Friday, December 14, 2018

Pasquale Orsini’s New Book on Palaeography

I’d like to draw attention ever so briefly to Pasquale Orsini’s excellent Studies on Greek and Coptic Majuscule Scripts and Books, published last month by De Gruyter (Studies in Manuscript Cultures 15). Many readers of our blog will have been familiar with Orsini’s prowess in the thorny discipline of palaeography, particularly due to his oft-cited article concerning the dating of New Testament Manuscripts, co-authored with Willy Clarysse. Furthermore, we were also honoured to publish his guest post (‘Palaeographic Method, Comparison and Dating: Considerations for an Updated Discussion [Guest post by Pasquale Orsini]’) where he responded to some recent proposals concerning the dating of the Bodmer Papyri.

In this volume, Orsini brings together seven specialised studies—originally published in Italian, now in English translation—along with a concise methodologically-geared introduction as well as a helpful (though perhaps too brief) glossary of palaeographical terms. The essays concern a wide variety of subjects: (1) The Scripts of the Nag Hammadi Codices, (2) The Scripts of the Bodmer Papyri, (3) Greek Biblical Majuscule, (4) Coptic Biblical Majuscule,  (5) Sloping Pointed Majuscule , (6) Liturgical Majuscule, (7) Decorated Liturgical Majuscule .

It is unsurprising that the essays are strong in content, given that Orsini represents the best of the Italian palaeographical tradition. Although not everyone is convinced by this school’s emphasis on stylistic typology, I for one appreciate its inductive nature, focus on the materials, and methodological sophistication. The influence of Guglielmo Cavallo, Orsini’s erstwhile teacher, is perceptible throughout, but the book is by no means derivative. At various places, particularly in the chapter on the biblical majuscule, Orsini refines Cavallo’s findings and takes them even further. In particular, the problem of geographical distribution of hands certainly needs further scrutiny and I hope that the impetus provided by this book will lead to further investigations. One could go on.

Finally, I should note that the book is an Open Access publication and hence free to download from De Gruyter website. And now, a little paraenesis: tolle lege!


  1. It is fantastic that this is free. Thank you, Pasquale!

  2. maybe we should organise a reading seminar on the blog