Old hoaxes; Notovitch, Jacolliot, Jesus and India

The internet has given new life to some old hoaxes.  The idea that Jesus visited India and left otherwise unknown gospels there was advanced by a certain Notovitch in the 19th century.  I have just seen it appear again, all innocent and oblivious of criticism, in a crank discussion forum here.  Long ago I scanned some articles from Nineteenth Century magazine, in which the efficient British administrators of India went and interviewed the Tibetan lamas, with whom he supposedly communicated.

Rereading that article, I found references to other hoaxes in Max Muller’s comments. 

Be that as it may, M. Notovitch is not the first traveller in the East to whom Brâhmans or Buddhists have supplied, for a consideration, the information and even the manuscripts which they were in search of. Wilford’s case ought to have served as a warning, but we know it did not serve as a warning to M. Jacolliot when he published his Bible dans l’Inde from Sanskrit originals, supplied to him by learned Pandits at Chandranagor.

 Thanks to Google books, Mr Jacolliot’s book is available to read here, in the 1875 English translation.  The table of contents alone raises suspicions: long chapters on subjects like “Christian morality”, of no evident relevance, pad out the volume.  For as we know, most of these hoaxes are published for money, and a long book can be sold for more.  Sadly, after reading some 50 pages, I was unable to induce myself to read more.  The animosity of the author against the Christians was only equal to the vagueness of his rhetoric.  We must congratulate Dr Muller, that he managed to find something of substance in all this.


Damascius in Photius

Volume 6 of Rene Henry’s edition of the Bibliotheca of Photius arrived this morning.  The first codex in it is a review and summary of Damascius, Life of Isidore.  This now lost work was written by the 6th century Neo-Platonist philosopher, about his predecessor as head of the school at Athens.  I obtained it, as it is said to contain details about the cult of Attis.

The text is a rambling one, full of interesting historical and mythological details.   Here is one, from p.34:

131.  At Hierapolis in Phrygia there is a temple of Apollo and under the temple a subterranean fissue descends, which exhales lethal vapours.  It is  impossible to pass this gulf without danger, even for birds, and everyone who enters it dies.  But the author says that it is possible for initiates to descend into the crevasse itself and stay there without injury.  The author says that he himself and the philosopher Dorus, led by curiosity, descended into it and returned unharmed.  The author says, “I then slept at Hierapolis and in a dream it seemed to me that I was Attis and that, by the order of the Great Mother of the gods, I was celebrating what is called the festival of the Hilaria; this dream signified our liberation from Hades.  On returning to Aphrodisias, I recounted to Asclepiodotus the vision that I had in the dream.  And he, full of admiration for what had happened to me, recounted to me, not “a dream for a dream”, but a great marvel in exchange for a little one.

He said in fact that in his youth he had gone to that place to study the nature of it.  He had rolled his mantle two and three times around his nostrils so that in the event of frequent fumes, he could breathe not the poisoned and deleterious air but pure and safe air which he had brought with him captured in his mantle.  Proceeding thus, he entered on the descent, following a current of hot water which came out from there, and ran the length of the inaccessible crevasse.  All the same he didn’t get to the bottom of the descent, because the access to it was cut off by the abundance of water and the passage was impossible to an ordinary man, but the one descending, possessed by the divinity, was carried to the bottom.  Asclepiodotus then climbed back up from that place without injury thanks to his ingenuity.  Later he even tried to recreate the lethal air using various ingredients.

It would be interesting to know if any such crevasse is found today at Pessinus.   No doubt the fissure was volcanic, the fumes were likely to cause asphyxiation, and those overcome no doubt did dream, influenced by their surroundings.  Did the Attis myth owe its being to the actions of some early priest of Cybele accidentally mutilating himself while imagining himself with the Great Mother?   


Other items in the Sothebys sale

Four leaves from mss here; including a leaf from a 12th century Vergil. A bunch of illuminated initials, courtesy of someone with scissors.

More interesting are fragments of 10 leaves of a large Coptic ms of sermons in the Sahidic dialect, here.

