Archive for July, 2011

July 26, 2011

Before & After

Nothing warms a librarian’s heart like seeing items housed in acid-free, consistently labeled boxes:

July 26, 2011

Our Dream Team

Every summer, Dumbarton Oaks enjoys the company and contributions of our many summer interns.  We have interns in nearly every department, including the Museum, the Gardens, and the Publications department.  Vlad, Saskia and Roderick are interns in the Library, and they’ve been hard at work on the projects described here on the blog.  Their responsibilities have been huge: handling, analyzing, describing, and re-housing hundreds of microfilm reproductions of (primarily-)Greek manuscripts.  They’ve also searched for references to the manuscripts in catalogs, learning that in some cases the 17th or 18th-century catalogs in the Rare Books Collection are more reliable than more recent census material.

Vlad adds one more microfilm to the “done” pile.

Roderick demonstrates cutting edge microfilm-reading technology.

Saskia puts the microfilm splicer through its paces.

These extraordinary Library interns are all graduate students with multiple languages and training in palaeography.  They have also brought good humor and flexibility to a complicated and developing project.  (They could not have anticipated all the iterations of the database they would have to learn…)  And, as anyone who has paged through this blog can see, they have a great eye for fascinating details that they come upon in the course of their project.  The “manuscript finds” they have shared have been a great way to share this project with people outside of the Library and beyond Dumbarton Oaks.

The codex is so over-rated.

They’re with us for a few more weeks—and we’re sure to see them frequently in the future—but this is just to say THANK YOU for all the hard, and very important, work.

July 16, 2011

Ἀρχὴ σὺν Θεῷ: Two Mediæval Greek Poems on Learning

From Cambridge University Library, Manuscript Gg.1.2, a compendium of grammar, προγυμνάσματα, etymologies, &c. These poems come after the Περὶ Συντάξεως of George Pardus (a.k.a. “Gregory of Corinth”), which will protect the gentle reader from solœcisms, barbarisms, and other career-breaking faux pas: for example, it will remind you, if you even need reminding, to say ἀνέχομαι (with the dative, of course) rather than—mon Dieu!βαστάζομαι. A marginal gloss wrongly attributes that work to Constantine “Michael” Psellus, a mistake repeated by what I believe is still the standard catalogue to the library: Hardwick & Luard no. 1397.12 (vol. 3, pp. 11sq.; online here).

For help even beyond what Ψευδοψελλός can offer, we must call upon higher powers. As far as I know, these haven’t been published elsewhere.

256v  The top half of the page is an abbreviated run-through of nominal morphology.  The second half has the following poem:

Ὁ Λάζαρος τέθνηκε φύσεως νόμῳ·
τοῦτον δὲ Χριστὸς ἐξανιστᾷ τοῦ τάφου
ἄψυχον ὄντα καὶ νέκυν ὀδωδότα:
ἀλλ’ αὐτὸς οὗτος ὁ ζωῆς χορηγέτης, ζωῆς
ὁ κρατῶν καὶ θανάτου δεσπόζων, ὁ καὶ θα-
-νατῶν ζωοποιῶν τε ξένως, ὑμᾶς ἀνα-
στήσειε προσφιλῆ τέκνα, τῆς ἀμαθίας,
ὥσπερ νεκρὸν ἐκ τάφου.

Most of the words are marked (presumably numbered) with a superscription in another color, in a way we can derive no meaning from:  Α (Λάζαρος), Β (τέθνηκε), Γ (φύσεως), Δ (νόμῳ), Η (τοῦτον), Ε (Χριστὸς), Ζ (ἐξανιστᾷ), ΣΤ (τοῦ τάφου), Θ (ἄψυχον), ΙΒ (ὄντα), Ι (νέκυν), ΙΑ (ὀδωδότα), Α (αὐτὸς), Β (ζωῆς), [there may be a faint marking over χορηγέτης, but we can’t be sure], Δ (ζωῆς), Γ (κρατῶν), Ε (καὶ θανάτου), ΣΤ (δεσπόζων), Ζ (καὶ θανατῶν), Η (ζωοποιῶν), Θ (ξένως), ΙΣΤ (ὑμᾶς), ΙΕ (ἀναστήσειε), ΙΑ (προσφιλῆ), Ι (τέκνα), ΙΔ (ἀμαθίας), ΙΒ (ὥσπερ), ΙΓ (τάφου).  …An αἴνιγμα for the clever.

