THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Medieval manuscripts blog

10 March 2015

The Greek Manuscripts of Robert Curzon, Part I

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Front cover of Add MS 39603 (binding of wooden boards covered with blue velvet, much worn. On both covers is a cross with a patterned border, between corner-ornaments, all gilt)

In Saturday's blog post, we featured Add MS 39591, a manuscript that was ‘improved’ in the 19th century for its owner Robert Curzon, 14th Baron Zouche. Today, we provide the first of a two-part guide to Curzon’s Greek manuscripts. Most of the 42 Greek manuscripts from Curzon’s collection have now been digitised as part of the Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project. Curzon’s manuscripts are especially significant for two reasons: first, he almost always leaves detailed notes about his acquisition of individual items in the manuscripts (much material for future #FlyleafFridays here!), and second, a large number of his manuscripts retain Byzantine-style bindings. For these reasons, details are given below of provenance and/or bindings where these are particularly interesting or significant.

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Add MS 39583, f 20r. Miniature of St Mark in the Byzantine style of the ?13th century, probably from a Greek Gospel-book

Add MS 39583. Fragments collected by Robert Curzon to illustrate the history of writing. The volume originally contained both Western and Oriental fragments, but the latter have now been transferred to their appropriate departments (Egyptian Antiquities, British Museum, and Asian and African Studies, British Library). The Greek contents are a fragment of a Greek Gospel lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 182); a leaf from a manuscript containing Ephraem the Syrian, Sermo Compunctorius (CPG 3908); and a miniature of St. Mark in the Byzantine style of the ?13th century, probably from a Greek Gospel-book.

Add MS 39584. Parchment roll containing Ἀκολουθία τῶν Ἐγκαινίων: Office for the dedication of a church, with connected or similar offices. 14th century. This roll has been photographed and will appear on Digitised Manuscripts in the coming weeks.

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Add MS 39585, front cover

Add MS 39585. Octateuch (Rahlfs 426), imperfect. 11th century, possibly written in Constantinople, where it was by the early 15th century. Bound in boards covered with black leather, blind-tooled with a plain double-line border and a saltire cross, fastened by a leathern thong. On the front cover has been fastened a late Byzantine icon (which may be as late as the sixteenth cent.), given to Curzon (according to a note inside the cover, f i) at Jerusalem by his English servant, William Fuller. It is attached to the binding by a silver frame, in the corners of which are set four stones from Mount Sinai, while in each of the upper lower rims are six stones from the bed of the Jordan. The icon is on wood. The faces are raised, perhaps by means of wax, and the whole is varnished. A double row of saints is shown, which are as follows:-Top row, St John the Baptist, St Nicholas, St George, St Demetrios, Bottom row, Prophet Daniel, Holy Barnabas, Holy Sophronios, St Christophoros. The fore-edge image is listed on Digitised Manuscripts as f vi recto. Curzon acquired the manuscript at the Monastery of St Sabba near Jerusalem (f iii recto).

Add MS 39586. Psalter and Canticles (Rahlfs 1090), with later additions on extra leaves, original and inserted, at beginning and end. Much-defaced miniature of the Psalmist, f 1v. Decorated headpiece, f 2r. Initials, headings and points in red. Some scribblings and drawings in the margins. Early 11th century. Bound in boards covered with blind-tooled leather, originally red (17th century), each studded with five brass bosses, most of which are lost, and with traces of a clasp. On the board of the front cover (f i recto) is written Γαβρηλ Βγ. The fore-edge can be viewed on Digitised Manuscripts as f viii recto. Acquired at the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos, according to Curzon’s printed catalogue, though a note in the manuscript (f iv recto) states that the MS was bought from the Monastery of St. Sabba, near Jerusalem.

Add MS 39587. Psalter (Rahlfs 1091). According to Rahlfs, this manuscript and Add MS 39588 (Parham MS VI) were originally a single manuscript. 12th century. Binding is half black, modern English, by Charles Lewis, of black velvet studded on each cover with five silver bosses of open work in silver set with crystals. Acquired at the Monastery of St Sabba near Jerusalem (f i recto).

