Archive for the ‘Paleography’ Tag

Saint Mark’s, Jerusalem, 180 (Book of Steps, Asceticon of Abba Isaiah)   2 comments

SMMJ 180 is a seventh- or eight-century manuscript containing the Book of Steps (Liber Graduum) and parts of the Asceticon of Abba Isaiah. The script is a beautiful, clear Estrangela, and the text is written in two columns with around thirty-nine lines. The manuscript is foliated with Syriac letters (numbered folios begin only at f. 10), but the book has been rebound in great disarray. According to a note dated 1881 on 102r, the book was repaired by Grigorios Ǧirǧis Muṭrān of Jerusalem in 1881. In the course of cataloging the manuscript, it became clear that, given the manuscript’s age and its significance as a textual witness, a detailed listing of its contents might be of some value.

SMMJ 180, ff. 62v-63r. The end of the Book of Steps and the beginning of the Asceticon, with some damage at the top.

SMMJ 180, ff. 62v-63r. The end of the Book of Steps and the beginning of the Asceticon, with some damage at the top.

In his edition of the Liber Graduum (LG), Kmosko discusses the manuscript (his Codex R) on pp. viii-ix, ccxciv-cccvi, the latter section being an appendix with a collation. Significantly, Draguet does not make use, it seems, of the Jerusalem manuscript in his edition of the Asceticon. For both of these monuments of Syriac literature, the Jerusalem manuscript deserves to be studied more closely, and thanks to these high quality images now easily available, those with a close interest in either or both of those texts may do so with little trouble.

Before turning to the contents of the codex, here are a few remarks on the paleography. The script is very straightforward Esṭrangela, with sharp angles as in the bēt and ṭēt. General observations include:
•    semkat not attached to the following letter
•    the right leg of the ālap has a little serif, seen both when the previous letter is attached and when it is not
•    the waw is not closed
•    the mim is not closed
•    the final nun, when not attached to the previous letter, is at an angle noticeably more horizontal than when it is attached

When there is a little space at line-end, the final letter has an extender to reach the edge. There are no explicit vowel marks, but there is a host of punctuation marks and diacritical points, with examples in almost every line.

Dotted pointers indicate quotations from scripture. These signs are well known from other early Syriac manuscripts.

SMMJ 180, f. 20r, showing the indication of a biblical citation.

SMMJ 180, f. 20r, showing dotted pointers to indicate a biblical citation.

In addition, the scribe uses a sign that looks very much like the Alexandrian critical sign, the obelus, here in the form known as the lemniscus (cf. Swete, Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, 69-72, and Field, Origenis hexaplorum quae supersunt, I: liii-lx). For example, 26va, line 7:

SMMJ 180, f. 26v

SMMJ 180, f. 26v

Similarly, on 42v, there is a marginal correction of āzēl to zādēq (Kmosko there has āzēl, col. 776.22). This sign, too, is found in other manuscripts, not only Syriac, but also Garšūnī (e.g. SMMJ 174, p. 262), to anchor a marginal reading to a part of the main text.

Another kind of correction is that for transpositions. On 15r, for example, the words b-demʿē and wa-b-ḥaylā are each marked with a group of three dots to indicate that they should be transposed. That is, we should read mā da-gʿa b-ḥaylā wa-b-demʿē saggiʾātā. (Even without the dots, the grammar points in this direction, due to agreement between demʿē and saggiʾātā.) The same indication of transposition occurs elsewhere, as on 46ra, 49vb, 53vb, 54vb, 58rb, 61vb.

SMMJ 180, f. 15r

SMMJ 180, f. 15r

For LG, the sections are not divided more minutely than individual memra; here is an example of a section divider between memre:

SMMJ 180, f. 37v, end of memra 24,. beg. of memra 25.

SMMJ 180, f. 37v, end of memra 24,. beg. of memra 25.

On 43v is a marginal note to indicate the topic (not common in this manuscript): “On the soul’s being called spirit.”

Due to the disorderly arrangement of the manuscript, the path for anyone who is continuously reading the text almost looks like a choose-your-own-adventure book. To cover the surviving parts of the codex, beginning with LG and then moving to the Asceticon, one would read the folios in this order (X indicates a missing folio or folios; there are three such places): 93-100, 83, 101, 90, 84-89, 91, X, 92, 80, 79, X, 82, 81, X, 76, 75, 71-74, 70, 69, 68, 77, 11-18, 78, 19-62, 67, 63-66.

