The Victorian art critic John Ruskin, better known nowadays for his writings and for a notorious spat with the American painter James McNeill Whistler, was also a collector of medieval manuscripts. Almost ninety can be identified as having been owned by Ruskin at some point, several of which are now in the British Library. (A full list can be found at the end of this post.)
Newly digitised is Egerton MS 3046, a Greek Gospel lectionary owned and annotated extensively by Ruskin. The lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 238) dates from the last quarter of the 11th century or the 1st quarter of the 12th century. In its current condition, it contains a number of small headpieces in gold, large initials in colours and gold, and other ornamentation. Sadly, however, a large headpiece on f 2r has been excised.
Egerton MS 3046, f 2r, gap where a headpiece has been excised.
It was well known that Ruskin would take apart manuscripts, presenting cuttings to friends and institutions. We should be wary, however, of seeing Ruskin’s hand behind this excision – it is very common for headpieces to disappear from manuscripts, and many other examples can be found in the Greek collections on Digitised Manuscripts.
Ruskin clearly treasured this manuscript, and worked through it carefully. His annotations reveal that he paid attention both to the form of the manuscript and its contents: noting, variously, specifics about Bible passages, or making comments on the script (which he clearly had some difficulty with).
Detail of Egerton MS 3046, f 45r, showing Ruskin's notes at the foot of the page.
Ruskin’s annotations reflect a time when he was struggling with his religious beliefs. Many of his comments on individual Biblical passages express Ruskin’s displeasure with specific details or scenes. Yet he would occasionally revise his view, as the above example shows, in which an earlier criticism of John 25.6 is corrected.
Egerton MS 3046, f 34r. Ruskin's note at the bottom reads "φ. how little they play with this letter, one would have fancied tempting".
Given Ruskin’s reputation as an aesthete, it is fascinating to see his response to the Greek script itself. Here (above), he wishes the scribe would “play” more with the letter phi. Elsewhere, he groans about the form of beta common in manuscripts of this time:
Egerton MS 3046, f 126r. Ruskin's note at the bottom reads "Nothing to note in this page but its especially tiresome letter B.s. and the disagreeableness and waste of time of the story [Mk 12:18-27] always shocking to me".
The manuscript will of course have special appeal to Ruskin scholars. But the annotations are clearly of wider interest: they reveal the deeply personal responses of an educated Victorian to the Bible, and they give a great insight into the continuing relevance of medieval manuscripts in the modern era.
Appendix: manuscripts formerly belonging to Ruskin and now in the British Library.
(Dearden references are to J. R. Dearden, The Library of John Ruskin (Oxford Bibliographical Society Third Series 7), Oxford 2012.)
Add MS 36684, Book of Hours. France, N. (St Omer), c. 1320 (Dearden 1331).
Add MS 42125, Rules and orders of a confraternity of boatmen. Italy, N. (Venice), 1507-1780 (Dearden 2226).
Add MS 52002, The Mirandola Hours. Italy, N. (probably Ferrara or Mantua), c 1490-1500 (Dearden 1341).
Add MS 52778, York Bible. England, N. (York), c 1260-1280. (Dearden 213).
Egerton MS 3035, Breviary, Dominican use. France, Central (Paris), c. 1350 (not in Dearden’s list)
Collecting the Renaissance: The Aldine Press (1494-1598), on display in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery at the British Library
Aldus’ pivotal role in the early history of the printed book is well known. For scholars of Greek literature, he deserves special thanks. Early attempts to set Greek type had proved difficult, and demand for printed books in Greek was low. While Aldus was not the first to print Greek books, he certainly was the first to do so on a large scale. Most of the principal classical Greek authors were first set in type by the Aldine press.
The texts themselves were edited by a large group of scholars, many of Cretan origin. Aldus formed a club of Greek scholars, called the Neakademia (the New Academy), at which only Greek could be spoken. The great numbers of Greek manuscripts that can be attributed, with some confidence, to Venice at the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century are at least partly a result of the efforts of Aldus Manutius.
Constantine Lascaris, Erotemata, with the Latin translation of Johannes Crastonus Placentinus. Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1495. IA.24382
The first edition published in Greek by the Aldine press was the grammar of Constantine Lascaris, a fifteenth-century Greek scholar who, like many other Greeks, came to Italy in the wake of the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
Harley MS 5741, f 3r. Constantine Lascaris, Erotemata, copied in Italy by George Alexandrou, at the end of the 15th century
A manuscript of part of the work dating from around the same time is now preserved in the British Library, copied by the scribe George Alexandrou, possibly at Rome. Though the manuscript cannot be linked with Manutius' circle, it nonetheless provides us with a fascinating juxtaposition of manuscript and print in the late fifteenth century.
Aldi Manutii Romani Grammaticae Institutiones Graecae. Edited by Marcus Musurus. Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1515
The British Library holds one of the great collections of Aldine books in the world. It also holds a number of manuscripts that can be attributed to scribes and scholars from the Aldine circle. Of course, as scribes often moved around, and worked on a variety of projects, we should be cautious of making the leap from ascribing a manuscript to an individual scribe, to localising it in the context of the Aldine press. Nonetheless, the manuscripts and scribes listed below attest to the vibrant scholarly culture in northern Italy, and in Venice in particular, at the turn of the 16th century.
A note: not all of these manuscripts have been digitised at the time of writing (December 2014), but this post will be updated periodically as the Greek Manuscripts digitisation project continues.
Some Greek scribes known to have associated with Aldus Manutius
Burney MS 96, f 144r, detail, verses by Marcus Musurus
Marcus Musurus (b. c. 1470, d. 1517). By far the most important of Aldus’ Greek collaborators, Musurus was a Cretan scholar who subsequently worked with John Lascaris. His hand can be seen in Harley MS 5577, a manuscript of Dionysius Periegetes and Eustathius, and above all in Burney MS 96, a manuscript of the Minor Attic Orators completed at Florence in the early 1490s, to which Musurus appended a set of verses.
