Books and book production in the monastic communities of byzantine egypt



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PENN_RELS_735: BOOK REVIEW_KOTSIFOU_ ESSAY_SUMMARY/REVIEW_LJB0308_DRAFT_02
BOOKS AND BOOK PRODUCTION IN THE MONASTIC COMMUNITIES OF BYZANTINE EGYPT”

In W. Klingshirn & L. Safran (eds.), The Early Christian Book, CUA Studies in Early Christianity

(Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2007), pp.48-66
AUTHOR Dr Chrysi Kotsifou (“C/K”)
POST Resident Visitor, Center for the Study of Early Christianity, Visiting Associate Curator and Fellow at the Institute for Christian Oriental Research (“ICOR”) and the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures

CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA


RESEARCH Preservation, cataloging, and publication of Coptic ostraca and papyri lodged in ICOR Library

INTERESTS

Specific interests:

(i) Monks and bookbinding in Byzantine Egypt; and

(ii) Photographic and archaeological projects, including work in Dakhleh Oasis

and at Kellia (See “Glossary”)



Relevant Publications:


  • “Papyrological Evidence of Travelling in Byzantine Egypt,” in Current Research in Egyptology 2000, in Angela McDonald and Christina Riggs (eds.), BAR International Series 909: 57-64 (2000);




  • “Economic Relations of the White Monastery with its Surrounding Communities,” in Philip Sellew (ed.), Living for Eternity: Egyptian Monasticism (forthcoming). NOTE: See

“Glossary”
EDUCATION Undergraduate and graduate training, respectively, at Goldsmiths and King’s Colleges, University of London (Ph D, 2002); Post-doctoral fellow at Princeton, American University in Cairo, and Columbia University

CONTACT Center for the Study of Early Christianity

300 McMahon Hall

CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA

Washington, DC 20064

Phone: 202 319 5795

Fax: 202 319 6609

E-mail: cua-cest@cua.edu
_________________________________________________

OVERVIEW Text central to Kotsifou’s study is P.Ko̎ln inv.10213, a Coptic parchment letter (5th/6th century);

(Published by M Weber, Enchoria 3: 54-62 (1973) and plates 7 & 8; parchment, 16.5 X 14.5 cm;

provenance unknown; Cf. other English translation of text by Herwig Maehler, “Byzantine Egypt: Urban Elites and Book Production,” Dialogos: Hellenic Studies Review 4: 132-133 (1997));

it reads:
Flesh Side: fig 16, following p. 26
“Peshot writes to his brother Kolouthe and to his brother Timotheos, his brothers in the Lord.

Above all, I (very much) greet you and your brothers Marake and Nille and your elder (old) woman (lady), and the rest in the house. So (Well) now, the book which I have sent you, busy yourself with (be responsible for) decorating it , take care (be busy) with its pages (and plates). Choose (Select) only those which are good. Do not cut (scratch) into them as I have said to Hylias [= Elias].Give it to somebody who does the job well so that he decorates it , and if it has been completed to be received before I come (travel) to the North, have it sent to the South. For I shall (wish to) come, if God allows me. I greet Isidore and his elder (old) man and Te[…] and those in the house. I greet E[…] and Hylias and the brothers who are in the North, each one by (his) name, and also the other (all the rest of the) brothers whom I have known (met). Pray for me (from the bottom of) with all your heart. Be safe (Farewell) in the Lord.”
Hair Side: fig 17, following p. 26
Tell the illuminator (decorator; to add some little (small) ornaments to (in) it, (be it) a gate or a wheel. [Rubbed out…].”
INTRODUCTION In Late Antiquity, centers of book production were primarily, if not exclusively, in monasteries

Thus, C/K’s objective is to demonstrate that monks were involved in all stages of book production:

(i) Copying

(ii) Punctuation

(iii) Illumination

(iv) Binding

Both for personal use and for use of their monastic community, as well as for individuals outside their monastery who had commissioned them


Notwithstanding the fact that the “written word was the source of salvation and redemption…” KOTSIFOU’S goal is to concentrate NOT on theological and spiritual significance of books in monasteries, but RATHER ON
(i) PRACTICAL ISSUES REGARDING BOOK PRODUCTION, AND

(ii) ROLE AND IDENTITY OF SCRIBES AS DESCRIBED IN DOCUMENTARY PAPYRI AND OSTRACAE FROM EGYPT BETWEEN THE EARLY 4TH AND 7TH CENTURIES.
Importantly, in Greek and Coptic sources, books are mentioned in

