Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts : MS Add. 720

Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This illuminated Gospel book, probably copied towards the end of the 10th century or in the first half of the 11th, is provided with an atypical and unusually extensive sequence of miniatures.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Gospel books often contained portraits of the four Evangelists, and much less frequently also other images. Here there are two portraits of the usual sort, of the Evangelists Matthew and Mark each sitting at a desk writing their books, immediately preceding the text of the Gospel (ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(4);return false;'>3v</a>, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(154);return false;'>80v</a>). The writers of the other two Gospels are portrayed in less conventional fashion, being accompanied by other figures. Luke is shown sitting and writing, but with St Paul standing behind him and peering over his shoulder at his work, while a third figure looks into the room from behind a curtain over the doorway (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(247);return false;'>f. 133r</a>). The Gospel of John is preceded by an image of a standing figure labeled as John the Theologian, and a seated one labeled as John the Baptist (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(401);return false;'>f. 223r</a>). The interpretation of this image is complicated by the fact that the seated figure appears to be writing, though the usual desk is absent. The labels may therefore be incorrectly applied.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>While the other face of the folio bearing the miniature of Matthew is blank, those of Mark and Luke are each accompanied by a second full-page miniature on the reverse, respectively an image of John the Baptist conducting a baptism while Jesus watches from the background (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(153);return false;'>f. 80r</a>, and one of Mary and Joseph with the young Jesus (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(248);return false;'>f. 133v</a>). The text of the Gospel of John begins on the verso following the miniature of the two saints on the recto, but that text is preceded by a semi-circular miniature of the Virgin and Child (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(402);return false;'>f. 223v</a>).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>As originally produced, the only supporting annotations guiding the use of the text were the numbers and titles of the chapters (κεφάλαια) in the margins. However a later hand, probably in the 12th century, added further standard annotations supporting both study and liturgical use. Numbers were added for the Ammonian sections, the shorter subdivisions of each Gospel, each accompanied by a Eusebian canon number identifying whether each passage was unique to that Gospel or parallel to passages in one or more of the others. Lection notes were also added identifying the passages to be read in church through the liturgical year, and two additional quires were added, copied by the same hand, containing a list of all the lections. It appears that the same hand added the titles of each Gospel, hitherto absent.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>A single lost folio was replaced by a substitute, probably in the 13th or 14th century. The manuscript retains a medieval Greek binding, decorated with designs including the imperial double-headed eagle.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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