Archive for the ‘writing’ Tag

The twelve peoples with writing systems, according to a 15th-cent. Armenian manuscript   4 comments

The fifteenth century manuscript, Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia (ACC, Antelias, Lebanon) № 119, contains a large number of short texts, mostly anonymous, on theological and philosophical topics. One such short text (f. 350v), not really theological or philosophical, is a chart that lists the nations said to have a writing system. As the title indicates, there were supposed to be twelve, but the scribe only found eleven, as his concluding note says. In addition to the ethnonyms, to the right of each name is a number, which seems to be the number of letters thought to be in the writing system, although these are not altogether reliable. A similar text is published in Michael E. Stone, Armenian Apocrypha Relating to Adam & Eve, Studia in Veteris Testamenti Pseudepigrapha 14 (Leiden, 1996), p. 163 (see p. 159 for more), but that text has a different list of peoples and different preceding and concluding remarks, nor is the number of letters for each script given.

ACC 119, f. 350v

ACC 119, f. 350v

So the text is:

Յաղագս բժ ազգացդ որ գիր ունին

Եբրայեցի գիրն իդ

Յունացն իբ

Հոռոմոցն իբ

Ասորոցն իբ

Հայոցն լզ

Աղ<ո>ւանն ժբ

Վրացին իէ

Եգիպտացին է

Հնդիկն թ

Տաճկացն իը

Թաթարին իա

Զմի ազգ չգտայ որ գրել էի

English translation:

On the Twelve Peoples that Have Writing

Hebrew writing 24

[The writing] of the Greeks 22

[The writing] of the  Romans 22

[The writing] of the Syrians 22

[The writing] of the Armenians 36

Albanian [writing] 12

Georgian [writing] 27

Egyptian [writing] 7

Indian [writing] 9

[The writing] of the Turks 28

Tatar [writing] 21

I did not find one people group which I was to write.


Old Georgian phrases and sentences 47 (Job 19:23-24, Jer 17:1)   Leave a comment

Here are two passages with some related vocabulary for writing &c. For Job, I give the Greek, too, not least because of two differences in number between the texts. The grammar offers no difficulties.

Job 19:23-24

23 τίς γὰρ ἂν δῴη γραφῆναι τὰ ῥήματά μου, τεθῆναι δὲ αὐτὰ ἐν βιβλίῳ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

23 ვინ მომცნეს მე დაწერად სიტყუანი ჩემნი და დადებად იგინი წიგნთა შინა უკუნისადმდე

  • მო-მ-ცნ-ე-ს aor conj 3sg O1 მოცემა to give
  • დაწერა to write
  • დადება to put, set, lay
  • წიგნი book, document, inscription (NB pl in Georgian here, sg in Greek; also sg in Armenian: մատեան)

24 ἐν γραφείῳ σιδηρῷ καὶ μολίβῳ ἢ ἐν πέτραις ἐγγλυφῆναι;

24 საწერელითა რკინისაჲთა და ბრპენისაჲთა, გინა თუ კლდესა შინა გამოწერად?

  • საწერელი writing instrument
  • რკინჲ iron
  • ბრპენი lead
  • კლდეჲ rock (this time sg in Georgian, but pl in Greek! Armenian again agrees with Greek in the number: վէմս)
  • გამოწერა to portray, draw, write

Jer 17:1

ცოდვაჲ იუდაჲსი დაწერილ არს წიგნთა შინა რკინისათა ფრცხილითა ადამანტიანისაჲთა; გამოდგმულ არს მკერდსა ზედა გულთა მათთასა, და კიდესა ზედა ტაბლათა მათთასა ესრეთ.

  • ცოდვაჲ sin
  • დაწერილი written
  • ფრცხილი (finger)nail, claw
  • ადამანტიანეჲ diamond
  • გამოდგმული fastened, stuck, pressed on, stuck on
  • მკერდი breast
  • კიდეჲ side, edge
  • ტაბლაჲ table

Breaking the pen   2 comments

I’m going through the Martyrdom of Elian in Georgian, the text of which was published, with Latin translation, by Gérard Garitte in Analecta Bollandiana 79 (1961): 412-446 (reprinted in his Scripta Disiecta 1941-1977, vol. 1, pp. 347-381), and I’ve come across a phrase (§ 6.6) that has intrigued me. After the story’s bad guy, the judge and chief (მთავარი, მსაჯული) Maximos, interrogates the saint, Maximos writes out the sentence and then breaks the pen that he wrote the judgement with, the purpose of this being to certify what had been written.

და დაწერა ესე განბჭობაჲ მის ზედა, და შემუსრა კალამი იგი საწამებელად

And he wrote the judgement about him and shattered the pen (kalami) as certification.

Does anyone know of references (in any language) to similar acts, whether in hagiography or otherwise?