(i) Private letters

(ii) Book lists

(iii) Church inventories, and

(iv) Descriptions of monastic libraries

All such books mentioned in lists and inventories are XPn; THERE IS NO REFERENCE TO PAGAN OR EVEN SECULAR WORKS WHATSOEVER AFTER 4TH CENTURY – AND THEY WERE PRODUCED WITHIN THE CONFINES OF MONASTIC OR OTHER ASCETIC COMMUNITIES
MOREOVER, THESE MSS DID NOT DIVERGE FROM APPOINTED READING MATERIAL OF MONKS AND NUNS FOR WHOM THEY WERE PREDOMINANTLY INTENDED

Such readings include:

(i) Four Gospels

(ii) Remainder of Biblical books

(iii) Patristic works, and

(iv) Hagiographical writings
While studied papyrological materials have survived by chance, C/K maintains such materials (4th-7th centuries)

(i) Offer detailed information regarding copyists of the early XPn book

(ii) Underscore important role of monasteries as centers of book production, and

(iii) Attest to involvement of monks in COPYING, ILLUSTRATING, BINDING,

AND SELLING THEIR MSS
Two methodological points are worthy of discussion:

(i) MSS mentioned are mostly selective. Allusions to the entire OT or NT are rare;

People are to borrow, or commissioned for copying, specific books of Bible; and

(ii) Prohibitive cost of books encouraged extensive borrowing among readers. Indeed, it was common practice to borrow from one another.


(P. Ko̎ln VIII.355 is Coptic letter of the 6th or 7th century describing this custom.):
“Brother Sanso writes to Brother Georgios telling him that he regrets that he was unable to see him properly the last time Georgios visited him. Sanso was apparently busy baking with his father, so he asks Georgios to come back on Saturday with the book, at which point he will then give him the other.”

SCRIBES C/K maintains that large monastic communities employed groups of scribes <áskeisein graphikí> AND THEIR who could copy not only for their own monastery, but also, perhaps, for other monasteries

MONASTERIES

In Rome, during the 1st century, wealthy educated people had their own slaves working as scribes to copy books they required. In contrast, in Byzantine Egypt, such individuals – and who were closely associated with churches and monasteries by patronage – would have used these institutions for acquiring their sacred books.

Lack of evidence for pagan scriptoria in Byzantine Egypt also suggests that a large number of 600 copies of pagan books that have survived from that period were likely copied by monks.


Archaeological finds indicate that educated monks also copied books for their own personal use.

In classical times, texts written in “documentary hands” were produced by people working in civil administration; texts in “book hands” were composed by scribes working in pagan scriptoria connected to pagan libraries; in contrast,
In monasteries, results of “documentary hands” were no different from lay handwriting, suggesting both pagan and XPn books were written by monks or that monks were in close relation to possible lay scribes
Whether early 4th century monks’ education and training came from preparation for civil and church administration (per Claudia Rapp), or from training at temples and at home by families (per John Tait and S. P. Vleeming), C/K maintains that eventually scribes could be trained in monasteries as part of the education an elder passed on to a novice.



Pachomian rules state that there could be no illiterate monks in the ; thus, upon entering monastery every illiterate person had to receive enough training to enable him to read at least the Psalter and the New Testament
Palladius, in Lausiac History 13.1, also tells of Apollonios, who was “…too old to learn a craft or to work as a scribe >; mirrored in Coptic ostracon (P. Mon. Epiph. 140), an extensive communication in which a scribe addresses his superior, attempting to appease latter’s concerns about the education of the boy.
Scribe explains that he has copied in a book part of the scripture for the boy according to the instructions of the superior, but had included nothing that could mislead the mind or spirit of his young protégé.
Document illustrates two interesting points:

(i) Attests to the existence of scribes in monasteries; and

(ii) Indicates how books were involved in the education of monks
Lastly, C/K addresses role of women in the matter of books and book production in the monastic

communities of Late Antique Egypt:

(i) Women composed a large part of audience for these books

(ii) Several letters describe exchange of books or requests by women for XPn books

(unclear as to whether such women were lay or monastic)

(iii) Suggested answer found in Coptic ostracon from Epiphanius collection, including

two letters from Epiphanius to Brother Patermouthius



In the first letter, Epiphanius states, “…regarding my book. Be so kind and agree with my mother than she may write it; take yours and bring it away in your hand and bring it up to me.”

