May 2, 2014

“Dessins Naïfs”: Artwork from Istanbul, Patriarchate Library, Panaghia 26

Today’s find is some very delightful artwork from the last folios of a tenth-century collection of New Testament texts. These “dessins naïfs”, as Kouroupou and Géhin (authors of the tremendously good and thorough recent catalogue of the Panaghia Kamariotissa collection) call them, feature several ships, a horse, birds and people along with geometric designs.

While the text can be securely dated to the 10th c. based on certain stylistic aspects of the script, it’s much more difficult to tell when these drawings were added in. My knowledge of ships isn’t what it should be but if anyone has a guess as to what kind of vessels these are and what their date might be, please leave a comment! 

fol. 302r

Fol. 302r

 Fol.302r (detail)

Fol. 302 closeup

Fol. 303r

Fol. 303r

Bonus image from Istanbul, Patriarchate Library, Panaghia 24. At the very end of a fifteenth-century ms containing orations by Demosthenes, I found this deer and gave him the (perhaps not entirely polite) nickname ‘Bene Pendentes’.

Bene Pendentes

April 8, 2014

“They made me a monk and called me Ignatios…”

This week I’ve started work on the microfilms from the Istanbul Patriarchate Library which were made during the Dumbarton Oaks-Andry expedition in the early 1960’s. The Patriarchate Library seems to have a prodigious collection of manuscripts containing works of John Chrysostom. It was at the beginning of one of these (Istanbul, Patriarchate Library, Panagia Kamariotissa, ms. 5, a tenth-century copy of some of Chrysostom’s exegetical texts on the New Testament) that I found a delightful illustrated note left by a monk called Ignatios from the early 17th century.



I am transcribing Ignatios’ note as diplomatically as I can because his Greek is very charming:

ἐν μηνή μαρτηω ἐν έτη ͵ζρκ

ἐγυρτα ὴς τω μοναστηρη

εγό ω γιοανάκης

κ(αὶ) με ἐκαμα καλώγερο

καὶ ωνομάσαση με

+ ιγνατήον μοναχόν+


In the month of March, in the year 1619,

I stood at the monastery

I, Ioannakis

and they made me a kalogeros

and called me Ignatios the monk.

The best thing about Ignatios’ note is probably the accompanying portrait in which a bearded man (a monk, likely) stretches out his left hand at the text. As Sarah pointed out, the hand also serves as a manicule. Ignatios (or perhaps someone else) did two little test drawings of a face and a hand. I think it’s not unfair to say that the faces turned out a little better than the hands. 🙂

See also Kouroupou and Géhin’s catalogue, vol. 1, pp. 73-4, for their very thorough entry on this ms.

My thanks to Elena, Deb and Sarah for their help.

March 17, 2014

Latin in Greek and Greek in Latin: Some Bilingual and Transliterated Texts in the Sinai Collection

The Manuscripts on Microfilms blog is back after a two-year hiatus! In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my finds from the Sinai collection, which I’ve been working on this winter.

The monastery of Saint Catherine has long been an important place of religious devotion for pilgrims from all corners of the Christian world. Its strategic location between East and West, in addition to its direct proximity to the θεοβάδιστον ὄρος, where Moses met the Lord and received the Law, made the monastery a prominent destination and thoroughfare for all kinds of travelers. The monks who dwelled at the foot of this holy mountain also formed a multilingual and international community as the number of different languages represented in the monastery’s manuscript collection will attest. The following three examples are drawn from documents that reveal the presence of Latin speakers (or perhaps we should say readers) at the monastery.

A Greek Sator Square: Mount Sinai, Monastery of Saint Catherine, Sin. Gr. 1208

Ms. Sin. Gr. 1208 is a well-worn collection of patristic texts dated to the fifteenth century. One reader found some space among the busy collection of scribbles and probationes pennae on the final folios of the ms to create his own version of the ancient and well-known Latin palindrome, the Sator square. Interestingly, the scribe (or perhaps we should call him “the scribbler”) chose to work through the word puzzle in a more familiar script and even added diacritics.


I’ve transcribed the square below with my best guesses as to whether a diacritical mark is a breathing and or an accent.


