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Introductory remarks to the Sources of the Short Catalogue

The sources of CBM’s Short Catalogue are the various catalogues of local libraries worldwide behind which lay the codices (κώδικες) themselves. Other sources are further aspects, which surround manuscripts and are of central importance for their understanding and evaluation. [see Entrance 3: Source Area].

Function of the catalogue

Let us be very clear about the function of a catalogue. No one catalogue can fully represent or replace a manuscript, for reasons of its richness of content, beautiful by painted ornaments, iconography, script forms and other calligraphic artful elements. Catalogues cannot describe sufficiently the whole codex in extenso, and a catalogue is already incomplete before one even starts to compile the data. Many photographs and diagrams would be needed in order to do justice to the handwritten document. The contribution of a catalogue is in effect rather modest, and in many cases even not very useful: for the expert scholar, because he knows more than that which is included in the catalogue and for the general academic public, because the information is simply too formal and too technical. Since catalogues often describe only external facets, they do not help us to ‘understand’ the included works. A catalogue’s function is to refer to the manuscripts and to guide the interested public to the places and libraries where these codices are kept. For this reason CBM prefers a topographical library presentation form. A hint in the direction of the content and function of a codex can also be helpful, starting the wish to find out more about the meta-codicological level. Attention for the codex’s format, its concrete content and liturgical function is able to start up and establish fundamental insights.

Primary catalogue function

A catalogue informs the user that a certain codex exists, foremost as part of a larger collection, and reveals where a manuscript is kept, its state of preservation, and so on. This primary function (information), is important, since many codices were buried under sand, in caves, in hidden and forgotten libraries (of monasteries and other remote settlements), or in ‘closed’, not easily approachable departments of manuscripts of the large libraries in the world. Many manuscripts are untouched and silent witnesses of a previous life and reveal worlds of unknown knowledge. Nowadays, manuscripts are being digitised in a high tempo and published on websites in an effort to overcome forgetfulness and physical disappearance. The publication of manuscripts on a worldwide scale demands new catalogue information routes, on a broader basis than is currently the norm, in order to inform the public about the full contents of the manuscripts, their liturgical function and their provenance.

Universal and local catalogues

Since our aim is to create a universal catalogue of codex types expected to be useful for local catalogue makers and other interested parties, CBM’s consultancy of the primary sources – the individual codices – is modest (for the mere reason of the high quantity of widely disseminated manuscripts). CBM concentrates in the first place on data provided in the catalogues of local libraries. Evidently, it is the task of the catalographers setting up inventories of codices of local collections to describe the manuscripts in full and in the context of the whole collection to which they belong.

Returning to local libraries & catalogues

Although a considerable number of local catalogues of Byzantine manuscripts (see Entrance 1: Catalogue of catalogues of Byzantine MSS) are insufficient from the point of view of modern codicology, these catalogues remain the principle point of departure. One should eventually always turn to the concrete codex, its collection and its repository. Universal short catalogues are built on the data provided in local catalogues and partly on data from specialised catalogues. Eventually collected data of codex types on a universal scale can contribute to local catalogues (providing, for instance, more unity and consensus of codex titles, now widely divergent). Both catalogue types, local and universal, should work together, even though both have their own specific task and characteristics. The local catalogue focuses on manuscripts of one collection, the universal on codex types of libraries worldwide. The particular and full description is requested on local catalogue level, the codex type description and concise description is required on a large universal scale.

Local catalogues can primarily be assisted by specialised catalogues focused on NT, OT, commentary manuscripts, on homiletic, hagiographical, liturgical, ascetical and other sorts of manuscripts [see Entrance 1: Diagram CBM Sources]. They are assisted also by catalogues on illuminated manuscripts, on dated manuscripts, on provenance data in manuscripts, on specimens of script forms, on scribes, and on other topics.

One local library placed central stage (Karakallou Monastery)

In order to understand the codex in its liturgical context, it seems useful to present one monastic library in Greece, the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos, as a ‘working area’ (a sort of codico-liturgical field research), in order to observe how the direct descendants of the codices of old (biblical, liturgical & patristic books in close dialogue with each other) function in liturgical frameworks and how the ancient codices, now kept in the monastery library, are related to this practice. A highly interesting cooperation with this monastery (and some other monasteries too) resulted in a local Karakallou pilot project [see Entrance 2: A Local Library (Karakallou).

The setting up of a Catalogue of catalogues of Byzantine MSS per library (first stage)

Building up a universal catalogue of catalogues per library, see Entrance 1: Catalogue of catalogues of Byzantine MSS, is a formidable task and should be conducted in close cooperation with other institutions and cataloguing endeavours on an international scale. The setting up of the catalogue of catalogues evolved from CBM’s preparation of Short Catalogues and the need for an English language version of the Richard/Olivier & IRHT version (in French).

The present website provides only a new set up of the topographical framework and the alphabetical presentation of libraries & holdings (following the English alphabet, but also including original names), corresponding to and in support of the setup of the Short Catalogue [see CBM Short Catalogue: Portals I-III]. Added are short indications of the catalogues of local libraries (in abbreviation and including year of publication), the basic catalogues which are common to all codex groups with important supplements and data contained in various other sources. This inventory of local library catalogues is relevant (useful) for all Short Catalogues of codex types which will be elaborated by cataloguers and research teams in the near future. The updated list of local catalogues will gradually be expanded. For now it is provided in stages [work in process] and each update is indicated.

Additional information:

Entrance sources

Catalogue of catalogues