Dan Wallace has notified me about the very fruitful expedition that his team of four people from the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscript (CSNTM) undertook to Patmos in the summer of 2007.
From the CSNTM report:
"Monday was the first day that we were able to begin our digital preservation efforts. It took two trips to get all of the equipment and people up to the monastery in the ‘Patmos SUV’—a one-liter, four-door (!) sedan. We were grateful that we did not have to haul the camera equipment up the hill every day, but could leave it behind in the library for the duration of our work there. The car had to be left at the parking lot of Chora, as we hiked four hundred yards up the hill, lugging the equipment. The Abbot greeted us warmly as we began our work. We were so grateful for his support!
The Monastery of St. John the Theologian includes two different libraries. Both libraries are immaculate. One is used primarily for study. It includes many modern and resource materials in general circulation, used by the priests. The other library is dedicated to the collection of ancient books. Visually, it is breathtaking. It contains three or four reading tables in the middle of the room, surrounded by a cloud of silent witnesses, the bookshelves filled with the ancient volumes. One end of this library is roped off for a special collection of ancient manuscripts. This small library is one of the most important in the world for ancient Greek manuscripts. It also is a model of how these documents should be stored and cared for. What a wonderful environment for housing their collection of 80 New Testament manuscripts! It is clear that the monks of Patmos take their responsibility of these important artifacts very seriously.
The assistant librarian, Ioannis Melianos, was waiting to assist us when we arrived. He truly exemplified a servant’s heart. Ioannis, always with a smile on his face, let everyone into the library. We were brought to a special room, used for photographing the documents. Every morning began with the team in prayer as an important part of the process. About the time that the computers were set up Ioannis would come in, announcing that coffee was served. Nothing quite like fresh-brewed Greek coffee to wake you up in the morning!
The team usually began work by 9:30 and continued shooting until about 1:00 PM. The process used is designed to be efficient but never at the cost of damaging a manuscript. Each team member has an important responsibility such as squaring up the text, noting details about the leaves, taking the shot, turning the page, verifying the images on the computer.
This year CSNTM was able to photograph thirteen manuscripts on Patmos that range from the 9th to the 14th centuries. Before photographing the manuscripts we prepare them by counting the leaves, confirming the content (Gospels, Paul, etc…), determining if the dating found in other sources is accurate, noting the material the manuscript is made of, and measuring the manuscript. This results in a detailed description of each manuscript, almost a unique fingerprint if you will. Included in those being preserved were Gregory-Aland 1175 and Gregory-Aland 1164.
Manuscript 1164 had to be removed from a museum case in order to be photographed. It had probably been a very long time since this manuscript was last handled. The first paragraph or two of 1164 in each Gospel is written in gold ink. What a magnificent treasure this is!"
Read the whole report here with nice images. For example, there is a very nice picture of Billy Todd preparing a manuscript for photographing (we know he isn't reading it since he holds the MS up-side-down).
We are very grateful for the service that is being done to us in making these MSS accessible for research and we wish the CNSTM good luck in the future!