Hopefully the folio-by-folio list of the contents below will be of use to those at work on the Book of Steps or Isaiah’s Asceticon. I give by folio the corresponding parts of the text according to the editions of Kmosko for LG and Draguet for the Asceticon. For the former, in every place I have included memra and section number, and for many places identification down to the column and line number; for the latter, I have given logos and section number, along with page and line number.

Bibliography

Draguet, René. Les cinq recensions de l’Ascéticon syriaque d’Abba Isaïe. CSCO 289 / Scr. Syr. 120. Louvain, 1968.

Kessel, Grigory. “A Previously Unknown Reattributed Fragment from Memra 16 of the Book of Steps,” in Kristian S. Heal and Robert A. Kitchen, eds., Breaking the Mind: New Studies in the Syriac “Book of Steps (CUA Press, 2014), 53-71, esp. 54-60. Available here. [The volume has a picture from SMMJ 180 on the cover.]

Kmosko, Michael. Liber Graduum. Patrologia Syriaca 3. Paris, 1926.

Folio-by-folio contents of SMMJ 180

[11r-11v] LG 19.39-20.3 (col. 521.17-532.11)
[12r-12v] LG 20.3-20.6
[13r-13v] LG 20.6-20.8
[14r-14v] LG 20.8-20.10
[15r-15v] LG 20.10-20.13 (col. 556.12-564.17)
[16r-16v] LG 20.13-20.15
[17r-17v] LG 20.15-20.17
[18r-18v] LG 20.17-21.2 (col. 580.15-589.7) THEN GO TO [78r]
[19r-19v] LG 21.4- 21.7 (col. 596.23-604.6)
[20r-20v] LG 21.7-21.9 (col. 604.6-609.19)
[21r-21v] LG 21.9-21.11 (col. 609.20-617.8)
[22r-22v] LG 21.11-21.16 (col. 617.9-624.26)
[23r-23v] LG 21.16-21.20 (col. 624.26-632.7)
[24r-24v] LG 21.20-22.3 (col. 632.7-640.3)
[25r-25v] LG 22.3-22.6 (col. 640.3-645.18)
[26r-26v] LG 22.6-22.8 (col. 645.18-653.9)
[27r-27v] LG 22.8-22.11 (col. 653.8-660.24)
[28r-28v] LG 22.11-22.14 (col. 660.24-668.19)
[29r-29v] LG 22.14-22.17 (col. 668.19-676.5)
[30r-30v] LG 22.17-22.20 (col. 676.5-681.19)
[31r-31v] LG 22.20-22.25 (col. 681.19-689.12)
[32r-32v] LG 22.25-23.3 (col. 689.12-697.11)
[33r-33v] LG 23.3-23.8 (col. 697.11-704.24)
[34r-34v] LG 23.8-23.11 (col. 704.24-712.13)
[35r-35v] LG 23.11-24.2 (col. 712.13-720.6)
[36r-36v] LG 24.2-24.7 (col. 720.6-728.8)
[37r-37v] LG 24.7-25.2 (col. 720.6-736.14)
[38r-38v] LG 25.2-25.5 (col. 736.14-741.25)
[39r-39v] LG 25.5-25.8 (col. 741.25-749.22)
[40r-40v] LG 25.8-26.2 (col. 749.22- 760.23)
[41r-41v] LG 26.2-27.2 (col. 760.23-769.12)
[42r-42v] LG 27.2-27.5 (col. 769.12-777.3)
[43r-43v] LG 27.5-28.1 (col. 777.3-788.4)
[44r-44v] LG 28.1-28.6 (col. 788.4-793.24)
[45r-45v] LG 28.6-28.11 (col. 793.24-801.25)
[46r-46v] LG 28.11-29.1 (col. 801.25-812.17)
[47r-47v] LG 29.1-29.3 (col. 812.17-820.14)
[48r-48v] LG 29.3-29.6 (col. 820.14-828.15)
[49r-49v] LG 29.6-29.9 (col. 828.15-836.9)
[50r-50v] LG 29.9-29.12 (col. 836.9-844.3)
[51r-51v] LG 29.12-29.16 (col. 844.4-849.25)
