Medieval manuscripts blog

46 posts categorized "Greek"

17 July 2014

This Year's Summer Blockbuster: A Giant List of Digitised Manuscript Hyperlinks!

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Here we go again with the giant list of digitised manuscript hyperlinks, friends!  For our new readers, this is a regular feature of the blog; on a quarterly basis we upload a massive spreadsheet for your persusal.  As always, this list contains all of the manuscripts to date that have been uploaded to our Digitised Manuscripts site by those of us in the Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts section.  This does not include the work of our colleagues in other departments, of course - but we're pleased that this quarter's list does include the newest Greek manuscripts digitised as part of our ongoing project on these glorious texts.  And a few more, including the one below.  Happy clicking!  Here is the list: Download BL Medieval and Earlier Digitised Manuscripts Master List 17.07.13

Decorated initial 'M' and historiated initial 'B'(eatus) with scenes from the life of King David, from a Psalter and Canticles (Rahlfs 1062), with parallel Latin text, Add MS 47674, f. 2r

- Sarah J Biggs

10 July 2014

Thirty-three Greek Biblical manuscripts added to Digitised Manuscripts

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The third phase of the British Library's Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project is now well underway. So far, the following items, all Greek biblical items, have been added to Digitised Manuscripts. We will continue to update the blog with new additions over the course of the year, and will also look at some individual manuscripts in more detail in later posts. We are extremely grateful to the foundations and individuals who have funded this project, especially the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the A. G. Leventis Foundation, Sam Fogg, the Sylvia Ioannou Foundation and the Thriplow Charitable Trust.

Add MS 24112, Four Gospels in Greek (Gregory-Aland 694; Scrivener evan. 598; von Soden ε 502), written throughout with space for a Latin translation, which has been added for a small number of verses. 15th century, possibly Italy.

Add MS 24373, Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 695; Scrivener evan. 599; von Soden ε 327), with illuminated Evangelist portraits. 13th century. Also online is an old 19th-century binding for this manuscript.

Add MS 24374, Fragments from a Gospel Lectionary with ekphonetic notation (Gregory-Aland l 325; Scrivener evst. 273). 13th century.


Add MS 24376, Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 696; Scrivener evan. 600; von Soden ε 328), with illuminated Evangelist portraits (St Mark illustrated above). 14th century (illuminations added in the 16th century), Constantinople.

Add MS 24377, Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 326; Scrivener evst. 274), with ekphonetic notation, imperfect. 2nd half of the 12th century, possibly from the Monastery of Patir in southern Italy.

Add MS 24378, Menaion for September, October, November, December, January and February (Gregory-Aland l 927; Scrivener evst. 275). 13th/14th century.

Add MS 24379, Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 327; Scrivener evst. 276), imperfect. 14th century.

Add MS 24380, Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 328; Scrivener evst. 277), with ekphonetic notation, imperfect. 14th century.

Add MS 27860, Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 329; Scrivener evst. 278), imperfect at the beginning, with marginal decorations thruoghout. Late 10th/early 11th century, Southern Italy (possibly Capua). Also online is an old 17th-century binding for this manuscript.

Add MS 27861, Gospels (Gregory-Aland e 698; Scrivener evan 602; von Soden ε 436), imperfect (lacking Matthew). 14th century.

Add MS 28815, New Testament, imperfect (Gregory-Aland 699; Scrivener evst. 603; von Soden δ 104), with Evangelist portraits and a silver-gilt plated cover. Mid-10th century, Constantinople. The subject of a recent blog post along with Egerton 3145.

Add MS 28816, New Testament, from Acts onwards (Gregory-Aland 203; Scrivener act. 232; von Soden α 203), with Euthalian apparatus, and other works. Written between 1108 and 1111 by the monk Andreas in March 1111, in the cell of the monk Meletius in the monastery of the Saviour.

Add MS 28818, Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 331; Scrivener evst. 280). 1272, written by the monk Metaxares.

Add MS 29713, Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 332; Scrivener evst. 62), imperfect at the beginning. 14th century.

Add MS 31208, Gospel Lectionary with ekphonetic notation (Gregory-Aland l 333; Scrivener evst *281), imperfect. 13th century, possibly Constantinople.

Add MS 31920, Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 335; Scrivener evst 283), imperfect and mutilated. 12th century, South Italy (possibly Reggio).

