Window to a Sixth-Century Scriptorium

A post from guest curator Elijah Hixson, PhD student, School of Divinity

This month’s student led display at New College Library features the facsimile Codex Purpureus Petropolitanus, which is on display at the entrance to New College Library.  This Codex is one of the three manuscripts to be discussed in the next Biblical Studies seminar “Window to a Sixth-Century Scriptorium: Three Luxury Gospel Manuscripts and the Scribes Who Made Them” on Friday 10 March.

Codex Purpureus Petropolitanus (N 022) [facsimile] Four Gospels; Sixth century (Possibly Syria?).
[Facsimile] Athens: Miletos, 2002
New College Library (Special Collections):
Ho Porphyrous Kōdix tōn euangeliōn Patmou kai Petroupoleōs; Folio Z.142

Codex Purpureus Petropolitanus (N) is a sixth-century luxury manuscript of the Gospels. It is one of only a handful of “purple codices”—manuscripts written with inks made from melted silver and gold on parchment that had been dyed purple. The purple colour indicated the luxury status of the manuscript, making it fit for the use of the Emperor, perhaps even the emperor Justinian.  In this particular manuscript, the scribe usually writes with silver, but he or she writes references to God or Jesus in gold to set them apart from the rest of the text. See, for example, the four letters in gold, 4 lines from the bottom of the first column on the right page. These four letters are abbreviations for the words “God” and “Son” in the text: αληθως θ(εο)υ υ(ιο)ς ει (“Truly, you are the Son of God”).

The facsimile is open to Matthew 14:26–36. This opening is an excellent example of how much the conditions in which a book is kept can affect its appearance. These two folios remained together for around 1,300 years. They were numbered consecutively, relatively recently in their history (see the numbers 82 and 83 written in the centre of the top margins). At some point after they were numbered (probably around the year 1896, but not before 1820), the folio on the left was separated from the rest of the codex.

Codex Purpureus – left folio

When the folio resurfaced in Athens in the 1950s, its purple dye had faded, its silver ink had tarnished, and the folio had crease marks because it had been folded up. The folio on the right remained protected within the majority of the codex, and only the silver letters around the edges of the page were exposed to air and tarnished. which was sold to Russia in 1896, and it remains in St. Petersburg to this day.

Codex Purpureus Petropolitanus is cited as N in most modern critical editions of the Greek New Testament. Its text is an early form of the Byzantine textform found in the majority of Greek New Testament manuscripts. Most scholars think it was made in Syria (possibly Antioch).

Elijah Hixson, PhD candidate, School of Divinity

International Women’s Day 2017

During my initial survey of the New College Collections, it was immediately evident, although not surprising, that the majority of the archives stemmed from the work of men or their institutions. What it did mean, though, was that those collections which belonged to women stood out all the more.

Leaving aside the archives of the Centre for the Study of World Christianity in which women missionaries play a significant role, there are three collections with a female provenance which immediately spring to mind.

The first of these are the papers of Betty Darling Gibson (1889-1973), who worked on the International Review of Missions with Joe Oldham (ref. GD5: http://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk/repositories/5/resources/85273). The second would be the papers of Margaret Duncan Campbell (ref. GD 37: (http://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk/repositories/5/resources/86251) while the third would be the papers of Rachel Kay or Wilson (c.1750-1815) (ref. MS WIL 3).

With this last collection, what struck me was that the author of the manuscripts was only referred to as “Mrs James Wilson, wife of James Wilson, ship’s captain, Leith”. As with Betty Gibson, whose biographical details were hard to find in the shadow of her friend and colleague Joe Oldham, I was keen to give Mrs Wilson her given name and dates for the record. Her contribution to history is a curious set of journals recording her religious experiences, including her attendance at church, interlaced with family history, notable events in her own family life and what she saw as evidence of God’s influence on her own life and the life of her family past and present.

The papers of Mrs James Wilson aka Rachel Kay or Wilson (c.1750-1815)

The papers of Mrs James Wilson aka Rachel Kay or Wilson (c.1750-1815) ref. MS WIL 3.

The journals run to six notebooks, each of around 50 pages of manuscript, starting around 1771 and finishing in 1812, three years before she died. There are also a couple of loose sheets, which do not appear to belong to any of the extant notebooks.

Accompanying the documents are two letters giving a bit of background to the manuscripts. The first is from April 1947 from Mr J Ritchie, ‘Nethercraigs’, Tighnabruaich, to his cousin Agnes Moncrieff Leys née Sandys. This letter gives a lot of information such as some of the experiences of James Wilson as a ship-captain: including being captured by Americans during the American War of Independence and then being detained in France for 18 months after which he was ‘persuaded to remain at home and join his father-in-law’s business’.

My husband came safely home in the month June in 1780 when being detained Eighteen month. My father proposed to him to drop this line of life in giving over all thoughts in proceeding again to sea and to become Maltster and brewer also from my fathers inability from his years of carring on his business by himself…” (ref. MS WIL 3 notebook no1, page 43 – image below)

Rachel Wilson's account of changing her husband's occupation.