[52r-52v] LG 29.16-30.1 (col. 849.25-860.6)
[53r-53v] LG 30.1-30.3 (col. 860.6-868.11)
[54r-54v] LG 30.3-30.5 (col. 868.11-876.8)
[55r-55v] LG 30.5-30.8 (col. 876.9-881.27)
[56r-56v] LG 30.8-30.12 (col. 881.27-889.16)
[57r-57v] LG 30.12-30.14 (col. 889.16-897.8)
[58r-58v] LG 30.14-30.18 (col. 897.8-905.7)
[59r-59v] LG 30.18-30.21 (col. 905.7-913.5)
[60r-60v] LG 30.21-30.25 (col. 913.6-921.18)
[61r-61v] LG 30.25-30.29 (col. 921.18-929.15)
[62r-62v] LG 30.29 (col. 929.15-932.16); Asct., Logos 1 (Draguet, p.2-3.1) THEN GO TO [67r]
[63r-63v] Asct., Logos 1.4a-2.2 (Draguet, pp. 6.4-10.5)
[64r-64v] Asct., Logos 2.2-3.1 (Draguet, pp. 10.6-14.2)
[65r-65v] Asct., Logos 3.1-3.4 (Draguet, pp. 14.2-18.4)
[66r-66v] Asct., Logos 3.4-5.18 (Draguet, pp. 18.4-26.8/16)
[67r-67v] Asct., Logos 1 (Draguet p. 3.1-p. 6.4) THEN GO TO [63r]
[68r-69r] LG 19.31-19.36 THEN GO TO [77r]
[69r-69v] LG 19.25-19.31 THEN GO TO [68r]
[70r-70v] LG 19.22-19.25 THEN GO TO [69r]
[71r-71v] LG 19.4-19.7
[72r-72v] LG 19.7-19.11
[73r-73v] LG 19.11-19.19
[74r-74v] LG 19.19-19.22 THEN GO TO [70r]
[75r-75v] LG 19.1-19.4 THEN GO TO [71r]
[76r-76v] LG 18.4-19.1 THEN GO TO [75r]
[77r-77v] LG 19.36-19.39 THEN GO TO [11r]
[78r-78v] LG 21.2-21.4 (col. 589.7-596.23) THEN GO TO [19r]
[79r-79v] LG 15.12-15.15 (col 365.4-372.26) THEN GO TO ? (folio missing)
[80r-80v] LG 15.9-15.12 (col. 357.11-365.4) THEN GO TO [79r]
[81r-81v] LG 17.1-17.4 THEN GO TO ? (folio missing)
[82r-82v] LG 16.9-17.1 THEN GO TO [81r]
[83r-83v] LG 10.2-10.5 THEN GO TO [101r]
[84r-84v] LG 11.3-12.1
[85r-85v] LG 12.1-12.4
[86r-86v] LG 12.4-12.7
[87r-87v] LG 12.7-13.3
[88r-88v] LG 13.3-13.8
[89r-89v] LG 13.8-14.3 THEN GO TO [91r]
[90r-90v] LG 10.9-11.3 THEN GO TO [84r]
[91r-91v] LG 14.3-15.3 (col. 332.1-341.9) THEN GO TO ? (folio missing)
[92r-92v] LG 15.6-15.9 (col. 349.16-357.11) THEN GO TO [80r]
[93r-93v] LG 7.18-7.21 (i.e. the end of memra 7)
[94r-94v] LG 8.1-8.5
[95r-95v] LG 8.5-9.2
[96r-96v] LG 9.2-9.6
[97r-97v] LG 9.6-9.9
[98r-98v] LG 9.9-9.13
[99r-99v] LG 9.13-9.19 (col. 233.2-241.7)
[100r-100v] LG 9.19-10.2 (col. 241.7-252.2) THEN GO TO [83r]
[101r-101v] LG 10.5-10.9 THEN GO TO [90r]

Two witnesses to the Apocalypse of Paul in Syriac from Tehran   Leave a comment

The Apocalypse of Paul (BHG 1460, CANT 325) is one of the more well known New Testament apocrypha in Syriac, with an edition and with translations into Latin, German, and English available (see bibliography below). The collection of Syriac manuscripts at the Chaldean Church of St. Joseph in Tehran, which I recently mentioned in another post, has two witnesses to the Apocalypse of Paul, one of which has been known, but the other, as far as I know, has escaped the notice of scholars who might be interested in the text.

