CRUSADER BOOK IN GREEK HALF UNCIAL

MS 1776/08
MS Short Title CRUSADER BOOK IN GREEK HALF UNCIAL
Text
  1. OKTOECHOS OR PARAKLETIKE, LITURGICAL BOOK OF THE BYZANTINE CHURCH
  2. THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS
Description MS in Greek and Arabic (text 2) on vellum, Byzantine Empire, 9th c., 2 ff., 18x13 cm, single column, (15x11 cm), 22 lines in a sloping Greek half uncial ("mixed script") ; text 2: Palestine/Damascus, 13th c., 3 lines in Arabic naskhi script.
Binding
Context Only 6 MSS of 12th c. crusader books have hitherto been identified: B.L. Egerton MS.1139, Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum McClean MS.49 (fragment), B.N. mss.lat.9396 and 12056, and Vatican cod.Vat.lat.5974. All are luxury books, and rescued to the West in the face of the advancing armies of the Mameluks before 2nd October 1187.
Provenance 1. Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (until 1187); 2. Saracens, Palestine/Damascus (1187-); 3. Private owner, Damascus, Syria (-1993); 4. Sotheby's 6.12.1993:3h.
Commentary

This is a very important witness, among the oldest ones known.

The main text is represented by an acrostich hymn whose structure is quite rare, and whose typology was almost unknown until now. It must be much older than the manuscript fragment itself: this hymn must be dated to the 4th or 5th century C.E., and it is probably part of a chant repertory which was used in Jerusalem in that period, and later was abandoned: we can compare it to ancient Georgian translations of Greek hymns of the Office which was actually used in Jerusalem. This is a very important discovery concerning the origins of Byzantine hymnography.

The script used is quite rare: it is a "mixed script" (in Italian, "scrittura mista"), that is, a majuscule script, with the constant insertion of some minuscule letters (alpha, my) and some other typical forms of letter. Until now, we know less than 20 manuscripts (or fragments) showing this kind of script, that was used only in Palestine and on Mount Sinai (8th-10th c.), or sometimes in some other oriental areas connected to Syria and Palestine.

The importance of the Crusades in the history of medieval Europe can hardly be over-estimated. The liberation of the Holy places was looked upon as God's own work. Antioch fell to the Franks in 1098, Jerusalem in July 1099. In 1100, Baldwin, count of Edessa, was crowned king of Jerusalem. By about 1131 Jerusalem stood supreme as the Christian capital on the very edge of the world, principally a French and Genoese kingdom. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was its cathedral, and followed from 1114, the western Latin liturgy according to the rule of St. Augustine. The Church must have been the leading scriptorium during this period. Jerusalem fell to Saladin on 2nd October 1187, the sacristy of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was looted and destroyed, and its libraries were destroyed.

They used the vellum for that most quintessential of Middle Eastern romances and fairy tales, Thousand and One Nights, also known as the Tales of the Arabian nights. They origin from India, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey, and the tales of Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sindbad the Sailor have almost become part of Western folklore.

Published Francesco D'Aiuto: Per la storia dei libri liturgico-iccografici Bizantini: Un Progetto di catalogazione dei manoscritti più antichi, pp.64-66; in Bollettino della badia Greca di Grottaferrata, terza serie, vol. 3, 2006, pp. 53-66. Francesco D'Aiuto: Un antico inno per la resurrezione. pp. 28-. In: Rivista di studi bizantini e neoellenici, n.s. 45, 2008, Roma 2009.
Exhibited Comité International de Palaéographie Latin (CIPL) at Senate House, University of London,  3 September 2008.
Mentioned
Boxing
See also
Place of origin Byzantine Empire
Dates 12c AD

Location