Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts : MS Ff.4.2

Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This is a composite manuscript, all of whose portions probably date to between about 1490 and 1575. Its principal components are two Late Antique commentaries on the Book of Genesis. One was the work of Prokopios of Gaza, a teacher and writer on rhetoric at the famous school of Gaza in the 5th and 6th centuries, who also wrote a number of other Biblical commentaries. The other, focusing on the Creation, was by Anastasios of Sinai, a 7th-century monk of the Monastery of St Catherine on Mount Sinai who became its abbot.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The text of Prokopios was copied almost entirely by a single scribe, although with a distinct rubricator for the opening heading. However, a few lines on <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(172);return false;'>f. 82v</a> were copied by a different hand, who had difficulty keeping the text in a straight line. This shakiness of technique and the brevity of the text copied suggests that this may have been practice by a trainee scribe. One of the words copied by this hand is oddly split into two portions joined by a hyphen (in the sense of a short horizontal line between letters, of the sort familiar in modern use, or resembling those sometimes used in Greek manuscripts to indicate the continuation of a word from one line to the next, rather than the long, curved hyphen beneath the line of text used in Greek manuscripts to unite separate words). This again suggests a lack of experience on the part of this copyist, who had perhaps misunderstood a word split across two lines of text.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The earliest likely date for the copying of this text can only be roughly fixed to the last years of the 15th century, on the basis of the watermarks in use. Since it has been established that at least one copy was made from it by the scribe Andreas Darmarios, whose career has been extensively studied, during a period of activity in the early 1560s associated with the Council of Trent, it must have existed before the conclusion of the council in 1563.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The text of Anastasios can be dated by the combination of watermarks on the papers used to the period between about 1560 and 1575, and evidently originally formed a separate book, or portion of one, from that of Prokopios. It was the work of two scribes, one with a floridly calligraphic hand, the other much plainer and more rigid in style. The work of copying was switched back and forth with extraordinary frequency between these two, to the extent that at times they were copying alternate pages, while they quite often handed over to one another in mid-line. This was clearly a close collaboration, with the two copysists constantly alternating, rather than working simultaneously or successively on separate quires.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>At some point these two texts were bound together with one another and with a third, much briefer portion of text, containing part of the Liturgy of St James and copied by a prolific scribe active in the mid-16th century, Konstantinos Palaiokappas, a monk of the Grand Lavra on Mount Athos who became King Henry II of France's librarian at Fontainebleau. Although brief, this was evidently a deliberate excerpt, as it begins with a heading identifying it as part of the liturgy (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(597);return false;'>f. 294r</a>) and ends with an ornamental arrangement of text marking the end of a text or section, followed by a blank verso folio. This suggests that its presence may be deliberate rather than merely the incidental reuse of a few folios as endleaves, but it is not clear why this particular part of the liturgy should have been selected for inclusion alongside the two commentaries on Genesis.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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