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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Gospels, Act and Epistles book

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript, unusually, contains almost the entire New Testament, combining the normal content of a Gospel book and an Acts and Epistles book. Each of the Epistles is preceded by a standard introductory hypothesis, describing the circumstances of its composition. The manuscript probably dates to the 13th century, but the text is 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 very black ink used by the copyists of the main text suggests that the manuscript may have been produced in the Levant, or in Cyprus. This probability is reinforced by the presence of a sequence of Armenian quire signatures, indicating that the manuscript was rebound at some point by an Armenian-speaker, which would be consistent with its presence in these same regions.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscript appears to have been produced in separate blocks, one comprising the Gospels and the other the Acts and Epistles. It may indeed have been originally intended as two separate volumes, whether or not they were ever in fact bound separately, or produced originally as an Acts and Epistles book which was then expanded by the addition of the Gospels, though the commonalities of script and decoration indicate that the production of all parts of the manuscript was closely associated.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The beginning of the Acts of the Apostles (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(287);return false;'>f. 135r</a>) marks the beginning of the original sequence of quire signatures, which starts with the number 1, omitting the first eighteen quires. This indicates that the section beginning with Acts was originally produced separately from that containing the Gospels, and may well have been meant to be bound separately. This section would not have been a complete Acts and Epistles book, however, as the sequence of signatures does not cover the last four quires, which contain the whole of the last seven Epistles. That this was no chance omission is indicated by the fact that this change not only comes at a clean break between biblical books, but is preceded by a shortened quire, of only four folios rather than the usual eight. The same applies to the point where the quire signatures begin, which is preceded by a quire of only six folios. These quires of reduced length seemingly each marked the end of an allocation of work. The scribe could not simply continue by copying the next book in the same quire, as that book and those following it had either already been produced or had been assigned to someone else to copy. The fact that the beginning of Acts is also accompanied by a change of hands suggests that the different portions of work were assigned to the two scribes, Hand A taking the Gospels and the last few Epistles and Hand B the rest, and that this division of labour accounts for the physical division. However, the abrupt return of Hand A after only a dozen folios (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(312);return false;'>f. 147v, line 5</a>) shows that, if so, this plan did not last long, as Hand A was required to take over Hand B's assignment as well.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The original production plan was certainly not fulfilled with regard to decoration. The manuscript appears to have been prepared for miniatures of each author, which were never added. This is suggested by the presence of empty rectangular borders during the Epistles, each appearing early in the work of the four authors of letters (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(376);return false;'>f. 179v</a> James; <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(397);return false;'>f. 190r</a> 2 Peter; <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(405);return false;'>f. 194r</a> 1 John; <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(418);return false;'>f. 200v</a> Jude; <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(423);return false;'>f. 203r</a> Romans (i.e. Paul)). This in turn suggests that the blank folios found between the different Gospels may have been set aside for full-page miniatures, including portraits of the Evangelists. Such decorations never having been added, the space between the Gospels was later filled with summary lection listings and a list of the Epistles by a less elegant and probably less professional hand than the main copyists (ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(16);return false;'>v verso-vi verso</a>, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(94);return false;'>38v</a>, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(140);return false;'>61v-62v</a>, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(282);return false;'>132v-134v</a>).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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