I'll have to post more about it in the future, but I have been very successful, finding about 70 pages of Syriac text (if you count a few translations into English) in notes and colophons, telling me some real juicy details (such as the fact that a New Testament was pillaged by a raiding party from a local monastery, and purchased back for the sum of five tanga, however much that is), and I have been able to play with some very pretty texts.
A brief report on some of the Berlin mss:
- One of the manuscripts I hoped to see is now in the Jagiellonian Library in Krakow Poland, so I was unable to consult it. I'll order reproductions, and perhaps in a summer or two plan a trip to Poland.
- Another manuscript was a collection of Greek philosophy (in Syriac translation) copied in 1260, which had an ownership note for a Catholicos Patriarch in the early 16th C. So one of the patriarchs read philosophy? It also contained what the cataloguer reported as an Arabic receipt for the purchase of some "digestion-aiding figs"!
- One of the manuscripts, copied around 1900, was unlike any other East Syrian manuscript I've seen: it was on very thin European paper (not thick Middle Eastern paper), its strokes looked like the writing of a ball-point pen, and in place of the red ink which sets off titles and headings, it used lavender ink! That was bizarre. But it was copied from a manuscript which dates from the 15th C and it appears to reproduce the colophon of the older manuscript, so I copied it.
- My last day I remembered two other manuscripts I wanted to consult. One was a 15th C liturgical book, which was in Marburg during the division of Germany, but was now in the Stadtsbibliothek in Berlin, which was more convenient than going to Marburg, and the other was the previously mentioned manuscript with purple ink.
More to come later!