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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Gospel lectionary

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This <i>Gospel lectionary</i> manuscript, complete apart from one lost folio, belongs to the briefer of the two main types, the "Saturday-Sunday" lectionary, giving the lections for Saturdays and Sundays only, except for Holy Week and the period from Easter to Pentecost, for which weekdays are also included. It seems to have spent much of its history in the south-eastern Mediterranean, either in the Levant or in Cyprus, and may have been produced there. It dates probably to the later 11th or earlier 12th century.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The parchment used contains many holes created during the stretching and drying of the skin, which in manuscripts produced in the Byzantine mainstream would typically lead to a folio being rejected for use, or employed only if the holes could be kept to the margins. Here, however, they sometimes impinge on the written area, though only on its fringes, which may be an indication of production in a region on the periphery of the Greek-speaking world. There are also some eccentricities in the scribe's use of diacritics. Compound words in which the stem is preceded by a prefix have often been treated as though these were two separate words, with a breathing appearing on the initial vowel or diphthong of the stem, as at the beginning of a new word. Rather than merely showing ignorance or carelessness, this displays some understanding of the structure of the words in use, but a lack of familiarity with standard orthographic practice. This would also be consistent with production in a peripheral region, such as southern Italy or the Levant.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Whatever its origins, there are clear indications that the manuscript spent time in a culturally diverse region on the eastern fringes of the Byzantine world. There are four different sequences of quire numbers, of which two are in Greek numerals, one of which is probably the set used when the manuscript was first bound. The other two, however, are in Armenian numerals, the second set apparently having been required to replace the first, as some of these had been cropped away or become faded. This indicates that the manuscript was rebound not once but at least twice by Armenian-speakers, suggesting a prolonged period in a region with a significant Armenian population.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>There is also a series of annotations in Arabic, some of which identify a deacon named Ibrahīm as owner of the manuscript (ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(50);return false;'>21v-22r</a>, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(126);return false;'>59v</a>). One is accompanied by a crudely written note in Greek, giving the same man's name in the Greek form Avraam (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(126);return false;'>f. 59v</a>). Other Arabic notes, seemingly in the same hand, give numbers for lections (ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(283);return false;'>138r</a>, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(285);return false;'>139r</a>), suggesting that the book was in at least occasional liturgical use by someone who could read the Greek text but was not very familiar with the Greek system of numerals, for whom such annotations would have been a helpful guide. Christian Arabic use of the book would suggest that it was at this time within the Arab world, or else in a neighbouring region where Christian Arab communities had become established, such as Cyprus. Both regions also contained substantial Armenian communities. The note on <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(50);return false;'>f. 21v</a> identifies Ibrahīm's grandfather as a native of Baalbek in Lebanon.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>A further, more circumstantial indication that the book had spent time in the south-eastern Mediterranean comes from a few leaves of a later hymn book (Parakletike/Oktoechos) which were reused as endleaves in this manuscript on some occasion when it was rebound. The characteristics of the text found here, particularly the broad pen-strokes and very black ink, are consistent with those commonly found in manuscripts produced in the Levant, in Cyprus, or sometimes in other islands including Rhodes.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscript contains a single loose parchment leaf, which had previously been bound into it at the rear. It too contains Gospel lectionary text, similarly arranged to that in the main body of the manuscript, and in a very similar hand, which indeed may well be that of the same scribe. However, it does not originally belong to this manuscript, as the text it contains does not correspond to that of the only folio which the manuscript has lost. It therefore appears that this folio was at some point added to the manuscript by someone who assumed, on the basis of its very similar appearance and content, that it had originally been part of it.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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