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Libraries and catalogues of manuscripts

Catalogues of manuscripts including ancient books are the first entrances to – windows on the manuscripts that we have at our disposal to guide us to the codices themselves, as preserved in collections and libraries. The catalogue (also termed pinakes) is an ancient term. The extensive Alexandrian collection of books of the Mouseon, the ancient Royal Library van Alexandria was already catalogued in the 3rd century BC. (Callimachus Pinakes: “Tables of Those Who Have Distinguished Themselves in Every Form of Culture and of What They Wrote”, in 120 books). The formation of more specific Christian libraries housing biblical-liturgical books and of catalogues of these books commenced in Palestine (Jerusalem, associated with the name of Bishop Alexander in the 2nd century), an undertaking promoted by Origen, Eusebius and Pamphilus (Library of Caesarea), and connected with further transmission and a scriptorium (see the manuscript order of Constantine the Great for the churches of the capital). Cataloguing, and the (critical) describing of books of the Patriarchal Library in Constantinople is attested in Photios’ Bibliotheca or Myriobiblon 9th century). Collecting books for churches and monasteries remained the norm throughout Byzantium and monastery libraries also developed catalogues, for example the old catalogues of the library of St John the Theologian’s Monastery on Patmos (13th century). Today we understand cataloguing as being the more or less full description of manuscripts that are maintained in local libraries on a global scale. The fullness and quality of these descriptions varies greatly from catalogue to catalogue. Beside this there are specialised catalogues, whereby the specific focus of scientific disciplines is placed central stage (for example, only NT texts are catalogued).