Monday, June 2, 2008

5th century Coptic manuscript.

This manuscript represents a bit of a frustration for me. I had read Weitzmann, and some other sources so I thought I had a pretty good idea what were the important manuscripts. Then I checked out Lorenzo Crinelli's, Treasures from Italy's Great Libraries (New York, The Vendome Press, 1997). One of the early manuscripts was this 5th century Coptic Old Testament fragment (Naples, Biblioteca Vittorio Emanuele III, 1 B 18). Illustrated here is Job and his daughters. I wrote an article about it for Wikipedia. It makes me wonder though, how many more very early manuscripts am I missing? Are there other 5th century Coptic manuscripts. What about other eastern manuscripts. I know about Syriac manuscripts (The Rabula Gospels and the Bible in Paris) are there more? I haven't found a text in English on Coptic manuscripts, although there are some in French. It may be worth my while to struggle through them.

All of that aside, so that you won't have go read the Wikipedia article, here are the basics. This is a fragment of 5th century manuscript of the Old Testament written in the Coptic language. The manuscript has only 8 surviving folios and includes the text from the Book of Job and from Proverbs. One folio has a large pen drawing illustrating Job and his daughters with Job pictured as a bearded man wearing a crown and short tunic. His daughters wear tunics with jewels and diadems. The iconography of Job is very different in this manuscript from that in later centuries. Here he is seen as royal figure while in later portrayals he is seen as humbled and sitting on a dung heap.

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