by G. Kiraz on Barsoum in the recently published The Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage, ed. S. Brock, A. Butts, G. Kiraz, and L. Van Rompay.

One response to “An examination note in French

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  1. Nice post. I enjoy the little snippets that we can read quickly. The design of the blog looks good, too. Perhaps “colophons” can become your new area of research!

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