The known copy is in manuscript № 8, a manuscript to which Alain Desreumaux (1995) has devoted an article with a detailed catalog of the texts in the manuscript. In this manuscript, the preface to the Apocalypse of Paul is on ff. 136r-140r, and the Apocalypse itself on ff. 140r-171v. (The foliation given here, based on the file names of the photographs, differs slightly from Desreumaux’s. The manuscript is not physically foliated.)  Here is a folio spread from this copy (ff. 162-163r).

Tehran, St. Jos., 8, ff. 162-163r

Tehran, St. Jos., 8, ff. 162-163r

…a servant from among the angels, and he had in his hand a pitch-fork that had three tines, and [with it] he was pulling the old man’s guts out through his mouth. … (f. 162v, lines 1-3)

The other witness, manuscript № 17, is fragmentary, consisting only of two loose and torn folios, but they are contiguous. The page numbers were marked out of order and should be read as follows: 2, 1, 4, 3. This fragment corresponds to parts of §§ 32-34 (pp. 132, 134) in the edition of Ricciotti (cf. Perkins, pp. 203-204 / Zingerle pp. 164-165 / ≈ Tischendorf pp. 57-58). In this order, then, here are the images:

p. 2 corr. to Ricciotti 132.2-132.10

tehr_st_jos_17_p2

p. 1 corr. to Ricciotti 132.10-132.18

tehr_st_jos_17_p1

p. 4 corr. to Ricciotti 132.18-132.25

tehr_st_jos_17_p4

p. 3 corr. to Ricciotti 132.26-29, 134.1-6

tehr_st_jos_17_p3

A cursory comparison with Ricciotti’s text reveals very few differences between them.

Bibliography

(see further the Comprehensive Bib. on Syriac Christianity here)

Desreumaux, Alain. “Des symboles à la réalite: la préface à l’Apocalypse de Paul dans la tradition syriaque.” Apocrypha 4 (1993): 65-82.

Desreumaux, Alain. “Un manuscrit syriaque de Téhéran contenant des apocryphes.” Apocrypha 5 (1994): 137-164.

Desreumaux, Alain. “Le prologue apologétique de l’Apocalypse de Paul syriaque: un débat théologique chez les Syriaques orientaux.” Pages 125-134 in Entrer en matière. Les prologues. Edited by Dubois, Jean-Daniel and Roussel, Bernard. Patrimoines: Religions du Livre. Paris: Cerf, 1998.

Desreumaux, Alain. “L’environnement de l’Apocalypse de Paul. À propos d’un nouveau manuscrit syriaque de la Caverne des trésors.” Pages 185-192 in Pensée grecque et sagesse d’Orient. Hommage à Michel Tardieu. Edited by Amir-Moezzi, Mohammed-Ali and Dubois, Jean-Daniel and Jullien, Christelle and Jullien, Florence. Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études, Sciences religieuses 142. Turnhout: Brepols, 2010.

Perkins, Justin. “The Revelation of the Blessed Apostle Paul Translated from an Ancient Syriac Manuscript.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 8 (1866): 183-212. (available here)

Ricciotti, Giuseppe. “Apocalypsis Pauli syriace.” Orientalia NS 2 (1933): 1-25, 120-149. [ed. of Vat. Syr. 180 and Vat. Borg. Syr. 39, with facing LT]

Zingerle, Pius. “Die Apocalypse des Apostels Paulus, aus einer syrischen Handschrift des Vaticans übersetzt.” Vierteljahrsschrift für deutsch- und englisch-theologische Forschung und Kritik 4 (1871): 139-183. [tr. on the basis of Vat. Syr. 180] (available here)

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 33 (A scribal note by Iovane Zosime)   Leave a comment

For students of the languages, literature, and history of Christianity, the horde of manuscripts written or preserved at Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai is among the most valuable collections. Manuscripts there were microfilmed several decades ago, and we can be very grateful that scans of those microfilms have been made accessible through E-corpus. While the images are bitonal, and thus not everything is as readable as we might like, in general the writing is clear (at least in black ink, others less so).