Rachel Wilson’s account of changing her husband’s occupation.

The letter also states that Rachel had about 13 children, ‘of whom she expressly states 9 died in infancy or early youth. This sad mortality was due not to any constitutional weakness, but to small-pox, scarlet fever and measles, which could not then be treated as they can now.’ Ritchie goes on to say that the Wilsons belonged to the Antiburgher section of the Secession Church and were fond of listening to the preacher Rev Adam Gib (1714-1788), and that of the surviving children, David Wilson (1782-), later became minister of the United Secession church in Kilmarnock. Making the personal connection, Ritchie states, ‘I remember being very hospitably entertained by his widow when I was a small boy.’

The manuscripts were eventually passed to New College Library in 1952 by a Miss G Woodward, librarian, who received them from Mrs Hilda Brochet Abercromby, sister of Agnes Leys who by then had passed away. It is clear from annotations made in the manuscripts that family members had read them with a good deal of interest.

At the end of the first notebook, Rachel writes

By this time I was with Child of twains and although subject to many threatning complaints yet my Shepherd who carries the lambs in his armes and Gently leads thos that are with young suffered no evil to befall he brought me in safety forward to the full time when in the 15 of March 1783 I was safely delivered of two living sons.” [William Wilson and John Frazer Wilson] (ref. MS WIL 3 notebook no 1, page 48 – see image below)

Rachel Wilson's account of having twins.

Rachel Wilson’s account of having twins.

Perhaps Mrs Wilson’s manuscripts are not the most valuable or beautiful of those which we hold but they do give a clear and striking voice to a woman of both the 18th and 19th centuries.

Kirsty M Stewart
New College Collections Curator

New books at New College Library in March 2017

A selection of some new books at New College Library, with an Islamic theme.

Muslim Christian encounters, by Professor Mona Siddiqui from the School of Divinity is now available, with four volumes  at BP172 Mus.

 

Also available, تفسير القرآن الحكيم : المشهور بتفسير المنار Tafsīr al-Qurʾān alḥakīm : al-mashhūr bi-Tafsīr al-manār by   مّد رشيد رضا.; Muḥammad Rashīd Riḍā  in a twelve volume set at BP130.4 Muh.

 

 

 

Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi : Islamic reform and Arab revival by Itzchak Weismann. Available at BP80.K38 Wei.

Understanding the Qu’ran by Mostafa Mahmoud, available at BP130.4 Mah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New College Library has a regular display of new books at the far end of the Library Hall, close to the door to the stacks. Details of all new books are available via DiscoverEd.

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity

Historic New College Library partnership begins a new chapter

Founded in 1843 as the Library of the Free Church College, and now serving the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, New College Library is one of the largest theology libraries in the UK with approximately a quarter of a million items.

There have been a number of legacy arrangements allowing borrowing access for ministers of the Church of Scotland and Free Church of Scotland. This reflects the partnership between the University of Edinburgh and the Church of Scotland, which has resulted in the Church’s historic collections being maintained at New College Library and supported by the University of Edinburgh. As of 1 March 2017, we have streamlined our access arrangements and now provide free borrowing access (ID and evidence of status required) to ministers, retired ministers and employees of the Church of Scotland and Free Church of Scotland. Registration enables access to all nine site libraries within the University of Edinburgh Library, including New College and the Main University Library.

Inside New College Library

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Archives catalogues come online

Since I started working with the New College Collections, one of my main aims has been to get the archives catalogues, which sit in a papery, five binder splendour in Library Hall, online. Up until now, with a few exceptions, it has only been possible to consult these catalogues in New College Library itself.

Created sometime in the 1990s, the archives catalogues and attendant indexes are a useful finding aid, however they do not meet archival descriptive standards and could not be added into the catalogue without a lot of extra work.

Bearing this in mind and the resources available, I have created PDF files of the catalogues, divided them by collection, added cover sheets with outline information and then created skeleton catalogue entries online containing a link to the appropriate PDF.

So far, I am probably about half way, with c.250 catalogue entries now available through the University’s Archives Online website: http://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk . The additions run alphabetically by collection reference (which in most cases is directly related to the collection provenance) from MS ADE (Adelpho-Theological Society) to MS BOW (Rev Archibald Bowie) and through from MS BOX 1.1 (Associate Burgher Theological Hall) to MS BOX 54 (Papers of James Fraser of Brea). There are also the more recently catalogued collections in AA4 to AA7 (Very Rev Prof John McIntyre, Very Rev Prof James Whyte, Rev Tom Allan and Rev Prof Alec C Cheyne), the Chalmers Papers (MS CHA), and those allocated a GD reference number some years ago such as the Oldham papers (MS OLD or GD2), papers of Rev Robert Murray McCheyne (MS MACCH or GD16), the Martin Papers (MS MAR or GD14), and the Denney Papers (MS DEN or GD27).