[Upper Egypt (most probably the White Monastery, in the province of Akhmim), ninth century AD.]

10 fragments of varying sizes: (1) a near complete leaf, 335mm. by 261mm.; (2) (3) & (7) substantial fragments of leaves approximately 240mm. wide, (4) & (6) large sections of single columns; the remainder small pieces approximately 60mm. across; written space of (1) 255mm. by 165mm, double column, with 31 lines in black ink, capitals within the text touched in red, those beginning significant sections with clubs at the end of their terminals, dots within their bodies and outlined in red, vellum dry and brittle in places, many tears to outer edges of leaves, but in good and presentable condition

These leaves contains parts of a number of Christian sermons which mention Jesus, Moses, Aaron, the apostles, and the Trinity; the largest of them contains a discussion of the relationship of man to the figures of the Old Testament, and ultimately to God. They are in the Sahidic dialect of Coptic, which the Christian inhabitants of Egypt translated the Bible into in the fourth century. By the ninth century it had become the official dialect of the Coptic Church.

The present fragments are most probably from the White Monastery (or the Monastery of St. Shenouda), a Coptic Orthodox monastery near the Upper Egyptian city of Sohag. It was founded by St. Pigol in 442, but only became renowned after his nephew St. Shenouda the Archimandrite (d. 466) took over in 385. He was a gifted administrator and during his abaccy the monastery grew in size from 30 monks to 2,200 monks and 1,800 nuns. He was also a prolific writer, and launched a literacy campaign within the monastery, which produced a large library, growing over the centuries to be arguably the most important in the Coptic Church. He is principally remembered as a writer of sermons, and these here may well prove to be further examples of his work.

When the first European visitors reached the monastery, the library was housed in a room to the north of the central apse called the ‘Secret Chamber’, which could be entered only through a hidden passage. It seems likely that the first such visitor allowed into the library was J. Maspero, who arrived in 1883 and who documented his visit (as well as his acquisitions there) in 1892 (‘Fragments de manuscrits Coptes-Thébains’, Mémoires publiés par les membres de la mission archéologiques française 16). Others followed, and so many leaves flooded out of the monastery that when Canon Oldfield visited in 1903 the ‘Secret Chamber’ was completely empty (W.E. Crum, ‘Inscriptions from Shenoute’s Monastery’, Journal of Theological Studies 5, 1904). Some were no doubt legitimately bought from the monks, and the British Museum acquired a large collection through their agent Wallace Budge, and the BnF a vast hoard of 4000 leaves through Maspero and an antiquities dealer named Freney. However, records exist of more nefarious acquisition methods, including that of Charles Wilbour who came to the region in 1890 on a buying trip for the Brooklyn Museum, and reports that “Mr. Frenay told us Abbé Amélineau tried to burgle the White Monastery … after drugging the monks” (Travels in Egypt, 1936, p. 561).

In recent years the scholar Tito Orlandi has undertaken the task of reconstructing the contents of the library, and fragments have come to light in an array of institutions in Europe, America and Russia as well as Egypt. The present fragments are, to the best of our knowledge, hitherto unknown to scholarship.

Yet another Greek gospel ms, 12th century, is here

K. Aland, Kurzgefasste Liste der Greichischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, Berlin, 1994, p. 97, no. 851, as formerly Quaritch (also as no. 2602, a duplicate number).

A 17th century Armenian gospel ms. is here.

A 12th century Latin copy of the gospel of Luke, from St. Augustine’s Canterbury, is here.

A 12th century ms. of Cassiodorus, Historia Tripartita, from North Yorkshire, is here.  This once belonged to Chester Beatty.

A 12th century glossed copy of Paul’s letters in Latin, here.

I wasn’t able to find a page with all the lots listed, but there are 118.  Most are of minature images.  Quite a lot of books of hours are listed too.