Add MS 32051, Lectionary of the Acts and Epistles, imperfect, with ekphonetic notation (Gregory-Aland l 169; Scrivener apost. 52). 13th century.

Add MS 32341, Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 494; Scrivener evan. 325; von Soden ε 437), imperfect. 14th century.

Add MS 33214, New Testament: Acts and Epistles (Gregory-Aland 1765; von Soden α 486). 14th century.

Add MS 33277, Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 892; von Soden ε 1016; Scrivener evan. 892). 9th century, with replacement leaves added in the 13th and 16th centuries.

Add MS 34108, Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 1280; Scrivener evan. 322; von Soden ε 1319). 12th century, with some replacement leaves added in the 15th century.


Add MS 34602, Fragments from two Psalters (Rahlfs-Fraenkel 2017, 1217) (illustrated above). 7th century and 10th century, Egypt.

Add MS 36751, Gospel Lectionary with ekphonetic neumes, called ἐκλογάδι(ον) (Gregory-Aland l 1491). Completed in 1008 at the Holy Monastery of Iviron, Mount Athos, by the scribe Theophanes.

Add MS 36752, Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 2280). 12th century.

Add MS 37005, Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 1493). 11th century.


Add MS 37006, Gospel Lectionary with ekphonetic neumes (Gregory-Aland l 1494 [=l 460]). 12th century, with late 13th-century replacements, including a full-page miniature of Christ and a figure identified as Andronicus II Palaeologus (Byzantine emperor 1282-1328) (illustrated above).

Add MS 38538, New Testament, Acts and Epistles (Gregory-Aland 2484), with Euthalian apparatus. Written by the scribe John in 1312

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, with ornamental headpieces and the remains of a miniature of the Psalmist. 2nd half of the 12th century.

Add MS 39590, New Testament, without the book of Revelation (Gregory-Aland 547; Scrivener evan. 534; von Soden δ 157). 11th century.

Add MS 39593, Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 550; Scrivener evan. 537; von Soden ε 250), with prefaces taken from the commentary of Theophylact, and synaxaria. 12th century.

Add MS 39612, Revelation (Gregory-Aland 2041; Scrivener apoc. 96; von Soden α1475). The quire-numbers on ff 1v and 10v show the manuscript formed part of a larger volume, possibly Athos, Karakallou 121 (268) (Gregory-Aland 1040). 14th century, possibly Mount Athos.

Add MS 39623, Fragments from a Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 1742). Late 14th century, possibly Mount Athos.

Egerton MS 3145, Epistles and Revelation (Gregory-Aland 699; Scrivener paul. 266; von Soden δ 104), concluding portion of the manuscript of the entire New Testament of which Add. MS 28815 is the earlier portion. Mid-10th century, Constantinople. Also online is an old (18th century?) binding for this manuscript.

- Cillian O'Hogan

24 June 2014

A Greek New Testament Reunited

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The third phase of the British Library Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project began in April of this year. Over the next twelve months we will be adding over 300 more Greek items to Digitised Manuscripts. While the first batch will go live at the end of June, today we thought we’d give you an early glimpse at the project. We have just uploaded to Digitised Manuscripts two very special manuscripts of the New Testament, Add MS 28815 and Egerton MS 3145. These items are a fitting place to start our project since they were once part of the same manuscript (Gregory-Aland 699).

The manuscript itself was created in the mid-10th century, probably in Constantinople. It originally contained portraits of the four Evangelists, one before each Gospel, but now only the portraits of Luke and John survive (along with another bonus portrait of Luke placed before the Acts of the Apostles):

Miniature of Luke, from a New Testament (imperfect), Constantinople, mid-10th century, Add MS 28815, f. 76v

Miniature of John, Add MS 28815, f. 126v

Miniature of Luke, Add MS 28815, f. 162v

In addition, it seems as though the manuscript originally contained chapter titles written in gold on purple parchment. These leaves were mostly torn out, but two stubs remain between f. 75 and f. 76, and traces of the chapter titles can still be seen. Unfortunately, for conservation reasons it was only possible to image the first of these two stubs.

