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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Gospel book

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript, dated by a colophon to June 1297, is an illuminated <i>Gospel book</i> to which a copy of the book of Revelation and some prayers were added at a later date. At some point after its original production, some standard prefatory material was added to the book, comprising the canon tables of Eusebios of Caesarea and his letter to Karpianos explaining them. The text is unusually significant for a copy of such late date, containing numerous unusual variant readings, and it has been used as a witness for many New Testament editions.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The main body of the Gospel book was copied in a beautiful calligraphic hand by a scribe named Michael Mantylides, and is his only identified work. In his lengthy colophon (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(587);return false;'>ff. 293r-293v</a>) his name is given in disguised form, each letter being substituted by another, according to a standard cryptographic sequence. This may be a gesture of modesty, in keeping with the scribe's disparagement of the quality of his work which also appears here, a conventional gesture of self-deprecation. A later hand has added the deciphered text of the name below. The colophon records that the manuscript was paid for by a certain <i>kyr</i> (lord) Georgios Mougdouphes, also otherwise unknown, and includes prayers for the lifelong health of his children and his mother, as well as for their salvation and that of the scribe himself. It refers to gold, silver, gems and pearls and their unimportance to the patron compared with the chanting of prayers or scriptural texts, possibly indicating that the book originally bore a treasure binding decorated with such precious materials, as Gospel manuscripts for liturgical use sometimes did.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>However, the manuscript was not originally provided, or designed to be provided, with the liturgical apparatus of lection notes that helped the reader to identify the passages to be recited during the liturgy. This was inserted later, by the same hand who added the canon tables and the text of Eusebios. These additions are difficult to date, as the person responsible used archaising script resembling those of the 12th century. Such imitations of earlier writing styles was common in Byzantium in the Palaiologan period (1258-1453), particularly in religious manuscripts.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscript retains a full set of miniatures of the Evangelists, on inserted leaves somewhat smaller than those of the rest of the manuscript. They are in the style of the 10th century, and may well have been reused from a manuscript of that date (Buckton, p. 195). However, there is an alternative view that they were painted at the time of the manuscript's production, deliberately imitating the style of 10th-century exemplars (Belting, pp. 215-244). The other Evangelist portrait, that of St Luke, is on the verso of a folio bearing on its recto a miniature of Christ as the Ancient of Days, surrounded by the symbols of the four Evangelists. The style of these miniatures is more consistent with the time of the manuscript's production or later. However, they appear not to have been produced for it, as they seem too large for the folio on which they appear, which has clearly been cropped down from a significantly larger leaf, leaving narrow and uneven margins on some edges and impinging on the painted border in others. These too are therefore likely to have been reused from some other manuscript.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The leaf bearing the miniature of St Mark (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(177);return false;'>f. 88</a>) was formerly pasted in with the help of a strip of parchment bearing text in the <i>mixed minuscule bouletée</i> style of the 10th century. It may have originated from the same manuscript as the miniature, supposing that that is indeed of the same period (Buckton, p. 195).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The text of the Book of Revelation was added in the 14th or 15th century, and may have been produced for insertion into this manuscript, as the only quire signatures it bears are a continuation of those of the main body of the volume. It is accompanied by marginal scholia excerpted from the commentary of Andrew of Caesarea. These have been added by the copyist of this text, in two stages, some excerpts being added in the same black ink used for copying the main text and others, probably later, in the red-orange ink used for the rubric. The final portion of the manuscript is a portion of a liturgical service-book containing prayers recited by the priest, which was produced in the same general period as the copy of Revelation, but may originally have formed part of another manuscript.</p>

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