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The Codex Sinaiticus Rescriptus Codex Sinaiticus Rescriptus, in Christian-Palestinian Aramaic...

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The Codex Sinaiticus Rescriptus
Codex Sinaiticus Rescriptus, in Christian-Palestinian Aramaic and Georgian, manuscript on vellum [Mt Sinai, Egypt, the underlying text late 5th-7th century, the overlying text 979]
One of the most important fragments to have come to auction of Christian Palestinian Aramaic, a Western Aramaic dialect used by the Melkite Christian community in Palestine and Transjordan between the 5th and 13th centuries and preserved only in a few inscriptions, palimpsests and manuscripts. The manuscript contains the earliest textual witnesses of the Gospels in the nearest dialect of Aramaic to that spoken by Jesus, composed within a living tradition based in the Holy Land. The palimpsest is overwritten with Georgian text written by the famed calligrapher, author, translator and bookbinder-monk John Zosimos, and survives here in his 10th-century binding from St Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, the earliest known signed, dated and localisable binding.

A palimpsest: the manuscript as currently bound c.200 x 150mm, the leaves of the underlying texts sometimes turned at right angles, cropped and folded to create 70 leaves of overlying text, modern foliation in pencil, the underlying text (the palimpsests) comprising parts of six different manuscripts, c.140 x 190 - 310 x 200mm (originally c.310 x 230 - 320 x 230mm),11-25 lines (of originally 22-25) in two columns written in an exceptional Christian Palestinian Aramaic uncial, blind-ruled, 3 decorated crosses (2 of which are used for the book label of the Schøyen Collection); the overlying texts in Georgian, dated 979, 22-26 lines written in a single column of khutsuri ecclesiastical book script by John Zosimos, rubricated (a substantial fragment, edges frayed, the leaves flattened, cleaned and with modern repairs, yellowing and some ink erosion, underlying script very faded).

Binding:
Contemporary 10th-century black leather and linen over stout palm wooden boards from Mt Sinai, chain stitches on 5 sewing stations, signed and dated 979 by John Zosimos, fragments of pastedowns, leather and original binding thread survive (hole in bottom outer corner for a chain, iron nail with a conical head for a leather strap, restored, resewn and rebacked, lower cover with original leather over 19th-century wood, the cords fastened to the cover with small loops of thinner cord, headband coloured red, blue and yellow). For a full report and photographic documentation of the restoration of the binding and leaves by Don Baker and John Smart (three photographic albums accompany this lot), and comments on the binding restoration by Dr Mirjam Foot of the British Library in 1988, please contact the department. With a briefcase containing an envelope with binding fragments. Also included is a folder with fragments recovered from the restoration of the binding and another with the original sewing thread.

Provenance:
(1) The underlying 5th-, 6th-, and 7th-century Christian Palestinian Aramaic (CPA) manuscripts are likely from the monastery of the Great Laura at St Saba near Jerusalem (see below) and from the Monastery of St Catherine, Mt Sinai, perhaps in its library since the time of its foundation in the mid-6th century. They were brought together by:

(2) John Zosimos, or Ioane/Iovane Zosime, famed Georgian-Palestinian scribe, bookbinder, author, and translator: his extensive colophon on ff.66r-v and 69v: '[...] It has been written and finished and bound / this holy book on holy Sinai by the hand of Ioane, the very / sinful in the years of the Creation / according to Georgian reckoning 6583', i.e. 979 (f.66v). The conclusion of another short colophon is found on f.69: '[...] on holy Sinai [...] and in your holy prayer remember / me this very sinful Ioane Zosime'. Zosimos had been in the monastery of Great Laura at St Saba until 973, when he came to Mt Sinai, where he was active until at least 992. He is best known for his 'Praise and Exaltation of the Georgian Language', a mystic poem making heavy use of numerological symbolism and biblical allusions, in which he casts Georgian as an esoteric language, claiming for it a sacred role as the tongue to be used on Judgment Day. Zosimos reused considerable quantities of folios from discarded CPA manuscripts, some of which he had taken with him from St Saba: this is a prime example of his 'repurposing' (on Zosimos and his activity, see M. Tarchnišvili and J. Assfalg, Geschichte der kirchlichen georgischen Literatur auf Grund des ersten Bandes der georgischen Literaturgeschichte von K. Kekelidze, 1955, pp.109-114; S. Rapp, Studies In Medieval Georgian Historiography: Early Texts And Eurasian Contexts, 2003, pp.437-438; and Brock, 2012, pp.8-12).