Detail of a stub of purple parchment, Add MS 28815, f. 75*r

Both manuscripts are also blessed with interesting bindings: Egerton MS 3145, when it arrived at the British Museum, was housed in a binding of stamped brown leather over beech boards, covered with green velvet (now kept as Egerton MS 3145/1). This binding however seems to have been made for a larger manuscript.

Binding previously attached to Egerton MS 3145, Egerton MS 3145/1

The cover of Add MS 28815, however, has been the subject of a great deal of scholarly attention. Affixed to the binding are silver-gilt plates worked with figures. While these are post-Byzantine, they probably were based on a 14th-century template. In the centre is a gilt plate with the figures of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and John the Baptist. The plates at the top and the bottom depict the four Evangelists and Peter and Paul. The plates on the side have proven more controversial: it was long believed that they depicted the overthrow of the heretics Nestorius and Noetus. In a recent article, however, Andreas Rhoby has argued that they actually depict scenes from the life of St Demetrius. As always, you can find out more on the British Library catalogue entry, with further bibliography.

Binding of Add MS 28815

We can’t end without giving some background as to how these two manuscripts came to be in the British Library. Add MS 28815-28830 were acquired from Ivor Guest, 1st Baron Wimborne, in 1871. While the exact provenance of Guest’s manuscripts is not entirely clear, two (Add MS 28817 and Add MS 28821) can be located in the general region of Epirus, while the iconography and binding of Add MS 28820 and to a lesser extent Add MS 28819 may point to origins in that same area. It is quite likely that the entire collection was acquired in Epirus, probably in Janina.

Egerton MS 3145 was formerly in the possession of Angelina, Baroness Burdett-Coutts, who acquired a large quantity of manuscripts at around the same time through the intermediary of the Reverend Reginald Barnes, from a dealer in Janina. After the death of Burdett-Coutts’ husband, about two-thirds of the manuscripts were sold at Sotheby’s in 1922 (at which time the British Museum acquired Add MS 40655 and 40656). Twenty-seven manuscripts were given to Sir Roger Cholmeley’s School at Highgate, and these were deposited in the British Museum in 1938. At this time the Museum purchased two of the manuscripts – Egerton MS 3145 and Egerton MS 3154. (There are also two other Greek manuscripts formerly owned by Burdett-Coutts in the British Library – Add MS 64797 and Egerton MS 3157).

It may well be that the dealer from whom Burdett-Coutts acquired her manuscripts was the same person who sold manuscripts to Guest, and further research in this area could tell us quite a bit more about the prior history of these two manuscripts. We can be thankful, at least, that they have been reunited in the same institution for the past seventy-six years, and that they can now be viewed online on Digitised Manuscripts.

- Cillian O'Hogan

19 June 2014

Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Phase Three

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Portrait of St John the Evangelist, from a 12th-century Greek manuscript of the Four Gospels (British Library Add MS 39591, f. 124v).

We are happy to say that imaging has begun on the third phase of the Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project, generously funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. In the coming months, we will be adding over 300 more Greek manuscripts to Digitised Manuscripts, and there will be many blog posts detailing the process. Among other exciting items, this phase of the project will see the digitisation of the Codex Crippsianus (Burney MS 95), the Howard Greek Lectionary, a Gospel lectionary owned and annoted by John Ruskin, Burney MS 69, containing illustrated Greek treatises on warfare, and a wide variety of other manuscripts, including many of those from the collections of Charles Burney, Robert Curzon, Samuel Dawes, and Sir Ivor Bertie Guest.

In the meantime, however, we would like to make it known that as a result of this project, a number of Greek manuscripts will be temporarily unavailable to readers between now and March 2015. These items will typically be unavailable for 8-12 weeks while preparation and imaging take place. Once digitised the material will become available online in addition to being available for consultation in our Manuscripts Reading Room.

We strongly advise readers intending to consult Greek manuscripts that have not already been made available on Digitised Manuscripts to contact the British Library's Manuscripts Reference Team ( before planning a visit. Please note that this project will not affect the availability of any Greek papyri.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. We look forward to sharing more images of our wonderful Greek manuscripts with you all!

Cillian O'Hogan


12 June 2014

The Poetry of Fragments

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In a previous blog post we talked about the Constitution of Athens, one of the most spectacular papyrus rolls preserved from antiquity. But the truth is that most papyrus fragments are much smaller, and often preserve only part of the text they originally contained. Even the Constitution of Athens papyrus is incomplete, after all!