Below is an image from Sin. Geo. 62 (Garitte, Catalogue, pp. 197-209), a hagiographic manuscript of the late tenth century written by Iovane Zosime, from whose pen several manuscripts survive. Here is a note at the end of a text in which he requests prayer.

Sin. Geo. 62, f. 138vb

Sin. Geo. 62, f. 138vb

With abbreviations resolved, it reads in nusxuri (and an asomtavruli initial):

Ⴜ(ⴋⴈⴃⴀ)ⴌⴍ ⴋⴍⴜⴀⴋⴄⴌⴍ ⴋⴍⴋⴈⴤⴑⴄⴌⴄⴇ ⴜ(ⴈⴌⴀⴘ)ⴄ ⴖ(ⴋⴐ)ⴇⴈⴑⴀ ⴋⴄⴍⴞⴄⴁⴈ

ⴇⴀ ⴇⴕ(ⴍⴣⴄ)ⴌⴈⴇⴀ ⴈⴍⴅⴀⴌⴄ ⴔ(ⴐⴈⴀ)ⴃ ⴚⴍ<ⴃ>ⴅⴈⴊⴈ : ⴊ(ⴍ)ⴚⴅⴀⴗ(ⴀⴅ)ⴊ

In mxedruli:

წ(მიდა)ნო მოწამენო მომიჴსენეთ წ(ინაშ)ე ღ(მრ)თისა მეოხებითა თქ(უე)ნითა იოვანე ფ(რია)დ ცო<დ>ვილი ლ(ო)ც(ვა)-ყ(ავ)თ

The missing ⴃ in ⴚⴍ<ⴃ>ⴅⴈⴊⴈ may be due to an abbreviation, but there is no abbreviation-mark, so I have considered it an accidental omission. (It be must be stated, though, that every single abbreviation is not always so marked.)

Vocabulary and grammatical remarks:

  • მოწამეჲ martyr
  • მო-მ-ი-ჴსენ-ეთ aor impv 2pl O1 მოჴსენება to remember
  • მეოხებაჲ intercession, help
  • ცოდვილი sinner
  • ლოცვა-ყავ-თ aor impv 2pl ლოცვის-ყოფა to pray (< to make a prayer)

Garitte’s LT (209):

Sancti martyres mementote mei coram Deo intercessione vestra, Iohannis valde peccatoris; orate.

My ET:

Holy martyrs, remember me before God, John, the great sinner, through your intercession! Pray!

A taʿlīq Arabic colophon in a Garšūnī manuscript   2 comments

Colophons do not necessarily match in language the texts that they conclude, so that we sometimes have a Garšūnī colophon at the end of a Syriac text, or vice versa (as in an earlier place in the manuscript mentioned below). Garšūnī and Arabic are not, of course, distinct languages, but given that the medium in view here is graphic, the clearly distinct writing systems employed for them may matter in a way approaching that which exists between different languages properly speaking. In addition, at least some scribes that used Garšūnī were careful to note the difference, as I pointed out recently.

Here, mainly for the handwriting, is an Arabic colophon at the end of a Garšūnī manuscript: Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, № 169, which mostly contains homilies in Garšūnī. (At the beginning there is an excerpt, in Syriac, from the Chronicle of Michael the Great, book 11 of chapter 20, on the Council of Manazkert convened in 726 by Catholicos Yovhannēs Ōjnec’i the Philosopher with Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Athanasios III. Neither Michael nor the title Chronicle are specifically mentioned here, however.)