257r  This page is wholly taken up by another poem, a prayer for a young writer, with similar markings that we won’t reproduce here (puzzle-solvers can enlarge the photo), but with some verbal interlineal annotations as well.  The poem itself, in fairly large letters, runs:

Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν ὁ ἀσπόρως
εὐδοκήσας τεχθῆναι ἐκ τῆς ἁγίας
θετόκου καὶ ἀειπαρθένου Μαρίας
ταῖς πρεσβείαις αὐτῆς καὶ τοῦ   (4)
χρυσορρήμονος Ἰωσήφ, φώτισον τὸν νοῦν τοῦ νέου
τοῦ νῦν ἀρξαμένου τοῦ σχεδογραφεῖν,
καὶ τὴν καταρχὴν εὐλόγησον τοῦ σχέδους ~
Τρὶς ἤδη γράφεις, ὦ παῖ, καὶ γένοιτό σοι  (8)
ἡ ζωαρχικὴ τριὰς βοηθός, ἵν’ αὐτῆς
τυχὼν βοηθούσης σοι τῷ ταύτης στι-
χεῖν ἐπαίνῳ καὶ ἐγκωμίῳ.

If we include the smaller, interlinear writing as well, we find the following (with the main text here in capitals to aid in distinguishing the two):  ΚΥΡΙΕ (ὦ ἐξουσιαστά) ΙΗΣΟΥ (ὦ θεραπευτά), Ο ΘΕΟΣ (τίς: ποιητά), ΗΜΩΝ (τίνων), Ο ΑΣΠΟΡΩΣ (ὁ ἄνευ σπέρματος), ΕΥΔΟΚΗΣΑΣ (τί ποιήσας καὶ θελήσας) ΤΕΧΘΗΝΑΙ (καὶ γεννηθῆναι) ΕΚ ΤΗΣ (ἐκ τίνος) ΑΓΙΑΣ (καὶ σεβασμίας) ΘΕΟΤΟΚΟΥ (τῆς τὸν θεὸν γεννησάσης) ΚΑΙ ΑΙΕΙΠΑΡΘΕΝΟΥ (καὶ ἀεὶ καὶ πάντοτε παρθενευούσης) ΜΑΡΙΑΣ (τίνος) ΤΑΙΣ ΠΡΕΣΒΕΙΑΙΣ (ταῖς ἱκεσίαις καὶ παρακλήσεσιν) ΑΥΤΗΣ (τίνος) ΚΑΙ ΤΟΥ (καὶ ἄλλου τινός) ΧΡΥΣΟΡΡΗΜΟΝΟΣ (τοῦ χρυσολόγου, ἤγουν καὶ τοῦ χρυσὰ ῥήματα φθεγγομένου) ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ, ΦΩΤΙΣΟΝ (κάθαρον, λάμπρυνον) ΤΟΝ ΝΟΥΝ (τίνα) ΤΟΥ (τίνος) ΝΕΟΥ (ἤγουν παιδὸς) ΤΟΥ ΝΥΝ (ἀρτίως) ΑΡΞΑΜΕΝΟΥ (ἀρχὴν λαβόντος) ΤΟΥ (τί) ΣΧΕΔΟΓΡΑΦΕΙΝ (ἤγουν τοῦ σχεδογραφεῖν· ἄλλο τι) ΚΑΙ ΤΗΝ ΚΑΤΑΡΧΗΝ (τὴν ἔναρξιν) ΕΥΛΟΓΗΣΟΝ (ἐν λόγοις εὔλογον) ΤΟΥ ΣΧΕΔΟΥΣ (τίνα). ΤΡΙΣ (τί ποιῶν· ἐκ τρίτου) ΗΔΗ (ἀπάρτι) ΓΡΑΦΕΙΣ (τί ποιῶν), Ω ΠΑΙ (ὦ παιδίον), ΚΑΙ ΓΕΝΟΙΤΟ ΣΟΙ (καὶ γενηθήτω σοι, καὶ ὑπάρξειε) Η ΖΩΑΡΧΙΚΗ (τίς: ἡ ἄρχουσα τῆς ζωῆς) ΤΡΙΑΣ (ἡ τίς) ΒΟΗΘΟΣ (ποδαπός) ΙΝ’ (καὶ ὅπως) ΑΥΤΗΣ (τίνος: ἤγουν τῆς ἁγίας τριάδος) ΤΥΧΩΝ (ἐπιτυχών), ΒΟΗΘΟΥΣΗΣ (καὶ συνεργούσης) ΣΟΙ (τίνι), ΤΩ (τίνος) ΣΤΙΧΕΙΝ (ἤγουν ἐμμένειν) ΕΠΑΙΝΩ (τιμῇ καὶ δόξῃ) ΚΑΙ (καὶ ἄλλο τι) ΕΓΚΩΜΙΩ (ἐπαίνῳ).

