Archive for the ‘Manuscript decoration’ Category

Rabbula Gospels online!   Leave a comment

I learned earlier this week from a tweet by Matthew Crawford (@mattrcrawford) that the Rabbula Gospels are freely available to view online in fairly high-quality images. This sixth-century manuscript (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 1.56) is famous especially for its artwork at the beginning of the codex before, surrounding, and following the Eusebian canon tables, including both figures from biblical history and animals: prophets, Mary, Jesus, scenes from the Gospels (Judas is hanging from a tree on f. 12r), the evangelists, birds, deer, rabbits, &c. Beginning on f. 13r, the folios are strictly pictures, the canon tables having been completed. These paintings are very pleasing, but lovers of Syriac script have plenty to feast on, too. The main text itself is written in large Estrangela, with the colophon (f. 291v-292v) also in Estrangela but mostly of a much smaller size. Small notes about particular lections are often in small Serto. The manuscript also has several notes in Syriac, Arabic, and Garšūnī in various hands (see articles by Borbone and Mengozzi in the bibliography below). From f. 15v to f. 19r is an index lectionum in East Syriac script. The Gospel text itself begins on f. 20r with Mt 1:23 (that is, the very beginning of the Gospel is missing).

The images are found here. (The viewer is identical to the one that archive.org uses.)

Rabbula Gospels, f. 231r, from the story of Jesus' turning the water into wine, Jn 2.

Rabbula Gospels, f. 231r, from the story of Jesus’ turning the water into wine, Jn 2.

Rabbula Gospels, f. 5r. The servants filling the jugs with the water that will become wine.

Rabbula Gospels, f. 5r. The servants filling the jugs with the water that will become wine.

For those interested in studying this important manuscript beyond examining these now accessible images, here are a few resources:

Bernabò, Massimò, ed. Il Tetravangelo di Rabbula: Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 1.56. L’illustrazione del Nuovo Testamento nella Siria del VI secolo. Folia picta 1. Rome, 2008. A review here.

Bernabò, Massimò, “Miniature e decorazione,” pp. 79-112 in Il Tetravangelo di Rabbula.

Bernabò, Massimò, “The Miniatures in the Rabbula Gospels: Postscripta to a Recent Book,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 68 (2014): 343-358. Available here.

Borbone, Pier Giorgio, “Codicologia, paleografia, aspetti storici,” pp. 23-58 in Il Tetravangelo di Rabbula. Available here.

Borbone, Pier Giorgio, “Il Codice di Rabbula e i suoi compagni. Su alcuni manoscritti siriaci della Biblioteca medicea laurenziana (Mss. Pluteo 1.12; Pluteo 1.40; Pluteo 1.58),” Egitto e Vicino Oriente 32 (2009): 245-253. Available here.

Borbone, Pier Giorgio, “L’itinéraire du “Codex de Rabbula” selon ses notes marginales,” pp. 169-180 in F. Briquel-Chatonnet and M. Debié, eds., Sur les pas des Araméens chrétiens. Mélanges offerts à Alain Desreumaux. Paris, 2010. Available here.

Botte, Bernard, “Note sur l’Évangéliaire de Rabbula,” Revue des sciences religieuses 36 (1962): 13-26.

Cecchelli, Carlo, Giuseppe Furlani, and Mario Salmi, eds. The Rabbula Gospels: Facsimile Edition of the Miniatures of the Syriac Manuscript Plut. I, 56 in the Medicaean-Laurentian Library. Monumenta occidentis 1. Olten and Lausanne, 1959.

Leroy, Jules, “L’auteur des miniatures du manuscrit syriaque de Florence, Plut. I, 56, Codex Rabulensis,” Comptes-rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, Paris 98 (1954): 278-283.

Leroy, Jules, Les manuscrits syriaques à peintures, conservés dans les bibliothèques d’Europe et d’Orient. Contribution à l’étude de l’iconographie des églises de langue syriaque. Paris, 1964.