George Moschus, of Corfu, worked as a corrector at the Aldine press. His hand is to be found in part of Add MS 11890, a collaborative set of scholia on Oppian’s Halieutica, in the margins of the first seven folios of Harley MS 5611, works on Galen (not yet digitised), and the entirety of Burney MS 110, Zenobius’ Epitome.
Johannes Cuno (b. 1462/3, d. 1513), Dominican monk and German humanist. Cuno spent time in Venice in the 1490s and worked closely with Aldus. Arundel MS 550 (not yet digitised) is Cuno’s own notebook relating to Greek materials.
Burney MS 62, f 2r, detail. Beginning of the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes, copied by the scribe known as the Anonymus Harvardianus
Anonymus Harvardianus. So named after a manuscript at the Houghton Library, Harvard (MS Gr 17), where the hand was first identified, the work of this scribe can be seen in many manuscripts with links to the Aldine press, including Burney MS 62, containing Apollonius of Rhodes’ Argonautica with scholia, vitae, and epigrams.
Zacharias Calliergis (b. before 1473, d. after 1524), of Crete. Responsible in part for Royal MS 16 C XXIV, a manuscript of Athenaeus’ Depinosophistae. His hand can also be seen on the outer bifolium of a quire in Harley MS 1814, now ff 1r-v and 8r-v (the text is Dionysius Periegetes).
Before British Library manuscripts reach your computer screens through the Digitised Manuscripts site, they are subjected to conservation assessments. These cover such matters as the angle at which the manuscript may be opened safely, the condition of the binding and the leaves, and any repairs that are required. The assessment for Add MS 82957 – the Phillipps Lectionary – was particularly detailed. The content and decoration of this manuscript, and the damage it sustained during its nine-hundred-and-fifty-odd-year life, have been covered in earlier blog posts. This latest instalment concerns the most recent chapter in its history: the repairs that were conducted to make it fit to be handled and photographed, and the digitisation process itself.
Details of the joints between the front (L) and rear (R) binding and the spine, showing small splits, from the Phillipps Lectionary, Add MS 82957
The first conservation task was to do minor repairs to the binding, as the joints were starting to split. A delicate balance had to be struck between doing as little as possible to an unusual binding, and making it strong enough to cope with the repeated opening and closing that the rest of the conservation process would involve.
Detail of repairs to rodent damage along the fore-edge of the manuscript, Add MS 82957, f. 65r
The objective was then to make the leaves safe enough to be handled for digitisation. The edges of the leaves had been weakened by mould and shredded by rodents – a grim combination! To repair these, fine Japanese tissues were used. They were pre-coated with a 2% isinglass solution and then reactivated with the same solution, in order to minimise the addition of moisture to the parchment. A benefit of isinglass is that it has immediate tack. With heavily cockled parchment, as here, this is very useful, as it means that the parchment does not have to be flattened first before repairs are made. Fleeces, which can conform to such uneven surfaces better than blotting paper, were used to dry the repairs.
Detail of repairs made to rodent damage and a tear, Add MS 82957, f. 12v
In very weak areas, tissues were pre-coated with Klucel G: a consolidant that can be reactivated with ethanol. This avoids any moisture at all being added to the parchment – but it must be used with great care, because ethanol can also damage the structure of the parchment.
Some areas were dry cleaned before repairs were placed, so long as it could be done safely, but the manuscript was not especially dirty overall. Detached fragments were reattached where their original location could be determined; a small number of other loose fragments are now stored separately with the manuscript.
A detached portion of a partial leaf, now reattached in its original position, Add MS 82957, f. 229r
Two leaves that had been cut in half and left loose were rejoined in their original positions.
The silk bookmark attached to the binding was also in two pieces, and was joined together using silk crepeline.
Full shot of the manuscript in a V-shaped cradle, with two people using fingers to hold the leaf in place
Once the manuscript had been conserved, it was possible for it to undergo digitisation. To protect against any further damage, our conservator and a member of the manuscripts team accompanied the manuscript throughout. A condition of digitisation was that a V-shaped cradle be used, in order best to support the manuscript. The photographer used an angled camera to shoot the manuscript. Two assistants were ‘on hand’ (literally!) to keep the leaves in place (a future blog post will look at the plastic ‘fingers’ that are being used). The photography took a full day to complete, with further image processing and quality checking taking some additional hours on top of that.
The fragility of the Phillipps Lectionary means that, for the sake of its conservation, access to the manuscript must be restricted. Digitisation – undertaken with proper preparation and the assistance of skilled conservators and photographers – means that it is still possible for researchers to consult the object in the digital realm, and arguably enjoy a closer look through high resolution images than would ever be possible with the naked eye. In cases such as this, where the book’s covers must remain closed, digitisation is opening them up again to the world, for all to see.
Just in time for the holidays, we announce the latest batch of Greek manuscripts to be uploaded to Digitised Manuscripts. This project has been generously funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and many others, including the A. G. Leventis Foundation, Sam Fogg, the Sylvia Ioannou Foundation, the Thriplow Charitable Trust, and the Friends of the British Library.