C/K indicates that while editors of the ostracon take this to mean an “account book”, she finds no evidence in the wording of the letter to exclude the composition of any XPn book
In the second letter, Epiphanius, in writing to the same Brother, strengthens his case. He complains that he has received no reply to his messages, requests another book, and expresses his wish to meet the recipient, who is a woman.
He then adds, “…send your sister’s son, that me may bring…to the scribe Komes, that he may write it … and give it to Pegosh, who shall bring it.” C/K maintains that this suggests that women were copyists and recipients and/or commissioners of books
(iv) Further, C/K believes that the greeting at the beginning of P.Ko̎ln inv.10213 clearly demonstrates the participation of women in book production and, in this case, illumination.

There is an “elder woman” (“old lady”) who lives with them in the house; word is clearly written, in feminine form of the noun, leaving no change of misunderstanding it.


Examination of papyrological evidence from Late Antiquity relating to the role and status of female ascetics and nuns demonstrates that on several occasions we find women living and practicing with their male counterparts.
In such a setting, C/K imagines the members of illumination workshop producing their decorations
STAGES OF Ability to read and write with some degree of comprehension was asked for and encouraged by

PRODUCTION monastic rules for members of their community.
C/K turns to an examination of ways in which such literary skills were employed at different stages of book production. (Collective scholarly view to not argue merely for existence of literacy skills within monastic communities, but rather with extent, diversity, and potential uses of these skills)
COPYING, Scribes worked either alone or in groups of other brothers. P.Ko̎̎ln inv. 10213 clearly describes

MATERIALS a community of book illuminators working together.

AND

PRICE OF BOOKS In P.Ko̎ln inv. 10213, at the beginning of the letter, Peshot greets his brothers (K, T, M, and N)

and their elder woman;
P.Ko̎ln inv. 1473 reveals the other end of spectrum: A scribe working alone
In Greek letter of 5th or 6th century, Dionysios asks Father Honorios to visit him so that they can discuss the commissioning of a book. Dionysios heard that Honorios purchased parchment and he would like to give Honorios a book to copy for him.
Letter implies that Honorios is copying books on his own, that he can supply his own writing material – papyrus or parchment, and that the person commissioning the book most probably provided the “exemplar” – the book to be copied – for example, Dionysios, who gave Honorios the <antígraphon>
Two Coptic ostraca from Epiphanius collection attest to scribes buying their writing material.

(i) First letter, P.Mon.Ephiph. 385 concerns acquisition of papyrus rolls. Isidore writes to apa Isaac and Elias:


“Be so kind, if have good papyri, as you told us, send us them with the main that shall bring you this shred. But if there be two or three good rolls, send them… that I may write your…”
(ii) Second letter, P.Mon.Ephiph. 380 is from Pesenthius to Peter. It concerns a scribe

buying material required for binding a book. Pesenthius writes:


“Be so good and go unto the dwelling of Athanasius, the son of Sabinus, the craftsman, and get good ones; and do bring them to me, that I may choose one there for this book.”

In both hagiographical and documentary sources, books are described as highly valuable commodities:


(i) Apophthegmata Patrum: Apa Gelasios owned a leather Bible containing the whole of OT and NT, worth “eighteen gold coins” (Cf. Ward, Sayings of the Desert Fathers)

(ii) Life of St Epiphanius recounts that founder of monastery bestowed forty nomismata toward purchase of XPn books

(iii) C/K suggests that while prices cannot be taken literally, point to HIGH VALUE



OF BOOKS AND EXPLAIN HOW IT WAS POSSIBLE FOR APA THEODORE OF PHERME TO SELL THREE BOOKS AND MAKE SIZEABLE DONATION TO POOR

(iv) Unfortunately, papyri do not provide us with very specific information about

the price of books (NOTE: Topic of current research;, worthy of growing interest).
In P.Ko̎ln inv. 1473, sender of three letters explains to a scribe, “…begin to write for us the book

on parchment; you will not make a loss (you will be paid .” Other letters mention the price, but not for which book or how many books.


(i) O.Vind.Copt. 292: Monk is sending a gold (1/3 gold coin) toward

payment for book and will forward the remainder in the following months

(ii) O.CrumST 318: Requests that value of book be ascertained; while conclusions

Difficult to draw, one thing is certain: While scribes of these books were monks who did not work for profit, books in late antiquity still cost a considerable amount of money

(iii) P.Yale inv. 413: Another letter in which value of book to be ascertained. Books used as “guarantees”; Greek document of 4th or 5th century, reading “…And should I refuse to return Athanasius’ wares to you in a year, you shall become the undisputed legal owner of the book placed in your hands.”



(iv) P.Lips 43: Dated to 4th century, Thaesis is taken to court and charged with theft of XPn books left to her in an inheritance contested by relatives of deceased
PUNCTUATION At a different stage of book production, separate scribes employed to “punctuate” books, i.e., to

mark it with accents after it was copied (cf. ; to “mark with accents”)
ILLUMINATION Illustration is another stage of book production, performed usually by someone other than copyist of MSS
Specialists in field who received codex after written and added decorations according to instructions

of copyist or person who commissioned book.


