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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Gospel lectionary palimpsest, with Menologion undertext

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This fragment consists of unbound folios of a <i>Gospel lectionary palimpsest, with Menologion undertext</i>. The original manuscript, in majuscule script, was probably produced in the late 8th century and converted into a palimpsest in the late 13th or 14th century. The original bifolios were cut into their component folios, of which 15 and a half survive here, which were turned onto their side and folded into bifolios of the overwritten manuscript. The undertext survives in a readily legible state. The folios are now arranged to reflect the order and orientation of the more important undertext.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The original manuscript was a Menologion, a term which can refer to various types of liturgical text with a calendrical structure, in this case denoting the book containing brief Lives of the Saints to be read on the feast day of each saint. The surviving folios are discontinuous but contain all or part of various entries from 9 May to 11 July. The most important of these are an apparently unique text of the Life of St Hyacinthus, a distinctive version of the Life of Theophanes and Pansemne, and the Passion of Justin Martyr, a text for which this is the oldest surviving witness, though it is not believed to represent the oldest surviving recension (Lanata, <i>Atti dei martiri</i>, p. 117).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>These leaves were converted into a palimpsest for the purpose of replacing losses to an existing Gospel lectionary, itself probably created in the 12th century. They were arranged for this purpose in a haphazard sequence bearing no particular relationship to their original order, while some were placed the opposite way up from others.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The remainder of the lectionary manuscript is now Athens, Ethnike Bibliotheke tes Hellados (EBE), MS 4079. (It had in the past been erroneously identified as <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>London, British Library, Egerton MS 3154</a>.) When described by former owner F.H.A. Scrivener, at some point before his death in 1891, the manuscript still included these palimpsest folios, but they had been removed by 1909, when they were sold to Cambridge University Library by Scrivener's daughter Frances. The identity of the Athens manuscript as the one from which they came is confirmed by the fact that, while 31 of the 32 lectionary folios here are palimpsest material, the other is an original folio of the lectionary, whose script and other details match those of the Athens manuscript, a good-quality production with gilded headings and initials. Their content also fits into the gaps in the sequence of lections left by that manuscript's incomplete condition. (Tchernetska, 'Cambridge UL Add. 4489')</p>The leaf from the original lectionary, f. 25 in the order of the palimpsest leaves and one half of <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(27);return false;'>f. 14</a> in the reconstituted sequence of the Menologion leaves, was formerly attached by a paper strip to the other half of <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(27);return false;'>f. 14</a>, which is f. 32 of the lectionary leaves. It forms the first folio of a quire whose original first folio, the conjoint leaf of f. 32, had been removed. Presumably it was the sole survivor of its own original quire, and was deliberately incorporated into a quire of the replacement palimpsest material when this was used to repair the lectionary. Following its repair, but before its description by Scrivener, the lectionary evidently suffered further losses, resulting in the incomplete condition of the quires whose leaves are preserved here.<p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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