It doesn’t take long studying manuscripts before you learn that straightforward categories like genre, language, and even script are not always uniform across an individual manuscript’s contents. And when we include in those contents the evidence of use, such as notes, by its handlers and readers, a manuscript may appear even more motley.
BL Add. 39602 is a late tenth-century Gospel lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 181) written in Cappadocia. (See Scrivener, Contributions to the Criticism of the Greek New Testament, pp. 50-52.) Here is the colophon:
Ἐγράφη τὸ τίμιον καὶ ἅγιον εὐαγγέλιον ἐπὶ Στεφάνου τοῦ θεοφίλου ἐπισκόπου Κισκίσσης· μηνὶ ιουνίῳ ἰνδικτιῶνος ηʹ ἔτους ϛυπη γραφὲν διὰ χειρὸς νικ. ϗ τ. (?)
This honored and holy Gospel-book was written for Stephanos the god-loving bishop of Kiskissa, in the month of June, in the 8th [year of the] indiction, in the year 6488 [anno mundi], by the hand of Nik. and …
This comes to the year 980. It was renewed in the next century, as a note on the following folio tells us. The original scribe named in the colophon could be Nikon, Nikolaos, or Nikētas. The manuscript eventually made its way to Mount Athos, the Monastery of Caracalla, whence Robert Curzon acquired it in 1837. (On this monastery and Curzon’s visit there, see his Visits to Monasteries in the Levant (1849), ch. 25, beg. p. 377.). It is probably there that some Georgian monk had written the word discussed below. (See the bibliography at the end of the post for just a few sources on Georgian connections to Mount Athos.)
On f. 1r (see the full page here), below the left column, which ends with John 1:7 in Greek, stands an abbreviated Georgian word.
The word is written small in nusxuri script ⴑⴞⴐⴁⴢ, with an abbreviation mark; in full it would be ⴑ(ⴀ)ⴞ(ⴀ)ⴐ(ⴄ)ⴁ(ⴀ)ⴢ, in mxredruli სახარებაჲ. It’s the common word for Gospel, derived from ხარება, “to rejoice, hear good news; tell, announce”. If there are other Georgian notes recorded in this manuscript, I’ve not found them yet. Who knows why we have the word written here? Anyone with even a smattering of Greek would be able to tell that this is a Gospel-book, so it is likely not just a mere identifying label for those more familiar with Georgian than Greek. It may be that a Georgian reader simply appreciated the connection made between himself and this book and realized that connection by penning the word “Gospel” in his own language onto the manuscript’s first page of text, where John’s Gospel begins. Whatever the reason the word appears, we have it as a reminder of the sometimes miscellaneous quality of what a manuscript may present to us as we study it, and a reminder of the various readers, like ourselves, that may have come across it.
(See also a few more sources listed here from the Library of Congress.)
Blake, R. P. (1929a). The Athos Codex of the Georgian Old Testament. The Harvard Theological Review, 22: 33–56.
Blake, R. P. (1929b). The Georgian Version of Fourth Esdras from the Athos Manuscript. The Harvard Theological Review, 22: 57–105.
Blake, R. P. (1931). Catalogue des manuscrits géorgiens de la bibliothèque de la Laure d’Iviron au Mont Athos. Revue de l’Orient Chrétien, 28: 289–361.
Blake, R. P. (1933). Catalogue des manuscrits géorgiens de la bibliothèque de la Laure d’Iviron au Mont Athos. Revue de l’Orient Chrétien, 29: 114–159, 225–271.
Brosset, M.-F. (1862). Explication de quelques inscriptions, photographiées par Sévastianof, au mont Athos. Bulletin de l’Académie Impériale Des Sciences de St. Pétersbourg, 4: 1–16. Available here.
Ebanoidze, M., & Wilkinson, J. (2001). Timothy Gabashvili. Pilgrimage to Mount Athos, Constantinople and Jerusalem, 1755-1759. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon.
Marr, N. Y. (1901). Агіографическіе матеріалы по грузинскимъ рукописямъ Ивера (Hagiographical Material from Georgian Mss on Mt. Athos, Iveron). St. Petersburg.