Christ's College : New Testament lectionary

Christ's College

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript, probably copied in the later 16th or 17th century, is a <i>New Testament lectionary</i>, containing the readings both from the Gospels and from the Acts and Epistles, which were usually assembled in separate books but are here combined in a single sequence. The scope of each of these two sets of lections corresponds to the briefer of the two main types of lectionary, the "Saturday-Sunday" lectionary, which gives the lections for Saturdays and Sundays only, except for Holy Week and the period from Easter to Pentecost, for which weekdays are also included. Another relatively unusual feature is the inclusion of the cycle of lections for each day of the week.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The lectionary itself is followed, in the last few folios of the manuscript, by a series of brief explanatory texts and tables on calendrical matters. Some are specifically religious, such as the calculation of the date of Easter or of the preparatory vigils of various feasts, while others have a more general significance, such as those for the calculation of leap years or of the fifteen-year indiction cycle which formed a standard part of Byzntine chronology.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The production of the manuscript was an extraordinarily collaborative undertaking. Portions of it were copied by as many as two dozen different scribes, who often handed over to one another mid-page, and some of whom wrote only a few lines. This may in part have been a means to give a turn to less experienced hands, and in what was probably a monastic community, there may have been some symbolic value to such wide participation in the production of a book for use in the convent's collective worship.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The presence of a particularly large number of hands making their mark in the manuscript's production has an echo in its later history, as numerous notes have been added in the margins containing the names of those who wrote them. These were predominantly deacons, the clerics who would have been responsible for reading lections from the book. Two of these deacons identify themselves as the lectionary's owners. One of these names himself Michael Leotes, son of Andreas, and includes prayers for his father as well as himself. The other calls himself Michael Lentitadra, with variations on the spelling of his surname in different notes (Λαιντοιταδρα, Λεντηταδρα). This unusual surname appears as though it could have been formed by running together the words "Leotes, son of Andreas" ("Λεωτη του Ανδρεα", <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(214);return false;'>f. 103v</a>). It seems possible that the second Michael was a descendant of the first, whose patronymic had merged with and become part of his family name.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscript is extensively ornamented in two exuberant styles, interspersed through the manuscript. This variation could be another product of collaborative production, or merely of a single artist mixing methods. Initials can be very large and even extend tendrils across much of the page (e.g. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(264);return false;'>f. 128v</a>). Some include the forms of animals or faces, and later hands have sometimes copied elements of the ornament in the margin, most notably on <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(352);return false;'>f. 172v</a>, where the initial unusually takes the form of a musician, and a later hand has made multiple attempts at copying, with increasing degrees of refinement. Original, crude drawings of fantastical figures have also been added in places.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>


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