Posts tagged ‘Manuscript Finds’

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 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 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)

June 22, 2011

Getting to Zographou in the twelfth century

How did people travel before Google? Here is a little sketch from a twelfth century Menologion by Symeon Metaphrastes, now in the National Library of Greece (No. 2534, fol. 267r). The image has three short inscriptions, one around the top of Mount Athos, another above the monastery of Zographou, and another one saying “Vigla”—the medieval Greek word for watchmen’s post (from Latin vigilia), most likely today’s Megali Vigla in the hills beyond Ouranoupolis. The scribe was careful not to forget the small island of Ammouliani, another islet next to it (today’s Pena/Artemis), and a little ship to mark the dock of the monastery.

The only problem with the image, however, is that it is actually showing the wrong side of the peninsula. Both Zographou and Vigla (and the islets too) are on the western side, so this would take the traveler to Esphigmenou instead. Apart from that minor drawback, a beautiful map!

Ath. EBE 2534.267r

Once you pass Vigla, just ask…


June 21, 2011

Χιονόπτωση στὸ Μοναστήρι τῶν Γεωργιανῶν

Iviron 369 (our MTA.8.8), a manuscript from anno mundi 7124 [=AD 1616] in a beautiful archaizing hand, contains a sequentia about, a viva of, and an encomium to the Patriarch Athanasius the Younger. Two and a half centuries later (AM 7371) at the very end of the manuscript (fol. 155r), a monk whose specialty must have been something other than orthography leaves us a note about the weather.  Below is a diplomatic transcription, one with standardized spelling, and a translation.  Special thanks to Σασκῶπον καὶ Βλαδιμηρῶπον for help in deciphering the rough, but charming in its sincerity, scrawl.

1863 εκαμε μια χιονια μεγαλ̣[…]
οπο εσκεπασε το σπιτι ολω
Κυριλλως μωναχος Ιβιριτις
καιφαλινεος εγραψα τα ανω

1863 ἔκαμε μιὰ χιονιὰ μεγάλη, ὁποὺ ἐσκέπασε τὸ σπίτι ὅλο. Κύριλλος μοναχὸς Ἰβηρίτης Κεφαλληναῖος ἔγραψα τὰ ἄνω.

In 1863 there was a big snowstorm that covered the whole house. I, Cyril the Cephallonian, monk of Iviron, wrote the above.

If this Cyril is the same scribe who wrote in either of the gorgeous hands of the two previous pages, then he must have made himself quite free with the “μωναστυρηακω κρασυ” before deciding to tell us about the snowstorm.  ~Roderick

Cyril of Cephallonia's Autograph

June 12, 2011

My first week on the project

If I were to sum up impressions from my first week at DO in one word, it would probably be one of the marginal notes I’ve encountered in the manuscripts: θαυμασιώτατον. Not only that I am surrounded by wonderful people in an idyllic environment but, risking that I may sound too nerdy, cataloging microfilms is incredibly exciting!

One of my favorites so far was finding a marginal inscription in a secret Greek alphabet called φήλτικον (and the key for it too); other two secret alphabets were called τζάτικον and ἰνδικόν (pictures to follow soon). Another jewel was a 19th century copy of Dionysius of Phourna’s Ἑρμηνεία τῆς ζωγραφικῆς ἐπιστήμης handwritten by Gennadios, a Russian monk from Athos, whose shaky knowledge of Greek orthography was compensated with his carefully shaped letters and a touching personal story in the introduction. Both MSS are kept in the National Library in Athens.

The real excitement, however, came when a manuscript appeared with mistaken numbers or without notes at all, and with a fragment of a (hardly legible) text from unspecified source. Thus I met my new Dutch best friend—apart from Saskia—the 17th century humanist Isaac Vossius, to whose collection at Rijksuniversiteit in Leiden I traced some of the manuscripts, mistakenly held to be from Athens. But I can’t tell you how ;).