Codex Climaci Rescriptus to be sold at Sothebys

Here is the lengthy catalogue entry, with images of the text; what follows is a small subset of this truly excellent catalogue:

THE CODEX CLIMACI RESCRIPTUS, PALIMPSEST MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM, IN CHRISTIAN PALESTINIAN ARAMAIC, GREEK AND SYRIAC.  [Judea (probably Jerusalem), sixth century AD. and Egypt (probably St. Catherine’s, Sinai), early ninth century AD.]

137 leaves (including 52 bifolia), approximately 230mm. by 185mm., with foliation according to the overtext in the hand of Agnes Lewis, written space of underscript 210mm. by 160mm., double column, 18 lines of faded brown ink in Christian Palestinian Aramaic uncials (a script most probably created from Estrangelo script for this Biblical translation, reflecting in its square monumental characters the Greek uncials in the manuscript that the translator worked from), written space of overscript 175mm. by 135mm., single column, 19 lines of black ink in Syriac Estrangelo script, underscript in varying states of fading, some slight water damage and crumbling to edges of some leaves, else in outstanding condition for age, each gathering of leaves within folders, the whole within three archival cloth-covered drop-back boxes, with the picnic basket in which Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson themselves kept it.


The celebrated Codex Climaci Rescriptus is a valuable witness to the Old and New Testament, made within an Aramaic tradition one and a half millennia ago, and most probably surviving the centuries in the library of St. Catherine’s, Sinai; it contains substantial parts of the New Testament in the closest surviving dialect to that spoken by Jesus Christ


1. The main body of this volume is written in Christian Palestinian Aramaic, almost certainly in Judea the mountainous southern region of modern Israel, in the sixth century. The quality of the uncial script as well as the size and grandeur of the original volume indicate that it was created by an experienced scriptorium within a wealthy centre, and this appears to rule out all those outside Jerusalem.

2. Subsequently, the manuscript appears to have passed to one of the early monasteries of the Sinai Peninsula or the north-west of mainland Egypt, most probably that of St. Catherine’s, Sinai (built by the Emperor Justinian I between 527 and 565). Moir states in his edition of the Greek section of the palimpsest states, “I feel certain that this manuscript was there [St. Catherine’s] in the course of its travels” (1956, p. 4). It may have been carried by Christian refugees fleeing from the Arab advance in the seventh century. The ancient and venerable library of St. Catherine’s has preserved a significant amount of Christian Palestinian Aramaic material, including the only other sixth-century manuscript in the language to survive, the Codex sinaiticus Zosimi rescriptus (a palimpsest manuscript whose colophon identifies its copyist as a monk of Sinai and dates his work to 979; it is now scattered and divided in ownership between The National Library of Russia, St. Petersberg; the Niedersächsische Staats- und Universtätsbibliothek, Göttingen; and the Schøyen collection, London & Oslo), as well as some further small fragments of Christian Palestinian Aramaic, which are also mostly palimpsest (see Müller-Kessler & Sokoloff, 1998, p. 3 & S. Brock, Catalogue of Syriac Fragments (new finds) in the library of the Monastery of Saint Catherine, Mount Sinai, 1995). It appears that at some time in the distant past St. Catherine’s took into their library a sizeable parcel of books written in that language, which some centuries later, having become outdated and perhaps unreadable, were set aside and their vellum reused.