P.Yale inv. 1318: Greek text (4th/5th century) witnessing such agreement: “I the presbyter Heraclius,

acknowledge that I have received from you the book for illustration >, on

condition that I return it to you within a month without subterfuges.”



P.Ko̎ln inv. 10213 shows commissioners could be very particular, particularly in Peshot’s admonition

to “…add some little ornaments to it, either a gate or a wheel.”


P.Fay. 44 List of books that have been punctuated employs various adjectives to describe books

according to whether they are written on parchment or papyrus, are in Greek, or are old or new


Among adjectives, Coptic term
repeatedly used; term used only in relation to Gospels

unique reference in CUA papyri; list editor suggests this word is used to distinguish between CODEX AND VOLUME; C/K argues that this is unsatisfactory explanation.


Greek
:
One of meanings isgold leaf used for decoration”; interestingly, in Greek text of Exodus 28:36, word used to mean a gold “plate.”
C/K maintains that what we have in this list must be references to ILLUMINATED MSS of GOSPELS

in turn pointing to rather wealthy institution as owner of all such books. (NOTE: Further support

for this hypothesis given by occurrence of term
in typikon of Monastery of the Mother of God
in Bac̆kovo, 1083: There is list of articles donated to monastery, there is mention of “…icons painted on wood with gold nimbuses”
BINDING Lastly, binding was crucial; books could be bound before or after the text was written (Cf. Nag Hammadi Library);

(Cf. Ewa Wipszycka, “The Nag Hammadi Library and the Monks: A Papyrologist’s Point of View,”



Journal of Juristic Papyrology 30: 183-191 (2000))
SHEETS OF UNUSED PAPYRUS MOST COMMONLY FORMED BINDING; NOT AS COVERS WRAPPING AROUND THE FRONT AND BACK OF THE CODEX, BUT AFFIXED – PERHAPS BY GLUE - ALONG THE SPINE (confirmed by recent archaeological finds and Coptic ostracon from Louvre collection)
Recent discovery of Coptic monk’s workshop in Pharaonic tomb (Amenemope) announced. Monk occupied workshop in 7th or early 8th century. Worked on loom, produced leather items and ropes, and was involved in bookbinding. Long, then bands of papyrus, still preserving one or two characters, found on mud floor around loom pit, along with cut-up parchment
Occupation/activity by monks and other ascetics supported by Louvre Coptic Ostracon 686:

A letter that asks a monk to bring his tools to repair the bands of torn books on his next visit


SUMMARY PAPYROLOGICAL EVIDENCE RE BOOK PRODUCTION IN MONASTIC COMMUNITIES IN LATE ANTIQUE

EGYPT INCLUDES:

(I) PRIVATE LETTERS

(II) BOOK LISTS

(III) CHURCH AND MONASTERIES INVENTORIES

SOURCES SUGGEST BOOKS WERE MADE:

(I) TO BE USED PRIVATELY

(II) FOR SERVICES OF MONASTERY ITSELF

(III) SOLD OUTSIDE CONFINES OF MONASTERY TO LAITY OR OTHER MONKS

WHO HAD COMMISSIONED THEM
C/K SUGGESTS FINDINGS DEMONSTRATE:

(I) VARIOUS STAGES OF BOOK PRODUCTION OCCURRING IN MONASTERIES

(II) EXISTENCE OF SPECIALIZED MONKS AT EACH LEVEL OF PRODUCTION

(III) FURTHER, EVIDENT THAT WOMEN MAY HAVE PLAYED ROLES IN VARIOUS BOOK PRODUCTION PROCEDURES
CHALLENGES (Cf.: O.Crum Ad.50: A Coptic letter, in which the sender explains:

POSED “I HAVE SENT THE BOOK TO YOU; DO THE KINDNESS TO PIERCE AND MARK IT,” MEANING “TO PIERCE HOLES.” (CODICES!)

This, in all probability, refers to the holes needed for binding of the book.



