Today was spent staring at jpgs of "my" 13th (or so) century manuscript of the Gospels, going line by line through Mark 8 to see where it differs from the Majority Text and writing down variants. There weren't many, this is a pretty unoriginal copy, so it got a little boring in that respect, but it's ok. It just meant that instead of finding different possibilities of the original wording of the New Testament (well, book of Mark at least), I got to know the manuscript and it's writer just a little better.
It's amazing to see how much is hidden on each page. Today, when books are printed by printers not unlike what we have at home, bound by machine, and packed in boxes there's a good chance that, picking a book up off the shelf, you are the first human to ever see those exact pages.
Ancient, hand written manuscripts are different. In them the personality, habits, and beliefs of the scribe are woven into every line. The handwriting shows a bit about who they were as a person, the ink and vellum tells about where they live and how careful those who prepared them were, the notes around the text serve as a commentary on beliefs, and the wear around the edges and smudges on the page tell the story of the book's use. It's a very personal thing, like a diary almost, in vivid contrast to our modern books.
Don't get me wrong, I rate the printing press as one of the greatest inventions ever. But I can still appreciate what we lost, right?
At the top of this post you can see just a small section out of the manuscript I'm working in right now. Due to a number of reasons I won't post a larger picture or even give the name of the mss at the moment - but if ever I'm allowed I'll show more. In a later post I'll show pictures of more famous manuscripts (which I CAN name and link to larger pictures of) but right now I want to show off "my" manuscript. Isn't it beautiful?
Neat things to note:
- The eusebian canon letters (well, numbers here to a Koine Greek speaker) in the far left margin
- The places where the ink gets dark right after the pen's been dipped then lightens for a while
- The red lectionary abreviations TE (telos - end reading here) and AP with and X above (begin here)
- The margin notes in red - unfortunately my Greek isn't yet to the point where I can read them without a dictionary and some guesswork
- The large capital letters filled in with gold ink