3. Acquired by the pioneering Biblical scholars and twins, Agnes Smith Lewis (1843-1926) and Margaret Dunlop Gibson (1843-1920) in three stages between 1895 and 1906 (all in the vicinity of Cairo, the manuscript having presumably been ‘liberated’ from its monastic home in order to supply leaves for the antiquity trade there). They were staunch Scottish Presbyterians with a consuming interest in the early versions of the Bible, and a profound belief in female-education, in an age when it practically did not exist. They used their own fortune to become celebrated scholars in the fields of Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Syriac, and, thrilled by Tischendorf’s discoveries at Sinai, they set off to St. Catherine’s on a ‘manuscript-hunting’ expedition in 1892. They won over the difficult patriarch, partly through their insistence that nothing was to be abstracted from the library there, but only photographs taken; and on that expedition they returned with pictures of the Syriac manuscript which would make them famous, the fourth-century Syriac Sinaiticus (their lives and its discovery are the subject of a recent book, J. Soskice, Sisters of Sinai, 2009, which was adapted for BBC Radio 4 this April). Having returned home to Cambridge they were tipped off by a mysterious informant that spectacular manuscripts were to be had through various dealers in Cairo. This was quite different from the questionable removal of manuscripts from ancient libraries, and the twins regarded it as a rescue mission, returning to Egypt and acquiring a single leaf of the present codex (now fol. 24; published by them in Studia Sinaitica 6, p. cxxxix) in 1895. They acquired a further 89 leaves from the present manuscript in October 1905, and in April of the following year, while passing through Port Tewfik, Agnes Lewis bought two palimpsest-manuscripts on a whim. Upon returning home she discovered that one contained another 48 leaves of the present manuscript, and that the two portions were separated by only a single leaf – that which the twins had acquired first in 1895. They published the entire text in 1909. Only one other leaf of this scattered manuscript has emerged in the last century: in a collection of palimpsest fragments sold by Eric von Scherling to the collector Dr. A. Mingana, now in Selly Oak, Birmingham: his Syriac MS. 637 (the fragment contains Acts 21:14-26 in its underscript, and should attach to fol. 131 here; Rotulus 5, 1949; Catalogue of the Mingana Collection of Manuscripts, 1939, III: xxv & Bulletin John Rylands Libr. 23 April 1939, pp. 201-14). On the death of the twins the manuscript was left to Westminster College, Cambridge. 



A. Smith Lewis, Codex Climaci rescriptus, Horae Semiticae 8 (Cambridge, 1909)

A. Smith Lewis, A Palestinian Syriac Lectionary containing Lessons from the Pentateuch, Job, Proverbs, Prophets, Acts and Epistles, Studia Sinaitica 6 (1895), p. cxxxix

A. Mingana, A Catalogue of the Mingana Collection of Manuscripts (1939) 

M. Black, ‘A Palestinian Syriac Palimpsest leaf of Acts XXI (14-26), Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 23 April 1939, pp. 201-14 

A. Moir, Codex Climaci rescriptus (Ms. Gregory 1561, L) (1956)

K. Aland and B. Aland, The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism (1995), p. 126

K. Aland, Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum. Locis parallelis evangeliorum apocryphorum et patrum adhibitis edidit (1996), p. xxvi

C. Müller-Kressler, ‘Christian Palestinian Aramaic and its significance to the Western Aramaic dialect group’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 119 (1999), pp. 631-6 

C. Müller-Kressler, ‘Die Frühe Christlich-Palästinisch-Aramäische Evangelienhandschrift CCR1 übersetzt durch einen Ostaramäischen (Syrischen) Schreiber?’, Journal for the Aramaic Bible 1 (1999), pp. 79-86 

C. Müller-Kressler and M. Sokoloff, The Christian Palestinian Aramaic Old Testament and Apocrypha, Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic 1 (1999) 

C. Müller-Kressler and M. Sokoloff, The Christian Palestinian Aramaic New Testament version from the early period Gospels, Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic 2 (1998) 

J. Soskice, Sisters of Sinai, 2009, p. 236 

The volume today is made up from eight original manuscripts, six of which are in Christian Palestinian Aramaic and two of which are in Greek. The Christian Palestinian Aramaic volumes all date to no later than the sixth century, and the Greek to the seventh. The surviving contents of the eight original books are as follows:…


Greek NT manuscript for sale

To be sold at Sothebys in London, here, on the 7th July 2009. 