Στέκει Μάνα: Mount Sinai, Monastery of Saint Catherine, Ms. Gr. 1586.

Two leaves attached to the end of ms. Gr. 1586, fourteenth-century sticherarion contain parts of the hymn “Stabat Mater” written in Latin, then transliterated into Greek script and finally translated into Greek. A few lines of the “Ave Maria” receive the same treatment. The transliteration and translation of the hymn into Greek suggests that the scribe not only wanted his Greek-speaking audience to understand the text but also to be able to pronounce the words of the hymn in Latin.



Transcription of the beginning of the first leaf: (as diplomatic as possible)

Latin: stabat mater dolorosa iuxta cruce [sic] lacrimosa dum pendebat filius…

Latin transliterated into Greek script: στάμπατ μάτερ ντολορόζα γιουστα κρούτζε λακριμόζα ντοῦμ πεντέμπατ φίλιους.

Greek translation: Στέκει μάνα πονεμένη, εἰς τὸν στ[αυρὸ]ν ἀπολυπισμένη, ἐκεῖ ὄπου ἐκρέμεσεν ὁ υἱός…

Soson Imas: Mount Sinai, Monastery of Saint Catherine, Chest 4, Document 111

The last image is of a document from Chest 4, that never-ending trove of treasure.  It contains a portion of the liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom that has been transliterated phonetically into Latin characters. Benešević transcribed and lightly edited the entire text in his catalogue and put the Greek in a parallel column (Benešević no. 2150, see pp. 346-354 of vol. 3). He dates the document to the 12th century. The transliteration makes the Greek text of the liturgy legible (if not comprehensible) to non-Greek speakers.


Inc. fol. 1r: agathon to exomologiste to k[iri]o. ke spallin to onomati ssu. ipsiste tes pres<s>uies tis theotocu soter soson imas…

Ἀγαθὸν τὸ ἐξομολογεῖσθαι τῷ κ[υρί]ῳ καὶ σπάλλειν (ψάλλειν) τῷ ὀνόματί σου ὕψιστε ταῖς πρε<σ>βείαις τῆς Θεοτόκου σῶτερ σῶσον ἡμᾶς…

I am grateful to Elena Velkovska for kindly helping me come to grips with some of the more inscrutable penmanship.

Stay tuned for more finds!

July 26, 2012

Ϡ + (β · Ϟ) = ͵αξʹ

We’ve often come across sums done in the free pages at the back of a manuscript, where some poor monk has taken a date in A.M. (anno mundi) and subtracted 5508 to get the A.D. year.

(But caution: if it’s from the 1st of September to the end of the A.M. year, you have to subtract 5509: in Bodley’s Roe 18(b), for example, the scribe “Constantinus Sapiens” (he calls himself that (fol. 476v): «διὰ χειρὸς ἐμοῦ Κωνσταντίνου τοῦ σοφοῦ»!) dated the manuscript Sept., 6857.  A later hand just subtracted 5508 and wrote in the margin «ἔτει τῆς ἐνσάρκου οἰκονομίας ͵ατμθʹ», which in his catalogue the usually careful Henry O. Coxe (vol. 1, sub lem., §62) reproduced without comment, as did Πίνακες. But Paul Moore (who I think never made a mistake in his life) subtracted the right amount and correctly dated this (Iter Psellianum p. 734) to 1348.)

We’ve often wondered though how anyone could actually do sums with Greek numbers, and have joked about “carrying the stigma”.  But today, on the otherwise almost blank last folio of a codex, I came across a manuscript where someone does exactly that.  I “translated” the numbers and worked it out numeris indo-arabicis and… they got it right!

Interestingly, the dating system they’re using is not the usual one, but that of the antipope Hippolytus, where the earth is eight years younger.  (Many thanks to Βλαδιμηρῶπον for telling me about this.)  I’ll let the historians comment on the significance of the years themselves.


Codex parisinus græcus 1267
(Psellus de vitæ termino
[TLG 2702.011 & 2702.028];
Photius & alii varii
de processione
spiritus sancti
talibusque quæstionibus
fol. 208v.

