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?

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