A Clavis for Old Slavic, and a site for Slavic Chrysostom material

Alin Suciu is rapidly becoming one of the most important patristic bloggers.  His blog regularly announces finds of new material for Coptic.   But today’s post — a guest post by Yavor Miltenov — relates to Old Slavonic / Old Slavic.  It’s very exciting indeed!

As a result of the work of generations of philologists, the researchers in the field of Byzantine studies have at hand numerous index-catalogues dealing with classification of texts. The most recent and significant of them are, of course, Clavis patrum Graecorum, Bibliotheca hagiographica Graeca, Clavis apocryphorum Veteri Testamenti, Clavis apocryphorum Novi Testamenti, and many others – a centuries-old tradition, that serves as a base for these exceptional reference books. Any study on (or even related to) certain medieval literary monuments must as a rule consult them, as they cover an enormous material, facilitate identifications of certain works, offer standardization, unification and classification, contain the primary bibliography, and represent not only the basics of our knowledge about one particular text, but also give an opportunity to study groups of texts and corpora. Recently, the intensive research has even brought the process to further development – an online Clavis Clavium will be built upon the base of previous indexes[1].

Now this last snippet is itself very interesting!  The reference states:

[1] As announced by Caroline Macé and Gert Partoens from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven at a recent meeting in Sofia.

That is something that I would like to know more about!  But the article continues:

It is a well-known fact, that almost all medieval Slavic literary monuments (9th–16th c.) are translations from Byzantine works: whole miscellanies, single texts, excerpts used in compilations. In this sense, their adequate study is possible only if a comparison with the Byzantine originals is made. In Slavic medieval studies, however, there is no such instrumentum studiorum that contains a) classification of the translated texts and b) reference to their Greek originals[2]. For this main reason the Slavic tradition, unlike the Armenian, Georgian, Arabic, Coptic, is not “visible” to the researchers of the Byzantine cultural commonwealth, it is not fully reflected in the above-mentioned and other Claves[3], and, finally, remains isolated and thought more as a subject to be researched by the “national philologies”, than as a full member of the Byzantine-Slavic cultural space in the Middle Ages.

This is sound thinking.  And it is quite impossible for an interested amateur like myself to get any idea of what exists in this language group.  It’s like a different discipline, like trying to  go surfing on Mars!  And this should not be.

In 2011 the Bulgarian Science Fund announced a call for Young Scientists Program. I and four other colleagues decided to apply with a project entitled “Electronic database Operum patrum Graecorum versiones slavicae: cataloguing and study of the writings of John Chrysostom in Old Church Slavonic” with the kind institutional support of Central Library of Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Surprisingly, we won a grant and the project has started in the beginning of 2012!

The aim of our initiative is to elaborate a freely accessible Internet-based electronic corpus of medieval Slavic translations and their corresponding Byzantine sources.

This is good news, and the online aspect is very good news!  This will certainly help Chrysostom scholars to engage with the Slavic versions.  But Dr Miltenov continues:

I should admit that the inspiration of our idea is the Pinakes database, worked out by the Institut de recherche et d’histoire des textes on the base of a card-index, developed for two decades in the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies in Toronto. So we have the model, we have some sources we may use[4], we know it will take years to input sufficient material and much more time to make text identifications of our own. We have in mind also that we have almost no base to build upon: most of the descriptions of Slavic manuscripts lack identifications of texts’ Byzantine originals, we do not have Patrologiae or series of critical editions (such as Sources Chrétiennes, Corpus Christianorum, etc.), and we have no previous experience with medieval Slavic text databases that are similar to ours.

This is why, being still in the beginning, we have to think about technical solutions and scientific criteria which will last. Our Clavis has to be supplied with bibliographic and specialized data, to be user friendly, to include opportunities for expansion, permanent upgrade and publication of various types of materials (Greek and Old Church Slavonic works, manuscript catalogues, articles, books, iconographic images, etc.). In this sense it is important to prepare carefully the appropriate software and to build a model for texts description that has all the necessary metadata. We are working on these methodological issues now and I hope I’ll be able to tell you more about the development of the project soon, here on Alin’s blog.

I’m looking forward to it.  A Clavis itself would be a wonderful thing.

The main enemy of this project will be the urge to be “perfect”.  This urge, to publish nothing until it is “just so”, has caused many a promising initiative to disappear.  I hope that they will remember that the best way to eat an elephant is to do so a little at a time!

Well done, Yavor, and thank you so much Alin for hosting it!

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