As always, there is something for everyone in this latest upload. We have already discussed the marvellous Phillipps Lectionary (Add MS 82957) in two blogposts, and as usual, there are many other Biblical manuscripts of interest to peruse. A bumper crop of patristic manuscripts are also included. Particularly noteworthy here is a very fine manuscript of the Orations of Gregory of Nazianzus (Add MS 36634) and a miscellany which may well repay closer attention (Add MS 24375). Some important Byzantine items have also gone online, amongst which pride of place must go to Add MS 36749, which is the sole witness to 122 letters by an unnamed 10th-century Byzantine professor. Those with an interest in the history of scholarship will welcome yet another manuscript formerly owned by Isaac Casaubon, a heavily annotated copy of the Epistles of Phalaris (Royal MS 16 D II). For classicists, the standout items are surely Add MS 58224, an important manuscript of Appian, and last but certainly not least, the famous Burney MS 69, a lavishly-decorated 16th-century manuscript of Greek treatises on warfare.
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Burney MS 69, f 7r, detail. Siege engine from Athenaeus, De Machinis
Add MS 24369, Alexius Aristenus, Nomocanon, and other canonical texts. 15th century.
Add MS 24370, Horologion. 16th century. Illuminated head-pieces and initials. Full leather binding. Rebound in the 19th century, but leather of previous boards onlaid (gilt-tooled, with the Crucifixion at the centre, and emblems of the evangelists).
Add MS 24375, Collection of various theological works, including Maximus the Confessor and Diadorus of Photike, 14th century.
Add MS 27862, John of Damascus, Dialectica sive Capita philosophica (TLG 2934.002) and Expositio fidei (TLG 2934.004); Sketches on the Division of Philosophy according to Christ and On the Seven Good Things; Anastasius of Sinai, Viae dux (TLG 2896.001); selections and fragments from other works (theological and geographical). Byzantine binding (rebacked) of wooden boards covered with blind-tooled leather. Two edge pins, the ends of the straps (now lost) were left over the pastedown and now protrude from the book. The fore-edge is shown on Digitised Manuscripts as f v recto. 11th century.
Add MS 28270, f 163r, detail. Colophon of Nikolaos, a scribe, dated August 1111 (ςχιθ΄).
Add MS 28270, Saints' lives and selections from John Moschus, Pratum Spirituale, entitled The New Paradise (Τὸ νέον παραδείσει). Italy, S., completed August 1111 by Nikolaos. The script is the ‘Reggio style’. 15th century binding of wooden boards covered with stamped leather
Add MS 28821, Mathematarion in Byzantine music notation, containing works by a number of composers such as Manuel Chrysaphes, John Koukouzeles, John Kladas, Xenos Korones, Chionopoulos, John Glykys, Gregorios Mpounes Alyates, Theodoros Manougras and others. 15th-17th century. The old binding, of wooden boards formerly covered with leather, is kept separately under Add MS 28821/1.
Add MS 28822, Collection of canonical texts, imperfect. 13th century.
Add MS 28828, John Zonaras, Epitome historiarum (TLG 3135.001-002), imperfect; George Akropolites, Annales (TLG 3141.002), imperfect; Leo VI the Wise, Oracula. 14th century. Byzantine binding, recovered (with old board leather onlaid) and probably resewn. Full set of petal-shaped corner bosses and round central ones.
Add MS 29715, Service book, possibly a Sticherarion or a Tropologion, imperfect. 12th-13th century.
Add MS 30043, Σχηματολόγιον, offices of the tonsure and consecration of a monk. 15th century.
Add MS 30510, Fragments of prayers, mainly exorcisms, possibly from a roll, imperfect. 14th century.
Add MS 31214, f 4r. Illuminated headpiece from a horologion.
Add MS 31214, Horologion. Illuminated headpieces on ff 4r, and 82r. Drawings on f 234v. Decorated initials and headings in red and gold throughout. 12th century.
Add MS 31919, Menaion for February and the Royal Hours for Holy Friday. A palimpsest: the volume is made up of a number of different manuscripts, namely a theological work written in the 12th century, and Gospel manuscripts (Gregory-Aland 0133, 0269, 0271, 0272, 0273, 0297, l 334; Scrivener Υ or Codex Blenheimius, evst. 282; von Soden ε 83). Completed 1431.
Add MS 36539, Pseudo-Sphrantzes (Macarius Melissenus), Chronicon sive Maius (TLG 3176.001). Italy, N.E. (Venice), in the hand of the scribe Manuel Glynzunius (1540-1596).
Add MS 36634, Gregory of Nazianzus, Orationes, followed by Pseudo-Nonnus (Nonnus the Abbot), Scholia mythologica, imperfect. 10th century, ff 1-9 being added on paper in the 15th century. Illuminated headpieces.
Add MS 36670, Laonicus Chalcocondyles, Historiae (History of the Turks 1298-1462) (TLG 3139.001). 16th century.
Add MS 36749, Gregory of Nazianzus, Epistles and Poems; Leo Magister, Poems; Anonymi professoris epistulae; Hierocles, In aureum carmen. 10th century, with some paper additions in Messina (southern Italy) in the 15th century.
Add MS 36928, f 44v, David seated, playing the harp, accompanied by Melody.
Add MS 36928, Psalter and Canticles (Rahlfs 1089), with additional texts, including Argumentum Psalmorum (a compilation), other patristic works, and calendar-notes. Eight full-page illuminations, much-rubbed. Headings in gold. Blind-tooled leather binding, on wooden boards (17th century?), with strap for clasp. Probably written in or just before 1090: the table of movable feasts (ff 37r-41v) begins with September 1090
Add MS 37534, Life and Miracles of Saints Cosmas and Damianus (BHG 373b), imperfect, lacking two leaves at the beginning and one or two quires after f 14. All the leaves are mutilated, especially at the top. The narrative differs largely in contents, and wholly in language, from that hitherto known. At the end (f 42r) is a hymn to the archangel Michael in a different hand. Egypt, 11th century: Brought from Egypt in 1907 and said to have been found near Edfu (St Mercurius Monastery). Found with Coptic MSS bearing dates in the late 10th and 11th centuries. Written in a very late uncial hand.