The present fragment is a substantial part of what is now known as Codex Sinaiticus Rescriptus (or Codex Sinaiticus Zosimi Rescriptus by Desreumeux, see Literature), studied at Sinai by the Georgian scholar A. Tsagareli in 1883 (his Tsagareli 81, see Tsagareli, 1888, p.233, no 81). The other substantial section of the manuscript is now St Petersburg, National Library of Russia, Syr. 16 (a shelf number which also includes part of Sinai, Georg. 34, written by Zosimos at St Saba in 969 and brought with him to St Catherine's). The CPA undertexts of the St Petersburg folios were published by J.P.N. Land in the fourth volume of his Anecdota Syriaca (1875), but are now available in a comprehensive edition by C. Müller-Kessler and M. Sokoloff in their Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic. The composite, repurposed CPA manuscripts used by Zosimos in Tsagareli 81, Georg. 34, etc. have been traced and identified by scholars in a number of institutions and collections, among these: Princeton, Garrett MS 24; Göttingen, Syr. 17, 19, 23, 25; and Schøyen MS 36, a leaf sold at Christie's on 10 July 2019, lot 407, for £35,000, which never belonged to Tsagareli 81 (as it is partially overwritten in Syriac or without overtext), but shares a parent CPA Gospel manuscript with other leaves used by Zosimos in Tsagareli 81.

A detailed reconstruction of the original constituent parts of CPA texts under Georgian manuscripts, including Tsagareli 81, can be found in Müller-Kessler, 2022, pp.24-49.

While the first part of Codex Sinaiticus Rescriptus was brought to St Petersburg, by the end of the 19th century the second part, bound in its 10th-century Sinai binding, was in the collections of:

(2) Dr Friedrich Grote (1861-1922), German manuscript collector who owned an impressive collection of manuscripts and fragments with a Sinaitic provenance. Several of his Syriac, Arabic, CPA and Georgian manuscripts are now in major libraries and collections: the Vatican library, the BnF, the British Library, among others. According to Gregor Peradze (Peradze, 1933, p.191), the manuscript was still in the collection of Grote's widow in Berlin in 1929. By 1937, though, it had been sold to:

(3) Erik von Scherling (1907-1956), Rotulus, IV (1937), no 1900, pp.30-32.

(4) Sotheby’s 12 April 1954, lot 302: 'The Property of D. MacLaren, Esq.', purchased by:

(5) Dr Otto Fisher (1881-1961), of Detroit.

(6) H.P. Kraus, ‘Monumenta Codicum Manuscriptorum’ (1974), no 1.

(7) H.P. Kraus cat. 165 (1983), no 28.

(8) Schøyen Collection, MS 35.

Text and script:
There are three principal locations which have brought to light CPA manuscripts in Egypt (almost exclusively palimpsests): St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt Sinai; the Wadi El Natrun and the Cairo Genizah. An important Mt Sinai codex is the so-called Codex Climaci Rescriptus: it was acquired by the Biblical scholars and twins Agnes Smith Lewis (1842-1926) and Margaret Dunlop Gibson (1843-1920) in three stages between 1895 and 1906 before entering the collections of Westminster College, Cambridge (now in private ownership in the US; another single leaf from that codex, which contains Acts 21:14-25, forms Cod. Ms. Syr. 637 of the Mingana Collection, Birmingham).

