Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts : Fitzwilliam Museum MS McClean 2

Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This richly illuminated Gospel lectionary probably dates in its earliest portion to the second half of the 11th century. One scribe was responsible for copying the <i>menologion</i>, containing the lection sequence for the fixed calendar, beginning from 1 September, and another for the <i>synaxarion</i>, containing the lections of the mobile calendar, beginning from Easter. Both sections are provided with elaborate decoration with extensive use of gold, but the style differs between the two, showing that in this too they were the work of different hands.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>It is unclear whether the two components were produced as part of a single project but assigned to separate teams of scribe and artist, or if they originated in separate projects. In the latter case, they could be portions of two different original lectionaries which were created independently but later combined when both were damaged or left incomplete, or one section could have been produced purposely to supply what was now missing from the other. The script of the menologion seems if anything the earlier, while that of the synaxarion could date from the same 11th-century period but would also be consistent with a 12th-century origin. Therefore it is likely that if either was created to replace losses to the other it was the synaxarion which was produced to supplement the menologion, but contemporaneous production is also plausible. Early quire signatures are present in the synaxarion, but only a few survive, while none are present in the menologion, so no clear evidence of the manuscript's origins can be derived from these.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>At a later date, two replacement quires were produced to supplement losses from the synaxarion, ornamented in a somewhat simpler style but still with extensive use of gold. The text of these quires is in an unusual, very square script which is not easily placed chronologically but perhaps dates to the 14th century.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>There have been significant further losses from the manuscript, and the surviving portions are now bound out of order. The menologion sections for December and January appear out of sequence at the very beginning of the manuscript, while the early folios of the synaxarion are severely disordered.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Unusually, the manuscript contains portrait miniatures of the Evangelists, which appear within the menologion. Two of these survive, depicting Matthew (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(6);return false;'>f. 1v</a>) and Mark (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(44);return false;'>f. 20v</a>). Such miniatures are a feature much more commonly associated with Gospel books, in which the text appears in its original order, than with lectionaries. Their inclusion within the menologion also seems less natural than it would be in the synaxarion, in which the calendar outside of Holy Week is divided into sections each dominated by readings from one of the four Gospels, whereas the four are interspersed throughout the menologion.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The inclusion of the miniatures also seems to have led to some disruption to the copying of the text. The portrait of St Mark was painted on a single folio which was then inserted into a quire, as was common practice, but for some reason when the scribe reached this point they broke off copying the lection which was interrupted by this folio and began copying it again on the next folio after that bearing the miniature. Still more peculiarly, this lection was followed by the repetition of another lection which had already appeared a few folios earlier. This disruption offers a notable insight into the working process of the manuscript's production, since it indicates that the extra folio bearing the miniature was inserted into the quire before it was copied rather than afterwards. It remains unclear why the scribe thought it necessary to begin the current lection again after the miniature, while the repetition of another lection directly afterwards is still more perplexing.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The presence of the Evangelist portraits could conceivably account for the current erroneous placement of the menologion sections for December and January, since this places one of the miniatures on the very first folio of the manuscript, while the other appears within the last quire of the displaced section. This suggests that they could have been placed at the beginning of the manuscript for greater prominence, by a modern owner who was not going to be using it for liturgical purposes.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Still more unusual than these full-page miniatures is a small miniature of the Virgin Mary which appears in the division between the two columns of text on <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(312);return false;'>f. 154v</a>. This is placed alongside the beginning of the lection for the feast of her Nativity on 8 September.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>


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