Add MS 38790, Cyril of Scythopolis, Vita Sabae (TLG 2877.002), imperfect. 14th century. A colophon on ff 126r-v has been copied from an earlier manuscript, dated 1116. On f 1r is an inscription in Arabic.
Add MS 39583, f 39r, detail. Middle Irish commentary on the Aphorisms of Hippocrates.
Add MS 39583, Fragments collected by Robert Curzon to illustrate the history of writing, including fragments of a Greek Gospel lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 182, Scrivener evst. 233); A leaf from a manuscript containing Ephraem the Syrian, Sermo Compunctorius (CPG 3908); a miniature of St. Mark in the Byzantine style of the ?13th century, probably from a Greek Gospel-book; Facsimile transcript of the Prague fragment of the Codex Forojuliensis of the Gospels; Leaf from a commentary on the Aphorisms of Hippocrates (TLG 0627.012), in Middle Irish. 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)
Add MS 39607, John Chrysostom, In epistulam I ad Corinthios homiliae (TLG 2062.156), imperfect. 12th century. Head-pieces tinted yellow, initials slightly tinted.
Add MS 39609, Isaiah of Scetis (Isaiah of Gaza), Asceticon (CPG 5555). 11th century, with paper additions dating from the 17th or 18th century.Illuminated head-pieces and initials, other initials and titles in gold. Hybrid full leather Greek/western binding of goatskin over wooden boards, with blind-tooled central stamp and corner pieces.
Add MS 39610, John Climacus, Scala paradisi (TLG 2907.001) and Liber ad Pastorem (CPG 7853), with additional prefatory material. 11th century. Illuminated head-pieces and initials, and a drawing of the Ladder of Ascent on f 206r. Binding of blind-tooled leather over birch boards. Writing on the upper edge, which can be seen on Digitised Manuscripts as f iii recto.
Add MS 41086, Pentecostarion, imperfect at the beginning. 15th century. Initials and headings in red. 17th-century binding. A later gilt-stamped figure of an angel or evangelist, impressed awry within the top left-hand corner of the outer panel, appears to represent a bungled and abandoned design.
Add MS 41330, Portions of two Euchologia, with many marginal notes. 2nd half of the 15th century (ff 20-128)-4th quarter of the 16th century (ff 1-19). An earlier binding (probably added in the late 16th century when ff 1-19 were inserted) is kept separately under Add MS 41330/1.
Add MS 41483, Greek liturgy. Copied in 1795 by Georgios Gounale, perhaps on Crete? Illuminated initials, headpieces and (ff 2v, 28v) miniatures. Original binding of blind-tooled morocco.
Add MS 57942, f 23r, Byzantine hymn book with musical notation
Add MS 57942, Collection of stichera and other hymns, with late Byzantine musical notation. 15th-16th century, probably written on Crete.
Add MS 58224, Appian, Historia Romana. Eastern Mediterranean (Crete?), c. 1450-1460. Decorative headpiece on f 1r. The text belongs to Mendelssohn's family i (deteriores). The text breaks off after 11 lines on f 65r, after which 37 unfoliated leaves are left blank, marking the lacuna in the Illyrica first found in Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS 70.5.
Add MS 59864, George Acropolites, Annales (TLG 3141.002), imperfect, expl. (1220A) μετὰ παραδρομήν. Not noted in Heisenberg’s edition of George Acropolites. 2nd quarter of the 14th century. In a 17th century binding of parchment over card boards, with fragments of title-labels on spine. Formerly owned by Sir Thomas Phillipps.
Add MS 82957, Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 2376) with illumination and ekphonetic notation. 2nd half of the 11th century, Constantinople. Illuminated headpieces (ff 1r, 59r, 93r, 137r, 233r) and headbands (ff 210r, 230r, 248v, 257v, 263r, 278r, 292r, 297r, 300r, 301v, 302v, 309r, 312r). Decorated initials, frequently zoomorphic or historiated. Headings and some writing in gold. Occasional flourishes to letters on the final line of a page, especially χ, φ, λ, ι, and ξ. Formerly owned by Sir Thomas Phillipps.
Burney MS 16, Psalter. Coloured penwork headpiece and initial (f 1r). Written by Matthaeus the hieromonk for Pachomius the monk at the Monastery of Saint Catherine, Mount Sinai, and dated 2 July 1661.
Burney MS 18, Four Gospels and Hebrews (Gregory-Aland 480; Scrivener evan. 568; von Soden δ 462), adapted for liturgical use, imperfect, followed by Synaxarion and Menologion. Headpieces decorated in colours and foliate patterns on gold grounds at the beginning of each Gospel (ff 3r, 63r, 101r, 163r). Titles, initials and capitula in gold. In a binding of blue velvet over wooden boards with embroidered Greek spine title, brass corner pieces and two gold plaquettes of the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Adoration of the Magi set into the upper and lower boards, respectively, dating from the last quarter of the 16th century and probably Milanese or North European imitating a Milanese style. Written by Ioasaph of the monastery of the Theotokos ton Hodegon in Constantinople, 4 June 1366
Burney MS 69, f 12v, detail. Diagram of a siege-engine from Biton, De constructione bellicarum machinarum.
Burney MS 69, Greek treatises on warfare, with numerous drawings. Includes works by Athenaeus, Biton, Heron, Apollodorus, Philo of Byzantium, Leo VI the Wise, and others. Italy, N. E. (Venice), completed 7 May 1545. The scribe of a large portion of the manuscript was identified as that of Escorial MS gr. 138.