The script of Codex Sinaiticus Rescriptus (CSR) is almost identical to that of Codex Climaci Rescriptus (CCR), and both are considered the finest and earliest specimens of Christian-Palestinian Aramaic uncial extant. The language is otherwise represented in only a small scattering of fragments, all of which are in major institutions: a section of a Vatican manuscript (MS. Sir 623) with readings from Exodus; a handful of fragments from the Cairo Genizah; a few fragments from Khirbet Mird excavations in the 1950s (now Rockefeller Museum, Jerusalem; three fragments still in the library of St Catherine’s, Sinai (all 11th century); two leaves in the British Library (BL Add. 14450 and Or.1080.4.65a); a fragment in the Louvre, Paris; five leaves at the Bodleian, Oxford (MS Heb. e. 73 ff.42-3; MS Heb. b. 13, f.13; MS Syr. d. 32; 33 and Syr. c. 4); a small fragment in Philadelphia (Penn. E 16507r); and two leaves in St Petersburg (Greek, ms. 119 and Antonin, Ebr. B 958v).

CSR was extensively described as early as 1906 by Hugo Duensing and again by him in 1944 and 1955; more recently in part by Alain Desreumaux (Desreumaux, 1997); and most comprehensively by Christa Müller-Kessler and Michael Sokoloff (Müller-Kessler and Sokoloff, 1997-1999).

Since leaves from different manuscripts were reused by Johannes Zosimos in the 10th century for his Georgian text, and, as with other early palimpsests, these were sometimes turned at right angles and folded to create the bifolia of the smaller manuscript, it is impractical to list the content of the underlying texts according to their current foliation in the codex. The palimpsest texts written in CPA comprise (the CSR classifications are those used by Müller-Kessler and Sokoloff):

Text 1 (CSR b)
The text is from an Old Jerusalem Lectionary and includes Psalms 26:7; Proverbs 1:15-19; Jeremiah 1:11-17; and Daniel 3:24-37. Other fragments from this CPA manuscript are St Petersburg, National Library of Russia, Syr.16 and Sinai, Georg. NF 19, 71. The single lections follow the same sequence...

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The Codex Sinaiticus Rescriptus
Codex Sinaiticus Rescriptus, in Christian-Palestinian Aramaic and Georgian, manuscript on vellum [Mt Sinai, Egypt, the underlying text late 5th-7th century, the overlying text 979]
One of the most important fragments to have come to auction of Christian Palestinian Aramaic, a Western Aramaic dialect used by the Melkite Christian community in Palestine and Transjordan between the 5th and 13th centuries and preserved only in a few inscriptions, palimpsests and manuscripts. The manuscript contains the earliest textual witnesses of the Gospels in the nearest dialect of Aramaic to that spoken by Jesus, composed within a living tradition based in the Holy Land. The palimpsest is overwritten with Georgian text written by the famed calligrapher, author, translator and bookbinder-monk John Zosimos, and survives here in his 10th-century binding from St Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, the earliest known signed, dated and localisable binding.

A palimpsest: the manuscript as currently bound c.200 x 150mm, the leaves of the underlying texts sometimes turned at right angles, cropped and folded to create 70 leaves of overlying text, modern foliation in pencil, the underlying text (the palimpsests) comprising parts of six different manuscripts, c.140 x 190 - 310 x 200mm (originally c.310 x 230 - 320 x 230mm),11-25 lines (of originally 22-25) in two columns written in an exceptional Christian Palestinian Aramaic uncial, blind-ruled, 3 decorated crosses (2 of which are used for the book label of the Schøyen Collection); the overlying texts in Georgian, dated 979, 22-26 lines written in a single column of khutsuri ecclesiastical book script by John Zosimos, rubricated (a substantial fragment, edges frayed, the leaves flattened, cleaned and with modern repairs, yellowing and some ink erosion, underlying script very faded).