There are zoomable pictures of four of the illuminated pages, but none of the text.  The nearest we get is a picture of one of the Eusebian canon tables. These are in Adobe Flashplayer so that they can’t be downloaded (shame).  Here’s most of the catalogue description:

LOT 16   GOSPELS, IN GREEK, WITH CANON TABLES AND PROLOGUES, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM [eastern Mediterranean (perhaps Constantinople), early twelfth century]

327 leaves, 263 mm. by 197 mm., complete, collation: i6, ii4+1 [fol. 9 apparently a single sheet], iii2 [full-page miniatures], iv-xiv8, xv8+1 [full-page miniature a single sheet, fol. 102], xvi-xxi8, xxii2+1 [full-page miniature a single sheet, fol. 161], xxiii8, xxiv6 [complete], xxv8, xxvi6 [complete], xxvii-xxxiv8, xxxv2, xxxvi2 [including full-page miniature], xxxvii-xxxviii8, xxxix6 [complete], xl-xlv8, with signatures in Greek letters in upper outer corners of rectos, modern pencil foliation (followed here) repeats ‘208’, single column, 20 lines, ruled in blind, written-space 180 mm. by 120 mm., written in dark brown ink in a large and calligraphic Greek minuscule, subject headings in upper margins in red or gold, chapter initials and numbers throughout in liquid gold, some liturgical directions added in red, nine illuminated headpieces or panels in burnished gold or colours and gold, usually with large illuminated initials and lines of script entirely in gold, nine full-page illuminated canon tables including very elaborate (almost half-page) illuminated panel pediments including flowers and birds, usually all surmounted by birds or animals, five full-page miniatures on burnished gold grounds within decorative frames, some signs of use, traces of coloured silk coverings once over the miniatures, many pages rubbed, all miniatures with at least some significant rubbing and flaking (sometimes affecting the faces), some staining and worming at ends, some cockling and thumbing, many pages in good condition and overall in very reasonable state for a Greek manuscript of such antiquity, medieval Greek binding, thick wooden boards flush with the edges of the text block, outer edges grooved, sewn gathering to gathering in the Greek style, spine raised at top and bottom “alla greca”, covered with dark red silk with some traces of silver metalwork threads, metal fittings in corners of the upper cover with symbols of the four evangelists, central metal fitting of a cross enclosing seven scenes from the Passion of Christ, two clasps of triple plaited red leather thongs emerging from edge of lower cover and terminating in metal rings which fit over metal pins on the edge of the upper cover (one defective), binding very worn, skilfully rebacked with spine laid on, nineteenth-century paper endleaves

(1) To judge from the richness and quality of the illumination and the extent of the writing in gold script, the manuscript is likely to have been made in Constantinople itself.

(2) Frederick North, fifth earl of Guilford (1766-1827), probably, like most of his Greek manuscripts, collected during his period of residence in Corfu; bequeathed by him to the Ionian University, Corfu, of which he was founder and first chancellor, but the bequest was contested by his nephew Lord Sheffield and the collection was dispersed in London instead (perhaps for the best, since the library of the Ionian University was totally destroyed by enemy action in 1941); Guilford sale, Evans, 28 February 1829, lot 644, 98 guineas to Payne.

(3) Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), his MS 3886, bought from Payne, the first of Phillipps’ many acquisitions from the various Guilford sales; his stencilled crest on the flyleaf.

(4) Dudley M. Colman (d. 1958), of Hove, one of nineteen first-class manuscripts bought by him from the Robinsons in 1946 almost immediately after their acquisition of the residue of the Phillipps library, before any catalogue was issued; many of them were resold through C. A. Stonehill to the Beinecke Library at Yale University in 1954.

(5) Recorded by Aland as formerly owned by Robert J. Barry, bookseller in New Haven (and a partner in Stonehill’s); sold to a private collector, and by descent to the present owner.

H. C. Hoskier, A Full Account and Collation of the Greek Cursive Codex Evangelium 604 (with two facsimiles) [Egerton 2610 in the British Museum], together with Ten Appendices, London, 1890, Appendix E, pp. 2-3 (“the writing is decided and handsome”).

F. H. A. Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, for the Use of Biblical Students, 4 ed., London, 1894, p. 251, no. 529 (“a beautiful copy”).

K. Aland, Kurzgefasste Liste der Greichischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, Berlin, 1994, p. 87, no. 678.

