Another 75 Greek manuscripts online at the British Library

The Stavros Niarchos foundation continue to fund the digitisation of Greek manuscripts at the British Library, who in consequence are still shovelling them online.  Thank you both, gentlemen: this is good news.  Long may it continue!

A new tranche of 75 was released today, bringing the total to 500.  Fortunately the library staff have started to give a summary of the contents of each manuscript, which can be found at the bottom of the post.

So, what goodies are there for patristic and classically minded people in this release?

  • There’s a 16th c. copy of Photius’ Bibliotheca cod. 1-222 — i.e. nearly all of it — in Harley Ms. 5591.
  • Hero of Alexandria, Pneumatica and De automatis, Harley 5605, with diagrams. (16th c.)  These are the texts in which he describes his machines.  Here’s one of the diagrams (fol. 10v).  I was curious to see whether these were copies of ancient diagrams.  But … they look more like modern ones to me.

Useful to be able to see what the manuscript contains, tho.

I wonder if there are online English translations of these two works?  Greek scientific literature is shamefully neglected.

  • Ms. Harley 5638 is not well catalogued, being given merely as “Plutarch and Philostratus”.  Here is where the limitations of the online viewer kick in — it really would not be a simple task to leaf through the book and discover precisely what it contains.
  • Harley 5643 contains a “patristic miscellany”, much of it from Chrysostom (and there’s a thought: given that you usually can’t breathe for codices of Chrysostom in any collection of Greek mss., isn’t he shamefully under-represented in the 500 mss we have had so far?)  There’s a scholion of Eusebius in there too — on what I cannot say.
  • Harley 5646 is another of the same, mostly 216 letters by Chrysostom.
  • Harley 5677 contains the Catena of Nicetas on the Psalms!  Now that is well worth having!  And almost immediately I learn something novel and interesting on fol. 1v, which is how the names of the authors excerpted appeared in 17th century copies of  the catenas.  For it is very hard to work this out, from editions of catenae like those of Cramer.

(How I wish it was possible to link to what I want to display, at the resolution I want, and to embed the precise view that I want, rather than having to screen-grab bits like this?  Surely it should be possible to pass a few parameters to the display engine?)

The sigla are in red in the margin.  The top one is “xru” — probably Chrysostom.  The lower one is “athana” — probably Athanasius.  I wonder what the bit above the name is, in each case?  What we need now, of course, is a list of authors and folio numbers for each.  That would be quite a task, tho!

  • Harley 5689 is a bunch of Chrysostom, including homiles 4-8 of the homilies against the Jews.  This one is 11th century.
  • Harley 6296 is the “impious Porphyry”, De Abstinentia.
  • Harley 6305 is medical works by Galen and Paul of Aegina.
  • Harley 6318 is two books of Stobaeus (and why hasn’t Stobaeus ever been translated?)

It would not be right to ignore two mss. containing work by Manuel Chrysoloras, such as Harley 6505.  Chrysoloras is the father of all modern Greek studies.  He was a Byzantine diplomat who was persuaded to come and teach in Florence at the very end of the 14th century, and who proved capable of reducing the myriad complexities of Byzantine grammars down to something that could be comprehended for the first time by a non-native speaker.  Before it, fol. 1v has with an alphabet, and a few marginal signs at the bottom.  Ever wondered how we know that a sign indicates “obelise”? —

Of course I am just scratching the surface here.  Go and explore!


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