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.


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