The kind of Arabic script most often found in the collections I have cataloged is naskh. Less commonly we see ruqʿa, and rarer still is the slanted taʿlīq or one of its derivations, so the handwriting here is of some interest merely for that reason. The script here is characterized by each word being written on a down-slanting line (sometimes with the last letter written above the preceding parts of the word), loosely placed diacritical marks, and some horizontal and rounded lines being notably extended. Perhaps others would like to try their hand at reading it. My transcription (save for one part in the first line that has proven undecipherable to me so far) follows below. By the way, the year is given as 1092 AG, but this must be a mistake for 2092 AG (= 1780/1 CE), so the full date as given below would be May 1, 1781; a purchase note at the end of the manuscript is dated 2102 AG (= 1790/1 CE). The scribe, also named earlier in this manuscript in a Syriac colophon, is called Anīs, who is from Gargar, but this manuscript was written outside Diyarbakır/Āmid.

SMMJ 169, f. 145r

SMMJ 169, f. 145r

كتب بداخل مدينة آمد في قلاية البطريركية الايغناطيوسية ادام الله سعادتها ؟ ؟ الينا المعظم المغبوط المكرم مار ايغناطيوس

بطريرك انطاكية بيد احقر عبيد الله واحوجهم الراهب الهارب وانيس باسم قسيس في سنة اثنان تسعين والف للاسكندر اليوناني

في يوم عيد القديس مار ميخايل

اول يوم شهر ايار

رحم الله من ترحم على الكاتب الحقير

وعلى والديه واخوته

 

Guest post: Sebastian Brock on identifying an old Syriac leaf   Leave a comment

By Sebastian Brock
Oriental Institute, Oxford GB

In the course of cataloguing the Syriac manuscripts belonging to the collection of the former Chaldean Church in Mardin Adam McCollum discovered an old folio that had been re-used as an endpaper to strengthen the binding of Mardin Chald. 89, a much later manuscript. The folio contains two columns of text in a neat estrangelo hand that should probably be dated to the ninth century. He kindly sent an image of the folio to me in case I might be able to identify the contents.

CCM 56 (olim Mardin Chaldean 89), back endpaper

CCM 56 (olim Mardin Chaldean 89), back endpaper

It is not always easy to date estrangelo hands, especially those that are more conservative in character. After comparing the hand with the photographs of dated manuscripts in Hatch’s invaluable Album of Dated Syriac Manuscripts, it became fairly clear that the script on the folio was likely to date from the ninth century. Having transcribed a certain amount of the text, in so far as it was legible, it turned out that it contained a number of place names, including ‘Byzantium’ and ‘Europe’. These names, and the general ‘feel’ of the text, strongly suggested that the work it contained was a translation from Greek.

The next clue was the presence of some marginal glosses in what was clearly a much later hand; this indicated that it was a work that still continued to be read and studied several centuries after the date of the original manuscript. It so happens that after about the ninth century many translations of Greek patristic authors fell out of fashion and were no longer copied or studied. One of the small number of Greek authors who did remain authoritative and studied was Gregory of Nazianzus, and so his writings, and in particular his Discourses, seemed a good place to start on the hunt for references to ‘Byzantium’ and (especially) ‘Europe’.

Fortunately most of the Sources chrétiennes volumes containing editions of the Greek text of the Discourses are provided with indexes of names, and it soon turned out that the folio did indeed belong to one of Gregory’s Discourses, namely his funeral oration on his brother Caesarius (Discourse 7 in the Greek numbering; the Syriac numbering is different). Actually the name ‘Caesarius’ turned out in fact to occur on the folio, but the writing was damaged at that point, with a key letter obscured.

Having located the passage (at the end of section 8 and beginning of section 9 of Discourse 7), it was now important to establish whether the translation belonged to the original translation of Gregory’s Discourses, or to the revision by Paul, bishop of Edessa, made in 623/4, where he had taken refuge from the Persian occupation of his see. Whereas several manuscripts of Paul’s revision survive, none of the original version are known. In order to establish to which version the folio’s text belonged it was necessary to pay a visit to the rich collection of Syriac manuscripts in the British Library, which fortunately includes a number of the relevant manuscripts. A comparison of the folio’s with two of the earliest manuscripts of Paul’s revision (Add. 14,548 of 790 and Add. 12,153 of 844/5) quickly established that the text on the folio must belong to the revision, and not to the lost original.

The Syriac version of Gregory of Nazianzus’ Discourses (in both forms where available) is currently gradually being published as part of the Corpus Nazianzenum by scholars at the Université catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve, and so far (2001-) five volumes have appeared , covering eleven Discourses: Versio Syriaca I (J-C. Haelewyck) = Discourse 40; II (A.B. Schmidt) = 13 and 41; III (J-C. Haelwyck) = 37-39; IV (J-C. Haelewyck) = 28-31; V (J-C. Haelewyck) = 1-3.