Macchiarella, Gianclaudio, “Ricerche sulla miniatura siriaca del VI sec. 1. Il codice. c.d. di Rabula,” Commentari NS 22 (1971): 107-123.

Mango, Marlia Mundell, “Where Was Beth Zagba?,” Harvard Ukrainian Studies 7 (1983): 405-430.

Mango, Marlia Mundell, “The Rabbula Gospels and Other Manuscripts Produced in the Late Antique Levant,” pp. 113-126 in Il Tetravangelo di Rabbula.

Mengozzi, Alessandro, “Le annotazioni in lingua araba sul codice di Rabbula,” pp. 59-66 in Il Tetravangelo di Rabbula.

Mengozzi, Alessandro, “The History of Garshuni as a Writing System: Evidence from the Rabbula Codex,” pp. 297-304 in F. M. Fales & G. F. Grassi, eds., CAMSEMUD 2007. Proceedings of the 13th Italian Meeting of Afro-Asiatic Linguistics, held in Udine, May 21st-24th, 2007. Padua, 2010.Available here.

Paykova, Aza Vladimirovna, “Четвероевангелие Раввулы (VI в.) как источник по истории раннехристианского искусства,” (The Rabbula Gospels (6th cent.) as a Source for the History of Early Christian Art) Палестинский сборник 29 [92] (1987): 118-127.

Rouwhorst, Gerard A.M., “The Liturgical Background of the Crucifixion and Resurrection Scene of the Syriac Gospel Codex of Rabbula: An Example of the Relatedness between Liturgy and Iconography,” pp. 225-238 in Steven Hawkes-Teeples, Bert Groen, and Stefanos Alexopoulos, eds., Studies on the Liturgies of the Christian East: Selected Papers of the Third International Congress of the Society of Oriental Liturgy Volos, May 26-30, 2010. Eastern Christian Studies 18. Leuven / Paris / Walpole, MA, 2013.

Sörries, Reiner, Christlich-antike Buchmalerei im Überblick. Wiesbaden, 1993.

van Rompay, Lucas, “‘Une faucille volante’: la représentation du prophète Zacharie dans le codex de Rabbula et la tradition syriaque,” pp. 343-354 in Kristoffel Demoen and Jeannine Vereecken, eds., La spiritualité de l’univers byzantin dans le verbe et l’image. Hommages offerts à Edmond Voordeckers à l’occasion de son éméritat. Instrumenta Patristica 30. Steenbrugis and Turnhout, 1997.

Wright, David H., “The Date and Arrangement of the Illustrations in the Rabbula Gospels,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 27 (1973): 199-208.

Devils and fire-breathing jackals   Leave a comment

For this simple post, I just want to share a few lines from a memorable scene in the Life of the famous Ethiopian saint Täklä Haymanot (ተክለ፡ ሃይማኖት፡; BHO 1128-1134). It comes from the Däbrä Libanos version, as published by Budge (1906); for more details on this and the other versions, see Denis Nosnitsin in Enc. Aeth. 4: 831-834. For the setting: the people of a “high mountain” called Wifat (ዊፋት፡) are responding to the saint’s question of how they know when their god is coming to them.

ወይቤልዎ ፡ ይመጽአ ፡ እንዘ ፡ ያንጐደጕድ ፡ ከመ ፡ ነጐድጓደ ፡ ክረምት ፡ለቢሶ ፡ እሳት። ወተፅዒኖ ፡ ዝዕበ ፡ ወብዙኃን ፡ መስተፅዕናነ ፡ አዝዕብት ፡ እምለፌ ፡ ወእምለፌ ፡ የዐውድዎ ፡ ወኵሎሙ ፡ ያበኵሁ ፡ እሳተ ፡ እምአፉሆሙ።

f. 67ra-67rb (text in Budge, vol. 2, p. 39)

My translation (for Budge’s, see vol. 1, p. 97):

And they said to him, “He comes thundering like the thunder of the rainy season, clothed in fire, riding on a jackal, and many jackal-riders surround him on each side, all of the [mounts] blowing fire out of their mouths.