Binding:
Contemporary 10th-century black leather and linen over stout palm wooden boards from Mt Sinai, chain stitches on 5 sewing stations, signed and dated 979 by John Zosimos, fragments of pastedowns, leather and original binding thread survive (hole in bottom outer corner for a chain, iron nail with a conical head for a leather strap, restored, resewn and rebacked, lower cover with original leather over 19th-century wood, the cords fastened to the cover with small loops of thinner cord, headband coloured red, blue and yellow). For a full report and photographic documentation of the restoration of the binding and leaves by Don Baker and John Smart (three photographic albums accompany this lot), and comments on the binding restoration by Dr Mirjam Foot of the British Library in 1988, please contact the department. With a briefcase containing an envelope with binding fragments. Also included is a folder with fragments recovered from the restoration of the binding and another with the original sewing thread.

Provenance:
(1) The underlying 5th-, 6th-, and 7th-century Christian Palestinian Aramaic (CPA) manuscripts are likely from the monastery of the Great Laura at St Saba near Jerusalem (see below) and from the Monastery of St Catherine, Mt Sinai, perhaps in its library since the time of its foundation in the mid-6th century. They were brought together by:

(2) John Zosimos, or Ioane/Iovane Zosime, famed Georgian-Palestinian scribe, bookbinder, author, and translator: his extensive colophon on ff.66r-v and 69v: '[...] It has been written and finished and bound / this holy book on holy Sinai by the hand of Ioane, the very / sinful in the years of the Creation / according to Georgian reckoning 6583', i.e. 979 (f.66v). The conclusion of another short colophon is found on f.69: '[...] on holy Sinai [...] and in your holy prayer remember / me this very sinful Ioane Zosime'. Zosimos had been in the monastery of Great Laura at St Saba until 973, when he came to Mt Sinai, where he was active until at least 992. He is best known for his 'Praise and Exaltation of the Georgian Language', a mystic poem making heavy use of numerological symbolism and biblical allusions, in which he casts Georgian as an esoteric language, claiming for it a sacred role as the tongue to be used on Judgment Day. Zosimos reused considerable quantities of folios from discarded CPA manuscripts, some of which he had taken with him from St Saba: this is a prime example of his 'repurposing' (on Zosimos and his activity, see M. Tarchnišvili and J. Assfalg, Geschichte der kirchlichen georgischen Literatur auf Grund des ersten Bandes der georgischen Literaturgeschichte von K. Kekelidze, 1955, pp.109-114; S. Rapp, Studies In Medieval Georgian Historiography: Early Texts And Eurasian Contexts, 2003, pp.437-438; and Brock, 2012, pp.8-12).

The present fragment is a substantial part of what is now known as Codex Sinaiticus Rescriptus (or Codex Sinaiticus Zosimi Rescriptus by Desreumeux, see Literature), studied at Sinai by the Georgian scholar A. Tsagareli in 1883 (his Tsagareli 81, see Tsagareli, 1888, p.233, no 81). The other substantial section of the manuscript is now St Petersburg, National Library of Russia, Syr. 16 (a shelf number which also includes part of Sinai, Georg. 34, written by Zosimos at St Saba in 969 and brought with him to St Catherine's). The CPA undertexts of the St Petersburg folios were published by J.P.N. Land in the fourth volume of his Anecdota Syriaca (1875), but are now available in a comprehensive edition by C. Müller-Kessler and M. Sokoloff in their Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic. The composite, repurposed CPA manuscripts used by Zosimos in Tsagareli 81, Georg. 34, etc. have been traced and identified by scholars in a number of institutions and collections, among these: Princeton, Garrett MS 24; Göttingen, Syr. 17, 19, 23, 25; and Schøyen MS 36, a leaf sold at Christie's on 10 July 2019, lot 407, for £35,000, which never belonged to Tsagareli 81 (as it is partially overwritten in Syriac or without overtext), but shares a parent CPA Gospel manuscript with other leaves used by Zosimos in Tsagareli 81.

A detailed reconstruction of the original constituent parts of CPA texts under Georgian manuscripts, including Tsagareli 81, can be found in Müller-Kessler, 2022, pp.24-49.

