BMCR 2021.06.11

A catalogue of Greek manuscripts at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

, , A catalogue of Greek manuscripts at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2021. Pp. xxxiii, 321. ISBN 9780472131891 $99.00.

This is the first instalment of a planned two-volume set that will document the western hemisphere’s largest collection of Greek manuscripts. The fifty-eight items so far catalogued range in date from ca. AD 900 to ca. 1850. They are of great interest to every student of Byzantine book culture and, in the case of illuminated codices, Byzantine miniature painting. The volume is lavishly illustrated with 127 color photographs. “The University of Michigan does not assert copyright in the reproductions of the images included here” (iv), which means they are freely downloadable from the publisher’s online platform. Moreover, thirty-one of the manuscripts that Kavrus-Hoffmann describes have been fully digitized by the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscript in Plano, Texas, and can be viewed on the CSNTM website.

Produced by one of the world’s leading experts in Greek palaeography, the text is a model of clarity and exhaustiveness. Comparison with the earlier descriptions which Kenneth Willis Clark and Seymour De Ricci published independently of each other in 1937 shows that cataloguing the collection anew was well worth the time and effort. In no less than fifteen cases Kavrus-Hoffmann substantially rectifies previously accepted datings: note especially Mich. Ms. 4, Mich. Ms. 12, Mich. Ms. 14, and Mich. Ms. 45, all of which she correctly dates to the tenth century, and Mich. Ms. 39, whose previously unnoticed scribal colophon from AD 1548 she publishes for the first time. The structure and layout of the manuscripts, the watermarks of the paper on which some of them are copied, and the ornamentation of the decorated ones are all fully recorded. Mich. Ms. 8 is particularly curious because of its Islamic-style headbands; Mich. Ms. 14, because of the evangelist portrait on its first page.

Kavrus-Hoffmann prefers extended prose to short formulaic entries: one reads on p. 134, for instance, that “[the] total number of folios is 175” rather than just “175 ff.”, that “the manuscript is written in twenty lines” rather than simply “linn. 20”, or that “the quires were signed by the scribe in the upper right corner of the first recto of each quire” rather than “sign. (scribal) Se1”. More concise descriptions would have been easier to skim through (very few people peruse manuscript catalogues cover to cover) and may have allowed for fitting a greater number of entries onto the volume’s 167 text-pages.

It might be useful to suggest a few minor addenda et corrigenda. First, a couple of general points. It is not entirely accurate that “watermarks are presented with their catalogue number and, in parentheses, the place and/or date when the paper was manufactured: for example, Briquet, balance no. 2589 (Eichstädt, a. 1494)” (xxxii). Hardly ever can one tell where and when old paper was manufactured; as a rule, repertories list the origin and date of a book or document for which paper with a certain watermark was used. Thus, Briquet’s no. 2589 comes from paper on which some sort of record was made in Eichstädt in the year 1494; Eichstädt possessed no paper mills at that time.

Four of the manuscripts which Kavrus-Hoffmann describes (listed in the index on p. 279) have watermarks of the “three crescents” type. Even though such watermarks are rather uniform, it would have been worth trying to identify them more closely. The standard repertory (not cited in the catalogue) is A. Velkov and S. Andreev, Filigranes dans les documents ottomans: Trois croissants, Sofia 1983.

Strictly speaking, “the so-called Gregory’s rule” was not merely “named after” Caspar René Gregory (9n.27) – the great biblical scholar who discovered it (his announcement of that discovery is worth citing: “The Quires in Greek Manuscripts”, American Journal of Philology 7 [1886] 27-32). Gregory also began the current census of Greek New Testament manuscripts, to which GA (“Gregory/Aland”) numbers refer.

Now some remarks on individual catalogue entries:

Mich. Ms. 6 (GA l 1577) is obviously part of the same manuscript as Dallas, Southern Methodist University, BRMS 12 (GA l 1547): the two are copied by the same hand, their layout is identical, and the v-cuts for binding stitches are at the exact same places in both. Further fragments from this Gospel lectionary must survive elsewhere, but I cannot identify them at the moment.

Mich. Ms. 7 (GA l 1610) comes from Athens, Benaki Museum, TA 140 (GA l 1888): the Michigan fragment neatly fits between fol. 73 and fol. 74 of its “parent” volume.

Mich. Ms. 10 carries a sloppily written ex-libris, of which Kavrus-Hoffmann and Alvarez very kindly sent me photographs. Rather than Καὶ τό δε Σκύτης ἄλλης Ἀνατολίου Ἁγιοπαυλίτου (16), this note reads Και τόδε σήν της ἄλλης ΑνατολίουἍγιοπαυλίτου, i.e., Καὶ τόδε σὺν τοῖς ἄλλοις Ἀνατολίου Ἁγιοπαυλίτου, “Along with other [books], this one, as well, belongs to Anatolius Hagiopaulites”. An annotation (not mentioned in the catalogue) on the front pastedown suggests that the book cost fifty kuruş (γρόσια πενήντα). Anatolius was a monk at the Monastery of St Paul (Ἁγίου Παύλου) on Mount Athos. The two kneeling figures shown on the cover of his manuscript are not Adam and Eve (16) but the Virgin Mary (note that she kneels on Christ’s right-hand side) and St John the Baptist.

