A kind correspondant has sent me a PDF of R. Devreese’ article Chaines exégétiques grecques, in the French Dictionaire de la Bible – supplement. It’s around 80 pages long, and double columns, and very detailed even in the generalities. I thought I would give an English version of a portion of the introduction, starting on col. 1089.
g) Page layout of catenas — So far we have only examined the titles of compilations to which the name of exegetical catena is given. If we open one of these volumes, what do we see?
Most often, the text of scripture occupies the centre of the page, and is written in larger letters than the extracts which surround it. To these catenas the name of marginal catenas (Rahmencatene) is given. The names of the authors, sometimes written in red, precede each fragment of exegesis. (Cf. Vat. gr. 749 in Pio Franchi de’ Cavalieri -Lietzmann, Specimina codd. Vatic., tabula 8). To the same type of arrangement belong the types of catena which are formed around a commentary or an existing catena. There are no lack of examples, we could cite some covering almost all the books of scripture. We will only name Coislin 81, where the elements of the catena are found dispersed in the margin around the commentary of Theodoret on the Psalms; Reg. 40, where the centre of the page is occupied by the commentary of Hesychius on the Psalms; Paris 128, where a scribe was completing a commentary on the Octateuch; the beginning of Palat. 20 where the centre is filled by a catena on Luke and the margins by the catena of Nicetas on the same gospel… This manner of adding new scholia to compilations or finished treatises was continued to the end of the Middle Ages, because there are certain mss. commentaries of Euthymius on the Psalms where the procedure described is found still in use. This procedure was flagrantly inconvenient for later copyists; there was a risk that texts written in the margin could end up integrated into the commentary or existing catena, and that all this would be presented without distinguishing the elements of which it was comprised. Because of this, it happens that some of our commentaries are found in an interpolated state.
In the manuscripts that we are going to talk about, the glosses occupy the outer three margins of the page. Sometimes, but rarely, the biblical text occupies exactly the middle of the page and the scholia are presented on all four sides; we find this layout in Vallicell. E. 40, and in Monac. gr. 9 (cf. Lindl, Die Octateuckatene des Prokop von Gaza, which reproduces folio 20 of this last manuscript).
Another layout just as common as the last gives one or more verses of Scripture written in sequence and then, on the following lines, the scholia of various authors, each preceded by a proper name, that of the author. We call these catenas long-line catenas (Breitkatene).
Let us finally mention catenas in two columns. Many of those already mentioned of the eclogae of Procopius are in this format. An idea of their layout can be had from a reproduction of a page of Coislin 204, given by Swete, op. cit., p. xvii.
h) The lemmas — In these different catenas, whatever their layout, the name of the author is generally indicated, whether by the copyist himself or by a rubricator, either in the body of the text or in the margins. Just as in legal manuscripts, the name is given in the genetive (Eusebiou, Theodorou). It is customary to designate these by the word lemma, a convenient expression, if one that sometimes is found rather a long way from its original meaning.
Rarely — only in the most ancient manuscripts — the lemma is written in entirety. More often, it is abriged into contractions, which may lead to a mistake. A list of the most frequent abbreviations can be found in Montfaucon, Paleographica Graeca, p. 348. Cf. M. Faulhaber, Babylonische Verwirrung in gricchischen Namensigeln, dans Oriens christianus, vol. VII , 1907 , p. 370-387.
More than once, whether because the copyist intended to come back and add them later, or because he left the task to a rubricator, the lemmas are omitted, and the spaces that should have contained them are left empty. Scribes who copied these incomplete manuscripts found it easiest to run together the extracts presented to them without authors. Whether they didn’t find lemmas, or omitted them, the result is the same. When the lemmas were omitted and the scholia run together, the appearance was created of continuous exegesis. This is how some names are found with material added, and others diminished. This is how, for example, one part of the commentary of Eusebius on the Psalms (see below col. 1124) is in reality only a catena without lemmas. All this supposed commentary is distributed in fragments among a half-dozen authors, from Athanasius to Hesychius. It is probably for identical reasons that we possess pseudo-commentaries of Peter of Laodicea on the Psalms and Gospels, of Oecumenius on the Letters and Acts, which are really also just catenas without lemmas.
Very frequently, in recent manuscripts, we find omitted in sequence one or more lemmas. It is necessary then to go back and locate the first error and return to many what has been ascribed to one author.
Later, when the number of interpretations had multiplied, in the marginal chains and chains on long lines a system of reference signs was used, made up of various geometrical combinations. In this way, at a glance, one could see which scholia explained a given passage of the bible and conversely which biblical passage related to an exegesis one was looking at, just as with modern signs and notes.
I think we can all agree that this material is actually very interesting. The French of Devreese is not difficult — I was reading this in bed before I felt obliged to come and type it in — and the precision of his remarks is most useful and plainly derived from specific examples.