Add MS 39588. Canticles and other Services, imperfect (Rahlfs 1091), the continuation of the previous manuscript. 12th century. Initials and decorated headpieces in red. Two rough drawings on f 40v. Binding of brown leather. A note by Curzon on f i recto states 'I forget whether I got this MS. at Therapia, of an old woman, who lived at the top of the hill, behind Ld. Ponsonby's stables; from whom I got 4 bad MSS. of the 16th century or whether I got it at Athens, from a certain schoolmaster'. Rahlfs' belief that this manuscript was originally part of Add MS 39587 makes it more probable that Curzon acquired it at St Sabba (the source of Add MS 39587)

Add MS 39589. Psalter (Rahlfs 1092) with introduction and commentary based on that of Euthymius Zigabenus (PG 128), attributed in the manuscript to Nicephorus Blemmydes, imperfect. 2nd half of the 12th century. Initials and headings in red. Ornamental headpieces in red and green before the introduction to the commentary and the Psalter (ff 1r, 12r). On f 11v are the remains of a miniature, representing the Psalmist. Almost all the colour has flaked off, leaving only the outlines; the nimbus was of gold, and Δα(υεί)δ is written in red on the right of the head. Modern binding of blue velvet. Purchased by Robert Curzon in Therapia in 1837 for 1 dollar (f i recto).

Add MS 39590. New Testament, without the book of Revelation (Gregory-Aland 547). Contains Euthalian prefaces to the Epistles and prefatory notes and epigrams to the Gospels. 11th century, the flyleaves are taken from a 10th-century manuscript of sermons by John Chrysostom. In wooden boards covered with brown leather (possibly 15th century), blind-tooled, with ornamental borders and stamped medallions containing dogs, etc., metal bosses in the middle and at the four corners, several of which have been lost and, in two cases, replaced by modern nails. The fore-edge is listed on Digitised Manuscripts as f ix recto. Acquired at the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos (f ii recto).

Add MS 39591. Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 548). At the end a 14th-century hand has added the oikoi (acrostic "αβγ-ο") from the Office of the Akathist. Mid-12th century. Initials, titloi, and numbers of Ammonian sections in gold and over red. Headpieces illuminated in gold and colours. Before each Gospel is a miniature of the Evangelist. The first of these (f iii verso) is modern, and it is not certain that there was an original miniature of St Matthew. The three original miniatures (ff 44v, 70v and 124v) have in each case a plain gold ground and show the Evangelist seated. These were significantly overpainted at the same time as the miniature of St Matthew was added.The first 8 lines of St. John's Gospel are written in gold over red. Some of the earlier folios (ff 2r-4r, 15v-16r) have been furnished with neums in red, and notes of lessons have been made as far as f 5r, in both cases by a later hand. The manuscript was "improved" for Robert Curzon in the 19th century.

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Add MS 39592, front cover

Add MS 39592. Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 549), with marginal commentary. 11th century. Gospel headings and initials on the first page of each Gospel in gold; other initials in magenta. Bound in a comparatively modern binding of boards covered with red velvet, with a leaf-like plate of silver-gilt at each corner, formerly clasped by cords of red and yellow. Images of the fore-edges can be foudn on Digitised Manuscripts as ff iii-v. Acquired at the Xenophontos Monastery on Mount Athos (f i recto).

Add MS 39593. Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 550), with prefaces taken from the commentary of Theophylact, and synaxaria. 12th century. Decorated headpieces. Initials, lists of chapters, Ammonian section-numbers, and lection notes in red, much-faded. Binding of boards covered with black leather, blind-tooled, with cross on front cover, much rubbed. Acquired at the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos (f 2v).

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Front cover of Add MS 39594

Add MS 39594. Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 551), with capitula, Ammonian sections, lection notes, and subscriptions. 12th century. Followed by synaxaria, added on paper in the late fifteenth century. Full-page miniatures of the Evangelists. Illuminated headpieces and initials. Other initials, headings, titloi, lection notes, and section numbers in varying tints. Binding is probably 16th century. Boards covered with dark brown leather. The upper cover has a blind-stamped border with a cross in the middle, the spaces left being filled irregularly with stamped designs, rosettes, rings containing birds, etc. The lower cover has a more regular pattern, also blind-stamped, a border enclosing a panel divided by diagonal lines crossing, the spaces being occupied by conventional designs. The fore-edge can be viewed on Digitised Manuscripts as f ii recto. Acquired at the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos (f i recto).

Add MS 39595. Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 552). 2nd half of the 12th century. Illuminated headpieces and initials. The first page of each Gospel is written in gold over magenta. Initials and titloi in magenta. In a binding of wooden boards, covered with brown leather, probably 16th-17th century, with a blind-tooled pattern of a saltire in a panel. Acquired at the Monastery of St Sabba (f iii recto).