The manuscript is illustrated with five miniatures and ornamented with many illuminated pages. The style is close to that of a loosely associated group of illuminators working in Constantinople around the middle of the first half of the twelfth century, known as the ‘Kokkinobaphos’ manuscripts, after two volumes of homilies written in the monastery of that name. The artists were patronised by the imperial family and others. Related manuscripts include J. Paul Getty Museum MS Ludwig II,4, dated 1133 (most probably with a miniature removed), and the Gospels of the illuminator Theophanes, c. 1125-50, in the National Gallery of Victoria, MS Felton 710-5 (with only one remaining miniature), bought in the Dyson Perrins sale in these rooms, 9 December 1958, lot 2 (cf. M. Manion, The Felton Illuminated Manuscripts in the National Gallery of Victoria, 2005, pp. 25-97, and others described by A. Weyl Carr in Byzantium, 330-1453, ed. R. Cormack and M. Vassiliki, 2008, pp. 395 and 431, nos. 59 and 204). Romanesque Greek manuscripts with pictures, rather than mere ornament, are now very rare on the market. The Guilford catalogue of 1829, the last occasion when the present manuscript was offered in public, noted of it, “This is believed to be the most ancient, valuable, and splendid manuscript of the Gospels in Greek, ever submitted to Public Sale in this country … This venerable manuscript of the Greek Gospels would be an invaluable acquisition to the Collector, and form one of the brightest ornaments in any library, public or private, in this Kingdom.” It is undoubtedly the most important and richly illuminated Greek Gospel Book to come to auction in Britain since the sale of the thirteenth-century Phillipps MS 3887, its immediately adjacent companion at Middle Hill, which was lot 8 in the Phillipps sale in these rooms, 30 November 1965, afterwards H. P. Kraus, Monumenta, 1973, no. 51, and now J. Paul Getty Museum, MS Ludwig II.5.

The decoration comprises:

Folio 1v. First canon table, full-page, supported by double gold columns, decoration including flowers on either side, two rams in a meadow at the top facing inwards, and two birds flying towards a nest of chicks in a tree.

Folio 2r. Second canon table, full-page, supported by double gold columns, decoration including flowers on either side, two rams in a meadow at the top facing outwards, and a cruciform fountain.

Folio 2v. Third canon table, full-page, supported by red marble columns, decoration including flowers, suspended jewelled crowns, and two birds on either side of a vase.

Folio 3r. Third canon table, full-page, supported by red marble columns, decoration including flowers, suspended jewelled crowns, and four birds around a vase at the top.

Folio 3v. Fourth canon table, full-page, supported by green marble and gold columns, the headpiece including five birds, decoration including flowers on either side and two peacocks facing a vase at the top.

Folio 4r. Fifth canon table, full-page, supported by green marble and gold columns, the headpiece including five birds, decoration including flowers on either side and two peacocks drinking from a fountain at the top.

Folio 4v. Sixth canon table, full-page, supported by gold columns, decoration including flowers on either side and two ducks drinking water flowing from a fountain at the top.

Folio 5r. Seventh canon table, full-page, supported by gold columns, decoration including flowers on either side and two ducks quacking beside a fountain at the top.

Folio 5v. Eighth canon table, full-page, supported by gold and pink marble columns, decoration including four candlesticks at the sides and two birds facing outwards and pecking at plants beside flowers in a vase at the top.

Folio 6r. Ninth canon table, full-page, supported by gold and pink marble columns, decoration including four candlesticks at the sides and two birds towards a vase of flowers at the top.

Folio 7v. The letter of Eusebius to Carpianus, explaining the use of the canon tables; illuminated headpiece, 20 mm. by 115 mm., four-line heading in burnished gold, and large floral illuminated initial.

Folio 10r. Kephalaia (or chapter headings) for Matthew’s Gospel; 2-line heading and illuminated panel in burnished gold.

Folio 12v. Christ in majesty, full-page miniature, 191 mm. by 130 mm., Christ seated on a red and gold cushion on an elaborate gold throne, facing forwards, his feet on a green and yellow carpet, one hand raised in benediction, the other holding a Gospel Book bound in gold ornamented with pearls and red and green jewels; gold ground inscribed in Greek letters in red “IS. CHS.”

