I learn from the Twitter feed of the excellent and erudite Pieter Bullens of a curious story. One of the most important manuscripts of Chrysostom’s Homilies on Matthew, currently University Library, Basle, under the shelf-mark B. II. 25, is to be sold at Sothebys after a 38-year loan.
The Sotheby’s catalogue contains a number of images, and some truly fascinating details.
The most recent edition of this work is F. Field, Sancti patris nostri Joannis Chrysotomi Archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani Homiliae in Matthaeum, 3 vols., 1839. (The Patrologia Graeca text being a reprint of the 17th century edition). But this manuscript was unknown to Field, being published only in 1900.
What makes it special is a connection with the Latin translations of Chrysostom – in various passages it gives the same reading as Anianas of Celeda in the 5th century, where the majority of manuscripts are in error.
It would be nice to think that the university library in Basle have made a digital copy of the whole manuscript before it went to Sothebys. It might be optimistic, too.
Sales of collections are always sad. Sales of manuscripts often indicate the presence of death taxes, and other signs of the rapacity of the modern taxman. It is probably the German state that is responsible for throwing this item to the mercy of the art market, but I don’t know this for fact.
As I don’t know how long this information will remain online, let me give a copy of the details here. I wonder who wrote it? It is magnificent!
(1) Palaeographical analysis by Ernst Gamillscheg and Michel Aubineau suggests that this manuscript was written in the late 9th century in Constantinople; the close relationship with manuscripts written by Nikolaus Studites, notably a codex signed by Nikolaos Studites in 835 (St Petersburg, National Library, MS 219; see S. Lake, VI: Manuscripts in Moscow and Leningrad, 1936, no.234) and another manuscript attributed to Studites (Vatican Library, MS gr.2079; see E. Follieri, Codices graeci Bibliothecae Vaticanae …, 1969, pl.13 and B.L. Fonkitch, ‘Notes paléographiques …’, Thesaurismata, 16, 1979, pp.154-56) may indicate an origin in the Studiu-Monastery. (2) The first and two last leaves replaced in the late 13th century by an accomplished scribe. (3) Liturgical rubrics added by a 14th-century scribe (e.g. ff. 8v, 36r, 54r) indicate that the manuscript was kept at the Hodegon Monastery in Constantinople; another example is the Codex Ebnerianus (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Auct. T. inf. 1.10) that mentions the copyist and annotator Joasaph for the Hodegon Monastery in 1391 (see I. Hutter, Corpus der byzantinischen Miniaturhandschriften, I: Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1977, no.39 and E. Gamillscheg and D. Harlfinger, Repertorium aus Bibliotheken Grossbritanniens, 1981, no.208). (4) In England by 1900 (binding). Offered by Quaritch in their Catalogue No. 271: A Catalogue of Rare and Valuable Books, 1909, no.604; Catalogue No. 290: A Catalogue of Bibles, Liturgies, Church History and Theology, 1910, no.354; and probably also in subsequent catalogues; sold on 30 June 1914 to Karl W. Hiersemann, Leipzig, for £190 (BL, Add.64227: Quaritch, Account Ledgers 1913 onwards, p.174). (5) Bogislav Freiherr von Selchow (1877-1943), lyricist, naval officer and commander of Free Corps Marburg; his coat of arms inside the upper cover. (6) Martin Wahn (1883-1970), vicar and member of the Church Council of the Confessing Church in Kamienna Góra, Silesia, until 1947; died in Singen, southern Germany, just north of the German-Swiss border, in 1970. He may have received the manuscript through Bogislav’s sister Anni von Gottberg who was a member of the Confessing Church, Potsdam, and opponent of National Socialism. By descent to Martin Wahn’s grandson and then on deposit at the University Library, Basel, 1980-2018, under the shelf-mark B. II. 25.
The manuscript includes the first 44 homilies of John Chrysostom on the Gospel of Matthew. The most recent critical edition of the text is F. Field, Sancti patris nostri Joannis Chrysotomi Archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani Homiliae in Matthaeum, 3 vols., 1839. (Migne’s Patrologia Graeca edition of 1862 simply reprinted Montfaucon’s older edition of 1612). None of these editions took into account the present manuscript because it was unknown to them. It contains numerous instances where its text sides with the Latin translation of Annianus (5th century AD Alexandria) over against the other medieval Greek manuscripts of John Chrysostom, e.g. folio 54 line 34 (Homily 8, vol. 1 p.102 Field) the MS reads parresias (which is correct and adopted by Field) over against periousias as given by MSS A, B, and the Armenian version – so that it can be seen that this MS represents an older tradition.
The manuscript contains extensive quotations (pointed out by diplai [>] in the left margin) from the Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew and other Old and especially New Testament texts. It is worth mention that the 9th-century scribe writes incipits of individual homilies and sometimes quotations from the text of Matthew in older-looking majuscules rather than the 9th-century minuscules for the text of John Chrysostom. There are frequent marginal ANNOTATIONS, some in early hands (if not identical with the original scribe’s), some later (including the hand of the 14th-century rubricator) which provide exegetical glosses, notation of variants from collation with other manuscripts, corrections of copying errors, and addition of scribal omissions (including the missed out text appended by means of the tipped in binding strip before folio 230). Insertions of missed out texts are regularly signalled in the margin preceded by an insertion sign in form of a modern division sign.
E. Gamillscheg and M. Aubineau, ‘Eine Unbekannte Chrysostomos-Handschrift (Basel Universitätsbibliothek, B. II. 25)’, Codices Manuscripti. Zeitschrift für Handschriftenkunde, 7, 1981, pp.101-08.
P. Andrist, ‘Structure and History of the Biblical Manuscripts Used by Erasmus for His 1516 Edition’, in Basel 1516. Erasmus’ Edition of the New Testament, 2016, p.85 note 14.
Readers will understand if I admit that a purely temporary shortage of funds here at Pearse Towers means that regrettably I cannot save this item for us all. Those truly interested in doing so had better have wallets with more than $250,000 inside them. Petty cash to the well-connected, of course, but not a sum that most of us will dispose of.
Whoever buys the item is likely to be a gentleman and a scholar, as well as a rich man. Let us hope that he will place the item online.