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Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts : Hippiatrica

Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript, probably copied in the 13th century, contains the <i>Hippiatrica</i>, a compilation of veterinary texts on the care and medical treatment of horses. This collection is believed to have been originally assembled in the 5th or 6th century CE by an anonymous editor who gathered excerpts from seven existing texts. To these other excerpts were added by later editors.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The principal works excerpted, by Eumelos, Apsyrtos, Theonestos, Hierokles, Hippokrates, Pelagonius and Anatolios, themselves date from the 3rd to the 5th centuries CE. Most were originally composed in Greek, but the work of Pelagonius was a translation from Latin. With the exception of that text, these sources have since largely been lost except for the portions excerpted in this compilation. The collection became the standard reference work on its subject and remained so throughout the medieval period.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The compilation exists in multiple recensions, reflecting the adaptation and expansion of the collection by different editors over the centuries. This manuscript belongs to recension D of the text, which is otherwise represented only by one other manuscript, London, British Library, Sloane MS 745, and even between these two there are significant divergences in content and the arrangement of the material. In addition to the original core of the collection, this recension includes excerpts from other authors including Aristotle, Tiberius, Aelian, Julius Africanus, Oribasius, Aetius of Amida, Paul of Amida and Simon of Athens, the earliest known Greek author on horses. The latest components found here are two recipes for medicine attributed to the 10th-century Patriarch of Constantinople Theophylact. (McCabe, p. 38)</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript is a composite assembled from distinct physical components. The first part was copied by a hand probably of the 13th century, on old parchment reused in palimpsest. The undertext is in majuscule script, apparently a text of Christian content. Whereas the creation of palimpsests usually involved rotating the original bifolios through 90° and cutting them in half, here the leaves are either in their original orientation or inverted. Quires are assembled in a very unusual structure for a parchment manuscript, with the hair side of each sheet facing inward towards the centre of the quire and the flesh side facing outwards, whereas normally they would be arranged so that hair faces hair and flesh faces flesh, to avoid an inelegant contrast between the appearance of the inner and outer sides of the skin.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The palimpsest component of the manuscript is followed by another part copied on new parchment, by a different hand. A fresh sequence of quire signatures begins with this second section, indicating that it was not part of the same production project as the first, but was created at some time after the first had been bound. A further indication of a separate context of production is that the beginning of many new textual elements of the compilation has been marked with leather tabs on the edges of the folios, and even where these have been lost, their former presence can be identified by the less discoloured tone of the parchment where it was covered by them. No such tabs or marks are found in the second part. The transition between the two parts occurs in the middle of one of the component texts of the compilation, suggesting that it was not simply an expansion of a manuscript previously considered complete. It may be that the original manuscript had suffered damage, or that the original project had been left incomplete. The chronological relationship between the production of the two parts is unclear, since the hand of the second could date from the later 13th century, potentially placing it in proximity to the first, but could also be of the 14th century.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The third part of the manuscript continues in the same hand and displaying the same sequence of quire signatures, but is written on paper. Again the transition occurs in the midst of a text. It could be that the switch was due to money running short towards the end of the work or to the exhaustion of the immediately available stock of parchment, as this was a more expensive material whose use was becoming unusual in this period.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Components of a former binding have been preserved alongside the manuscript, including scraps from a Latin manuscript, possibly dating from the 12th century, which had been used as binding material.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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