The covenant of Katherine Brown, wife of Rev. Thomas Boston, Covenanter, Ettrick. c.1713-c.1732

The covenant of Katherine Brown, wife of Rev. Thomas Boston, Covenanter, Ettrick. c.1713-c.1732

It should be noted that the MS BOX series is a miscellany, which seems to have come almost entirely from the Library of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. In an attempt to make its contents more visible to users, it has been divided up into c.190 separate entries, highlighting where possible names of people, organisations and places, relevant dates and in some instances topics.

Admittedly, this solution is imperfect but it is most definitely a step forward. Only another 300 or so entries to go!

Kirsty M Stewart
New College Collections Curator

Writing from the Holy Land, writing from the heart – Robert Murray McCheyne

A post from guest curator Amy Plender, PhD student, School of Divinity

The theme of this month’s student led display at New College Library is diary writing, particularly diarists writing about their experience of missions overseas. The display features items from the New College Library collections relating to Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843) who was appointed by the Church of Scotland to be part of a deputation to visit Jewish communities in Europe and the Middle East, with a view to future mission activity. Further details of his papers are available on the University’s Archives Online catalogue.

Robert Murray McCheyne’s diary from his trip to Palestine, 1838 (ref. MS MACCH1.8)

Robert Murray McCheyne’s diary from his trip to Palestine, 1838 (ref. MS MACCH1.8)

This diary was used for daily entries on McCheyne’s travels, with small sketches as well as notes on personal devotional techniques headed ‘Personal Reformation’. It also has a biographical section on the ‘Story of Robert Laing’ (perhaps a friend or fellow missionary), and an appendix on another missionary’s account of the trip. Continue reading

Reading the Reformation : Philipp Melanchthon

Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560) was born on 16 February 1497, to become a Greek scholar and Protestant theologian, and a powerful force in Reformation debate.

A colleague of Luther’s at the University of Wittenberg, Melanchthon took part in the ‘pamphlet wars’ that spread the debates across Europe. New College Library holds early examples including this 1521 pamphlet:

Melanchthon, Philipp. Aduersus furiosum Parisiensium theologastrorum decretum Philippi Melanchthonis pro Luthero Apologia. Basel, 1521. New College Library B.a.1.15

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Reading the Reformation : John Fisher

New College Library’s collections provide a rich resource for and about Reformation theology and its readers. One of these readers was John Fisher  [St John Fisher] (c.1469–1535), bishop of Rochester, cardinal, and martyr in the time of Henry VII and VIII. Tutored in Greek by Erasmus, Fisher was able to use Erasmus’s edition of the Greek New Testament (1). Like his contemporary, Thomas More, Fisher was an active opponent of Martin Luther in the theological debates of the 1520s.

New College Library holds two editions of Fisher’s response to Luther’s theology, Assertionis Lutheranae confutatio (1523).

—Assertionis Lutheranae confutatio / per Reuerendum Patrem Joannem Roffensem Episcopum, Academiae Cantabrigiensis Cancellarium. Antwerp, 1523. X7/A2

 

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Reading the Reformation : Luther

On 14, 15 and 16 February 2017, the Cunningham Lectures at New College will mark the 500th Luther anniversary, with lectures by Professor Kaufmann covering Europe, Reformation and Luther.

New College Library holds outstanding Reformation collections that support the theme of the first lecture, Book, Print and Reformation. This includes examples of Luther’s pamphlets like the one below, from the early part of his career at the University of Wittenberg.

Luther, Martin. Auslegung und Deutung des heylige vater unsers … Leipzig, 1518. New College Library tpGT 2 1518

Each pamphlet, printed using the newly developed printing press technology, was cheaply produced and easily distributed, allowing the ideas they contained to spread quickly. Continue reading

Travel writing from the Holy Land : The William Fulton Jackson Collection

A post by guest curator Suzi Higton, School of Divinity

The books of intrepid travel writers whose adventures span from Jerusalem to Cairo feature throughout the collections at New College Library and in particular, those gifted to the library by William Fulton Jackson. A selection from this collection is now on display in New College Library.

Born in 1855, Jackson, recently uncovered as the donor of the W. F. Jackson (WFJ) collection, was the General Manager of the North British Railway Company. His interest in and passion for travel, particularly the Holy Land and Egyptology is reflected both in his numerous books on the subject and detailed photograph collection which is held by the Glasgow University Library Archives.

Newton, Richard. Rambles in Bible Lands Edinburgh: Gall and Inglis, New College Library, WFJ. 3.166

Newton, Richard. Rambles in Bible Lands Edinburgh: Gall and Inglis, New College Library, WFJ. 3.166

When selecting books from the WFJ collection to display, the eye is immediately drawn to the books’ beautiful cover designs, maps and illustrations. Rambles in Bible Lands stands out, not just for its intricate artwork but for being aimed at a younger audience. Written by the Reverend Richard Newton, it was published initially whilst he was editor of the American Sunday-School Union, and is based on a series of letters written to Sunday-School World and A Child’s World whilst travelling through Syria, Israel, Lebanon and Egypt. Continue reading