Manuscripts and Paleography

The last couple of entries presented various topics related to Nubian textual resources and their online presentations.

Many aspects from these entries remain open, like for example the smoothness of transcriptions of Old Nubian in the existing fonts, the integration of such texts in a web environment like the present one, the completeness of the existing lists of online textual resources, the content analysis of these etc.

Today, however, we will conclude this sequence with examining what can be found on the Net relating to Nubian manuscripts. One should note that as Nubian manuscripts can be understood texts written (mainly) in Old Nubian, Coptic, and Greek (but also in Arabic and Ottoman Turkish) with various inks (but mainly coloured between brown and black), and on materials such as papyrus, parchment, leather, and paper. These manuscripts may have been discovered in any site dating to the medieval era of northern Sudan and southern Egypt, when this stretch of the Nile Valley that we call Nubia was ruled by the Christian kingdoms of Nobadia, Makuria, and Alwa. The following map indicates the sites where Medieval manuscripts have been found in Nubia:

No manuscripts of the medieval era have been unearthed from sites in the kingdom of Alwa. Moreover, no manuscripts on papyri have been published to date (cfr. results in DBMNT), although many small fragments were retrieved from the monastic site of Qasr el Wizz (in preparation by A. Tsakos).

Qasr el Wizz is also the only site of Medieval Nubia from where a complete codex has been discovered. It concerns an apocryphal text in Coptic, published in Hungarian and German by the Hungarian scholar Peter Hubai. A similar text in Old Nubian has been found at Serra East, from where come also another Old Nubian text on the cross identified with the homonymous pseudo-Chrysostomian homily, as well as a text on the cross by pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem, also in Coptic. All these manuscripts are written on parchment and have been more or less published adequately. However, I am not aware of any image of a single leaf thereof that can be found on the Net…

In fact, the only images of Nubian manuscripts available online are from fragmentary works. These are the following:

1. A page of an Old Nubian manuscript from Qasr Ibrim, containing a translation in Old Nubian of the Liber Institutionis Michaelis. The photo can be seen in the wikipedia entry on “Old Nubian” and HERE. Qasr Ibrim has produced the largest number of manuscripts from Christian Nubia.

2. Two Old Nubian manuscripts discovered by the German mission at the island of Sunnarti working in the 1960s in the campaign for the salvage of Nubian heritage due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam. Their webpage is quite informative in general, and their manuscript finds constitute the only collection from Nubia fully published.

3. Last but not least, the Humboldt University Nubian Expedition (H.U.N.E.) found in 2007 on the island of Sur in the Fourth Cataract region a cachet in an important for the area church monument containing 140 manuscripts in Greek and Old Nubian written on parchment and leather. The largest parchment fragment in Greek, another sermon by John Chrysostom (this time an original one: CPG 4333.2), has been included in the official webpage of H.U.N.E.:

Soon all the parchment fragments will be published in the doctoral thesis of Alexandros under preparation.

A very recent publication of material known from old is the book by Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei and El-Shafie El-Guzuuli with an English and a Dongolese Nubian translation of the Old Nubian version of the St. Mina miracle, one of the first Old Nubian manuscripts found and presented to the public (Griffith 1913: 6-15).

In sum, Nubian studies remain – despite the efforts of Giovanni and Grzegorz – far from having achieved yet the necessary open-access data bases that help promote more general studies, like for example the very useful paleographic comparisons that other text-oriented disciplines have achieved. For example, one can naturally only admire the richness of the material presented in a favorite blog on Coptic studies, namely the one directed by Alin Suciu.

Another important web based data source is the Gateway to Greek Manuscripts, administered from Italy where there is a long standing tradition on paleographical studies, exemplified in the Greek language and script by the works of Guglielmo Cavallo.

Of course manuscripts are not only related to medieval times, despite the shift of focus in the writing and archiving process after the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg. So, we read recently on the Net about the donation of 60,000 Greek manuscripts from Romania to the Academy of Athens! Their importance lies with the safeguarding of the memories of an important part of the Greek diaspora in various phases of its history in the region. Although the donation to Greece of this collection may create in Athens a center for the study of this part of the Greek history, nonetheless, it is a sign of the retreat of the Hellenic Diaspora from the places where it created its unique character. Manuscripts of interest for modern Greece are also to be found in Sudan: Greek communities’ foundation records, official correspondence, certificates, sales, publications etc. It is one of the reasons for which we have times and again asked for the creation of a center of Hellenic Studies in Khartoum…

And what about Sai?

Despite the richness of the epigraphic material from the island, no manuscripts are known until today from Sai. The Medieval Sai Project, however, is in possession of a document in Old Nubian characters, written by a local of Sai, on the island in … AD … 2010!!!

Perhaps in the future, we will also discover medieval manuscripts. But this is the least of the things that preoccupy us in an effort to continue fieldwork and involvement in the land of the Sikkut…

This entry was posted in Nubia, Old Nubian, Sai Island and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Manuscripts and Paleography

  1. ounoginiri says:

    thank you so much for this treasure island of manuscripts!

  2. ergamenis says:

    We thank you for always appreciating our blog-input :-)

  3. Grzegorz Ochała says:

    Interestingly, and mistakenly, your no. 2 is referred to at Wikipedia as coming from ‘Pakhoras’ :)

    • ergamenis says:

      But it is not rare that one finds such mistakes in wikipedia.
      And somehow this one is welcome, since it made you appear once again in our comments’ space ;-)
      Any reader who has a wikipedia account and wishes to correct this?

    • Henrihafsakos says:

      Wikipedia is corrected, and new external links have been added ;-)

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