New Greek Manuscript at the Fisher
For 111 years, the Codex Torontonensis, the oldest complete book in the Fisher Library, has been awaiting a companion from its Byzantine home to join it on our library shelves. This past February, that long wait finally ended. Through the kind auspices of the Office of the Chief Librarian and the University’s Collection Development Department, a Greek Gospel Lectionary was added to the Fisher’s medieval manuscript holdings.
Like the Codex, it was most likely transcribed at Constantinople in the middle of the eleventh century, and displays many of the same artistic and calligraphic traits (see images below - click on the image for a larger view). Apart from its antiquity and simple beauty, what sets this manuscript apart from the others in the library is its remarkable provenance. It was most likely created for use in one of the provincial churches outside of Constantinople, and by the late sixteenth century, formed part of a parish library near Trebizond, on the southern shore of the Black Sea. Its whereabouts between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries are unclear, but what is certain is that it was housed at the Metochion (or ecclesiastical embassy church) of the Holy Sepulchre at Constantinople in 1892, together with the now famous “Archimedes Palimpsest.”
At some point in the 1920s, both manuscripts were purchased by the Turko-French antiquarian and bibliophile, Salomon Guerson (1872-1970). It is now known that Guerson altered his manuscripts, supplying forged miniatures in some, while removing folios from others, including the Archimedes, to reinsert elsewhere with “new” texts and images.
What treasures this new addition to the Fisher collections will reveal is now in the hands of our scholars; and for our students, it represents one more piece of literary archeology on which to train their codicological eyes.