Fragment of the Aristotelian Constitution of Athens (Ἀθηναίων Πολιτεία), Papyrus 131, roll 1 verso

While this can be frustrating, it also presents an exciting challenge to papyrologists. Sometimes fragmentary texts can be reconstructed based on attestations of the same work in other papyri or in the manuscript tradition. If it is a literary text, or a formulaic legal document, some educated guesswork can help figure out what the wider context might be. Particularly exciting are those instances where a scholar can reunite parts of the same original document, now scattered across the world. An excellent example of this is the recent article by Antonia Sarri in Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, who shows that a papyrus in the British Library (Papyrus 2553) and one in Columbia University Library (P. Col. VIII 211) are two halves of the same letter.

A great deal of Greek poetry has only been preserved in papyrus fragments. In the case of some authors, such as Archilochus, Simonides, and Sappho, discoveries even in the last few decades have added greatly to what we know of their works, and in some cases have caused scholars to have to rethink some long-held beliefs about the nature of early Greek poetry. The British Library has only a single fragment of Sappho, a very early arrival from the great collection of papyri found at Oxyrhynchus (P. Oxy. I 7).

Fragment of a poem by Sappho concerning her brother Charaxus, Papyrus 739

But as fragments of Sappho go, it’s a pretty good one – we can be fairly sure of the text of two stanzas, and have a decent chunk of three more. In the poem, Sappho prays for the safe return for her brother and hopes that they can be reconciled. This is presumably Charaxos, whose falling-out with his sister is described by Herodotus (2.134-5), and who is named in the new Sappho poem published earlier this year.

While the text is exciting in itself, there is something very special about viewing the original papyrus, which helps to give a sense of just how serendipitous our knowledge of Sappho’s poetry is. Sappho joins Homer and Sophocles on our Digitised Manuscripts roster of poets on papyrus: we hope to add many more in the future.

- Cillian O'Hogan

25 March 2014

Codex Sinaiticus Added to Digitised Manuscripts

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Codex Sinaiticus is one of the great treasures of the British Library. Written in the mid-4th century in the Eastern Mediterranean (possibly at Caesarea), it is one of the two oldest surviving copies of the Greek Bible, along with Codex Vaticanus, in Rome. Written in four narrow columns to the page (aside from in the Poetic books, in two columns), its visual appearance is particularly striking.

Add MS 43725, f 229v, Luke 2:13-2:45.

The significance of Codex Sinaiticus for the text of the New Testament is incalculable, not least because of the many thousands of corrections made to the manuscript between the 4th and 12th centuries.

Add MS 43725 f218v detail
Add MS 43725, f 218v, correction to Mark 2:22.

The manuscript itself is now distributed between four institutions: the British Library, the Universitäts-Bibliothek at Leipzig, the National Library of Russia in St Petersburg, and the Monastery of St Catherine at Mt Sinai. Several years ago, these four institutions came together to collaborate on the Codex Sinaiticus Project, which resulted in full digital coverage and transcription of all extant parts of the manuscript. The fruits of these labours, along with many additional essays and scholarly resources, can be found on the Codex Sinaiticus website.

Add MS 43725 f 68v detail
Add MS 43725, f 68r, decorative colophon at the end of Isaiah.

As part of our ongoing project to make all the British Library’s pre-1600 Western manuscripts available online, we are pleased to announce that those parts of the Codex Sinaiticus held by the British Library can now also be seen on Digitised Manuscripts (Add MS 43725), complementing the 550 Greek manuscripts already available online, including the New Testament volume of Codex Alexandrinus. Over the next twelve months, a further 350 Greek manuscripts will be added to Digitised Manuscripts, in a project funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the A.G. Leventis Foundation, and a range of other donors.

On the Digitised Manuscripts page for Codex Sinaiticus, you will also find an updated catalogue entry, including an extensive bibliography. We hope the availability of this priceless manuscript online will facilitate further study and research.

22 March 2014


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You may recall that we asked for your help earlier this year, when we asked for your votes in the inaugural National UK Blog Awards (Vote for Us Please). We're delighted to tell you that, thanks to your overwhelming support, we have made the list of finalists in the Arts and Culture category. We understand that more than 16,000 votes were cast in total (not all for us obviously), but we are hugely grateful for your support: every little vote really did count! You can read more about the National UK Blog Awards here.

