Lot Content

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
PALIMPSEST, in Christian-Palestinian Aramaic and Syriac, manuscript on vellum [Mt Sinai, Egypt, the underlying text 6th century, the overlying text c.700]
PALIMPSEST, in Christian-Palestinian Aramaic and Syriac, manuscript on vellum [Mt Sinai, Egypt, the underlying text 6th century, the overlying text c.700]
1 More
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more
PALIMPSEST, in Christian-Palestinian Aramaic and Syriac, manuscript on vellum [Mt Sinai, Egypt, the underlying text 6th century, the overlying text c.700]

Details
PALIMPSEST, in Christian-Palestinian Aramaic and Syriac, manuscript on vellum [Mt Sinai, Egypt, the underlying text 6th century, the overlying text c.700]

An exceptional survival of considerable textual and historic interest of Christian Palestinian Aramaic, a Western Aramaic dialect used by the Melkite Christian community in Palestine and Transjordan between the 5th and 13th centuries and preserved only in a few inscriptions, palimpsests and manuscripts. The present fragment is from Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai.

A fragment, the first text (the underlying text) 200 x 160mm (originally c.240 x 180mm), 2 columns of 22 lines (of originally 24) written in an exceptional Christian Palestinian-Aramaic uncial, blind-ruled, ruled space 190 x 140mm (originally c. 210 x 140mm); the second text (the overlying text), a single column of 15 lines written in black ink in a somewhat shaky Syriac Estrangelo book script, inscription in black ink in Arabic (browning and staining, edges frayed, underlying script on obverse very faded). Between two sheets of glass, green-cloth-gilt folding case by Aquarius.


Provenance:
(1) Monastery of St Catherine, Mt Sinai. There are three principal locations which have brought to light CPA manuscripts in Egypt (almost exclusively palimpsests): St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt Sinai; the Wadi El Natrun and the Cairo Genizah. An important Mt Sinai codex is the so-called Codex Climaci rescriptus (now in private ownership in the US; another single leaf from that codex, which contains Acts 21:14-25, forms Cod. Ms. Syr. 637 of the Mingana Collection, Birmingham). The present fragment is part of Codex Sinaiticus Zosimi rescriptus (Schøyen Collection, MS 35; also MS 37; St Petersburg, Russian National Library MS Syr. 16; SUB Göttingen, Codd. Mss. Syr. 28A; 28B), which, like the present fragment, belonged originally to the Grote collection (see Alain Desreumaux, Codex sinaiticus Zosimi rescriptus).

(2) Dr Friedrich Grote (1862-1922), German manuscript collector who by the end of the 19th century had built an impressive collection of manuscripts and fragments with a Sinaitic provenance. Several of his Syriac, Arabic, CPA and Georgian manuscripts are now in major libraries and collections: the Vatican library, the BnF, the British Library, among others.

(3) Private collection, Berlin (1929).

(4) D. MacLaren, sold at:

(5) Sotheby’s 12 April 1954, lot 302, purchased by:

(6) Dr Otto Fisher, Detroit.

(7) H.P. Kraus, ‘Monumenta Codicum Manuscriptorum’ (1974), no 2.

(8) H.P. Kraus cat. 165 (1983), no 28.

(9) Schøyen Collection, MS 36.


Text and script:
The first, and most important, underlying text is Matthew 26:59-68; 26:70-27:2; 27:3-10. The script is almost identical to that of Codex Climaci rescriptus, considered the finest and earliest specimen of Christian-Palestinian Aramaic uncial extant. Parts of the present fragment completes Göttingen, Ms. Syr. 28B. With the exception of Codex Climaci rescriptus and Codex Sinaiticus Zosimi rescriptus, the language is represented in only a small scattering of fragments, all of which are in major institutions: a section of a Vatican manuscript (MS. Sir 623) with readings from Exodus; a handful of fragments from the Cairo Genizah; a few fragments from Khirbet Mird excavations in the 1950s (now Rockefeller Museum, Jerusalem; three fragments still in the library of St Catherine’s, Sinai (all 11th century); two leaves in the British Library (BL Add. 14450 and Or.1080.4.65a); a fragment in the Louvre, Paris; five leaves at the Bodleian, Oxford (MS Heb. e. 73 ff.42-3; MS Heb. b. 13, f.13; MS Syr. d. 32; 33 and Syr. c. 4); a small fragment in Philadelphia (Penn. E 16507r); and two leaves in St Petersburg (Greek, ms. 119 and Antonin, Ebr. B 958v).

The second, overlying text, is written in a c.700 Syriac Estrangelo, similar in style to Mt Sinai Cod. Syr. 30 (dated 698). It is a table of contents of a codex that contained 11 texts, including 4 about the fathers who were put to death on Mt Sinai. These are: History of Paul; Sermon of Patriatch D[…]; Questions of John, the Hermit; History of St Sergius; Selection from a Commentary on Matthew; Sermon of Mar. Euagrios; On the Fathers of the Holy Mountain; Likewise, history of the Fathers who were put to death on Mount Sinai and in Raithu; On the others who were put to death on the Mountain Sinai; Likewise on Martyrius; On the Wood of the Cross.

Textual witnesses of the Gospels in Christian Palestinian Aramaic are of immeasurable importance to biblical scholars, preserving as they do the Gospels in the nearest dialect of Aramaic to that spoken by Jesus, and composed within a living tradition based in the Holy Land.


Bibliography:
Alain Desreumaux, ‘Codex sinaiticus Zosimi rescriptus; Description codicoligique de feuillets araméens melkites des manuscrits Schøyen 35, 36 et 37’, Histoire du Texte Biblique 3, Lausanne, Éditions du Zèbre, 1997.

Alain Desreumaux, ‘L’apport des palimpsestes araméens, Christo-palestiniens. Le cas du Codex Sinaiticus Zosimi rescriptus et du Codex Climaci rescriptus’, Palimpsestes et éditions de textes, Les textes littéraires. Actes du colloque tenu à Louvain-la-Neuve, September 2003, Publications de l’Institut Orientaliste de Louvain 56, Louvain-la-Neuve, 2009, 201-11.
Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

Brought to you by

Eugenio Donadoni
Eugenio Donadoni

More from The History of Western Script: Important Antiquities and Manuscripts from the Schøyen Collection

View All
View All