Notes:

  1. ክረምት፡ the rainy season is June/July-September
  2. ዝእብ፡ (pl. አዝእብት፡) jackal; hyena; wolf. Specific possibilities include:
  3. Budge’s text mistakenly has መስተፅናነ፡ for the correct reading መስተፅዕናነ፡.
  4. The text could mean that the jackal-riders are breathing out fire, but the image in the manuscript (BL Or. 728; see Budge’s pl. 38) obviously takes that predicate as referring to the jackals themselves.
Pl. 38 from Budge, Life of Takla Haymanot, vol. 1

Pl. 38 from Budge, Life of Takla Haymanot, vol. 1

 

An album of Georgian manuscripts   Leave a comment

At the website ქართული ხელნაწერი წიგნი (in Georgian) is available the book ქართული ხელნაწერი წიგნი V-XIX სს.: ელექტრონული ალბომი [The Georgian Manuscript Book, 5th-19th centuries: Electronic Album] (Tbilisi, 2010), edited by Nestan Chkhikvadze, with contributions by Maia Karanadze, Lela Shatirishvili, and Tamar Abuladze. (Click the picture in the left column at the link above to see the book.) The book is in Georgian, but there is a description in English in its front matter, as follows:

An on-line album of Georgian manuscript book was created within the Grant project “Georgian Manuscript Book (including website)” financed by Rustaveli research fund. N. Chkhikvadze (scientific research manager), M. Karanadze, L. Shatirishvili were working on this project with participation of T. Abuladze.
In the album there are represented 5th-19th cent. Georgian manuscript books preserved in the fonds of National Centre of Manuscripts (A, H, S, Q) as well as some items belonging to foreign funds and National Manuscript Centre has the legal right of using photo copies of them.
Artistic copy of Adishi gospel is accomplished on the bases of authors’ descriptions and instructions. All this manuscripts show the origin and the development of the book as a cultural-historical phenomenon.
Album consists of four chapters. Common informational texts and photos with annotation come with every collected material, as well as main bibliography.
This album will be helpful for readers who are interested in written culture.

There are introductory chapters on the history of writing Georgian (up to p. 12), on theological (სასულიერო) manuscripts (pp. 13-90), secular (საერო) manuscripts (pp. 91-134), writing materials (pp. 135-148), and covers and binding (ყდა, pp. 149-185). A bibliography, mostly of works written in Georgian, is on pp. 186-188. The book is full of relatively high-quality color photographs, and thus may have some interest for all students and scholars of manuscript and book history, whether they read Georgian or not. (NB in the captions, a Roman numeral followed by ს. indicates the century [საუკუნე] and an Arabic numeral followed by წ. indicates the exact year [წელი]. At the end of the captions is the shelfmark: A, H, S, or Q followed by a number.)

The photographs give very many examples of varieties of script, as well as manuscript decoration, including images of scribes at work. The book is hardly intended as something along the lines of the paleographic textbooks of Ivane Javakhishvili or Ilia Abuladze, but this shorter and more humble offering has great value for a variety of readers, not least thanks to its open access, but also for the number and quality of the images it includes. Many thanks to the authors and the National Centre of Manuscripts for making this work available!

A drawing of a water-pump   2 comments

One of the most visually striking manuscripts, even though it is not very colorful, in the collection of the Near East School of Theology, Beirut, is AP 38, thanks to its drawings in the second part of the work. There are animals (including the human body), plants, mechanical diagrams, a map, and other figures. It is not an old book at all, but it deserves a facsimile edition for its unique visual presentations. An anonymous work, it was apparently translated from Turkish, which version itself was translated from an English book (cf. J.W. Pollock, “Catalogue of Manuscripts of the Library of the Near East School of Theology,” Near East School of Theology Theological Review 4 [1981]: 69). Below is one example of the several diagrams (pt. 2, p. 11):

NEST AP 38, pt. 2, p. 11

NEST AP 38, pt. 2, p. 11

The caption reads:

hāḏihi ṣūratu ṭurumbā [sic] ‘l-māʾi allaḏī tanšulu ‘l-māʾa min al-baḥri wa-tūṣiluhu ilá ‘l-amākini ‘l-baʿīdati ka-ma tarāhā marsūmatan hākaḏa hāhunā

This is a picture of a water-pump that takes water from the sea and conducts it to faraway places, as you see drawn here.