͵ε φ

    τ ι η

    σ ι

    φ ν ε

    ρ κ θ


͵Ϛ ψ ι β

        ν ζ


͵Ϛ ψ ξ θ

     ρ Ϟ β


͵Ϛ Ϡ ξ α



This translates into the following:

vʹd  (año incarnationis domenicæ secũdũ Hippolytũ)

+ cccxviii

+ ccx

+ dlv

+ cxxix

= vʹmdccxii  (ca. añum Dom. 1212)

+ dvii

= vʹmdcclxix  (ca. añum Dom. 1269)

+ cxcii

= vʹcmlxi  (ca. añum Dom. 1461)


Or, in the middle ages, perhaps to something like this:


+ bxaiii

+ hx

+ ql


= zzzqhxii

+ laii

= zzzqhfxxaiiii

+ cnii

= zzzqhlxi


…So, let’s carry that sigma after all!


July 20, 2012

Week 7 Round Up: From Paris with Love

This week we processed around 74 films representing 64 manuscripts. It’s been a Parisian week for all of us: Vlad finished the non-Westerink Paris manuscripts and is now vigorously chipping away at the large stack of Westerink Paris films on his shelf; Roderick was reluctant to leave Oxford behind when the films ran out but now seems happy enough with Henri Omont and Fonds Grec, which has a cachet and glamor all of its own; I’ve been working on the Fonds Coislin, which has some truly spectacular manuscripts (especially of OT and NT texts) so it’s been a treat.

When one spends so much working on a particular library, it’s very easy to get rather attached to the place and the collection. Vlad has mentioned feeling this way about Florence, which was a huge collection of films that he did mostly by himself and the enduring love affair between Roderick and Bodley is well known around these parts (although he insists the British Library is still his favorite). As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I have a great fondness for the BSB in Munich but this summer most of my praise and adoration has gone not to a library but rather to a reference work.

The precious tome of which I speak is Iter Psellianum: A Detailed Listing of Manuscript Sources for All Works Attributed to Michael Psellos, Including a Comprehensive Bibliography by Paul Moore. For those who are not familiar with this invaluable resource, I’ll explain briefly how it works: Moore divided all of Psellos’ extant works (including the spurious ones) into categories and assigned them a number. For example, the De Operatione Daemonum, a dialogue of doubtful Psellan authorship on the operation of demons between a certain Timothy and a Thracian man (it has the unforgettable first line: χρόνιος, ὦ Θρᾷξ, ἐπὶ τὸ Βυζάντιον ἀπαντᾷς;) is THE.168 (theological work 168). There are categories for philosophical works, rhetorical works, grammatical works and so forth. For each of these of these entries, Moore compiled editions, bibliography and, most crucial to our work, a list of manuscripts where the text occurs, including the folio numbers.

I can’t stress too much how useful this book has been to my work these past two summers. In some of the older catalogues and in a few of the other resources we use, Psellos tends to be a bit underrepresented. Combine this dearth of information with poor quality or truncated films and the going can get tough, especially when one is processing the microfilm collection of Professor Westerink. Moore’s work consistently provides all the necessary information in a format that is organized, easily searchable and highly user friendly. Though I understand that it’s a reference work for a specific niche in Byzantine studies, I really can’t recommend it enough. Iter Psellianum (ἡ Ψελλιανὴ Ὁδός) is truly the way, the truth and the life when it comes to Psellos manuscripts.

July 17, 2012

1000th microfilm processed!

Our “dream team” is making fast progress this summer.  Way to go!

July 13, 2012

Week #6, 2012

This week we managed to get through about 83 microfilms, representing 81 manuscripts. This came in greatest measure thanks to Vladimir, who’s been cutting through the Bibliothèque Nationale like a sharp knife through a soufflé.  The man is a phenomenon.

Saskia just finished Turin.  And, while Βλαδίμηρος was blazing his way through Lutetia, Σασκῶπον came upon a city already touched by an unholy fire («πῦρ οὐ καθαρτήριον ἀλλὰ κολαστήριον», Iter Psellianum no. 585) that in February of 1904 burnt all the Michael Psellus out of the manuscripts.[1]  This week she started working half-time, so she can give proper attention to her dissertation on John Moschus’s Spiritual Meadow. (Of meadows, fields, harvesting, reward and fellow-laborers, one thinks that indeed messis quidem multa, operarii autem pauci.)

