What thesauroi may be found yet in the bibliothekai of Mt. Athos, the
"Agion Oros" of Christian monastic Orthodoxy (as in the other Orthodox
- and in the "unorthodox" - monastic despotates of the ANE) is anybody's
guess. But the work, which (re)started quietly several years ago, of
publishing Athos mss' catalogues, with the "Iera Monh Ibhrwn" to go
"on line" first, is noteworthy, and maybe ought to be made better known
to the scholarly community, and be academically supported. The Athos
autographs are known to start from about the 10th century, and their
impressive collection of copies go down well into the classical period.
Some we know about them; most are essentially unknown.
This was intended to be a report to several Lists I subscribe (paying dues)
on occasion of publication of the first of a planned series of 13 volumes
for a "Greek Manuscripts Catalogue" of the collection of MONE IBERWN
(or IVERON, to use different transliteration schemata) a volume that was
produced two months ago, and of which I have seen not any notice outside
of Greece. It is a report compiled after reading some newspaper articles
and after talking with people involved here in this field. Though of
obvious importance to the biblical scholar, the interest for classicists
may be as great, as there may be some missing works to be found here
yet, "patches" and "links" to the largely lost Hellenic cosmos.
The "intended," above, refers to the fact that hours ago, and after
procrastinating in gathering info for this notice, I learned that an Internet
site on "Mone Iveron" publication (being its own publisher...) with much
info and with ordering instructions for the volume, has been recently
made available recently through Greece's Nat. Telecom. OTENet server.
So, after having just read what's on it, I herewith inform the reader as
well of this URL, adding, that though there is considerable overlapping
betwwen what follows and what is on that server (with the server
info coming obviously from the "horse's mouth," as, also, some of the
elements I below) what may be extra in our "yours truly" effort is to
put maybe a few things in perspective and, importantly, to point out also
that, the phone and fax numbers to Monh Ibhrwn I provide (below)
work (!) in getting through to the "men with the book" (I know.)
Here is the URL:
"Cataloguing Athos" has been a dream-plan that has been slowly and over
many years coming into being, but the particular project of cataloguing
Monh Ibhrwn may be taking the effort up to another level, one that may
well open the way to the production of possibly faster and certainly
authoritative editions. Over several centuries, but especially in the
last one hundred or so years, rudimentary (for the most part) catalogues
have been hand-written for about two-thirds of Athos' 16.000 (plus)
Greek mss. Spyridwn Lamprou, with his students, catalogued over
6.500 of them at the turn of the century. In addition to the Monh Ibhrwn
project, similar efforts have been taken up in the last few years at
the Monai VATOPEDIOU (with over 2.000 mss) and at PHILOTHEOU, while
consideration to the matter is given by the MONH MEGISTHS LAVRAS,
which holds over 3.000 manuscripts.
The 2.100+ Greek mss of Monh Ibhrwn (where there is also a large
number of "Iberian" (Georgian), Russian and other language texts,
as, too, a major collection of musical compositions) are being studied by
a team of Greek papyrological and palaeographical experts, mostly from
the Universities of Thessalonikh, Athena and Ioannina (names on the URL.)
With the willing assent and assistance of younger and more progressive
monastery heads, and with the collaboration of educated young monachs,
this anyway major project (funded, initially, by the EU, with Greek gov.
assistance, and with private donations following) is utilizing expert
scientific knowledge and using state-of-the-art electronic equipment.
Thus, the manuscripts of Monh Ibhrwn are being codified in accordance
with the most modern scholarly standards, and in full detail; giving
page dimensions, number of pages, type of script, probable dates,
description of material, type of ink, description of decorations, and
with, in many cases, sample photographs. And, importantly, with
references to the known critical editions of the work under study,
if there be any.
To complete the study for the full series of the Ibhrwn Catalogue will
likely take another ten years. The first volume (particularly slow in its
production, for was used as a prototypical model for the volumes to
follow) included just 100 mss! And not only will it take time, but will
require, too, considerable monies, not the least of which is the cost
of expensive paper publications, a cost that could have been largely
maybe avoided, had the editions been confined to the modern electronic
media and means - this might be an only criticism, though there are
may be various valid reasons for the book format.
Anyway, in trying to realize what the significance might be of what could
be put out yet (something I have a hard time doing) it is said that, while
the Greek mss of Mt. Athos constitute about the one fifth of the Greek
mss in the world (kept in the eleven Monai and the about two dozen
"sketai," of the Mountain, they may be likely, as a "collection," the
least studied. The Athos mss have been sitting on shelves essentially
dormant for eons; and even if "catalogued" for essentially internal
accounting purposes, or if examined some by visiting Greek theologians
and philologues (and more rarely by university level academics) the vast
majority of them are unknown by, and to, critical scholarship. There,
in addition to the Byzantine period theological texts, the hagiographiai and
the hymnological poetic works and musical compositions, the collection
includes patristic period type texts, as also biblical and classical Greek
The world biblical and classical scholars may have a "Mountain" of a
work yet ahead of them - and some happy surprises likely in store.
Athos monachs, known for the "out of this wordl" hymns they sing,
in those magically transporting "orthros" monastery services, as, too,
for the "(w)holistic" meals they provide generously the visitor (and
for the fine wine!) could probably use some help here. For it is certain
that the Monai would welcome serious, expert university scholarly
interest nowadays, as also coming outside of Greece; and not only
because the experts in Greece are relatively few and with limited time
and resources, but also because Athos is international in its community
make up, and as the status and spirit of "Athos"--a self governing
legally independent (of Greece) entity (in status of similar standing to
that of the Vatican) is ecumenical.
***** Contact and ordering information:
The Monh Ibhrwn "Catalogos Ellhnikwn Xeirografwn" (Catalogue of Greek
Manuscripts), (v.1) (not to be found (yet?) anywhere for purchase but
is available only through the Mone Iveron offices.
Its price in Greece is 11.000 drachmae, though I understand that the price
for shipping abroad is considerable higher (see URL, or ask them).
Here are some useful addresses and telephone numbers:
IERA MONH IBHRWN Tel: -30 (Gr.) -377 (Mt. Athos) -23645 or -6
KARYES, AGION OROS Fax: " " " " -23248
The "Holy Community" of Agion Oros, through which information may be
sought for the other Monai:
IERA KOINOTHTA Tel: -30 (Gr.) -377 (Mt. Athos) -23712 or -3
KARYES, AGION OROS
I should add that, any order made through the above (URL) site is
forwarded to the Monh by more conventional means, as they do not
as yet have Internet access (the problem may be with the old lines
still used there) so one might, anyway, better fax or write directly.