(For ṭurumba/ṭurumbā, cf. Italian trompa, Turkish tulumba.)

Images from an eighteenth-century Syriac manuscript from Alqosh   3 comments

Light on text and heavier on pictures, this post offers three memorable pieces of art from an eighteenth-century Syriac Gospel lectionary. The manuscript comes from the collection of the Dominican Friars of Mosul (DFM), no. 13, which was completed in August of 1723 in Alqosh. The DFM collection is one of several digitized recently by the Centre numérique des manuscrits orientaux (Mosul) and available for study at HMML. This is all of the representational artwork in the book, but there are also several title decorations and some decorative crosses.

The entry into Jerusalem:

DFM 13, f. 43v

DFM 13, f. 43v

Thomas touching the wounds of Jesus, with Simon Peter looking on:

DFM 13, f. 60r

DFM 13, f. 60r

And finally, Saint George ramming a spear through the head of the dragon:

DFM 13, f. 61r

DFM 13, f. 61r

The beginning of Mark’s Gospel in an Armenian manuscript from Istanbul   1 comment

A large collection of Armenian manuscripts was digitized by HMML and is available for study. Edward Mathews, Jr., is now cataloging these manuscripts, and he has recently finished the particular collection called Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, Patriarch’s Collection (APIP); his records will be available online in their entirety in the near future. Below is an image from APIP 33, an undated but later copy of the Gospels in Armenian; the book is incomplete and breaks off near the end of Mark. Here is the beginning of that Gospel, with a painting of the Evangelist (there is also a painting of Matthew earlier in the volume), a nice zoomorphic Ս, and other usual features of Armenian manuscript decoration.

APIP 33, pp. 169-170

Künzle’s edition (see below) for this part of the Gospel reads as follows:

Awetaran ǝst Markosi
Skizbn awetarani YI K’I orpēs ew greal ē yĒsayi margarēs. Ahawasik es aṙak’em zhreštak im aṙaǰi k’o or handerjesc’ē zčanaparh k’o aṙaǰi k’o.

The text in APIP 33 differs from Künzle’s ed. in some minor points, including the presence of որդւոյ այ՟ “son of God” (cf. the Peshitta, and see also the apparatus criticus of the Greek text); the accusative marker on ըզհրե{ե}շտակ in the manuscript also includes a written preposed helping vowel.

Bibliography
Künzle, Beda O. L’Évangile arménien ancien / Das altarmenische Evangelium. 2 vols. Bern, 1984.
For further bibliography on the Bible in Armenian, see R. Thomson, A Bibliography of Classical Armenian Literature to 1500 AD (Turnhout, 1995), 239-249.

On artwork in Armenian manuscripts, see this (very selective) list:
Buchhausen, Heide, and Helmut Buchhausen. 1976. Die illuminierten Armenischen Handschriften Der Mechitaristen-Congregation in Wien. Vienna.
Izmailova, T. 1986. Miniature arménienne, Hovhannes Sandoghkavanetsi. Erevan.
Janashian, Mesrop. 1966. Armenian Miniature Painting of the Monastic Library of San-Lazzaro, Venice. Venice.
———.1970. Armenian Miniature Paintings. Trans. Bernard Grebanier. Venice.
Mathews, Thomas F., and Alice Taylor. 2001. The Armenian Gospels of Gladzor: The Life of Christ Illuminated. Los Angeles.
Mathews, Thomas F., and Roger S. Wieck, eds. 1994. Treasures in Heaven: Armenian Illuminated Manuscripts. New York.
Der Nersessian, S. 1933. “La Peinture Arménienne Au VIIe Siècle Et Les Miniatures De l’Évangile d’Etchmiadzin.” In Actes Du XIIe Congrès International D’études Byzantines, Ochrid, 10-16 Septembre, 1961, 3:49–57. Belgrade.
———. 1993. Miniature Painting in the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia from the Twelfth to the Fourteenth Century. Washington, DC.
Nersessian, V. 1987. Armenian Illuminated Gospel-Books. London.
Der Nesessian, Sirarpie, and Arpag Mekhitarian. 1986. Armenian Miniatures from Isfahan. Brussels.
Weitzmann, Kurt. 1933. Die Armenische Buchmalerei Des 10. Und Beginnenden 11. Jahrhunderts. Istanbuler Forschungen 4. Bamberg.