Mich. Ms. 11 is clearly more than just “Great Doxology” (Ode XIV), since Kavrus-Hoffmann lists a verse from the Αἴνοι(Psalms 148-150) as the last line on its last page, fol. 404v. Her all-too-brief description (17) does not reveal what else the manuscript might contain. My guess is that it brings together the sung parts of Matins.

Mich. Ms. 25 (GA 544) is decorated with pictures of the four evangelists which appear to be original parts of this codex, not later insertions. Even though “John’s miniature is extremely flaked, especially in the lower part” (63), it is not hard to see in its right-hand corner a kneeling man dressed in a black cowl and accompanied by the inscription δέ(ησις) Νίκονο(ς) ἡερομον(ά)χ(ου), “Prayer of the priest-monk Nikon”. This Nikon, whose portrait the catalogue leaves unmentioned, must have been the Gospel book’s first owner. The painting style and the scribe’s handwriting both suggest a date in the second half of the thirteenth century – rather than, as Kavrus-Hoffmann has it, “s. XIV1”; cf. I. Spatharakis, Corpus of Dated Illuminated Greek Manuscripts to the Year 1453, Leiden 1981, nos. 184-186.

Mich. Ms. 30 (GA 545) is remarkable on account of its figural miniatures and of its colophon, which says that a scribe named Θεόδωρος ὁ Κοτζᾶς ἐκ χώρας Μεθώνης copied this Gospel for κὺρ Νικόλαος ὁ Λαρδέας. Μεθώνη refers not to “Methoni, Pieria, in Greek Macedonia, not far from Thessaloniki” (83) but to Methoni (Modon) in Messenia, on the southwestern tip of the Peloponnese. In 1430, Modon was in the hands of the Venetians: this explains why Theodore dated his manuscript not just from the Creation of the World (as Eastern Orthodox scribes would normally do) but also (in accordance with Roman Catholic usage) from the Birth of Christ, ἀπὸ δὲ τῆς Ἐνσάρκου Οἰκονομίας. “Lardeas” is a surname, not a toponym (“in the Byzantine period, Lardea was part of Greek Macedonia and Thrace; it is now in Bulgaria”); cf. E. Trapp, ed. Prosopographisches Lexikon der Palaiologenzeit, Vienna 2001, nos. 14481-14484 (our Nicholas Lardeas is no. 14483). To the bibliography for this entry, one should add F. H. A. Scrivener, Adversaria critica sacra, Cambridge 1893, liv-lviii.

Mich. Ms. 34 (GA 223) is ascribed to the “Palaeologina group”, a cluster of luxury manuscripts thought to be of Constantinopolitan origin (99, 101-2). However, the Michigan codex contains a rare set of metrical titles for the Pauline Epistles (92n.151) which do not occur in this group but were used on two occasions (so the online Database of Byzantine Book Epigrams tells me) by the well-known scribe Theodore Hagiopetrites. Hagiopetrites seems to have been based in Salonica. The Michigan volume carries an ex-libris of Anthony Malakes, bishop of nearby Veroia. (The word τάχα in his ownership note does not mean “presently” [101n.163] but “as if”, “supposedly”, so that τάχα μοναχός is an expression of modesty, “a monk of sorts”; cf. C. Wendel, “Die ταπεινότης des griechischen Schreibermönches”, Byzantinische Zeitschrift 43 [1950] 259-66 at 261-2.) In short, Mich. Ms. 34 was most probably produced in Byzantine Macedonia. Its ornament noticeably differs from that of Vat. gr. 1158, linchpin of the aforesaid “Palaeologina group”.

Mich. Ms. 36 is a collection of hagiographical texts. These include BHG 1486c. By no means is “Petrus Apostolus” the author (107) of this anonymous work, which describes a transfer (translatio) of one of St Peter’s relics.

Mich. Ms. 56 was copied in 1608 by Melchisedek (a rare name). Small wonder that “this scribe is not listed in Vogel and Gardthausen, Die griechischen Schreiber, or any volume of the Repertorium der griechischen Kopisten, 800–1600” (161n.229): the cut-off date for these reference books is AD 1600. Two Melchisedeks, both of them active in the early seventeenth century, show up in L. Polites and M. Polite, Βιβλιογράφοι 17ου–18ου αἰῶνα: συνοπτικὴ καταγραφή, Athens 1994, 556. Might the Michigan scribe be identical with one of them?

Mich. Ms. 58 is described as containing “miscellaneous Old Testament essays”, “apparently not published” (164n.234). In fact, those thirty-five “essays” form a single work, the Palaea Historica. Its Greek text was edited over a century ago by Kavrus-Hoffmann’s compatriot Afanasii Vasiliev in his Anecdota Graeco-Byzantina, Moscow 1893, 188-291. There is now also an English translation by William Adler in R. Bauckham et al., eds. Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, vol. 1, Grand Rapids 2013, 585-672.

Further additions to the above list would be excessively pedantic. No minor inaccuracy can diminish the value of the new Michigan catalogue, which marks a major advance in the study of Greek manuscripts. Its second volume is eagerly awaited.