SIMONIDES, Konstantinus (1820-1867), a work purporting to be Meletios of Chios, a history of Byzantine Painting, in demotic Greek, MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[?Mount Athos, mid-19th century]
250 x 160mm. 52 single leaves including final blank, 26 lines written in light brown ink in an irregular Greek minuscule on a scored ruling of 26 paired horizontals between two pairs of verticals. Darkened vellum covers, all within Middle Hill boards, Phillipps 13872.
This is one of the manuscripts, said to have been acquired at Mount Athos, that Simonides sold in England during the 1850s. It opens with an address by the credited author, Meletios, monk of Chios, to Methodios, and closes with a colophon claiming its completion on Athos. It is in reality the bogus history of painting in his native island of Syme in the Dodecanese that Simonides had published in Athens in 1849, copied by himself on vellum that was artifially darkened. Simonides, perhaps the most audacious forger of the 19th century, had visited Mount Athos between 1839 and 1841, and again in 1852. This was no 28 in his list of manuscripts sold to Sir Thomas Phillipps. Phillipps later annotated the first folio of this manuscript 'A forgery, I believe, of Simonides of whom I bought it TP'. There was almost immediate controversy over the authenticity of the manuscripts Simonides sold. Sir Frederic Madden of the British Museum recognised the forgeries and exposed him -- but the issue was complicated by Simonides' having sold some genuine manuscripts. When finally discredited he sought to cause further confusion by claiming to have written the Codex Sinaiticus (then St Petersburg, now BL Add. 43725), the 4th-century Bible manuscript discovered by von Tischendorf at Saint Catherine's, Mount Sinai in 1859.
The present manuscript was part of a group of Simonides manuscripts from the Phillipps collection sold as lot 1731, Sotheby's 4 July 1972.
The manuscript is offered with a pamphlet by Charles Stewart, A Biographical Memoir of Constantine Simonides, Dr. Ph., of Stagiera, with a Brief Defence of the Authenticity of his Manuscripts (London, 1859), 77pp. (2)