Saturday, September 02, 2006

Report from the Lincoln College (Oxford) International Summer School in Greek Palaeography

The past five days have been a whirlwind introduction to, and saturation in the discipline of Greek Palaeography. Each day began with a Seminar led by Dr. Niels Gaul (Lincoln) in which the basic issues of Greek palaeography were introduced. The day then consisted of about 5 hours of reading Greek manuscripts (some 170 samples were read!), with a one hour tutorial sandwiched somewhere in between. The tutors were Dr. Niels Gaul, Dr. Christos Simelidis (Dumbarton Oaks), and Dr. Timothy Janz (Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana). In the evenings, public lectures were given by Nigel Wilson, Peter Schreiner, Claudia Rupp, Timothy Janz, and Elizabeth Jeffreys, respectively. The two best (in my opinion) lectures were those of Wilson (Greek Palaeography & Textual Criticism) and Jeffreys (Post-Byzantine and Renaissance Greek Manuscripts), the opening and closing lectures.

Wilson's was helpful for our blog because of the emphasis he placed on palaeography for doing textual criticism. He began with a somewhat humorous quip that palaeography was made necessary by the dishonesty of theologians, and that textual criticism's necessity is due to the same. But his lecture focused on real problems in critical texts of classical authors in which the editors of the respective texts made faulty judgments on readings that, through palaeography, could be shown to be misunderstood. It was a perfect lecture to begin the week (for me at least), and provided the impetus for focused study throughout. He (and others) lamented the fact that many young scholars these days are 'doing textual criticism' without understanding palaeography. What is more sad is that younger scholars are reading manuals on textual criticism, and then simply regurgitating what they've read after memorising the most common text critical vocabulary (homoioteleuton, itacism, etc.), rather than having ever gained a familiarity with the actual manuscripts themselves. It became clear over the course of the week that only by spending hours engaged in reading and evaluating manuscripts can one truly understand what types of scribal errors come about, how they come about, and what possible solutions exist for the text critic. If one never spends time with the manuscripts, apart from the vastly different perfectly printed fonts in the editions, s/he may only scratch the surface of doing solid textual work.

I would suspect that the most respected text critics that we all read and admire have spent many, many hours with real manuscripts. Just as one cannot be proficient in languages simply by studying grammars without actually reading texts, so one cannot be proficient in textual criticism by reading manuals with no exposure to real material. I would simply close with the encouragement to all of us to spend more and more time with actual material. If you are near a good library where you can get your hands (clean ones of course!) on real manuscripts, do so for your own good. If not, you can get your hands on some good collections that provide samples with transcriptions, and begin practicing your own diplomatic transcriptions.

For Greek palaeography and manuscripts, I'll leave you with several good places to start. I would be grateful if someone could also provide some similar resources for Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, and Coptic (and anything else, I suppose!):


V. Gardthausen, Griechische Palaeographie (Leipzig, 1913 (2nd))
B. van Groningen, Short Manual of Greek Palaeography (Leiden, 1940)
A. Mioni, Introduzione alla paleografia greca (Padua, 1973)

Mss samples:

E. Gamillscheg and D. Harlfinger (eds.), Repertorium der
griechischen Kopisten, 800-1600

1. Handschriften aus Bibliotheken Großbritanniens (Vienna,
2. Handschriften aus Bibliotheken Frankreichs und Nachträge
zu den Bibliotheken Großbritanniens
(Vienna, 1989)
3. Handschriften aus Bibliotheken Roms mit dem Vatikan
(Vienna, 1997)
4. Handschriften aus Bibliotheken Belgiens, Deutschlands,
der Niederlande, Österreichs und der Schweiz

M. Vogel and V. Gardthausen, Die griechischen Schreiber des
Mittelalters und der Renaissance
(Leizig, 1909, reprint Hildesheim,

K. & S. Lake, Dated Greek Minuscule Manuscripts to the
Year 1200
(10 vols., Boston, Ma., 1934-1939). Index (Boston,
N. Wilson, Medieval Greek Bookhands. Examples selected
from Greek manuscripts in Oxford Libraries
(2 vols., Cambridge,
Mass., 1972/3, reprinted 1995)
R. Barbour, Greek Literary Hands ad 400-1600 (Oxford,
P. Franchi de Cavalieri and I. Lietzmann (eds), Specimina Codicum
Graecorum Vaticanorum
(Berlin-Leipzig, 1929)
E. Follieri, Codices graeci Bibliothecae Vaticanae selecti(Exempla Scripturarum, 4) (Vatican City, 1969)
P. Canart, A. Jacob, S. Lucà , and L. Perria, (eds) Facsimili di codici
greci della Biblioteca Vaticana
(Exempla Scripturarum, 5)
(Vatican City, 1998)
A. Turyn, Codices graeci Vaticani saeculis XIII et XIV
scripti annorumque notis instructi
(Vatican City, 1964)
E. Mioni and M. Formentin (eds), I codici greci in minuscola dei secoli
IX e X della Boblioteca Nazionale Marciana
(Padua, 1975)
A. Turyn, Dated Greek Manuscripts of the Thirteenth and
Fourteenth Centuries in the Libraries of Italy
(2 vols., Urbana-
Chicago-London, 1972)


  1. Great post. Thanks. Wish I'd been there.

    Jim Leonard

  2. Indeed, --> "Just as one cannot be proficient in languages simply by studying grammars without actually reading texts, so one cannot be proficient in textual criticism by reading manuals with no exposure to real material."

  3. Amen to all that, thanks Tim.

  4. 170 samples in 5 hours per day over 5 days suggests that you must have been reading one every ten minutes.

  5. I hope they were well behaved.