Egerton MS 2784, Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 716; Scrivener evan. 565; von Soden ε 448). 14th century. A former binding (16th-century stamped black leather) is preserved in the box containing the manuscript, and is now ff iii-v.
Egerton MS 2786, Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 346; Scrivener evst. 255). Imperfect and partly palimpsest: ff 55 to 157 are composed of leaves from at least four manuscripts of the 12th century, of which one (ff 59, 60) is a Lectionary, containing lections from Matthew; another (ff 55, 64, 73, 80, 84, 85) is a manuscript of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, written in double columns, and containing portions of the Orations (among others, parts of Orations 37, 38, 45); a third (f 132) is a manuscript of the Septuagint, containing part of Daniel 3; and the rest are from a theological work, most of which is wholly obliterated. 12th-14th century. 5 headpieces in red and brown with a braided or geometric pattern (ff. 40v, 65v, 96v, 132, 136v). Large initials in red and/or brown and red with penwork decoration, some anthropomorphic with a hand blessing. Smaller simpler initials in red. Simple headpieces in brown and red. Highlighting of letters in red.
Egerton MS 2787, Acts and Epistles (Gregory-Aland 913; Scrivener act. 223; von Soden α 470). 14th century, produced in the Levant, according to J. W. Burgon, based on the ornamentation. 19 large headpieces in red and/or brown or yellow with penwork decoration at the beginning of most books (ff 1r, 11r, 72r, 96r, 119v, 136r, 146v, 155v, 163r, 169v, 175r, 179r, 186r, 191r, 194r, 198v, 216v, 234v, 241r). Simple headpieces in red or brown. Large initials in brown and red with penwork decoration. Small initials in red. Text in red. In a binding of wooden (oak?) boards, possibly the original, with grooved edges, rebacked. Formerly fully covered in leather, fragment remains at the back edge.
Kings MS 17, Scholia on Pindar's Olympian and PythianOdes. Italy, N., 4th quarter of the 15th century.
Royal MS 1 A XV, Old Testament: Proverbs, Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon (Rahlfs 425), in Greek and Latin. 15th century, possibly written at Crete.
Royal MS 1 D II, Old Testament: Historical books and Isaiah of the Septuagint version (Rahlfs 93), imperfect and with extensive marginal notes. 13th century, with additions in the 15th century.
The Phillipps Lectionary must once have been – and to some extent still is – a very beautiful manuscript. As Tuesday’s post detailed, it is full of richly decorated headpieces, glimmering gold headings, and ornate zoomorphic initials. The manuscript’s condition reveals, however, a story of centuries of use, misuse and neglect that seem at odds with the precious contents.
Leaf containing a decorated headpiece and titles written in gold, which displays severe cockling, multiple tears and losses at the leaf edge and upper corner, and the smudging and loss of text, from the Phillipps Lectionary, Add MS 82957, f. 137r
Christopher de Hamel’s recent Panizzi lectures showed inordinately expensive and elaborately ornamented giant bibles being used amid the smoke, grease and grime of the monastic refectory. We should therefore avoid the assumption that medieval people treated their books – even luxury ones – with the same care as modern-day curators. In the Phillipps Lectionary, there is damage literally at every turn; no corner of the manuscript has been unaffected by the way the manuscript has been handled and mishandled, stored and ignored, and – most recently – salvaged and painstakingly repaired.
A mutilated leaf; the black backdrop highlights how the moisture damage has made the edges fragile and liable to tear and flake away, Add MS 82957, f. 119r
The physical condition of this manuscript presents many problems to the curator: how best to balance the need to conserve and protect it with the needs of readers to view and study it; and how to manage the digitisation process. Every manuscript that we plan to digitise is first examined, assessed, and, if necessary, treated by one of our in-house conservators (an earlier post by Ann Tomalak describes this process in more detail). The manuscript you see today on Digitised Manuscripts has been the subject of hours of work and many careful interventions in order to make it fit for digitisation. These repairs will be the subject of a future blog post. Here, our focus will be upon the damage the manuscript has sustained.
The fore-edge of the manuscript, illustrating the areas damaged by rodents, Add MS 82957
Most obviously, the manuscript has suffered from rodent damage. The edges of the manuscript, in particular the upper left-hand corner, have been nibbled. Prior to conservation, these thin, shredded strips of parchment would fall off every time the manuscript was opened. Worse still, the discolouration of the parchment in these locations may have been caused in part by the rodents’ urine. Rest assured we washed our hands very thoroughly after handling the manuscript!
Detail of a leaf showing moisture staining and severe cockling, with part of the text now concealed under a stiff fold in the parchment, Add MS 82957, f. 252r
Damp and mould have also taken their toll on the parchment leaves. The moisture has caused the leaves to swell and cockle. This must have taken place while the manuscript was closed. Adjoining leaves have crinkled together and, though they can be separated, continue to ‘lock’ together when the pages are turned. The mould has eaten away at the parchment, weakening it and making it more likely to split and tear. Rodents also seem to prefer damp and mouldy parchment, because it is softer (and perhaps partially pre-digested!).
Detail of text that has lifted off and transferred onto the facing leaf, Add MS 82957, ff. 126v and 127r
It is fortunate that, in most instances, the margins are so wide that the damp has not reached the text block and caused the ink to bleed. Here, however, the ink has lifted off and transferred onto the facing leaf, damage most likely caused by a combination of moisture damage and friction between the two leaves.
The upper edge of the manuscript, illustrating the swelling caused by moisture damage, Add MS 82957
The water/urine damage has affected the shape of the book by making one corner into an uneven wedge shape.
Humans too have left their mark. In several locations, small red dots are found on the parchment: this is candle wax, which you can feel as a slightly raised spot on the surface. You can see that as the wax has cooled and contracted, it has pulled on the parchment, causing small radiating wrinkles to appear.