“Satan” upside down in an Arabic manuscript   Leave a comment

I’ve mentioned here before the writing upside down of names as a means of cursing, dissociation, or the like (here, here, and cf. here). Today, while cataloging an Arabic manuscript from Mardin — CCM 17, 18th century, which contains accounts of miracles of Mary and other saints — I found another example, this time with “Satan”, and notably, in Arabic script, not Syriac, as was the case with the other examples I’ve pointed out. In this image, you can see al-šayṭān upside down in lines 2, 5, and 7.

CCM 17, f. 47r.

CCM 17, f. 47r.

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!

“The manuscript itself”   1 comment

In his excellent article, “Georgian Palaeography”,[1] J. Neville Birdsall (1928-2005),[2] after listing some reproductions of Georgian manuscripts, has the following to say (p. 95):

The aspirant in Georgian palaeography must use these and every available photographic reproduction, but it cannot be too much emphasized that acquaintance with manuscripts themselves is irreplaceable. A manuscript, said patristic scholar and Armenologist, Robert Pierce Casey, is “something between a gadget and a personality”. This is as true of manuscripts as paleographical evidence as it is of any other aspect of their use and value. The external technicalities of the manuscript may be learnt from pictures: the individuality of the scribe, even in technical matters such as thickness of pen, can be known best only from the examination of the manuscript itself.

Birdsall’s survey dates from a time not too distant, at least in terms of the slow-moving world of manuscript studies, but even so, the quality and the quantity of easily available, if not freely available, manuscript images online would probably have been inconceivable at the time of its writing. In other words, Birdsall, while acknowledging the value of often bitonal manuscript reproductions — if for no other reason than that that is sometimes all that was (and is!) available — seems to imply that one should always wish for a real, tactile encounter with “the manuscript itself”. This kind of autopsy today probably happens no more frequently than when Birdsall made the statement above, but it is likely that a great many more students and scholars have nevertheless seen manuscripts, and not bitonal images, but color photographs of such resolution that one might enlarge only a few lines and fill an entire screen without any loss of image quality. There are doubtless some things we miss when look at a manuscript on a screen, rather than on a library table — a notable one being an easily grasped perception of a manuscript’s actual size, something we can forget, even if we know the exact measurements, when reading on a screen and manipulating the size — but at least with very high quality digital reproduction, what do we lack that especially matters codicologically or paleographically speaking? Birdsall as an example mentions the thickness of the scribe’s pen. Is that still something “known best” only from immediate manuscript autopsy, is it something we cannot properly give attention to in digital manuscript facsimiles as available nowadays? On this question, see the image below and note the easily noticeable varieties of thickness as the scribe has turned the pen in different directions to form the letters.

If someone had access only to manuscript reproductions, even if bitonal and perhaps grainy, Birdsall, based the tone of his essay, would, I believe, encourage that person to go ahead and make the most of what they have. Those of us at work on manuscripts in various languages, not only Georgian, have the boon of much better images than were common fare even a couple of decades ago, and were he writing today, I wonder if Birdsall would have phrased his sentiments in quite the way as above.

A few lines from CFMM 309, p. 55, at full resolution. Each page has two columns and the ms measures 26.5x18x9 cm.

A few lines from CFMM 309, p. 55, at full resolution. Each page has two columns and the ms measures 26.5x18x9 cm.

[1] A.C. Harris, ed. The Indigenous Languages of the Caucasus, vol. 1, The Kartvelian Languages. Delmar, New York: Caravan Books, 1991. Pp. 85-128. It remains really the only thing of its kind in English. Unfortunately, it was published in a rather out-of-the-way book, not to mention the less than appealing typography.

[2] There is an obituary for Birdsall by J.K. Elliott from The Independent here.

