Online Manuscripts at the Morgan Library

I mentioned in an earlier post that I would be in New York for a symposium on early codices. Well, that took place on Friday, and it was fantastic. My head is still spinning from all that I learned, and I’ll have a longer post about the meeting later. But one of the things I discovered that I should have known about before was the availability of online images of a lot of material held at the Morgan Library in New York. There are many images of their important collection of covers of Coptic books from Hamuli, along with drawings made by Theodore Petersen. Photo facsimiles of the texts of the Hamuli codices have been available for a couple years now at (HT Alin Suciu).

PAmh 1 1 Ascension of Isaiah 2

P.Amh. Gr. 1.1 Papyrus codex containing The Ascension of Isaiah; image source: The Morgan Library & Museum

Using the Morgan Library’s online catalog, there is also access to lower resolution images of the “Morgan Iliad” (LDAB 2120). In addition, the Morgan collection includes the group of Greek manuscripts published in 1900-1901 as the The Amherst Papyri. There are numerous interesting pieces in this collection, including the famous papyrus codex of the Ascension of Isaiah (P.Amh. Gr. 1.1, LDAB 5989) and P.Amh. Gr. 2.190 and 2.197, a few papyrus fragments of a copy of the Shepherd of Hermas (LDAB 1112). Unfortunately, it appears there is only one very low-res image of the Glazier Codex (LDAB 107756) on the Morgan site. Nevertheless, it’s good to see this material accessible online.

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7 Responses to Online Manuscripts at the Morgan Library

  1. Geoff Hudson says:

    Brent, do you know if a monastery developed a particular style of script, or other characteristic such as the construction of a codex? if this is the case, is it possible to trace where a manuscript might have been written?

    • For the early monasteries (fourth and fifth centuries), I would say no. Not because the books of a given monastery lack common features, but because those common features are also found more generally in all extant books of the period. For later medieval Latin and Greek books produced in monasteries, it is generally believed that certain scribal tendencies can be traced, but, for Greek anyway, experts urge caution. In the index to their collection of dated Greek minuscules, Kirsopp and Silva Lake write, “It is desirable not only to fix the dates of manuscripts but the place where they were written. A distinction has been perceived between Constantinopolitan and provincial hands. The Index of Monasteries shows that we have manuscripts written in several monasteries in Constantinople, but in most cases there are so few specimens from any one of them that it is dangerous to speak of a hand peculiar to this one or that.”

  2. Geoff Hudson says:

    Brent, I was thinking that most manuscripts seem to have survived in Egypt. But there are other places where they could have survived, but didn’t. So could manuscripts have been transported from one place to another and be traceable to their source?

    • Manuscripts definitely travelled. Retracing their paths can be tricky, but people try. See, for example, Skeat’s article, “The Provenance of Codex Alexandrinus,” JTS 6 (1955), 233-235.

  3. Geoff Hudson says:

    Brent, a short video taken from a BBC series Bible Mysteries in 2003 on Mark Goodacre’s blog is here: The message of the video is conveyed with scholarly authority. One English professor, Ian Boxall (now in America) casually chalking on a piece of pottery shows that Revelation’s 666 is the code for Nero. He assumes we already understand Nero to be evil or beastly. Another English professor David Parker (University of Birmingham) tells us about some fragments of a manuscript from Oxyrhynchus in Egypt. This manuscript has a number 616 which he calmly says is code for Gaius Caesar who we might think was equally bad as Nero. The commentator in the video assumes that John is the author of both the book of Revelation and the third century fragment of Revelation found at Oxyrhynchus. The question I ask myself is why should Nero and Gaius be vilified similarly? Was there one third century writer with a common agenda? If the Oxyrhynchus manuscript is third century, does this make the text from Revelation third century? Can you shed more light on this?

    • Most scholars view Revelation as a product of the second half of the first century. What is probably our earliest manuscript of Revelation, P.Oxy. LVI 4499, gives the “number of the beast” as 616 rather than the more usual 666. Both numbers (666 and 616) can function as a coded reference to Nero through a system known as gematria (see the Wikipedia article on gematria for further info).

      • Geoff Hudson says:

        Brent, I am left with the opinion of one scholar David Parker who believes that 616 referred to Gaius. Most scholars could be wrong. I cannot believe that Gaius was as bad as is made out, despite what is written about him. It seems to me that the treatment of Gaius and Nero follows a pattern similar to that given to Herod. There was a common agenda given to all three. I believe that agenda had its origin in the second/third century from the early Church Fathers who were essentially Roman.

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