Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts : Act and Epistles book

Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript is a high-quality illuminated Acts and Epistles book, produced in the later 12th or earlier 13th century. Its ornament includes portraits of each of the writers of the Epistles, as well as an opening headpiece containing an image of Christ in its centre, while its original rubric is gilded. It belongs to a large stylistic class of manuscripts, known as the decorative style, which account for the majority of illustrated Greek manuscripts of this period, and whose common characteristics are suggestive of a provincial origin. The features placing it in this group include the style of script and its use of very black ink, the positioning of its quire signatures and their accompaniment by a cross or dagger mark in the middle of the upper margin, and the specific characteristics of its illuminations, including the prominent use of pink and magenta in their colour scheme. Some of these features are also typical of manuscripts from Cyprus and the Levant, which may indicate that this group originated there, but the evidence is inconclusive, and the sheer number of expensive deluxe manuscripts which it contains suggests that they may come from a wider range of places (Carr, <i><i>Byzantine Illumination</i></i>, pp. 1-4, 9-10).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscripts of this group include a significant number in which New Testament content is combined with a Psalter, and this manuscript may originally have formed part of such a volume. A Psalter now in a private collection in Switzerland was formerly accompanied by the Acts and Epistles, which remained present during the 17th century, when it was given to a Monastery of the Prophet Elias on Samos, but the two components were later separated. Stylistic similarities suggest that this manuscript may be the Acts and Epistles book in question, but insufficient information is available on the Psalter to verify this (Carr, <i><i>Byzantine Illumination</i></i>, pp. 217, 289).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>If it did form part of a combined volume, the survival of its original quire signatures, whose sequence begins with the first quire, demonstrates that it must have formed the first part of the volume. There is also a sequence of signatures from a later rebinding, which is unusually made up of Greek letters in alphabetical order rather than numbers. This sequence begins from the first quire with the letter <i>beta</i>, indicating that at the time of this rebinding there must have been an additional quire preceding it, which was not part of the original composition of the manuscript. This presumably contained prefatory material such as a contents list, which had been added at some point but was later lost or removed during another rebinding.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>


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