A decorated Gospel book from Gunda Gunde   7 comments

Manuscripts in Gǝʿǝz from Gunda Gunde (ጉንደ፡ጉንዴ) in the Tigray region of Ethiopia were photographed in 2006* and they are available for study on-site at HMML or for copies to be ordered. Unlike the lion’s share of HMML’s Ethiopian collection, which is on bitonal microfilm, the copies of Gunda Gunde manuscripts were born digital, like the rest of the collections photographed post-2003 by HMML. While full color obviously makes everything for manuscript study better (paleography, codicology), any artwork that manuscripts may have is rendered especially more strikingly than in microfilm. I am the furthest thing from an art historian, but I would nevertheless like to share a few images from a 15th/16th century Gospel book from Gunda Gunde (no. 440/C₃-IV-5). (By all means, any comments on these images from art historians or artistically interested codicologists are welcome!)

First, here are some of the Eusebian canons, similar in design to those of other language traditions.

Gunda Gunde 440, ff. 9v-10r

The interlocking strands of color are worth a close-up.

Gunda Gunde 440, f. 10r detail

Now here is Matthew the evangelist. Similar paintings precede the other three Gospels. Note his scribal instruments.

Gunda Gunde 440, f. 13v

Finally from this manuscript, here are the apostles Matthias and Thomas, then Paul and James, the brother of Jesus, and on the next page, as it says, “Image[s] of our holy prophet fathers” (śǝʿlä abäwinä qǝddusan näbiyyat) Enoch “the learned” (or “scribe,” ṣäḥafi), Isaac, Abraham, and Jacob, with the four on the bottom being Job “the righteous” (ṣadǝq), Moses “the archprophet” (liqä näbiyyat), Aaron “the priest” (kahǝn; note the censer), and Joshua “the chief” (sǝfun).

Gunda Gunde 440, ff. 15v-16r

I close with a fine description of the Gunda Gunde style of manuscript painting: “It introduced squat figures with extremely simplified bodies hidden under stylised garments in bright colours covered by geometrical, patchwork pattern. Their pear-formed heads with concave faces have characteristic elongated eyes, upward triangular eyebrows and small mouths.” (E. Balicka-Witakowska in Enc. Aeth. 2, 920).

In the next post I hope to show and discuss another decorated Ethiopian manuscript (one with a little more text) from a different monastery. For now, feast your mind on these bright juxtaposed colors!

Bibliography

Beylot, Robert, and Ewa Balicka-Witakowska. “Gundä Gunde.” In Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, vol. 2. Wiesbaden, 2005. 917-921.

Marx, Annegret, Ewa Balicka-Witakowska, Marilyn E. Heldman. “Painting.” In Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, vol. 4. Wiesbaden, 2010. 90-101.

*The project was handled by Michael Gervers and Ewa Balicka-Witakowska. Thanks to Wayne Torborg, HMML’s digital director, for touching up these photos for me.

