Thursday, October 01, 2009

Review of Containing Multitudes: Codex Upsaliensis Graecus 8 in Perspective

In Bryan Mawr Classical Review 2009.09.46 there is a review of Eva Nyström, Containing Multitudes: Codex Upsaliensis Graecus 8 in Perspective. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Studia Byzantina Upsaliensia 11. Uppsala: Uppsala Universitet, 2009. Pp. 340. ISBN 9789155475017. (pb) by Eugenia Russell, Royal Holloway, University of London, England.

Codex Upsaliensis Graecus 8 was probably brought to Sweden in the late seventeenth century after being bought from the monastery of El Escorial. The codex is a miscellany, hence the title. It does not contain New Testament text but, nevertheless, much can be learned from this study, not least in the area of codicology. Here is a summary of the contents by the reviewer:

Summary of Contents and Aims.

This is a serious scholarly work which the receptive reader will find hugely rewarding. Its author opens the debate with a comment from Walt Whitman about contradiction: 'I am large, I contain multitudes'. The epigram brings home the question of consistency and contradiction in scholarship, and the need to accept sometimes the resistance of material to conformity. It also gives the book its attractive title. Bringing together contradictions and multitudes is indeed the main focus of this book.

The study is divided in five parts altogether, an Introduction and the Appendices forming the bookends of them. The Introduction of the book discusses the parameters of Codicology, Philology and affiliated disciplines. It asks what can a book tell us about its contents. It is also concerned with the nature of composite books and miscellanies. The main body of the book has three parts, after which we are given twenty-two very interesting previously unpublished Greek texts as an Appendix. The first part of the book is dedicated to codicological description and analysis. After the explanation of some technical terms as they relate to the particular Codex, there is an analytical description of seventeen codicological units. The second part of the book starts off with a discussion of how to assort and categorize this material. The following categories emerge: narrative texts, rhetorical texts, philosophical and theological texts, practical texts, all with several sub-categories. The third part, entitled 'Taking a Closer Look' does exactly that. Three texts from the Codex are selected for detailed treatment. The first text is medical, the second mathematical and the third diplomatic, thus showing the diversity present in the Codex.

The study also draws attention to the fine collection of MSS held in Uppsala, Codex Argenteus, Codex Caesareus Upsaliensis, an eleventh century Gospel Book from Echternach, Luxembourg. Here I should add that there are eleven Greek New Testament MSS in Uppsala. The most valuable are G-A. 441, 442 and 1852. In most of the Catholic Epistles these MSS have a very early text.

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