Folio 13v. Saint Matthew, full-page miniature, 175 mm. by 125 mm., the evangelist in blue and mauve robes seated on the left in a tall ornamental chair, his feet on a low footstool, an open book held on his lap, reaching forward with his right hand to a pencase on a desk with little cupboards, an open book on a stand above (showing the first words of his Gospel, “bíblo[s] genéseos Iu. Xu”), an ink pot in the foreground; gold ground inscribed in Greek letters in red “O ágios Mattheios”.

Folio 14r. Opening of the Gospel of Matthew; very large illuminated headpiece, 112 mm. by 114 mm., enclosing a title in gold capitals; two birds at the top among flowers beside a fountain; large illuminated initial.

Folio 100v. Kaphalaia (or chapter headings) for Mark’s Gospel; 3-line heading and illuminated panel in burnished gold.

Folio 102v. Saint Mark, full-page miniature, 173 mm. by 125 mm., the evangelist in red and blue robes seated on the left in a tall chair, his feet on a low footstool, an open book held on his lap, reaching forward with his right hand to touch a book on an adjustable stand above a desk inscribed with the opening words of his Gospel “arche t[ou] evangelíon Iu. Xu. u[io]u”, the desk laid with writing implements; gold ground inscribed in Greek letters in red “O ágios Markos”.

Folio 103r. Opening of the Gospel of Mark; large illuminated frame, 64 mm. by 127 mm., enclosing a title in gold capitals; flowers in the corners; large illuminated initial.

Folio 159r. Kaphalaia (or chapter headings) for Luke’s Gospel; 3-line heading and illuminated panel in burnished gold.

Folio 161v. Saint Luke, full-page miniature, 175 mm. by 126 mm., the evangelist in blue and pale green robes seated on a stool on the left with his feet on a footstool, writing the opening words of his Gospel into an open book held on his lap (“Epideieper po[llo]i epexei[e]san”), a writing desk and reading stand on the right draped with a long scroll also inscribed in Greek, a cupboard in the front of the desk open to reveal a manuscript in a jewelled cover; gold ground inscribed in Greek letters in red “O ágios Lukas”.

Folio 162r. Opening of the Gospel of Luke; large illuminated frame, 65 mm. by 128 mm., enclosing a title in gold capitals; flowers in the corners; large illuminated initial.

Folio 255v. Kaphalaia (or chapter headings) for John’s Gospel; 2-line heading and illuminated panel in burnished gold.

Folio 256v. Saint John, full-page miniature, 173 mm. by 128 mm., the evangelist in white and blue robes seated on the left in a tall chair apparently made of basketwork , his feet on a low footstool, writing into an open book held on his lap, a writing desk on the right with an open book on a reading stand, inscribed with the opening words of his Gospel (“+ En arche en o logos kai o logos”); gold ground inscribed in Greek letters in red “O ágios Io. o theologos”.

Folio 257r. Opening of the Gospel of John; large illuminated frame, 69 mm. by 132 mm., enclosing a title in gold capitals; flowers in the corners; large illuminated initial; all ending on fol. 326r, “… graphómena biblia, amen”.

So, the obvious question: has it been photographed?


More on morphology, and on life

Still fighting with the morphology data, trying to find a way to work on it and add back in the part-of-speech data.  Amazing how difficult it is to even load a lot of this stuff into a database so I can run some SQL queries on it.

In my hands I have volume 4 of the Rene Henry edition of Photius.  It has to go back to the library tomorrow, but I was pleased to discover that I could run it through a scanner in around an hour.  I ordered it by mistake, but might translate some bits of the review of Eulogius, sometime.  Tomorrow I get volume 6, which contains Damascius’ Life of Isidore.  Apparently this contains a passage on Attis.

I need to get back to Agapius as well.  I’ve done a few more lines, but I need to make progress with the Greek translator.  Once I stop work on it, it will be psychologically impossible to get started again.


