Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts : Lexicon of Pseudo-Zonaras

Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript, produced in the late 15th century, contains the <i>Lexicon of Pseudo-Zonaras</i>, whose actual authorship is unknown, but which was traditionally attributed to the 12th-century Byzantine historian John Zonaras. Words to be defined are sorted into sections according to their first two letters, which are divided into subsections for masculine, feminine and neuter nouns, verbs and adverbs, but the entries are not alphabetically sorted beyond the first two letters. Some are glossed merely by giving a more common synonym, while others are accompanied by substantial paragraphs of discussion. At the end of the manuscript, the lexicon itself is followed by a number of entries which had been omitted from the text for some reason, and which are present in their normal alphabetical location in other manuscripts of this text. These are followed by a number of brief additional lexicographical lists, including glosses of unusual vocabulary from the Pauline Epistles, Hesiod and the <i>Odyssey</i>, words for the noises made by different animals, Egyptian names for the months, and brief excerpts from the poetry of the 12th-century writer Michael Psellos which gloss unusual words. These belong to a range of supplementary texts which appear in other manuscripts of this work in various combinations and orders.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscript was copied in two different portions by two scribes, one of whom is responsible for the first seven quires, containing most of the words beginning with <i>alpha</i>, the other for the remainder of the text. The paper used by the two scribes was different, bearing different watermarks. Though the chronological evidence of the watermarks indicates that they worked within at most a few decades of each other, it is clear that the early portion of the manuscript was not copied as part of the original plan of production, but rather to replace original quires which had either already been lost, deliberately removed or rejected for inclusion.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Its scribe, Hand A, clearly worked to provide what was lacking from a text already produced by Hand B, the copyist of the greater part of the manuscript, since on the last page of Hand A's work (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(118);return false;'>f. 56v</a>), the words are written larger so as to fill the available space neatly with the limited amount of remaining text required to connect with the beginning of Hand B's work. That this was not a planned division of labour is implied by the improbability of Hand A being assigned the lexicon entries for almost but not quite all of the words beginning with <i>alpha</i>, and confirmed by the fact that the transition between the two scribes comes in the middle of an entry and the middle of a sentence. Further confirmation comes from the quire signatures, since whereas Hand A's work fills seven quires, Hand B's begins with a quire numbered six, indicating that in the original state of the manuscript the portion of the text now provided by Hand A filled only five quires.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>A possible explanation for this replacement of the original early part of the text within such a short span of time can be found in the layout of the text. Hand A's work is arranged in two columns, with each lexicon entry beginning a new line. The same is true of the vast majority of Hand B's work. However, the first three pages copied by Hand B (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(119);return false;'>ff. 57r-58r</a>) are presented in a single column, in which the entries follow on from one another in continuous blocks of text. Supposing that the text before this point was copied in the same way, this would account for its being accommodated in five quires rather than taking up seven. The change to the new layout was presumably made because starting each entry on a new line made it much easier to find a desired entry, especially as they are not sorted into alphabetical order beyond the first two letters. In this regard, it would seem reasonable that an owner of the manuscript, whether the original patron or someone who acquired it later, would want to have the early part of the lexicon in the same, more convenient layout, and would therefore employ another scribe to replace the quires written wholly in continuous text. They evidently did not, however, think it worth the additional expense of replacing a whole quire where only the first three pages, from a total of sixteen, were written in continuous text.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>It appears that the brief supplementary texts following the main lexicon, though the work of the original scribe, were not part of the original production plan. This is suggested by the fact that the new quire which accommodates nearly all of this material uses a different paper from the rest of Hand B's work, with another watermark. However, the fact that Hand B was responsible, rather than a new copyist being involved, as with the replacement quires, suggests that this expansion took place soon after the completion of the original programme of work.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Both scribes used the Hodegon-style script which was a characteristic type of formal, scribal handwriting in the last centuries of Byzantium, but worked after the empire's downfall. The painted headpiece that opens the manuscript, which forms an integral part of the same programme of work as Hand A's text, is not in a Byzantine style but a Western one. This suggests that Hand A, though seemingly a Greek-speaker trained in traditional Byzantine calligraphy, was a migrant working in western Europe, probably in Italy, which remained the main home of Greek studies in the West, and of Greek migrant communities there, during the 15th century. Despite the development of printing in Greek during this period, manuscripts continued to be professionally copied for scholarly Italian patrons and for wealthier refugees from the East. The chronological proximity of the two programmes of work suggests that the same may be true of the original copying of the manuscript by Hand B, but this is less certain.</p>


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