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.

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