Luke and John from CFMM 37   Leave a comment

Below is a well-preserved painting of Luke and John from Church of the Forty Martyrs, Mardin, 37. The previous folio has the other two evangelists, and there are still more paintings in the book. Jules Leroy describes them all exactly in his Manuscrits syriaques à peintures (Paris, 1964), p. 386 of the text, so I won’t repeat everything he has written, but I will highlight a few things in the picture. The evangelists’ names, with the respective epithets of “evangelist” and “apostle,” are written in Syriac, and then, in Greek, “Saint Luke” and “Saint John the theologian.” On the writing surface before each writer is the beginning of his own Gospel in Syriac, but while Luke’s (and also Matthew’s and Mark’s on the other page) is in black ink, John’s alone is in red. Luke is made to be younger than John, and as for their seats, they’re ornate and cushioned.

CFMM 37, f. 6r

This image’s color and texture make for a stunning example of what quality photography can do for looking at manuscripts. (I should point out, too, that the image here is not of the highest quality that we have of it.) By contrast, here’s the bitonal image from Leroy’s aforementioned book, p. 137 of the Album.

We might well assume that the production that went into Leroy’s Album was well nigh state-of-the-art, at least within the parameter of making the book mildly affordable, but in any case, it was over half a century ago. In fifty years (or less?), as hard as it is to imagine, we — or our successors, depending on how old we are now! — might look back on the technological means and method that went into making the color image above as quaint, old-fashioned, and very imperfect. Even so, we’re now in a place for the present, at least, to make a vast improvement on Leroy’s excellent assemblage of images from Syriac manuscripts, in terms not only of the potential quality of the visual outcomes, but also of the content of the image collection itself, this latter aspect naturally requiring the cooperation of the owning libraries. Any such revision and improvement of Leroy’s work would allow an ebb in the detail of commentary on each image: when Leroy described his images, he was careful to point out the colors involved, his readers hardly able to get that knowledge from the bitonal images in his Album, and that would no longer be the case with the rich, almost textured, images we can now have at our disposal.

A fine Arabic synaxarion   3 comments

CFMM 251 is a beautiful copy of a synaxarion (the catalog of saints according to the day they are celebrated in the church) in Arabic. It follows the Greek menologion (text in PG 117) closely (but not exactly) and is almost complete, with only a folio or two missing at the end. Since the end is lacking, there is also no colophon, nor is there any clear indication of date elsewhere in the manuscript. The images below are the first page of the book, which begins with the month of Aylūl (= September), and p. 13, for Sept. 10, on which these saints are named: the sisters Menodora, Metrodora, and Nymphodora; Baripsibba; and Pulcheria.

CFMM 251, p. 1

CFMM 251, p. 13

Nativity reading from a Mardin Gospel Lectionary   Leave a comment

Church of the Forty Martyrs ms. 41, p. 46

Below are the recto and verso of a folio (now pp. 31-32) from an undated (probably 13th century) Syriac Gospel Lectionary from the Church of the Forty Martyrs (formerly at Dayr Al-Zaˤfarān). The painting, one of twenty in this manuscript,[1] shows the birth of Jesus; it has has suffered somewhat in the middle of the page, and is thus not one of the better preserved, but is nevertheless fitting to current season of the church calendar. The Syriac text, from John 1,[2] is notable for the way in which it was written: outlined letters filled in with gold, and within a decorative border. A few other lections in the manuscript are also written this way, but the greater part is written in a fine, thick Esṭrangǝlā, an example of which I have also included.

Best wishes to all for year’s end and a new beginning!

[1] J. Leroy, Les manuscrits syriaques à peintures (Paris, 1964), vol. 1, pp. 371-383 (with some errors in reference to the manuscript’s pagination); vol. 2, pp. 127-136. I dare say these color images are rather more striking than the black and white reproductions in Leroy’s album. We can be thankful for the ease with which we can now reproduce such high-quality images.

[2] This reading, and most of the others, are of the Ḥarqlean version. Leroy says that the manuscript is Ḥarqlean, but there are in fact some lections from the Pǝšiṭtā, and they are so marked in the margins.

Church of the Forty Martyrs ms. 41, p. 31

Church of the Forty Martyrs, ms. 41, p. 32

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