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Christ's College : Gospel lectionary (Saturdays, Sundays and weekdays)

Christ's College

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This <i>Gospel lectionary</i> manuscript belongs to the fuller of the two main types, the "weekday" lectionary, which includes readings for every day of the week, except during Lent, when a Gospel reading was only given on Saturdays and Sundays. It is complete apart from the loss of two quires, and was apparently completed in the mid-13th century.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The scribe has left a brief colophon on <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(445);return false;'>f. 219r</a>, giving thanks for the completion of the work. Fuller information on the early history of the manuscript is available from a note written in a different hand on <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(446);return false;'>f. 219v</a>, recording the purchase of the book for the sum of 9 hyperpyra (the standard gold coin of Byzantium in its later centuries), but the roles of the people involved and the significance of the dates mentioned remain ambiguous. What appears to be the likeliest reading is that this note was written by one Michael Tankris on either 4 September 1261 or 4 August 1262, recording the purchase of the manuscript by the monk Athanasios Tankris from the hieromonachos (monk and priest) Lazaros Exeleissiastin in May in the first year of the indiction, the fifteen-year cycle originating in the Late Antique Roman tax assessment system. This would place the purchase probably in 1258, the most recent first year of the indiction when the note was written. Michael Tankris may well be the priest of that name who copied a manucript dated 1263, now Mount Athos, Monastery of Docheiariou, MS 275 (Lambros 2949) (Marie Vogel and Victor Gardthausen, <i>Die griechischen Schreiber des Mittelalters und der Renaissance</i> (Leipzig 1909), p. 322).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The left-hand side of the same page was previously filled by a note in red ink, subsequently erased, whose placement on the page suggests that it predated the surviving note. The likeliest explanation of this is that it was a record of ownership, scrubbed out by a later owner to protect their own claim to the manuscript. This would have been an especially pressing concern if the former owner had been a monastery, as monks were forbidden to alienate their convent's property, and ownership notes in books owned by monasteries typically included explicit prohibitions pronouncing curses on anyone who deprived the institution of its possessions.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscript was presumably relatively new when both of these notes were written, as the scribal characteristics of the main text, notably the occasional appearance of mute <i>iota</i> in its final subscript form and the form of the abbreviation of καί, indicate that it was copied no earlier than the 13th century, although it has in the past been assigned an earlier date. The crudity of the script and relatively poor quality of the parchment are suggestive of a provincial production, perhaps in a peripheral region outside the Byzantine mainstream. This impression is reinforced by the unusual, crude but lively form of its ornament, which includes some dramatically elongated initial letters and the frequent use of animal forms, mostly snakes. The prevalence of such zoomorphic forms, the use of translucent paint and the highlighting of some headings with yellow wash suggest a possible origin in the Greek-speaking communities of southern Italy, where Greek manuscripts continued to be produced after the 11th-century termination of Byzantine rule and where distinctive practices emerged, often under the influence of Latin manuscript production. This is complicated, howerver, by the use of hyperpyra for the purchase recorded on <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(446);return false;'>f. 219v</a>, since this indicates that by that time the manuscript was located inside the Byzantine world, then fragmented into a number of successor states following the fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade in 1204.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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