Sunday, April 3, 2011

What a Purple Manuscript Really Looks Like

There are a lot of bad images of MSS, and a lot of images of bad MSS.  Its hard to find a good image of a good MS, which can actually give us a real feel and grasp of what the famous Purple Codices must have looked like when they were new.

Surprisingly, the Royal Scriptorium in Constantinople was still churning out purple MSS as late as the 1500s:

Tetraevangelion. Miniature of St Mark
Gold on purple parchment. 9th century
The above photo (click to enlarge) gives a rare glimpse of what purple codex in its prime looked like.  We see the smooth, shiney, almost silky purple page, and the rich gold lettering (done with real gold!).  These manuscripts were probably mostly made for emperors and kings, or the few 'great cathedrals' in the major cities of the Holy Roman Empire.   Obviously only royalty could dream of owning a private copy of such a treasure.

The National Library of Russia site tells us:
"Nicholas I was given a precious eleventh-century purple Gospel which had once belonged to the Christian community of Gumushane (also in Asia Minor). This volume written in gold and silver and adorned with miniatures was produced in the imperial Byzantine scriptorium. Another work from the same source is the Codex Petropolitanus, a sixth-century purple Gospel which Nicholas II bought from the village of Sarmisahly with the assistance of the Russian Archaeological Institute in Constantinople."
Codex Petropolitanus Purpureus, designated by N or 022, is shown below, in a much crappier photo:

Petropolitanus (6th cent.)


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