Archive for the ‘arts’ Tag

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.

Bringhurst on letterforms   Leave a comment

I’ve talked here occasionally about typography in various scripts. A recently published volume dedicated to the typographic work of Hermann Zapf recently appeared on HMML’s doorstep: Jerry Kelly, About more alphabets: The types of Hermann Zapf, Typophile Chap Book, New Series no. 3 (New York, 2011). The foreword is by Robert Bringhurst, author of the delightful (and affordable) Elements of Typographic Style, and I share a few lines of it here (p. 7).

Letterforms are things that nearly all of us in the Western world have learned to take for granted. We treat them much like door knobs, water taps, thermostats, and hinges. We evidently think (in defiance of all logic) that what we read or write matters far more than how it’s read or written, and that letterforms are just a way to get there, as a door knob is a way to open a door. At their best, though, letterforms are more like sailboats and cellos. They are works of art that beg to be used as well as admired. They make demands on those who use them; in return, they lend their beauty, strength, and character to the work for which they are used.

 

Posted June 22, 2012 by adam_bremer-mccollum in Books, Typography

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