Detail of a small hole burned into the parchment, Add MS 82957, f. 197v
Elsewhere, the damage is more serious, with falling cinders from a candle having burnt small holes into the parchment. In this instance, the cinder burnt a hole through one of the adjoining leaves.
Detail of an initial ‘Θ’ (theta) that has been torn out and the corresponding off-print, Add MS 82957, ff. 2v and 3r
The manuscript has also been mutilated, with several initials roughly torn out. All that remains of these are ghostly off-prints on facing pages.
Neo-Gothic-influenced blind-tooled binding, probably 19th century, Add MS 82957, front binding
The manuscript was rebound, probably in the nineteenth century. The binding features recessed boards, most likely to help to protect the edges from further damage. The blind tooling is unusual – showing neo-Gothic influences that perhaps echoes William Morris bindings from Kelmscott – as is the covering.
Detail of the binding, shot under raking light, revealing the wild boar follicle pattern, Add MS 82957, front binding
Close inspection has revealed that the manuscript is bound in wild boar skin. The above image was taken under raking light, a technique where light is shone at an angle from the side, making surface texture more clearly visible. One can see the triangular follicle pattern typical of common pig skin, which was widely used for this purpose. However, the presence of additional bristles – amounting in the live animal to an extra layer of hair – confirms the source as a wild rather than domesticated swine. The circumstances in which the skin was acquired – perhaps a genteel hunting-party? – remains a mystery.
Stay tuned for the next instalment on the Phillipps Lectionary, when we will describe the conservation and digitisation process in more detail.
In 2006 and 2007, the British Library acquired five Greek manuscripts that had formerly been on long-term deposit as Loan 36. These manuscripts all once belonged to Sir Thomas Phillipps, the noted manuscript collector of the 19th century. All but one (now Add MS 82951) also belonged to Frederick North, 5th Earl of Guilford, much of whose manuscript collection is now in the British Library. The story of the provenance of these manuscripts will be the subject of a future blog post, when the remaining four manuscripts have also been digitised. Today, however, our focus is on the standout item in the group, Additional MS 82957, a very fine 11th-century Gospel Lectionary from Constantinople.
Add MS 82957, f 59r. Decorated headpiece with two peacocks, one drinking from a fountain, on top, and two rams on pedestals on either side
The lectionary is extremely fragile and required extensive, painstaking conservation work for over a year before it was fit for digitisation. Future blog posts will outline the damage that the manuscript has sustained, and the particular difficulties of digitising and conserving this item.
Add MS 82957, f 1r. Decorated headpiece with numerous animals, birds and other decorations.
The manuscript itself is spectacular. It goes beyond the usual levels of ornamentation for Greek lectionaries of the period to incorporate richly-decorated initials and headpieces. In fact, it is closer in style to some of the great psalters of the eleventh century: including the Theodore Psalter and the Bristol Psalter, both now kept at the British Library. Indeed, the similarities between some of the decorated initials in this manuscript and that of the Theodore Psalter led to the hypothesis that both were produced at the Stoudios Monastery in Constantinople. More recently, however, a detailed study of a wide range of eleventh-century manuscripts led Irmgard Hutter to suggest that the manuscript should be placed in the circle of the so-called ‘copiste du Métaphraste’, a scribe whose hand can be detected in a number of manuscripts of Symeon Metaphrastes (for bibliographical details, please consult Digitised Manuscripts).
Pi in the shape of two hands holding palm leaves. (L) Add MS 82957, f 154v. (R) Add MS 19352, f 100r.
Epsilon in the shape of two birds. (L) Add MS 82957, f 113v. (R) Add MS 19352, f 148v.
Illuminated initial omicron. (L) Add MS 82957, f 10r. (R) Add MS 19352, f 74v.
Particularly noteworthy are two anthropomorphic initials found at the beginning of the first two sections, below the adorned headpieces:
(L) Add MS 82957, f 1r, detail of St John the Evangelist in the form of an epsilon. (R) Add MS 82957, f 59r, detail of a man feeding a bird in the form of an epsilon.
Sadly, the fragility of the manuscript means that there is some loss into the gutter in the case of these two initials, but the level of artistic skill is clear nonetheless.
We finish with a lost initial. f 280 was damaged at some point in the manuscript’s history:
Add MS 82957, f 280v.
However, the imprint made by a decorated initial on the portion of the page now lost can still be seen on the facing page. It is the letter tau (T) with a bird at the base. The imprint is a little difficult to make out, but is perhaps clearer when put alongside a similar tau from earlier in the manuscript:
(L) Add MS 82957, imprint of initial tau on f 281r. (R) Add MS 82957, f 3v, bird carrying the letter tau on its shoulder.
There is much more to be discovered in this manuscript, and surely a great deal more to be said about its place in the wider context of 11th-century illumination. The digitisation of this fragile item makes it available to a wide audience, and we invite you to explore its riches.
Of all the manuscripts collected by the schoolmaster and bibliophile Charles Burney (d. 1817), two stand out for their significance for the transmission of classical texts. One is the Townley Homer (Burney MS 86), an important witness to the text of the Iliad and the key source for the exegetical scholia on that text. (You can read more about the Townley Homer in this blog post from last summer.) The other is the Codex Crippsianus (Burney MS 95), recently added to Digitised Manuscripts. It is the most important witness to the text of the minor Attic Orators, containing the speeches of Andocides, Isaeus, Dinarchus, Antiphon and Lycurgus, as well as works by Gorgias, Alcidamas, Lesbonax and a work attributed to Herodes Atticus.