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Add MS 39596, fore-edge

Add MS 39596. Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 553). 13th century. Illuminated headpieces and Gospel initials. Titloi, chapter-numbers, subscriptions, intials, and capitula in red. Binding of wooden boards covered with dark brown leather, probably 16th century. The fore-edge can be viewed on Digitised Manuscripts as f iv recto. Acquired at the Monastery of St Sabba (f i recto).

Add MS 39597. Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 554). Written in 1272. Illuminated headpieces and Gospel initials, other initials and titloi in red. Binding of blind-panelled black leather over wooden boards, 16th-17th century. Acquired at the Monastery of St Sabba for 10 dollars (f i recto).

Add MS 39598. New Testament, Acts and Epistles (Gregory-Aland 910), with Euthalian headings, preceded by Dorotheus of Tyre, Index Apostolorum et Discipulorum. Completed in 1009. Decorated headpiece in red and black before Acts. Headings, subscriptions and the first few words of each paragraph in red. Binding of wooden boards, covered with black leather: 16th-17th cent. Acquired at the Monastery of St Sabba (f ii recto).

Add MS 39599. New Testament, Acts and Epistles (Gregory-Aland 911), with ekphonetic neums, lection notes, and a marginal commentary, being a combination of the commentaries of Theophylact and Oecumenius on Acts, an abbreviated version of the commentary of Oecumenius on the Pauline Epistles, and a selection from the text now in Cramer's Catena (1840) on the Catholic Epistles. Imperfect at the end. The volume also contained Revelation, which was cut out by the Hegoumenos of the Karakallou Monastery, and which is now bound separately as Add MS 39601 (see below). The missing portion of the Catholic Epistles, now lost, may have been cut out at the same time. 11th century. In boards covered with brown leather, blind-tooled with a panel pattern and varnished, perhaps of the 16th century. Acquired at the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos (note on the inside front cover).

Add MS 39600. New Testament, Acts and Epistles (Gregory-Aland 912), with the prefaces of Euthalius and Theodoret. 13th century. Decorated headpiece in red at the beginning of Acts. Initials, subscriptions, titloi, and lection notes in red. The manuscript also contains a line-engraving of the Monastery of Simonopetra, dated 1836, which was included in the volume when it was rebound in red velvet in the 19th century. Acquired at the Simonopetra Monastery on Mount Athos (f i recto).

Add MS 39601. Revelation (Gregory-Aland 911 [=2040]), imperfect at the end, expl. 20:11, καὶ ὁ οὐρανός, καὶ τόπος, with a marginal commentary by Andreas of Caesarea, Commentarii in Apocalypsin (TLG 3004.001). Originally part of Add MS 39599 (see above), but the hand of the text (perhaps not that of the commentary) is different and a good deal smaller. 19th century binding of red velvet. Acquired at the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos (f ii verso).

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Add MS 39602, front cover

Add MS 39602. Gospel lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 181). Written at Ciscissa in Cappadocia for the bishop Stephanos in 980: f 220v.Revised by Michael, a notary, at Ciscissa in 1049: f 221r. There is a note in Georgian on f 1r, discussed in a blog post by Adam McCollum. Decorated head-pieces and initials in red and blue, headings and neumes in red. A number of the initials are of zoomorphic or anthropomorphic form, e.g. O in the form of a fish (ff 6r, 138v, 157v), and E with a human hand for a cross-bar (ff 1r, 7v). Bound in red velvet with a clasp, the front cover studded with five gilt buckles. Acquired at the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos, according to Scrivener, Codex Augiensis p. 51.

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Add MS 39603, f 112r, text in the shape of a cross

Add MS 39603. Cruciform Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 233). 12th century. Illuminated initials and finial ornaments at each angle of the cruciform text. Fully illuminated cruciform borders enclose the text on ff 1r, 42r, 112r. Tail-piece on f 196v. Neums in red, headings and rubrics in gold over red. The first two pages of text are also in gold over red. Modern but not recent binding of wooden boards covered with blue velvet, much worn. On both covers is a cross with a patterned border, between corner-ornaments, all gilt. The cross on the front cover has the inscription "IC XC NIKA".

Keep an eye out on the blog for the second part of this journey through the manuscripts of Robert Curzon, which will also include a bibliography.

- Cillian O’Hogan

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