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Meetings with Remarkable Forgeries (British History)
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Hatty
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A purported sixteenth century reference to the Codex Vaticanus was made by no less a scholar than Erasmus. But it appears to be very tenuous. 'Evidence' often turns on interpretation rather than page numbers, dates of publication or, as in this case, physical evidence.

In the 16th century Western scholars became aware of the manuscript as a consequence of the correspondence between Erasmus and the prefects of the Vatican Library, successively Paulus Bombasius, and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda. In 1521, Bombasius was consulted by Erasmus as to whether the Codex Vaticanus contained the Comma Johanneum, and Bombasius supplied a transcript of 1 John 4:1–3 and 1 John 5:7–11 to show that it did not. Sepúlveda in 1533 cross-checked all places where Erasmus's New Testament (the Textus Receptus) differed from the Vulgate, and supplied Erasmus with 365 readings where the Codex Vaticanus supported the latter, although the list of these 365 readings has been lost.

Erasmus's own words were "according to the Codex from the Library Pontifici". Which codex isn't specified. It may be that Codex Vaticanus was a composite label.

At any rate, attempts to prove or disprove the Codex's existence are hampered by the veil of secrecy around the Vatican Library

Before the 19th century, no scholar was allowed to study or edit the Codex Vaticanus, and scholars did not ascribe any value to it; in fact, it was suspected to have been interpolated by the Latin textual tradition...

For some reason which does not clearly appear, the authorities of the Vatican Library put continual obstacles in the way of all who wished to study it in detail.

in contrast to the laissez-faire attitude of France which permitted scholars access to their looted Vatican documents. It's well documented that Tischendorf and other interested researchers were prevented from studying the Codex too closely. A group of Italian scholars published an edition of the entire codex in six volumes in 1868 - 1881.

Access to the Vatican Archive was allowed in 1881 and to the Library in 1883.
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Mick Harper
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I’ll stick this here rather than on the sport thread since Christianity is not as important as football. The Germans thought they were first on the beach

Codex Sinaiticus is generally dated to the fourth century, and sometimes more precisely to the middle of that century. This is based on study of the handwriting, known as palaeographical analysis. Only one other nearly complete manuscript of the Christian Bible – Codex Vaticanus (kept in the Vatican Library in Rome) – is of a similarly early date.

But the Italians had seen them coming from miles off

The manuscript is dated to the first half of the 4th century and is likely slightly older than Codex Sinaiticus, which was also transcribed in the 4th century.

Amateurs. Fancy tying yourself down to ‘middle of the century’. Hold up, Beckenbauer's coming on... why's the Kaiser getting involved? Not that there was a kaiser, not until 1871 ... mmm ... whatever happened to the Holy Roman Emperor?
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Mick Harper
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And Bobby Moore and Lev Yashin

The history of the Codex Sinaiticus is the fruit of collaboration by the four Institutions that today retain parts of the said Codex: the British Library, the Library of the University of Leipzig, the National Library of Russia in Saint Petersburg, and the Holy Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai (Saint Catherine’s).

Time for some catenaccio.
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Mick Harper
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Mick Harper wrote:
This is probably an ordinary Bible that any second division Italian monastery would have, resting on a lectern

Sorry, but this (about the Codex Amiatinus) must be wrong. If it is a relatively modern Bible then it must be printed, not a manuscript. It is hardly likely, by the end of the eighteenth century when the Italian monasteries were suppressed, that any of them would have a manuscript Bible, either on the lectern or anywhere else.

Unless they had air conditioned vaults and a trained staff of white-gloved archivists, it is difficult to see how several hundred year old manuscripts (especially of Bibles, which are not exactly rare) could survive that long. Even if our own dear white-gloved archivists fondly imagine that the Codex Amiatinus itself has managed to survive for thirteen hundred years. The question then becomes "Where do you find manuscript Bibles in the eighteenth/nineteenth century?" and we do know the answer to that.
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Mick Harper
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Some of you may lack a detailed knowledge of the history of printing in the Ottoman Empire. Fortunately there is not a lot to learn.