Zoomorphic initial of a bird, from the Codex Crippsianus, Eastern Mediterranean (Constantinople), 1st half of the 14th century, Burney MS 95, f. 34v
The hand of the manuscript caused some confusion about how best to date it, in the absence of a scribal colophon, and most attempts to date it placed it in the thirteenth or even the twelfth century. In 1960, however, Nigel Wilson noted the similarities between the script and that of chancery script in two early 14th-century manuscripts on Athos, and he suggested that the manuscript had been written by a chancery scribe commissioned to write a book. Certainly, the script differs greatly from a typical contemporary book-hand such as that found in Arundel MS 523, copied by the priest Michael Lulludes in Crete, in 1312-13:
Detail of the hand of Michael Lulludes, from a copy of the Chronicle of Constantine Manasses, 1312-13, Arundel MS 523, f. 143v
Detail of the hand of the Codex Crippsianus, Burney MS 95, f. 16v
On the other hand, Burney MS 95 is much closer to the hand of Romanus Chartophylax, in Harley MS 5579, copied in 1320-21. This script is the form known as “notarial” Cypriot script.
Detail of the hand of Romanus Chartophylax, from the Codex Goblerianus, Cyprus, 1320-21, Harley MS 5579, f. 98r
Finally, in the 1990s, the scribe was identified by Erich Lamberz as Michael Klostomalles, a notary also known as the “Metochitesschreiber”. It is heartening to think that such a famous manuscript can now be associated with a known person, and is also a good reminder of the vast amounts of work remaining to be done on Greek manuscripts.
It remains to say a few words about how the manuscript ended up in Burney’s possession. The manuscript contains an early pressmark identifying it as belonging to the monastery of Vatopedi, Mount Athos, and it may well have been part of the gift of the Emperor John VI Cantacuzenus (r. 1347-54). Like many public figures during the Byzantine age, John planned to retire to a monastery, and prepared for his retirement by having many of his books sent in advance. The manuscript contains annotations in the hand of Prince Alexander Bano Hantzerli, and from him it passed into the possession of Edward Daniel Clarke, who procured it for John Marten Cripps, from whom the manuscript gets its name. There was great excitement when the manuscript went up for auction in 1808, as can be seen from the printed sale notice now preserved as ff. 171r-172v, and Burney acquired it for the not insignificant sum of £372 15s. Now, along with Burney MS 96, a descendant of the Codex Crippsianus, the manuscript and its riches can be viewed by all online.
We have now passed the half-way point of this phase of the Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project, generously funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and many others, including the A. G. Leventis Foundation, Sam Fogg, the Sylvia Ioannou Foundation, the Thriplow Charitable Trust, and the Friends of the British Library. What treasures are in store for you this month? To begin with, there are quite a few interesting 17th- and 18th-century items to look at, including two very fine 18th-century charters, with seals intact, an iconographic sketch-book (Add MS 43868), and a fascinating Greek translation of an account of the siege of Vienna in 1683 (Add MS 38890). We continue to upload some really exciting Greek bindings – of particular note here are Add MS 24372 and Add MS 36823. A number of scrolls have also been uploaded, mostly containing the Liturgy of Basil of Caesarea. A number of Biblical manuscripts are included, too, but this month two manuscripts of classical authors take pride of place: Harley MS 5600, a stunning manuscript of the Iliad from 15th-century Florence, and Burney MS 111, a lavishly decorated copy of Ptolemy’s Geographia.
Add Ch 76659, detail of lead seal of Procopius I
Add Ch 76659, Confirmations by the Patriarch of Constantinople of the stavropegiacal rights of the Monastery of Theotokos Chrysopodariotissa near Kalanos, in the province of Patras in the Peloponnese, December 1786.
Add Ch 76660, Confirmations by the Patriarch of Constantinople of the stavropegiacal rights of the Monastery of Theotokos Chrysopodariotissa near Kalanos, in the province of Patras in the Peloponnese, March 1798.
Add MS 22749, Basil of Caesarea, Divine Liturgy, on a parchment scroll. 12th century.
Add MS 24372, front board
Add MS 24372, Gregory of Nazianzus, Orationes; with additional leaves inserted in the 12th century taken from Symeon Metaphrastes, Passio S. Clementis Admirabilis et S. Agathangeli (BHG 353), imperfect. 11th century. Illuminated head-pieces, gilt titles and initials. Stamped leather on wooden sides and bosses, possibly the original binding, but rebacked in the 19th century, at which time the inner boards were overlaid with goatskin.
Add MS 24381, Gregory of Nazianzus, Orationes, most being imperfect at the beginning, owing to miniatures which have been torn out. Three miniatures remain on ff 2r, 41v, and 52r. One wooden board from an earlier (15th-century?) binding survives and is kept separately as Add MS 24381/1. Written in 1079 or 1088, probably at Constantinople: the hand has been identified as that of Michael, a monk at the monastery of Christ Panoikteirmon in Constantinople.
Add MS 27563, Basil of Caesarea, Divine Liturgy, on a parchment scroll. 14th century.
Add MS 27564, Basil of Caesarea, Divine Liturgy, on a parchment scroll. 14th century.
Add MS 28823, John Zonaras, Commentary on the Canons of the Apostles, of the ecumenical and local councils and of the Fathers, and related texts. 4th quarter of the 14th century.
Add MS 28825, Greek translation of Ephraem the Syrian, Homilies, imperfect, and other patristic texts, including Isaiah of Gaza, Asceticon, Neilos of Ankara, Epistola ad Diaconum Achillium. Marcian of Bethlehem, and John of Lycopolis. 12th century.
Add MS 33318, Menaion for the month of September, imperfect. f 1 should follow f 185. The text varies considerably from that of modern printed editions. 4th quarter of the 14th century.
Add MS 34554, Lives of saints and theological discourses, imperfect. 16th century.
