Lectionary 117 ("The Sistine Lectionary") is described in some detail, with explanations of the presentation-pages¡¯ contents, and of the notes, in the first volume of Silvestre¡¯s Universal Palaeography, beginning on page 212. (It's downloadable online.)
The author points out something which hadn¡¯t clicked when I was looking at the manuscript: although the reader would have to have turned the pages constantly, this manuscript was indeed prepared for reading in church-services.
Here¡¯s Silvestre¡¯s description of Lectionary 117, more or less:
This beautiful vellum MS, which has furnished the subject of this Plate [#LXXX], is another proof of the prosperity, both of the arts and of the Christian church, at Constantinople in the eleventh century; this being the place and time of its execution, as may be learned from several known circumstances, as well as from the fine graphic execution of the titles, which are in tall, finished, massive, well-proportioned, but plain uncial latters, and also from the cursive character of the text, the letters of which are round, massive, conjoined, and continuous, accompanied by spirits [aspiration-marks] of the ancient form (©À and ©È instead of the ¡® and ¡¯, which were soon afterwards adopted), and by the accents required in correct Greek orthography. Certain other signs are notes for regulating the tone of the reader of the Gospel lessons, when read aloud. This is a remarkable and rare singularity in Greek MSS. [Editor¡¯s note: By no means. These tones for reading occur constantly in the MSS destined for the use of the Church, and several examples have already been noticed. See Plate LXXIII ¨C Ed.] The large capital initial T, ornamented with mosaic-work and floriated, is one of the most elegant compositions of its kind.
The history of this magnificent volume is well known, as well in regard to the date when it was written as to that of its pictorial embellishments, the names of the pious personages at whose expense it was thus enriched, and the places where they were executed; so that it forms one of the most interesting as well as most useful volumes, in the science of palaeography, which, as a science, must be founded upon such precise details. We have here a Greek text of the eleventh century, written at Constantinople; two Greek notes of the fourteenth century, written at Trebizond; five large Byzantine miniatures, of the same century, executed also at Trebizond; another miniature, executed in Italy in the sixteenth century, and lastly, a Latin letter of the same period. These various palaeographical documents are the results of the singular destiny of the MS at different times.
Executed with the greatest luxury at Constantinople, in the eleventh century, it was sent to Trebizond, about the end of the following century, during the short reign of Andronicus Comnenus (1183-1185), by Michael Callicrinites, prefect of the imperial chamber, and was consecrated by the Archbishop Barnabas in the church of St. Maria Chrysocephale (the golden-headed). In the fourteenth century ¨C A.D. 1331 or 6389, according to the Greeks ¨C a most honorable personage (as stated in the Greek note), the Arab physicial of the puissant and holy Emperor [Editor¡¯s Note: Probably Andronicus II., Palaeologus, styled ¡°the Old,¡± who had then become a monk, and was succeeded by Andronicus III, the reigning Emperor.], who was named Cotzalulo, caused the manuscript to be enriched with elegant ornaments, meaning thereby the five large miniatures inserted in the text. [[This is what the note on 119b is about; the reference to the church of Mary the Golden-headed is in line 8. - JSJ]]
In the early sixteenth century, the MS belonged to Alexius Caeladonius, Bishop of Amalfi [Editor¡¯s Note: This is an error. Caeladonius was a learned Greek of noble birth, and was promoted by Pope Julius II, in 1508, from the bishopric of Gallipoli to that of Melfi, in the province of Basilicata, Naples. Amalfi is an archbishopric in the Principato Citeriore. See Ughelli, Italia Sacra, tom. i. c. 916. ¨C Ed.], who presented it to Pope Julius II, as we learn by the letter still preserved and inserted at the beginning of the volume, and by the sixth large miniature, executed by order of the bishop; the subject of which evidently represents the homage and dedication of the volume to the holy father, accompanied with genealogies and emblems, and with the Latin inscription, Pulsis Gallis, Italia liberate, in allusion to the ephemeral victories of Julius, in 1511; who in revenge for his subsequent defeats, excommunicated the King of France the next year, laying the kingdom under interdict, and absolving his subjects from their oaths of allegiance. Julius II died the following February, 1513.
This rich and splendid volume now belongs to the Laurentian library at Florence. [Editor¡¯s Note: It is No. 244 (not 163, as marked on the Plate). See the Supplement to Bandini, titled Bibliotheca Leopoldina-Laurentiana, fol. Flor. 1793, tom. Iii, col. 488-501. ¨C Ed.]
So: now we have a pretty good idea what those notes were all about. At the end of the note on 119b, the reference to year 6389 (and, I think, the date Sept. 14) pertains not to the initial production of the MS, but to the time when the Arab physician Cotzalulo arranged for the illustrations of the Evangelists, and one more, to be added. (So the blank pages near the miniatures weren¡¯t the result of good planning on the part of the copyists who made the MS initially; they were added later, by the individuals who inserted the miniatures.)
Also, we can deduce an almost exact date for the production of the presentation-pages of the MS, in 1511 or 1512.
Now about that date. Silvestre seems to say it was 6389 A.M., which, using the modern calendar, is 1330 A.D. It¡¯s stau/omega/lambda/theta. Stau with a line angled to the SW = 6 x 1000. But 389 would be tau/pi/theta. I figure omega/lambda/theta = 800/30/9. So what we have here is a typographical error. Somewhere along the way, someone intended to write ¡°6839¡± but it got turned into ¡°6389¡± by mistake. So the actual year when the miniatures were added was ...
Still 1330. Figuring that the medieval Byzantine calendar posits the creation of the world in 5509 BC, the year 6839 = 1330. Silvestre (or whatever source Silvestre was using) had the numbers correct; we can blame the typesetter of "Universal Palaeography" for this little difficulty.
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.