Sultan Murad III signed a firman, an official decree, in 1587 allowing the sale of [printed] books in Arabic, Farsi and Turkish, which were published in Europe

This did not include Bibles which were written in many languages but not Arabic, Farsi or Turkish. Not that there was a great deal of local demand

The Turks did not like printed books, they lacked the art and grace of hand-written books. Ottoman intellectuals, who were keen on aesthetics, enjoyed books written with elegant handwriting and there were many calligraphy artists who copied books rapidly.

Not exactly hot off the presses but what was the state of play by the time the eighteenth century rolled round?
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Mick Harper
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Said Effendi, of the Turkish embassy in France, admired the printing presses of Paris. On his return, he assigned İbrahim Agha, a Hungarian convert, to establish a printing press similar to the ones in Paris. He received a firman from Sultan Ahmed III in 1727 allowing him to print non-religious books.

In time, the printing press became old, the letters of the printing blocks became useless, and it was closed in 1798. This prompted the government to found three state printing presses. During the reign of Sultan Mahmud II (1808 – 1839) religious books were allowed to be printed
.

So, end of manuscript Bibles, start of printed Bibles. But how were the millions upon millions of Christians in the Ottoman Empire managing all this time? They are, after all, as the Muslims would say, 'people of the book'.
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Hatty
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Mick Harper wrote:
It is difficult to believe that such a bunch of roisterers could not only have kept intact a twelve hundred year-old manuscript but, glory be, the provenance too!

The book is recorded in a list of the Abbey's relics dated 1036, describing it being an Old and New Testament 'written in the hand of the blessed Pope Gregory'.

Wile E. Coyote wrote:
Hatilla the Hun wrote:
The story of Willibrord being given the name of 'Clement' seems to have a similar purpose, being well-used it's easy to accept as genuine and anyway there are so many Clements it'd be a job to sort one from another.

Still Clement is a name commonly associated with forgeries...

Gregory is a papal-sounding name. Gregory of Tours ('born Georgius Florentius') only turned up in the fifteenth century thanks to an Italian humanist, Paolo Emili (Emilio), engaged by the bishop of Paris to write a history of the French monarchy from 'the historically unattested' Pharamond, first king of the Franks and ancestor of the Merovingians in 420, to the 1520s.

No manuscript from Gregory’s time is extant. Nevertheless, more than forty medieval manuscripts survive


Gregory's Liber historiae Francorum was printed at the same time as Emilio's own work, De rebus gestae Francorum, based on Gregory's 'original version'. And it worked

The humanist Paolo Emilio was the first to once again take up Gregory of Tours directly as a main source ... after the publication of Emilio’s complete work in 1539, French historians increasingly made direct use of Gregory of Tours

Tours, associated with the introduction of monasticism, may be the 'Tiron' of the movement. Gregory of Tours, 'rediscovered' by an Italian humanist living in France, is Gregorius Turonensis in Latin.
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Mick Harper
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Gregory of Tours ('born Georgius Florentius') only turned up in the fifteenth century thanks to an Italian humanist, Paolo Emili (Emilio), engaged by the bishop of Paris to write a history of the French monarchy from 'the historically unattested' Pharamond

Hey, what about that! I only used his History of the Franks in the play as a f'rinstance -- I had no idea that it was actually true. Everything is, as it were, 1.0 at the moment. The Muse must sure be with me.
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Mick Harper
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So we know the Ottoman Empire is awash with manuscript Bibles. That is not in itself very useful because manuscript Bibles in daily use do not last long so they won’t be very old. But in any case, old or new, Muslim law expressly forbids the disposing of Holy books which presumably includes Westerners half-inching Bibles. Plus, large parts of the Christian half of the Ottoman Empire had got Western-backed religious freedom and presumably they were only too happy to ditch their manuscript Bibles for printed ones. But I don't know how all this works in the constant turbulence of the latterday Ottomanite Balkans.

What I do know is there is one definite exception to all the above: Greece. Completely independent by 1827. Where are Bibles not necessarily in daily use and old ones might get kept in reasonable conditions? Monasteries. Where in turbulent pre- and post- Ottomanite Greece? Monasteries on offshore islands. How old? Not very old but old enough.
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Mick Harper
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We mostly think of monasteries as poor but honest. Apart from Anglo-Saxon monasteries which apparently were so wealthy that it was worthwhile kitting out vast sea-faring expeditions from thousands of miles away to sack them, monasteries really are poor but honest. But they are very expensive to run.