Loeb loving on the road to Bilbilis

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling a little unwell, and I looked around my shelves for something undemanding which would take my attention off things.  My eye fell on the old (1920-ish) Loeb Martial, and I pulled down a volume.  There is something very soothing about these old volumes, the genteel English, and the notes, cultivated and inoffensive.  Juvenal has long been a friend in these circumstances; Martial now joins him.

Martial was a Spaniard who came from Bilbilis.  Today I saw some photos online of excavations at Bilbilis, here.  Unfortunately the blog is in Spanish — I expect Google translator would make a reasonable effort at this, if I had time to try. [Note: it really does!]  The photos are worth a look, tho.

Thinking of Martial reminds me of a book plate in the second volume.  The volume itself was a handsome example of its kind.  The plate showed that the book was a gift to Glasgow University Library, long ago, by the Church of Scotland no less.  But the book plate was carelessly cancelled with a stamp; the library doubtless sold it, when a new edition appeared.  I bought it from an online dealer, all unknowing. 

Perhaps when we finish our earthly course, many wonder whether we might donate our libraries to some deserving university.  Alas, not even thus may one procure a little immortality!


Germans attack Google books

From The Register today:

Google’s ongoing effort to create a vast digital library is set to come under fire at the EU from countries who fear it will violate copyright and stymie competition.

German diplomats plan to raise the issues in Brussels today, EUobserver reports, with support from France, Austria and the Netherlands.

Google controversially began scanning and indexing books in the US in 2004, without copyright approval. In October last year it cut a deal with American authors and publishers to pay them a slice of the profits it makes matching text advertising to book searches. US authors who do not want their work scanned and published online have until September to opt out.

That deal is now the subject of a Department of Justice investigation on antitrust grounds, because it grants Google exclusive rights to republish “orphan” (out of copyright) books online. It will also allow Google to resell rights to other digital libraries.

Both intellectual and market power concerns are now exercising politicans and officials on this side of the Atlantic, who hope their action today will put Google’s book project on the agenda of regulators at the European Commission.

The German government also plans to offer its opinion to a New York court which is set to consider Google’s US books deal. “It is not about participating as a party in the legal dispute but making the court aware of certain legal aspects,” the country’s justice minister said.

An unnamed EU diplomat said Google’s plans “are not entirely in the interests of European authors” and that Google would have to “ask European copyright holders for permission first [before scanning their work]”.

For its part, Google maintains its line on copyright issues that it merely wants to make knowledge more widely available

 Note the absence of any consideration of the interests of anyone but the publishing industry.    Nor does it seem that the ordinary German, or Frenchmen, will be asked whether he wants to be prevented from reading this material.

The unelected eurocrats have the reputation of being corrupt.  Here we see them, apparently in the pocket of big business, to try to ensure that people in the EU have to pay to see what is freely available in the USA.

Truly sickening. 


Writing Greek translation software – searching for meaning

One of the problems with using free online sources  — aside from bumptious Germans claiming ownership of the Word of God — is that the data is never quite in the format you would like. 

I’m still working on my software to help translate ancient Greek into English.

I’ve just found a set of morphologies — lists of Greek words, with the tense, mood, voice, etc — which omits to include the part of speech! 

Likewise meanings for my purposes would best be a single English word; most dictionaries are all waffly, which looks very odd when you put it against each word!


May 2009 Bloodsucker Award – the German Bible Society

I am pleased to announce a winner for the Bloodsucker Award this month — the German Bible Society! 

Their successful entry was their emails demanding that various open-source projects which use the 10-year old morphologised Greek New Testament be abandoned, on the grounds that they “own” the text of the Greek New Testament.

When I announced this award, I described the criterion as follows:

I will award it, ad hoc, to institutions in receipt of state funding which in order to make money violate their primary directive; to make books available and promote learning.

I don’t know whether the GBS receives state money, although in Germany religious bodies often do.  But it does enjoy charitable status in order to promote learning and study of the scriptures, and so falls within the general area — abuse of public funding in order to make money instead of doing its job.