Monday, November 19, 2007

SBL in San Diego III: New Testament Textual Criticism & Early Christian Manuscript Session on Miniature Codices

The first presenter, Thomas J. Kraus, admitted that he had promised in previous SBL presentations to have a database of miniature codices ready by this year. However, he had now come to realize that there were more serious questions to address before compiling such a list, not least the definition of what constitute a miniature codex - is Turner's old definition (codices not wider than 10 cm) vaild? And what data is relevant to include in a list, and what broader conclusions can be drawn thereof. Kim Haines-Eitzen, who was presiding, aptly summarized these questions in the "what?" (the nature of the miniature codex) and the "why?" (the function) of these codices. The panel and the audience agreed that in order to see if Turner's definition was valid, the net had to be cast more broadly, in the first stages in order to see what categories the extant evidence itself broke down to. Apparently, the panel present, Kim Haines-Eitzen, Malcolm Choat, Ann-Marie Luijenduijk and Thomas J. Kraus were in the first stages of this this joint venture, which first involves compilíng a list, and then try to draw conclusions from these data and answer the questions of significance.

Thus, Kraus went on to present a number of examples of Greek miniature codices, and the kind of data included in his prelliminary list (in various level of detail): 1. Publication,, inv. no.; 2. Material; 3. Date; 4. Provenance; 5. Dimension; 6. Bookform, extent; 7. Text; 8. Scribe/Hand; 9. Catalogue (here often the LDAB).

Malcomlm Choat then went on with a similar paper, focusing on Coptic miniature codices. One could see that there was a dominance of such codices used for sacred texts, but there were other items as well (like notebooks, writing exercises, magic rituals, etc). Choat, personally, had started to work with the following rough categories in terms of the format:

1. Large format (200+ each side, roughly square)
2. Twice as high (200+) as broad
3. "Aberrants" (much higher than broad, and using Turner's designation)
4. c. 120-160 mm and roughly square
5. Miniature (less than 100 mm both sides, arbitrary number, but actually miniature)

Ann-Marie Luijenduijk, in her paper, focused on one miniature codex in the Princeton library, apparently it was a divination book with Christian oracles. One thing that was clear was the enthusiasm with which Luijenduijk spoke about her "petit book". This enthusiasm and "wow"-feeling is probably the impression of most of us when we encounter a miniature codex for the first time in real life (not on an enlarged image). Maybe this very "wow-feeling" is part of the answer of the significance of the miniature codex.

1 comment

  1. This session was more interesting than you might think. We had some pretty good visual presentations - Thomas Kraus used lots of pictures as did (in a different fashion) AnneMarie Luijenduijk.
    And the connected nature of the issues made the papers hang together.
    Malcolm Choat distributed a handout with a preliminary list of Coptic miniature codices (derived from LDAB). He suggested that many of them are relatively complete (since most have been found at monasteries) and relatively large (in terms of pages extant and pagination in fragmentary ones).