Again we don't normally think of them this way – doesn’t the vow of poverty make them fairly self-sufficient? No, not in the least. Anyone who has lived on as many hippy communes as I have can testify that in practice they are only self-sufficient in root crops and depend on somebody (else) providing the infrastructure. And state hand-outs for the actual business of day to day living.

But that’s hippies. Monasteries are not actually in business to be self- sufficient. They are there to support monks who have quite different duties even if many of them make a virtue of monks turning their hands to a bit of hoe-ing between times. A community of a dozen monks (they are seldom more numerous) requires an army of ‘lay brothers’ to support them and whether the lay brothers have taken quite such an extreme vow of poverty or not, everyone needs feeding. Just feeding a few dozen mouths on a daily basis is a major undertaking and while an English medieval monastery may have the broad acres (and the lay brothers) to do it, it is unlikely many Greek mountain top monasteries on offshore islets would. And, remember, monasteries have to last for hundreds of years. Very few brothers are dab hands in building maintenance and renewal and monasteries tend to have a lot of buildings. Very old buildings. On wind-swept mountain-top offshore etc etc.

For monasteries, there is always a pressing need for a substantial income over and above day to day self-sufficiency and no obvious internal resources to generate it. No state handouts. Indeed it goes the other way since monasteries have to contribute to the expense of head office (and oftentimes the state). No wonder every monastery has an abbot that understands prayer only goes so far. That doing God's work means, if needs must, poor does not necessarily have to go with honest.
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Hatty
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Every so often, sometimes very often, monasteries appeared to be in need of reform. Reform in such cases is presumably economic though it's presented as, or taken to mean, a purer, more disciplined revision. What we'd call austerity perhaps. The seemingly wealthy Dark Age monasteries never underwent 'reform'. They weren't very successful at propagating their unspecified method of wealth production either.
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Mick Harper
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I wouldn't say that. Their techniques for completely eradicating all signs of their own archaeology is something a lot of people (not just CSI departments) would pay a lot of money to get hold of.
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Mick Harper
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If you want to know why we will never succeed in persuading specialists of the error of their ways, it is because of what psychiatrists call 'attachment theory'. Here is someone I'm particularly attached to expressing his innermost feelings at the ending of the Great Anglo-Saxon Hoo-Ha at the British Library

Stewart J. Brookes ‏ @Stewart_Brookes Feb 19
Well, #BLAngloSaxons is packed, with half an hour to go. I’m saying a misty-eyed farewell to the manuscripts I might not see again. Echternach, Vercelli, Aureus, Chad. The whacking great big one that reduces hard-bitten scholars to tears. Sob!

Three of these get the treatment in Forgeries but Vercelli is a new one on me. That would probably reduce me to tears as well. Though whether of rage or laughter one never knows ahead of time.
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Hatty
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The Vercelli Book came up briefly in this thread. It is ranked as one of the four oldest Old English collections (the others being Junius, Exeter and Nowell). There is only one copy. It is sui generis, interspersing 'vernacular' poetry (e.g. The Dream of the Rood) with prose homilies.

The book was discovered in 1822 by Dr Friedrich Blume or Bluhme, a legal historian involved with German antiquarianism/history. He wrote numerous articles and dissertations and also published including the West Gothic Antiqva or the Gesezbuch Reccared of the First. Fragments of a Paris Palimpsesten. Ten years after his discovery the Vercelli Book was transcribed by a German scholar unfamiliar with either Anglo-Saxon or runes, Dr C. Maier, who 'mutilated' the manuscript with a dark brown gall tincture (reagent) in the process. The use of gall tincture, ascribed to the 'father of palaeograpy' Jean Mabillon, was generally associated with palimpsests in order to read the underlying text.

Why it's written in Old English is problematic for historians who argue it was intended for the use of English pilgrims. In contraindication the reason offered for the time lag between discovery and transcription is Vercelli's inaccessibility

Given Vercelli's remote location (across the Alps for German and English scholars), Maier's was the only available transcription for decades
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Mick Harper
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No tears. Just yawns.
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