Posted December 29, 2013 by adam_bremer-mccollum in Georgian, Hagiography, History

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Continuing manuscript culture   2 comments

Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 2.14.46 PMThe word “manuscript” conjures images of monks, quills, parchment, candles, and the like, that is, a mostly pre-modern setting and seemingly antiquated accoutrements, but the advent and proliferation of the printing press was hardly a death knell to writing by hand, neither in the fifteenth century, nor in those following (keyboards, physical or on-screen, notwithstanding). We don’t have to go back as far as some pre-modern period in Europe or elsewhere to find manuscripts (which, remember, simply means anything written by hand) as a notable witness to scholarly, creative, or memorial activity, and we are not talking here only of texts in old (Greek, Sanskrit, etc.) or semi-old (e.g. Middle English, Ottoman Turkish) varieties of language. Consider the “papers” (in French, English, and other contemporary languages) of relatively recent authors, such as James Joyce and others, which are very often handwritten. (Following widespread use of the typewriter, typewritten pages and sometimes even electronically produced documents are sometimes misleadingly referred to as “manuscripts”!) True, these documents are typically not copied and recopied: for that, printing was employed, and sometimes — if the assumed circulation was (or, prior to efforts by publishers such as Barney Rosset of Grove Press, had to be) small — private printing, one catalog of which is here, and which on the first page has the titles Double Acrostic Enigmas, with Poetical Descriptions selected principally from British Poets and Feigned Insanity, how most usually simulated, and how best detected! From Syriac studies we may point to Gottheil’s (age 23 at the time) little book to the right. (Thankfully, many of these privately printed books are now easily available online for a wide audience.)

“Manuscript culture” in the fullest sense refers not to a specific time, place, or language, but to the production and re-production (i.e. copying) of manuscripts. Taken thus, it is certainly most predominant in pre-modern periods, at least in Europe, but in the Middle East and parts of Africa (Ethiopia) — what about China, India, elsewhere? — copying texts has remained, at least in some small circles, a real practice. HMML has copies of very many Gǝʿǝz manuscripts from the 20th century, and likewise for manuscripts in Syriac, Arabic, and Garšūnī. Just from Mardin, and just in Syriac, HMML has copies of more than 80 manuscripts from the 20th century. The 1960s, it seems, were a relatively active period, with some large manuscripts copied then. As my colleague Wayne Torborg pointed out, someone may have been copying the words of Genesis in Syriac while, perhaps unbeknownst to them, those words in English were being recited from Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve, 1968! While these late manuscripts may often — but hardly always! — be of limited value as textual witnesses, in terms of the manuscript as a physical product and in terms of examples of scribal activity, their worth is not at all negligible, not even to mention their colophons and readers’ notes, which are eminently unique. Also, I have talked before about the probable importance of reading handwriting (i.e. manuscripts) and practicing handwriting (copying manuscripts) in language learning (see here and here), and in the second place I pointed to certain nineteenth- and twentieth-century orientalists who seemingly used manuscript copying to good effect. So at least some manuscript copying was going on also among European scholars.

CFMM 550, dated 1945: Ibn Sīnā's Al-Išārāt wa-l-tanbīhāt in Garšūnī with Bar ʿEbrāyā's Syriac tr.

CFMM 550, dated 1945: Ibn Sīnā’s Al-Išārāt wa-l-tanbīhāt in Garšūnī with Bar ʿEbrāyā’s Syriac tr.

MGMT 81, dated 1968: Dionysios bar Ṣalibi's Commentaries on the Old Testament

MGMT 81, dated 1968: Dionysios bar Ṣalibi’s Commentaries on the Old Testament

Within this context and this definition of “manuscript culture”, I would like to highlight a very recently copied manuscript from the latest batch of files from Saint Mark’s Monastery in Jerusalem. I had seen manuscripts with notes written in Syriac dated as late as 2008, and a very interesting manuscript that I doubt I shall ever forget is a collection of three saints’ lives copied into a 1993 calendar book (ZFRN 385), but based on a manuscript on parchment from 1496 AG (= 1184/5 CE)!

ZFRN 385, here the end of the Story of Mar Awgen.

ZFRN 385, here the end of the Story of Mar Awgen.

As unique as that manuscript is, the great lateness of the Jerusalem manuscript (SMMJ 475) is also startlingly memorable. It has the date in three places, all from the present year, the last one being July 26, 2012! Copied by the monk, Shemun Can, at Saint Mark’s, it is a collection of Syriac poetry, mostly by later authors (but one by Jacob of Serugh and one by Ephrem), along with a few hymns in Garšūnī and the Lawij (in Kurdish with Syriac letters) of Basilios Šemʿon al-Ṭūrānī. The manuscript’s colophons are all in a style not unlike those written centuries before, and they, together with the manuscript as a whole, a physical, textual object, remind us well that manuscript culture, at least in some quarters, is alive and well.

SMMJ 475, p. 34, the beginning of Yaʿqob ʿUrdnsāyā, "On Himself".

SMMJ 475, p. 34, the beginning of Yaʿqob ʿUrdnsāyā, “On Himself”.

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