Although, as a rather secular-minded man of the 21st century, we are certainly less familiar with orthodox teaching than was this poem’s author, we wonder if he, or perhaps she, has somehow in confusion given to Mary an attribute of the latter’s cousin’s (Luke ch. 1) or even of the patriarch’s wife (Gen. ch. 18). Likewise, we would expect not Mary & John but Mary & Joseph. (The nomen sacrum here is ἸΩου’, and I don’t think Ἰωσήπου is meant. [Or is it?] An additional confusion, or influence, may be from the epithet’s being ordinarily used, as far as I know, as a synonym of Chrysostom.) Readers: am I missing something? The transcription of σχεδογραφεῖν as its own gloss is correct, as is the accentuation of στ(ε)ίχειν as στιχεῖν. One should very much like to know more about the author (or authoress) of the poem and its addressee!  (For σχεδογραφία, which I seem to recall Anna Comnena disapproved of, see here and here.)


Note: I’ve added a new category for tagging, “Manuscript Finds”, for fun stuff like this, and have tagged some of the earlier posts with it.

July 8, 2011

Le bon temps viendra.

Montfaucon, Bernard de, 1655-1741.
Palæographia græca, sive De ortu et progressu literatum græcarium, et de variis omnium sæculorum scriptionis græcæ generibus: itemque de abbreviationibus & de notis variarum artium ac disciplinarum. Additis figuris & schematibus ad fidem manuscriptorum codicum. Opera & studio D. Bernardi de Montfaucon.
Parisiis, apud Ludovicum Guerin [etc.] 1708


There’s a bookplate in this volume that has raised a few questions.  I’m going to raise a few more!

Both Burke’s [1] and Fairbairn’s [1, 2] lead me to the name Harcourt.  Several members of the Harcourt family have used the peacock on a coronet as a crest—the top part of the armorial.  Adding to that, various Harcourts have used the motto “Le bon temps viendra,” which appears on this bookplate, so I think we’re likely dealing with a member of the Harcourt family.

The shield itself indicates two marriages; this is what’s called  a composite shield of arms.  On the left half (which, to make matters extra-confusing, is referred to as the dexter… because it would be on the right if you were standing behind it) there are the gold bars on a red background of the Harcourt family and the arms of another family; two sets of arms are divided in a manner that’s called “quarterly.”  Basically, the left half shows the arms of a son of a Harcourt.  On the right (the sinister.. I know, I know), we have the arms of this son’s wife.

So, which Harcourt are we dealing with and who is the wife?  This bookplate probably belonged to their child.

I’d describe the wife’s arms as: “azure on a fess dancetty argent between three griffins passant wings endorsed or three escallops gules.”  In non-heraldic language, that’s a blue background with three griffins, plus three red scallop shells on a silver jagged bar in the middle.  But I can’t find this family in the digital editions of the relevant reference books… so I have to keep poking around!

The bookplate itself doesn’t look super-old to my (admittedly non-expert) eye—possibly 19th century?

If you’re wondering how I’ve determined colors from the b/w image, check out this Wikipedia article on heraldic tinctures.

Also on Wikipedia, an article about the House of Harcourt, which had both English and French branches.

Which Harcourt was reading about Greek palaeography?  Any thoughts would be most welcome.  I’ll post this image in some other locations as well… let’s see what we learn.


July 3, 2011

Monastic Photobombs

Several of our posts have been about the wonderful marginalia that we come across every day in our work.  From memories of snow on the Holy Mountains and maps for the traveller to detailed advice on how to cure sick cows and stern warnings invoking the curse of the 318 fathers of Nicaea on would-be thieves, these notes, pictures and doodles offer a delightful glimpse into thoughts of the writers and readers of the manuscripts. We’ve also found that the edges of the microfilm themselves become a kind of second margin where, to our surprise and occasional dismay, the photographers of the manuscripts leave their own traces. I have gathered a small selection of some of the more curious “meta-marginalia” we’ve encountered: hands and fingers are rather common but at times we’ve found office supplies too.  The strip of fabric in the top right of the collage is the (for us) very familiar Iviron monastery tablecloth which the monks seemed to use as a sort of decorative base when photographing manuscripts in the 1970’s and is often visible at the edges of the image.

(Thanks to Roderick and Vladimir for sharing their photos, click on the image to enlarge)