Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts : Gospel book

Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This illuminated Gospel book was copied during the first half of the 15th century. Its ornament is characteristic of the last centuries of Byzantium, including miniatures of the four Evangelists painted using translucent wash, and zoomorphic initials at the beginning of the Gospels.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>However, the decorative scheme grows more modest as one progresses through the manuscript. In the first two miniatures, of Matthew (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(42);return false;'>f. 15v</a>) and Mark (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(202);return false;'>f. 94v</a>), the sky is coloured with gold, but in the portrait of Luke (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(306);return false;'>f. 146v</a>) the space prepared for it has been left blank, while in the last, that of John (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(474);return false;'>f. 230v</a>), the large areas of sky present in the other three are absent, leaving open the question of whether it was ever intended for gilding. This might suggest that the money for production ran out during the process. More peculiarly, while Matthew and Mark begin with large initial letters composed of entangled animals, the initials of Luke and John are merely ordinary letters slightly expanded, not even in the red ink used throughout for minor initials, while no space has been left in the text for a larger letter, indicating that the inclusion of major initials had already been cancelled when these Gospels came to be copied.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>This scaling back of the decorative scheme may find an echo in the supplementary materials at the beginning of the manuscript. These have been copied by a different scribe from the main text, but the use of the same paper and the fact that both hands appear in the same quire indicates that they were part of the original scheme of production. In addition to the summary listing of lections, they include the letter of Eusebios of Caesarea explaining his system of canons for matching equivalent passages in the different Gospels, which normally precedes a set of canon tables laying out these sequences, while the canon numbers have been marked in the margins of the Gospel text along with the numbers of the Ammonian sections, the subdivisions to which they pertain. However, a run of blank folios follows the letter of Eusebios, indicating that canon tables were supposed to be included but never produced.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>There also seems to have been some retreat from the original plan of production in the marginal rubric supporting the Gospel text. While this includes lectionary information and running headers for Gospels along with the Ammonian sections and Eusebian canons, numbers and headings for the longer chapter divisions of each Gospel, the κεφάλαια, were included for only the first few of these sections and then abandoned.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>


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