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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Greek lectionary

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This lectionary manuscript, produced in the 12th or 13th century, is notable in that it contains both Gospel lections and those of the Pauline Epistles, whereas lectionaries usually contained either the cycle of readings from the Gospels or that from the Acts and Epistles. It is also unusual in that it contains only the lections for weekdays of the <i>synaxarion</i>, the cycle of readings of the movable calendar, beginning from Easter. <i>Greek lectionary</i> manuscripts generally contained either the lections for the whole week (typically produced for use in monasteries, where the liturgy was performed daily), or those for Saturday and Sunday only (typically for use in non-monastic churches). This suggests that it was created to supplement an existing combined lectionary of the Saturday-Sunday type, or more probably two separate Saturday-Sunday lectionaries, one for the Gospels and one for the Acts and Epistles. Between them, these would have included the lections of the <i>menologion</i> (the cycle of readings of the fixed calendar, beginning from 1 September) and the <i>synaxarion</i> lections of Acts as well as the Saturday and Sunday <i>synaxarion</i> lections of the Gospels and Epistles.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>This division of content between Gospels and Epistles is reflected in the physical structure of the manuscript, which is composed of two separate parts which were clearly not originally bound together in their present position. The first contains the lections of the Epistles, the latter those of the Gospels. Both parts are incomplete, as the first few folios of the Gospel lectionary are missing, while that of the Epistles breaks off at the end.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The fact that the definite losses from each part occur where the two parts meet one another in middle of the manuscript, rather than the outer end, is an indication that they were not previously arranged as they are now. This is confirmed by other physical features of the second part. The corners of the folios are curved inwards, whereas one would expect any such curvature to bend them outwards. The corners of the earlier folios of this part are also heavily worn, indicating that they were exposed at the extremities of a book rather than being towards the middle of it, as at present. On the first folio of this part (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(197);return false;'>Part II, f. 6r</a>), there are marks from the turn-ins of a binding, indicating that at some point it was located at the end of a volume, evidently after the loss of its first few folios.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>However, the consistency of material, script, ornament and layout between the two parts, as well as their unusual weekday lection content, indicates that these are not portions of two unrelated manuscripts which have been bound together, but were produced as parts of the same programme of work. They may have been originally bound together as a single volume, in which the present order of the two parts would have been reversed, or formed two separate volumes.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The parchment of which the manuscript is composed is of notably poor quality, its folios containing numerous holes created during the stretching process in the course of their production, including some within the written area. Such leaves would usually have been rejected for use in a manuscript produced in the mainstream of the Byzantine world. It suggests at least a provincial origin, and perhaps one in a peripheral area of the Greek-speaking world, such as southern Italy or the Levant, though there are no specific indications of production in either region. The scribe's unusual practice of using small crosses as routine punctuation marks is another peculiarity suggesting a possible origin outside the core of the Byzantine world. Aspects of the scribe's technique or tools also seem to have been at fault on occasion. There are folios where the pen has repeatedly broken through the parchment during copying, leaving an ink-blot on the far side. This could have been due to weak parchment, too sharp a pen, or the scribe pressing it too hard. On one occasion (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(141);return false;'>Part I, f. 70r</a>) this happened so many times while copying the lower part of the recto folio that the scribe left the lower, blotted part of the verso blank and continued the text on the next folio.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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