And I (minimus [scribarum], qui non sum dignus vocari [scriba]) have been working on Bodley, which has a large bibliography and many subcollections. I finished the Barocciani & Laudiani and have begun the Auctarium. In the case of Laud gr. 81, all of which is attributed to Andrew of Crete, I think I see reason to doubt the ascription, or at least the originality. At the very least, and even though it was edited (centuries ago) by François Combefis, there’s still plenty of scope for some fun detective-work for stemmatophiles—that is, assuming it wasn’t done by one of those Wunderkinder at a Gymnasium during the time of Bismarck.

The ms. we have, in one or more beautiful hands, was apparently copied in the 17th century from an ancient manuscript at the Monastery of the Deipara on Chios (the start of a good movie already: «μετεγράφη ἀπὸ ἀρχαιοτάτου βιβλίου καταστίκτου τῇ ἀρχαότητι ἐκ μεμβρανῶν συντεθεγμένου καὶ τῇ ἀρχαίᾳ τῆς Θεομήτορος μονῇ ἐν τῇ Χίῳ συντηρουμένου»). There are lots of re-assuring self-corrections along the way, but for some of the works, a second (very heavy) hand has come and made changes to practically every other line. And it’s hardly just proofreading: in some cases he sees before him a version that now matches the TLG, and rejects it. So it seems that (barring some divine emendation-afflatus like the one poured out on those three score and ten translators of old) he’s got at least two Vorlagen in front of him.  Did they take their own “copy-text” with them to the monastery for “correction”? Or do they have a copy of the monastery’s version, with later changes? And is everything in the manuscript actually by the archbishop Andrew? (The TLG numbers below are to other writers.)  There are lots of blank pages (leading to duelling numeration), so when were the quires all brought together.  Hmmm…


Bodleianus Laudianus græcus 81.

99v-104v  Blank.

105r-109r (Coxe §14)  «†Τοῦ ἐν ἁγίοις πατρὸς ἡμῶν Ἀνδρέου, ἀρχιεπισκόπου Κρήτης, τοῦ Ἱεροσολυμίτου· ἐγκώμιον εἰς τὸν ὅσιον πατέρα ἡμῶν καὶ θαυματουργὸν Νικόλαον, ἀρχιεπίσκοπον τῆς Μύρου τῆς Λυκίας.» Incipit «Ἄνθρωπε τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ πιστὲ θεράπων [cf. TLG 2714.002, Epistle 300, and TLG 5077.002, §59] καὶ οἰκονόμε τῶν τοῦ Χριστοῦ μυστηρίων, καὶ ἂν ἐξ ἐπιθυμιῶν τῶν τοῦ πνεύματος, δέχου τὸν παρ’ ἡμῶν σοι προσαγόμενον λόγον ὡς δῶρον καὶ χάριν…»  Heavy corrections throughout.

109v-114v  Blank.