While the first part of Codex Sinaiticus Rescriptus was brought to St Petersburg, by the end of the 19th century the second part, bound in its 10th-century Sinai binding, was in the collections of:

(2) Dr Friedrich Grote (1861-1922), German manuscript collector who owned an impressive collection of manuscripts and fragments with a Sinaitic provenance. Several of his Syriac, Arabic, CPA and Georgian manuscripts are now in major libraries and collections: the Vatican library, the BnF, the British Library, among others. According to Gregor Peradze (Peradze, 1933, p.191), the manuscript was still in the collection of Grote's widow in Berlin in 1929. By 1937, though, it had been sold to:

(3) Erik von Scherling (1907-1956), Rotulus, IV (1937), no 1900, pp.30-32.

(4) Sotheby’s 12 April 1954, lot 302: 'The Property of D. MacLaren, Esq.', purchased by:

(5) Dr Otto Fisher (1881-1961), of Detroit.

(6) H.P. Kraus, ‘Monumenta Codicum Manuscriptorum’ (1974), no 1.

(7) H.P. Kraus cat. 165 (1983), no 28.

(8) Schøyen Collection, MS 35.

Text and script:
There are three principal locations which have brought to light CPA manuscripts in Egypt (almost exclusively palimpsests): St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt Sinai; the Wadi El Natrun and the Cairo Genizah. An important Mt Sinai codex is the so-called Codex Climaci Rescriptus: it was acquired by the Biblical scholars and twins Agnes Smith Lewis (1842-1926) and Margaret Dunlop Gibson (1843-1920) in three stages between 1895 and 1906 before entering the collections of Westminster College, Cambridge (now in private ownership in the US; another single leaf from that codex, which contains Acts 21:14-25, forms Cod. Ms. Syr. 637 of the Mingana Collection, Birmingham).

The script of Codex Sinaiticus Rescriptus (CSR) is almost identical to that of Codex Climaci Rescriptus (CCR), and both are considered the finest and earliest specimens of Christian-Palestinian Aramaic uncial extant. The language is otherwise represented in only a small scattering of fragments, all of which are in major institutions: a section of a Vatican manuscript (MS. Sir 623) with readings from Exodus; a handful of fragments from the Cairo Genizah; a few fragments from Khirbet Mird excavations in the 1950s (now Rockefeller Museum, Jerusalem; three fragments still in the library of St Catherine’s, Sinai (all 11th century); two leaves in the British Library (BL Add. 14450 and Or.1080.4.65a); a fragment in the Louvre, Paris; five leaves at the Bodleian, Oxford (MS Heb. e. 73 ff.42-3; MS Heb. b. 13, f.13; MS Syr. d. 32; 33 and Syr. c. 4); a small fragment in Philadelphia (Penn. E 16507r); and two leaves in St Petersburg (Greek, ms. 119 and Antonin, Ebr. B 958v).

CSR was extensively described as early as 1906 by Hugo Duensing and again by him in 1944 and 1955; more recently in part by Alain Desreumaux (Desreumaux, 1997); and most comprehensively by Christa Müller-Kessler and Michael Sokoloff (Müller-Kessler and Sokoloff, 1997-1999).

Since leaves from different manuscripts were reused by Johannes Zosimos in the 10th century for his Georgian text, and, as with other early palimpsests, these were sometimes turned at right angles and folded to create the bifolia of the smaller manuscript, it is impractical to list the content of the underlying texts according to their current foliation in the codex. The palimpsest texts written in CPA comprise (the CSR classifications are those used by Müller-Kessler and Sokoloff):

Text 1 (CSR b)
The text is from an Old Jerusalem Lectionary and includes Psalms 26:7; Proverbs 1:15-19; Jeremiah 1:11-17; and Daniel 3:24-37. Other fragments from this CPA manuscript are St Petersburg, National Library of Russia, Syr.16 and Sinai, Georg. NF 19, 71. The single lections follow the same sequence...

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Time, Location
11 Jun 2024
UK, London
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