Examples of Melkite Syriac script   2 comments

The script used for Syriac is generally divided into three types: Estrangela, East Syriac, and Serto, which are distributed partly along chronological, partly denominational, lines. These three types cover the majority of surviving manuscripts, but this is not the whole picture: another type, called Melkite, is found less often, but we have enough surviving manuscripts to recognize its distinctiveness from the three other better known types of writing. A search online for “melkite syriac script” etc. yields little easily discoverable images of examples, so it occurred to me that this would be a good place to share a few. HMML finished digitizing the manuscripts of the Church of Mary in Diyarbakır a few years ago, and the collection has been ably cataloged by Grigory Kessel, with his records searchable through Oliver. The Church of Mary has a few manuscripts with this kind of script, and it is from these that the images below come. (These Diyarbakır manuscripts, along with the rest of the collection, are available for study at HMML, and copies may be ordered with a form here.)

The term “Melkite” (< Syriac malkā) refers to adherents of the Council of Chalcedon particularly in areas where there where also adherents of miaphysite belief. Melkite, or Rum Orthodox, Christians are partly an heir to Syriac culture, and Syriac was used liturgically into the eighteenth century in some places. (In Palestine and Transjordan from the 5th-14th centuries, Chalcedonian Christians used Christian Palestinian Aramaic (CPA), the script for which is similar to Estrangela, but it is an Aramaic dialect altogether distinct from Syriac.) From the ninth century especially, the literature is in Arabic, but in Syriac there are some earlier theological and polemical texts, not to mention a number of translations from Greek, as well as a few monastic texts known from Melkite manuscripts but originating in Syriac Orthodox or Church of the East communities. (For Syriac, see further Brock in GEDSH, 285-286, and “Melkite” and “Melkites” in the Comprehensive Bibliography of Syriac Christianity at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and otherwise G. Graf, GCAL I 623-640, II 3-93, and III 23-41, 79-298, and J. Nasrallah, Histoire du mouvement littéraire dans l’Église Melchite du Vᵉ au XXᵉ siècle, 4 vols.)

According to Hatch (An Album of Dated Syriac Manuscripts, 28-29), the Melkite Syriac script developed from Serto, but he generally points out similarities with Estrangela and East Syriac, too, echoing Wright, who says that it “inclines in many points towards the Nestorian” (Cat. Syr. Brit. Mus., pt. III, p. xxxi). Plates xv-xvii of Wright’s catalog provide some examples. Hatch knew of only fourteen manuscripts, including those in Wright’s catalog, in Melkite script clearly dated before the end of the sixteenth century, the cutoff point for his Album. The oldest of these manuscripts is one finished at the Lavra of Mar Elias on the Black Mountain and dated 1045 CE. Hatch offers examples in his plates clxxxiv-cxcvii.

A few more examples from HMML’s work at the Church of Mary in Diyarbakır, of good quality and in full color, will be a welcome addition to the samples otherwise available. The manuscripts are indicated by their HMML source number.

DIYR 00062. Menaion, dated 1535.

DIYR 62, f. 42r

DIYR 62, f. 42r

DIYR 00063. Menaion, 16th cent.

DIYR 63, f. 69v

DIYR 63, f. 69v

DIYR 00083. Pentecostarion, dated 1540.

DIYR 83, f. 35v

DIYR 83, f. 35v

DIYR 00335. Menaion, 16th/17th cent.

DIYR 335, f. 157v

DIYR 335, f. 157v

A short hymn in Syriac attributed to Severos   5 comments

In SMMJ 20 (187v), at the end of the Psalms, appears a short hymn on Jesus attributed to Severos. The same text also occurs (probably among others) in DIYR 202, a liturgical manuscript dated 1477, at the beginning of the Rite for the Confirmation of Deacons (77r-78r), but there without any mention of Severos. The handwriting of the latter is more careful, so I give images from that manuscript here.

DIYR 202, ff. 76v-77r

DIYR 202, ff. 76v-77r

DIYR 202, ff. 77v-78r

DIYR 202, ff. 77v-78r

The ending taw-alaf in some cases is written in a unique way that I’ve not noticed before, in which the scribe connects two letters not normally connected.

DIYR 202, f. 77v, line 11 (see also line 5)

DIYR 202, f. 77v, line 11 (see also line 5)

It’s not a particularly moving piece, but it’s short and easy, and so it may be a welcome sample for Syriac students to devote a few minutes to.

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