115r (Coxe §15)  «Τοῦ αὐτοῦ [after 13 blank pages] ἐγκώμιον εἰς τὸν εὐαγγελιστὴν Ἰωάννην.»  The first twelve lines are in a different hand from the rest:  «Ἰωάννης ὁ εὐαγγελιστὴς ἡμᾶς τήμερον συνήγαγεν ἐκεῖνον ἐγκωμιάσοντας. Ἔστι γὰρ ἀετὸς ὑψηπέτης διὰ τῆς ἀνωτάτης πτήσεως, πάντας τοὺς λοιποὺς ὄρνιθας πολλῷ τῷ μέσῳ ὑπερβαλόμενος τῆς ἐκ διττῶν πτερύγων θέας, δηλαδὴ καὶ πράξεως προελθούσης. Καὶ Πέτρος ὁ κορυφαῖος εὐφημιῶν οὐκ ὀλίγων ἠξιώθη, καὶ τὸν Χριστὸν υἱὸν τῷ πατρὶ ὁμοούσιον θεασάμενος καὶ τῷ πρὸς ἐκεῖνον πόθῳ κομιδῇ διαφέρων. Ἀλλὰ γὰρ καὶ ὁ ἠγαπημένος μαθητής, ὁ ἠγαπημένος διαφερόντως προσονομασθείς, οὗ τοῖς στέρνοις καὶ ὁ κύριος ἐνέπεσε, καὶ ᾧ τὴν μητέρα συνέστησεν, γῆ ἂν ἴσως μειονεκτοίη τοῦ Πέτρου κατὰ τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν ἀγάπησιν· εἴπερ φιλεῖ ὁ θεὸς τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας κατ’ ἀναλογίαν τοῦ ἐνυπάρχοντος ἐκείνοις ἔρωτος· ἐγκωμιάσωμεν ἄρα τὸν μέγαν θεολόγων – καὶ γὰρ ἀξιέπαινος τῶν ἁγίων ὁ ἔπαινος. [The above may be slightly compressed, and the last word goes over into the margin. With no space, a new hand picks up (or was there already?) with TLG 3092.004, §2, but without the ἁγίων that we expect as antecedent to the following pronouns:] Καὶ ἡ ἐπίκλησις αὐτῶν σωστικὴ, καὶ ἡ πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἔντευξις, ἀνυστικὴ τῶν αἰτήσεων· τὸ δ’ ὅτι καὶ τῆς ἀρετῆς διὰ τῶν αὐτῶν ἐγκωμίων πρόκλησις γίνεται [line struck through: “τῆς κακίας αἰσχυνουμένης καὶ ἀποσοβουμένης ἔκ γε τῶν μὴ πεπηρωμένων”] εἰς τέλεον· ἡ τῶν πραγμάτων φύσις παρίστησιν…»  In the margin, what appears to be the same hand as above replaces the struck-through line, which fits with the version in the TLG,  with simply «τῆς κακίας ἀποσοβουμένης».

120r  Desinit pagina (non opus), «…βυθίζεται μετὰ τῶν αὐτοῦ συναποστατῶν· ζωὴν δὲ ἡμῖν· καὶ θάνατον τοῖς διώκταις, ὁ σταυρὸς ἐνεργεῖ τοῦ Χριστοῦ· μωσαϊκῇ ῥάβδῳ καὶ θαλάσσης πληγαῖς προτυ[πούμενος]…»  Cf. TLG 3092.004 (Nicephorus Blemmydes, Laudatio Sancti Johannis Evangelistæ, §42).  And here endeth the microfilm: microtænia missa est; procedamus in pace.

[1] The papyrologist Alan Bowman once told me that worms seem to prefer verbs.

July 10, 2012

Week #5, 2012

Half-way through our summer at Dumbarton Oaks, we have processed 368 microfilm containing 386 manuscripts. Among these are the recently finished collections of the Library of St. John the Theologian on Patmos, St. Petersburg (Vlad), Vallicelliana and Vatican Latin collection (Saskia); this closes the chapter of the Vatican Library in the microfilm collection.

We are now in the middle of the collections of Oxford (Rod), Paris (Vlad), and Turin (Saskia).

July 3, 2012

Week #4, 2012

As of 9:30am on Tuesday, July 3rd (early in week #5), the team had processed 325 microfilm this summer, representing 339 manuscripts.



June 22, 2012

Week #3, 2012

We processed about 69 films this week, working mostly on the Vatican library. Taking the lead in speed and efficiency was Vlad who became an experienced wrangler of large numbers of uncatalogued Vatican manuscript which were often piled onto one single film. He worked on Professor Ševčenko’s Vatican films and found several autographs by Nikephoros Gregoras. Roderick tackled with stoic equanimity a stack of films that no one had the strength or courage to face last summer, including some beautiful Armenian mss. from Holkham Hall and a still unidentified ms. which is a French translation (probably by Charles Texier) of an 1822 German work on describing Asia Minor at the Royal Institute of British Architects. I spent my time with the Barberini collection in the Vatican and with some of Professor Westerink’s films from the Beinecke Library.

We also had the opportunity to present and talk about our project with the staff, fellows and Greek summer school students on Friday from 2-3. We’ll be sharing some of that on the blog soon.

Repositories represented this week:

  • Brussels, Koninklijke Bibliotheek
  • Holkham Hall, Earls of Leicester Library.
  • Manchester, John Rylands Library
  • New Haven, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
  • Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana


Thanks to all for a great week!