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Friday, March 02, 2018

Manuscript Release: Images for Nine MSS from the Hellenic Parliament Library

Today we are releasing images of the nine New Testament manuscripts held by the Hellenic Parliament Library in Athens, Greece. CSNTM partnered with HPL’s excellent library staff to complete this project earlier in 2018. You can read about it here.

As mentioned in our initial blog about the expedition, one feature of the HPL collection that we found most interesting was the wide variation in size among the manuscripts. GA Lect 450 was one of the largest manuscripts CSNTM has ever digitized, whereas GA 804 was nearly the smallest. To put it in perspective, a leaf of GA Lect 450 has nearly eight times the surface area of GA 804 (GA 804 is roughly the height and width of an iPhone). 

 HPL Image Comparison

These variations among NT manuscripts occur due to the different purposes for which they were intended. GA Lect 450 was obviously intended to be read out loud to a church gathering as part of the liturgy, and therefore its large writing made for easy reading. On the other hand, it seems GA 804 was intended to be a hand edition of the Gospels, perfect for personal use and constant access.

We hope you will enjoy exploring this collection. You can find links to each of the manuscripts below.

GA 804: Eleventh century minuscule of the Gospels

GA 805: Twelfth century minuscule of the Gospels

GA 806: Fourteenth century minuscule of the Gospels

GA 807: Twelfth century minuscule of the Gospels with commentary

GA 2049: Sixteenth century minuscule of Revelation

GA 2096: Twelfth century minuscule of the Gospels

GA 2097: Eleventh century minuscule of the Gospels with commentary

GA 2313: Eleventh century minuscule of the Gospels

GA Lect 450: Tweflth century lectionary of the Gospels 

These images have now become part of our growing searchable library, which gives everyone free access to the best available digital images of New Testament manuscripts.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Nine New Testament Manuscripts Digitized

By: Andrew J. Patton

In January, nine Greek New Testament manuscripts owned by the Library of the Hellenic Parliament in Athens, Greece were digitized by the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. The Library of the Hellenic Parliament is prominently located in the center of Athens at the Old Royal Palace which is now Greece’s Parliament building. It is a historic and beautiful site.

Travelling to Athens feels like taking a long journey home. Yet, even after spending months working at museums and libraries in Athens, it is still a joyous experience to examine and digitize Greek New Testament manuscripts in such a historic city.

Rob and Jacob examining Lectionary 450

Robert D. Marcello and Jacob W. Peterson examing Lectionary 450

The concept for our digitization project at the Library of the Hellenic Parliament was developed during the summer of 2017 when Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, CSNTM’s Executive Director, met Dr. Eleni Droulia, the head of the library’s collection, and examined their manuscripts with Dr. Samuel Lamerson, president of Knox Seminary. This visit was instrumental for our agreement to partner with one another to digitize their nine Greek New Testament manuscripts. In December, Dr. Wallace returned to prepare the manuscripts for digitization. In only three days he combed through more than 4,000 leaves and recorded essential information for the digitization team and metadata that will be useful for future studies on the manuscripts.

Robert D. Marcello, Andrew J. Patton, Jacob W. Peterson, and Andrew K. Bobo

At the beginning of January, our digitization team traveled to Athens, led by CSNTM’s Director of Operations and Research, Robert D. Marcello. The other team members were Jacob W. Peterson, Andrew K. Bobo, and Andrew J. Patton. The team worked with precision and efficiency, completing the digitization work ahead of schedule. One of the most interesting features about Parliament’s collection was the wide range of sizes for their manuscripts. Lectionary 450 is an enormous manuscript: 35 cm by 28 cm, written in gigantic script on 478 leaves! On the other hand, codex 804 was especially small; its height was that of an iPhone with petite handwriting on 262 leaves.

GA 804

We greatly enjoyed working with the staff at the Library of the Hellenic Parliament, including Dr. Eleni Droulia and Mrs. Angela Karapanou. They were gracious hosts for us. Their leadership expedited our digitization project and has contributed to the excellent condition of the library’s special collections. We were honored to collaborate with their staff and look forward to continued partnership.

Two other groups of people deserve special thanks for their invaluable support. First, we are grateful for our partners at the National Library of Greece who introduced CSNTM to the staff at the Parliamentary Library and collaborated on the project with us. Second, CSNTM could not have completed this project apart from the generosity of you, our donors, who believe as we do that it is critical to preserve handwritten copies of the Greek New Testament and share the images freely online. Thank you for contributing to this digitization project!

We would also ask you to show your support for the Parliament Library by liking them on Facebook here.

The following manuscripts were digitized and will be available to study online in the coming months.

GA 804

GA 805

GA 806

GA 807

GA 2049

GA 2096

GA 2097

GA 2313

GA l450

Friday, January 26, 2018

Why Digitize Manuscripts?

By: Daniel B. Wallace, PhD

In the beginning there was microfilm. And it was not good. The finer points of the text could not be read, the colors were rendered in various shades of gray, and marginal notes and commentaries were seen as lines and bumps. Erased text and corrections were undetectable, and dating the manuscripts was made more difficult because certain paleographical clues were invisible. A large percentage of the microfilm images were completely illegible. But this was all that NT scholars had to work with. And hundreds of manuscripts have never been microfilmed at all, quite a few of which were completely unknown to biblical scholars. Of these, CSNTM has already digitized nearly 100 previously unknown manuscripts.

Microfilm Image from GA 2813

Microfilm Image of Codex 2813

Then came digital photography. And it was very good. The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts was founded in 2002. Our first digitization project was in Münster, Germany, at the Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF). We shot the NT manuscripts owned by the institute. These were the first NT manuscripts to be digitized, and it was appropriate that INTF was the place to launch our work. Our four and five megapixel cameras (state of the art at the time)—produced significantly better images than the microfilm. The shutter click to computer upload took 90 seconds. The whole job took several weeks.

Comparing microfilm and digital images of GA 1175

Microfilm and Digital, side by side

In the following years, digital cameras continued to improve. Today, we use 50 MP cameras that produce 300 MB images in TIFF. From shutter to camera is virtually instantaneous. The finest details on any given page can be blown up many times. The colors, marginal notes, even much erased text, can now be seen with ease. And posting these images on, making them free for all and free for all time, gives scholars accessibility to these manuscripts at the click of a button.

The beginning of John in Codex 800

Codex 800 at the National Library of Greece, Athens

One of the most significant values of digitizing these manuscripts is that an exquisite image of every page is preserved for ages to come. Every library where we digitize these documents gets a complete archival copy of each handwritten treasure. And the images can be enlarged multiple times without any pixilation. Even the finer hues—which often have interpretive significance—are clearly visible. The tiniest detail no longer hides from the scholar’s sight; the former blurs are now conspicuous letters.

A leaf from P46 from the University of Michigan

Page from P46, the oldest manuscript of Paul’s letters

So, why do we do what we do? CSNTM digitizes manuscripts for preservation, accessibility, clarity, recovery, and discovery. Ultimately, these images help scholars to produce Greek New Testaments that, in turn, are translated into modern languages. These priceless, one-of-a-kind codices, long obscured by microfilm, are coming to brilliant light, bringing glory to the libraries that own them and informing the New Testament text that you read today.