The Benedictional of St Æthelwold, from our blogpost More Unique Than Most (4 February 2014)

The awards ceremony itself takes place on 25 April. We are dusting off our snappiest suits and poshest frocks, to make a good impression on the night itself. Most of our time we spend hovering over our computers, beavering away to make our collections available online or dreaming up ever more outlandish blogposts (and a thousand other things besides). It's great to know that somebody out there is impressed by what we have been doing.

Imaging the manuscript of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, from our blogpost Gawain Revealed (23 February 2014)

Since the time we asked for your votes, here are some of the stories we have posted on the Medieval Manuscripts Blog. We hope that there will be many more like these to come. Let us know your favourite by tweeting @BLMedieval.

A Medieval Comic Strip

A Papyrus Puzzle and Some Purple Parchment

An Illustrated Guide to Medieval Love

Gawain Revealed

Medieval Drama Acquired by the British Library

More Unique Than Most: The Benedictional of St Æthelwold

She Cares Not a Turd: Notes on a 16th Century Squabble

Two Magnificent Manuscripts Saved for the Nation

The Mystère de la Vengeance, from our blogpost Medieval Drama Acquired by the British Library (6 March 2014)

Julian Harrison and Sarah J Biggs


12 February 2014

A Papyrus Puzzle and Some Purple Parchment

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Among the many treasures in the Cotton collection of manuscripts, the contents of Cotton MS Titus C XV (new to Digitised Manuscripts) are particularly intriguing.  Consisting now of five folios, drawn from three different manuscripts, Cotton MS Titus C XV is good evidence of Sir Robert Cotton’s habits of collection and dismemberment.  Folios 2-5 are four leaves of the so-called Codex Purpureus Petropolitanus, a copy of the Four Gospels in Greek written on purple parchment in the sixth century (possibly at Antioch).  This manuscript, dismembered in the high Byzantine era, is now scattered across the world (the bulk of the leaves being in the National Library of Russia in Saint Petersburg, hence the manuscript’s name).

Fragment of the Codex Purpureus Petropolitanus,  6th century, Cotton MS Titus C XV, f. 4v

Perhaps even more intriguing is the first folio.  Mounted on a blank sheet of parchment is a border cut from the Breviary of Margaret of York, a 15th-century manuscript written in Ghent.  And inside the border is a small scrap of papyrus (125 x 60 mm), dating from the late 6th or early 7th century:

Detail of a papyrus fragment surrounded by a border from the Breviary of Margaret of York, Cotton MS Titus C XV, f. 1r

This may well be the first papyrus to enter the British Museum, given that the Cotton library formed one of the foundation collections of the Museum when it was established in 1753. Somewhat surprisingly, though, it was not until 2000 that this fragment was edited and published, by Robert Babcock, in an article in Scriptorium (54.2, pp. 280-88).  He identified it as a fragment from a papyrus codex of Pope Gregory the Great’s Forty Homiles on the Gospels.  Given the date suggested by the hand, it is very likely that this codex was copied in Gregory’s own lifetime.  The hand also suggests that the codex was written in France or Italy, raising the tantalising possibility that Gregory himself may have been responsible for its commissioning.

Detail of the papyrus fragment, Cotton MS Titus C XV, f. 1r

How did the papyrus end up in Cotton’s collection?  There are no records that might help us, here, unfortunately, but Babcock argues that it is most likely that the papyrus was already in England when Cotton acquired it – and if so, it may well have been in England for centuries.  At this point we are into the realm of educated guesswork and speculation.  But it is not impossible that the codex could have come over with early missionaries sent to England by Gregory.  It could even be the case that it was an early copy of the Homilies (completed in 592-3) brought over by Augustine of Canterbury when he arrived in Kent in 597.  But if nothing else, we have here the earliest attestation for Gregory’s Homilies on the Gospels, and a fascinating story about a very unusual papyrus.

-  Cillian O’Hogan

The Medieval Manuscripts Blog is delighted to be shortlisted for the National UK Blog Awards (Arts & Culture category). For more information about the nomination, see the Awards website.