Saturday, 10 March 2012

Johan Leemans, Review: Codices chrysostomici graeci. VII

Codices chrysostomicigraeci. VII: Codicum Parisinorum pars prior,tem priorem, descripsit Pierre Augustin, adiuvante Jacques-Hubert Sautel, Paris, CNRS Editions, 2011, LXXI+305 pp.

The pinakes database of the IRHT in Paris (available at is an unrivalled tool for anybody interested in the textual transmission of the writings of the Greek Christian writers. Pinakes is the result of decades of painstaking detailed work of description, identification and classification of manuscripts and text. Moreover, in its present electronic format this wealth of information is really at one’s fingertips. Just introducing the CPG-number 4109 suffices to get an extensive if not yet exhaustive documentation of the transmission of Chrysostom’s “long series” of sermons on Genesis. The list comprises 482 manuscript witnesses, varying from very beautiful complete codices to fragmentary, mutilated ones. Crucial witnesses to the text’s transmission stand alongside ones that are much less important with regard to the reconstruction of the text. This one example suffices to explain why of so many important works of Chrysostom no modern critical edition exists and why a more than moderate portion of hubris is necessary even to begin to start one. Almost heroic individual scholars have provided an edition of a few texts (e.g. Francesca Barone’s edition of the Homilies on David and Saul in the CChr.SG-series). The sheer number of textual witnesses and the complexity of the transmission (including a huge number of Pseudo-chrysostomica) seem to defy larger scale-enterprises which are, from a scholarly point of view, urgently necessary though. The good news, however, is that already many decades here and there scholars are laying the groundwork for these larger enterprises.
The Codices Chrysostomici Graeci is one of these foundational, longterm-enterprises. Coordinated by the IRHT it endeavours to provide repertories of the writings attributed to John Chrysostom in Greek manuscripts worldwide. The material is presented in geographical order. To date volumes on Britain and Ireland (I), Germany (II), America and western Europe (III), Austria (IV), Italy and Rome (V), Vatican City (VI) have been published. The volume under review is number VII in the series. It is the first of three volumes that will cover the manuscripts from France. The core of the volume is the section “notice des manuscrits”. This section contains 193 detailed descriptions of manuscripts, all from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF). With a few exceptions, all these manuscrips are containing for the lion’s share or exclusively Chrysostomian writings. Each manuscript description (in Latin!) rests on a solid and almost palpably intimate knowledge of these manuscripts. Besides an exhaustive survey of all the writings that the manuscript contains, each entry offers a wealth of other data.  Item nr. 60, devoted to the Parisinus graecus 606 is a good example. Besides date, size and detailed observations regarding the handwriting and the lay out of the page (margins and interlinear distance) are included. Moreover, we learn that folio 9 with part of Gregory of Nazianze’s oratio 43 is a Fremdkörper in this codex that had been inserted much later. Even purchase details are communicated: this specific manuscript was bought in Ankara; on 12 May 1730 it was introduced by F. Sevin into the Royal Library (one of the basic collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale). Furthermore the entry tells us that the manuscript has never been collated (“nondum collatus”)  and that a first closer inspection reveals that overall it’s readings come close to those in the manuscripts on which Savile’s edition was based. References to the catalogue of the BNF and to two of Omont’s catalogues conclude the introductory description. This is followed by a detailed description of the content of the manuscript: each writing of Chrysostom is mentioned, with folio-numbers between brackets. The reader is informed  that Paris. Gr. 606 contains hom. 12-32 in Genesim but along the way he also gets precious information about deviations in incipit or desinit, lacunae and other relevant data. Several detailed indices complete the work.
This is first and foremost a work for specialists on John Chrysostom in general and those interested in the study of the transmuission of his writings in particular. Moreover, this tool only reaches its full scholarly potential when taken together with the 6 previous volumes of the serie. Of course, this aggregate value will markedly increase with every new volume that is being published in the series. This doesn’t mean, though, that this book wouldn’t have value as a stand alone volume. Besides getting acquainted on paper with these Paris manuscripts (and preparing a possible visit to the BNF?), especially the general introduction is worth reading for anybody interested in intellectual history. In 40 dense pages this introduction traces the origin and development of what is today the “fonds grec” of the BNF in the years 1500 to 1800. This introduction gives an excellent survey of the French contribution to scholarship on Chrysostom’s writings and their transmission in this period. This has enduring relevance as about a third of these parisini graeci have been used between 1728 et 1748 by Dom Bernard de Montfaucon and between 1834 à 1839 by the brothers Gaume for their revised edition of de Monfaucon’s edition. Editions on which, in the 19th century, the text reprinted by Migne was heavily dependent. As the text printed in the Patrologia Graeca is for many writings still widely used, it’s history with it’s many twists and turns should be recommended reading.
With this seventh volume in the series the CCG have reached a new culmination point: fascinating subject matter for the general introduction and an unparallelled exhaustive description of almost 200 key Chrysostom-manuscripts make this both a tool for the specialist and an interesting read for the more generally interested audience. Especially the latter audience would have benefitted from pictures of the manuscripts.

Johan Leemans

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