theophiletos (theophiletos) wrote,

More manuscript blathering

  • One 19th C manuscript apparently copied a note from the earlier manuscript that it was based on, which gives the date as 1537, but the entire multi-page note was crossed out. The pages were left in the finished book, however.
  • Another manuscript includes an obituary note for a Rabban Brahim (i.e. Ibrahim) the Solitary in 1547.
  • Another manuscript includes a note that the originally acrostic poem on the name ܓܝܘܪܓܝܣ (George) was missing two stanzas, so the scribe of this manuscript provided two new stanzas to complete the acrostic, but he explains that if someone finds a different manuscript with these stanzas, by all means blot out his own composition to restore the original reading!
  • The same scribe, who in another place identifies himself as a bishop of Hesna and Arzun, also included a note later in the manuscript asking for prayer on his behalf from the reader, as many scribes do briefly, but this request takes the form of six lines of poetry.
  • It is common for scribes to state that their names ought not to be recorded on account of the multitude of their sins, but many will say, "but if you want to know..." and then supply the name. Other times they will spell their name by numbers (because each Syriac letter has a numeric value), and in one case I've seen he actually spells out the names of the individual letters of his name by numbers: His name is four letters: `e, yod, semkath, alaf, and so he writes out seventy, one (seventy is `e and one is alaf, so together they spell the name of the letter `e); ten, six, four (y, o, d, spelling yod); sixty (s), forty (m), twenty (k), four hundred (th; together spelling semkath without vowels, as Syriac omits vowels). But then he fails to include the final "one, thirty, eighty" to spell "alaf." It would be as if I gave my name in "code" (assuming each letter has a numeric value equal to its place in the alphabet) as twenty, five, five; one, nine, twenty, three, eight; fifteen; five, thirteen; one; but then I omitted the five, nineteen, nineteen of the final 's'. It's all amusingly complex anyway.
  • One of my coolest experiences in Berlin was my last day. I had called up this manuscript which had been in Marburg, and it was a fifteenth-century liturgical book. It had a full colophon, and a few other notes. In fifteenth century colophons and later it is not uncommon for the scribe to alternate red and black paragraphs, but in this manuscript the red on the last page had almost entirely bled away. (I don't know if it got wet, or how it happened, but it's all smudged in a way the black isn't.) So I squinted, held it up to the light at different angles, etc. to try and recover what I could of the text, but it was impossible to get much apart from a single line that was a bit better preserved. So I asked the librarian if they might have any special lights under which different chemical remnants of the red ink might become more visible, and she checked with conservation, and indeed they had a couple lamps to try. So a conservation librarian came out, I explained the situation, and she led me, the manuscript, and my notebook and a pencil back into the staff-only section of the Stadtsbibliothek, down stairs and along a hall, to a conservation lab, where we tried it under a special lamp (I think it might have shone UV and then somehow made the light visible when seen through a special lens), and then with another very bright normal lamp with various color filters. Unfortunately nothing further was discernible, but it was fun trying, and getting brief access to the back rooms of the Stadtsbibliothek!

Paris and UK manuscripts will have to wait for another day.
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