Add MS 34820, Divine Liturgy of St Basil, imperfect at beginning and end. inc. θυσιαστήριον εἰς ὁσμὴν εὐωδίας, expl. Πλήρωμα Πνεύματος ἁγίου. With a wooden roller attached. 14th century.
Add MS 35212, John Chrysostom, In Genesim homiliae 10-17, imperfect. 11th century.
Add MS 36635, Lives of Saints, for 9-17 January, mostly by Symeon Metaphrastes. 12th century. Illuminated headpieces and initials.
Add MS 36636, f 48v, detail
Add MS 36636, Lives of Saints, for 3-13 November, mostly by Symeon Metaphrastes. 11th century. Historiated initials and decorated headpieces.
Add MS 36654, Lives of Saints for the month of October, mostly by Symeon Metaphrastes. The manuscript ends with the text set out in cruciform with the letters of the Victorious Cross set in the angles. An inscription on f 215v records that it was brought to the Euergetis Monastery in Constantinople in 1103, and was probably created around the same time.
Add MS 36669, Apophthegmata Patrum: a compilation of the Greek Church Fathers, bearing the title Λειμὼν ἐνθάδε καρπῶν πεπληρωμένος. 14th century. In a 17th-century binding of boards covered with leather with gilt ornament, the centrepiece representing on the upper cover the Crucifixion, on the lower cover David and the angel of the Lord.
Add MS 36754, Collection of homilies by Basil of Caesarea and John Chrysostom, imperfect and mutilated. 11th century.
Add MS 36821, Works of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, with the marginal commentary of Maximus the Confessor, and additional texts relating to Pseudo-Dionysius. 1st half of the 10th century, possibly copied from an uncial manuscript of Pseudo-Dionysius written by Methodius, future Patriarch of Constantinople, at Rome.
Add MS 36823, Menaion for the months of November and December, imperfect, partly palimpsest. 15th century, Selymbria: donated to the Diocese of Selymbria by the copyist John Chortasmenus. Bound with bare oak wooden boards, with a 19th-century leather spine. Traces of previous leather covering on back board and nail holes from clasps or furniture.
Add MS 38890, f 3v, illumination of Emperor Leopold
Add MS 38890, Siege of Vienna, Ἀποκλεισμὸς τῆς Βιέννης, an account of the siege by Turks in 1683, translated from Italian into Modern Greek by Jeremias Cacavelas. Written by the priest Nicolas at Bucharest in December 1686, at the request of Constantin Brâncoveanu (b. 1654, d. 1714), later Prince of Wallachia.
Add MS 39608, John Chrysostom, In Genesim homiliae 1-133. 13th century.
Add MS 43868, f 26v
Add MS 43868, Iconographic sketch-book, relating mostly to religious subjects. Also included are recipes, biblical quotations and church accounts. Pen and ink sketches, with some colour washes. 18th century.
Burney MS 24, Collation of the Codex Ephesinus (Lambeth Palace Library MS 528, Gregory-Aland 71) by Philip Traherne. c 1679.
Burney MS 56, Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, 2nd half of the 16th century.
Burney MS 57, Liturgy of St Basil of Caesarea, 2nd half of the 16th century.
Burney MS 58, Ioannes Sphaciotas, letters and offices. Corcyra, 17th century.
Burney MS 100, Works of Aristotle, preceded by Porphyrius, Isagoge. Italy, N? 1st half of the 15th century.
Burney MS 111, f 1v. Ptolemaic map of Taprobana (Sri Lanka)
Burney MS 111, Ptolemy, Geographia, with many diagrams and coloured maps, all except that on f 1v being later fifteenth-century replacements on inserted leaves. 4th quarter of the 14th century-1st quarter of the 15th century.
Egerton MS 2743, Menaion, imperfect, from the middle of 16 March until 14 August, with Gospel Lections (Gregory-Aland l 940). Decorated headpieces and initials. 13th century.
Egerton MS 2744, Menaion for the months June, July and August. Imperfect at the beginning and end, some leaves are missing from the body of the volume. 12th century, written at Epirus.
Egerton MS 2745, Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 941), imperfect, with ekphonetic notation in some lections: ff 1v-23v, 60r-61r, 62v-66r, 67v-68r, 69v-70r, 71r-121r. 12th century.
Egerton MS 2785, Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 715; Scrivener evan. 564; von Soden ε 364). Decorated headpieces and initials. 13th century.
Harley MS 5600, f 15v. Illumination of Homer surrounded by the nine muses. Medallions of four bearded figures in the four corners.
Harley MS 5600, Homer, Iliad, with prefatory material. Florence, completed on 16 May 1466. With a full-page frontispiece in colours and gold on f 15v; a full white vine border in colours and gold on f 16r; 25 white vine initials in colours and gold.
Harley MS 5620, New Testament: Acts and Epistles (Gregory-Aland 322; Scrivener act. 27; von Soden α 550). Decorated headpieces. 16th century.
Royal MS 1 B I, New Testament: Acts and Epistles (Gregory-Aland 308; Scrivener Paul. 25, Act. 20; von Soden α 456), with Euthalian prefaces to the Catholic Epistles, imperfect, being partly damaged throughout. 14th century.
Royal MS 12 A VIII, Complimentary verses to Elizabeth I on her Accession Day, 17 Nov., by Robert Twist, alumnus of Westminster School, in Latin and Greek. 1597.
Royal MS 12 A XXVIII, Complimentary verses inviting a visit from Henry, Prince of Wales, by members of Winchester College. Winchester, c 1603-1612.
Royal MS 12 A XLVII, Complimentary addresses in prose and verse to Elizabeth I on her visit to Woodstock and Oxford, 31 August 1566, by members of Oxford University. Oxford, 1566.