C/K suggests that it may also mean “to mark”, but also “to draw lines”, thus referring to lines needed sometimes by scribes in order to copy the text.
WAS THE CODEX SOMETIMES BOUND BEFORE IT WAS WRITTEN?
____________________________________________

GLOSSARY PARCHMENT:

PAPYRUS:

PAPYRUS ROLL:

BOOK:

NEW:

OLD:


BILINGUAL:

SCRIBE: <áskeisein graphikín>

TO NOT INCUR A LOSS <meithen vlaptómenos>

(“You will be paid”)

BOOK FOR ILLUSTRATION ,

TO MARK WITH ACCENTS

EXEMPLAR <antígraphon>

(“Book to be Copied”)

LEAF, PLATE, TABLET <pétalon>

(OF GOLD, FOR

ILLUMINATION)

DAKHLEH OASIS: http://www.lib.monash.edu.au/exhibitions/egypt/xegycat.html

(See: “III. Texts from Ancient Kellis”)



KELLIS: Site in Dakhleh Oasis where, in 1990s, Monash University (Melbourne) team excavated ruins of Ismant el-Kharab (“Ismant the Ruined”), known in ancient times as “KELLIS.” Site contained pagan temple of Tutu, Neith, and Tapshay, and two churches, one of which may have been a Manichaen temple. Principal finds: Two codices: “ISOCRATES CODEX” and “KELLIS AGRICULTURAL ACCOUNT BOOK,” “HOUSE 3” documents: Three literary texts including “EPISTLES OF MANI,” “BILINGUAL SYRIAC-COPTIC TEXTS,” and “TWO BOOKS ON BOARDS.”
KELLIA: 4th century Egyptian Christian monastic community; situated in area

between Nitria and Wadi Natrum (“innermost desert”); founded in 338 by Saint Ammoun (al-Muna, Arabic), under spiritual guidance of Antony the Great. Community designed for those who wished to enter coenobitic life in semi-anchoritic monastery. Approximately 1500 “cells,” arranged in five clusters over distance of ~20 km. Site abandoned in 9th century. Discovered by archaeologist Antoine Guillamont in 1964; excavated for more than 25 years by French and Swiss teams. Many churches and living quarter (“koms”) found; walls of cells covered with inscriptions and decorations



WHITE http://egypt.cla.umn.edu/white.html

MONASTERY: Coptic Orthodox monastery named after Saint Shenouda the Archimandrite; originally founded in 442 by Saint Pigol, maternal uncle of Shenouda. Located near Upper Egyptian city of Sohag. Name

derived from color of monastery’s while limestone walls. By ~450,

number of monks increased from 30 to 2,200; too, 1,800 nuns. Size of monastic territory increased to nearly 13,000 acres. By 641, monastery began to decline, due, in great part, to severe taxation following Arab conquest.

Renowned for library collection, further to aggressive literacy campaign instituted by Shenouda. All members of community described as having ability to read and write; too, many skilled in writing manuscripts. Library identified as one of greatest literary repositories in Christian Egypt (cf. Library of Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai), attested to by number of codices identified, as well as wide variety of subjects addressed and possessed.
Currently, library contents distributed throughout the world, with codices dismembered with individual folios finding destinations in nearly 25 different libraries and museums.
Original library rich in several categories, including biblical, hagiographical, liturgical, and like. Language of manuscripts principally Sahidic Coptic; others, bilingual: Sahidic Coptic and Greek and later, Sahidic Coptic and Arabic. Writing material primarily parchment.
Biblical MSS: Most abundant, including OT and Deuterocanonical;

Some Historical books missing. NT represented in entirety;.



Apocryphal Gospels, Acts, and Biblical Lives: Read frequently; including, also, Gospel of Twelve Apostles, of Bartholomew, Acts of Thomas, Pilate, Life of Virgin Mary, and Life of Joseph the Carpenter;

Historical MSS: Ecclesiastical history document(s) re Church of Alexandria (4th-5th centuries), as well as fragments of codices that record acts of Councils of Nicea and Ephesus;

Hagiographical texts: Including acts and related texts of martyrs, as

well as lives of important saints of Egyptian Church, say, Antony,

Athanasius, Pachomius, and disciples (like Shenouda the Archimandrite); and

Patristic collection: Richest and most significant category, yielding

greatest number of MSS, preserving texts of composition of Egyptian

writers, as well as Coptic translation of Greek writings of Church Fathers. Most significant part of collection are remarkable works of

Shenouda the Archimandrite.

Other writings include those of Pachomius and disciples, Sayings of

Desert Fathers (“Apophthegmata Patrum”). Too, other groups of Coptic translations of Greek writings, and Greek translations of non- Coptic Fathers, including Cyril of Jerusalem, John Chrysostom, and Severus of Antioch.



RECOMMENDED Roger S Bagnall (ed.), Egypt in the Byzantine World, 300-700 (Cambridge, UK:

READING Cambridge University Press, 2007).
** **

Philadelphia L J Botticelli

March 25, 2008 ljbotticelli@gmail.com


FOR DISCUSSION PURPOSES ONLY


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