Collecting Clues: A Forged Colophon and the Trade in Sinaitic Manuscripts

1. Imagine an old manuscript falls into your hands. You realise it is valuable and you want to turn it into money. You may even know someone potentially interested in buying the manuscript. Its monetary value is directly related to its age. The only problem is you don’t know exactly how old the manuscript is. So you need something that proves its age as accurately as possible. Luckily, you have another manuscript. It’s similar to the first one and it’s also old, but not quite as old as the first one. Yet, it contains a date. Nothing would be more effective for selling the first manuscript than to have exactly this sort of information. Perhaps on a whim, you try to imitate the writing style of your manuscript. Then, you start to experiment with the elements of the dating of the second manuscript. And there’s your solution: why not compose a date in the writing style of the first manuscript, maybe just a hundred years older than the second one, and place it in that manuscript? Your manuscript would now not only have a very specific date, but also a very specific value.

2. This is not meant as a guide to forging historical documents. Rather, in this longer post, I would like to take a close look at a note in a manuscript originally from St Catherine’s Monastery that must have been created in a similar way to the scenario presented. It is a forged colophon, i.e. a note that purports to provide information about the context in which the manuscript was written. The fact that it is a forgery has been known for a long time. What has not yet been considered is how this forged colophon, and in particular the forger’s choice of words, relates to other Sinaitic manuscripts and what information can be gleaned from it about the historical circumstances of the trade in Sinaitic manuscripts. So bear with me as I try to piece together the work of a fraudulent manuscript dealer who was active over a hundred years ago.

Figure 1: Colophon in MS Strasbourg, Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire, Or. 4226, f. 1r. Source: gallica BnF Gallica.

3. Our forged colophon is found at the head of the first folio page of a well-known Christian Arabic manuscript: MS Strasbourg, Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire, Or. 4226 (see fig. 1). The page is otherwise blank. On the verso of the same page begins the manuscript’s table of contents, which extends to the verso of folio 2. There we also find a partly illegible book curse and a Greek numbering, which is similar to others that can also be found in Sinaitic manuscripts: βιβλίον λθ (“book 39”).1 The codex and its table of contents were copied by the scribe Antony David of Baghdad (9th century CE) about whom I wrote in the first post of this year.2

4. The manuscript was first studied in 1896-7 by the Danish orientalist Johannes Østrup (1867-1938), who published his findings in 1897.3 In his research, Østrup was interested in the historical development of Arabic dialects and analysed the manuscript primarily with this focus. However, he also gives a profound codicological description and provides important information on the history of acquisition. Østrup states that the manuscript together with another Arabic manuscript (MS Strasbourg, Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire, Or. 4225) “came from Sinai to Cairo – one does not know how – and was acquired there for the Strasbourg library through the mediation of Dr Reinhardt, dragoman at the German Consulate General”4. This dragoman “Dr Reinhardt” is Carl August Reinhardt (1856-1903), who was not only active as a diplomat in Africa, but was himself a trained Orientalist and manuscript collector whose private collection of papyri was to form an important part of Heidelberg’s well-known Schott-Reinhardt collection. He had access to various antiquities and manuscripts in Egypt (including Coptic manuscripts with Gnostic texts) and was involved in their trade. The Egyptologist Silvia Köpstein has compiled his biographical data.5 Although the manuscripts acquired through Reinhardt bear sufficient documentary evidence of their Sinaitic provenance, Østrup’s remark that they “came from Sinai to Cairo – one does not know how” is remarkable. Was this information also transmitted by Reinhardt? What Østrup does not mention is that at least one further Syriac manuscript of Sinaitic origin, and possibly also a Greek one came to Strasbourg through Reinhardt: These manuscripts are MS Strasbourg, Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire, Or. 4116 (Syriac) and MS Strasbourg, Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire, 5138/74 (Greek).6

5. Østrup further notes that the manuscript in its present state comprises 215 folios and that the end and one folio (between folios 2 and 3) are missing. He also gives a (tacitly corrected and partial) transcription of the colophon. Here is the Arabic text of the original (not Østrup’s transcription; line numbers in square brackets):

(١) تم نسخ هذ [كذا] الكىاب فى نصف الصوم المقدس (٢) سنه ثمان وثلثين وثلاث مايه الهلالية وكان (٣) نسخه فى الاماىته.

(1) The copying of this book was completed in the middle of holy Lent (2) of the year 338 of the lunar [i.e. Muslim] era. (3) The copying took place in ʾlʾmʾn(?)th. (Eng. tr. mine)

According to Østrup, the date in lines 1 and 2, namely ” in the middle of holy Lent of the year 338″, should be converted to 13 March 950 CE. Østrup does not reproduce the last bit (printed in bold), which appears to contain a place name. After all, the date is the important information. As we will see, the last word (الاماىته) seems to have been copied falsely. Still, we need to keep it in mind when we ask what inspired the forger to use this wording. First, however, we must now collect the evidence that this is indeed a forgery.

6. The first piece of evidence is the fact that the manuscript has actually a different colophon, which has also been preserved in a membrum disjectum: MS St Petersburg, Rossijskaja Nacional’naja Biblioteka, Ar. N.S. 263. The Arabic text of the fragment, at the end of which we find the original colophon, was published in 1907 by the Arabist Ignaty Kračkovsky (1883-1951).7 He emphasised the importance of the fragment as a “palaeographic monument” (палеографическій памятникъ) and stressed that it was the oldest known dated Arabic manuscript at the time.8 Ironically, the date in the original colophon is 70 years before that of the forged colophon. The St Petersburg fragment was taken from St Catherine’s Monastery by Constatin Tischendorf in 1853 and briefly mentioned by Heinrich L. Fleischer.9 Only in 1969, Gérard Garitte established that the St Petersburg fragment belonged to the codex.10 After Kračkovsky, Willi Heffening (1894-1944) was the next to deal with a membrum disjectum of the codex in 1927 (today MS Birmingham, Cadbury Research Library, Mingana Collection Chr. Ar. 93). Heffening was the actual sleuth who uncovered the forgery.

Figure 2: Folio 7v of MS Birmingham, Cadbury Research Library, Mingana Collection Chr. Ar. 93. Source: University of Birmingham, ePapers Repository.

7. The Mingana fragment is truly revealing. When I looked more closely at the digital images available online through the University of Birmingham, I noticed the Arabic words scribbled in the margins of folios 1r, 1v, and 7v (fig. 2). They are easy to ignore if your interest is only in the main text. However, as I began to pay attention to the individual words themselves, I realised that they were like an echo of a text I had read somewhere else. In fact, I knew them from other early Christian Arabic colophons. When I returned to Heffening’s 1927 article, I realised that he had already made exactly the same observation. He saw that the very words in the margin of the Mingana fragment were the building blocks that made up the colophon at the head of the first folio page of MS Strasbourg, Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire, Or. 4226.

8. At the time Heffening inspected the Mingana fragment, it was still in the possession of the Leipzig bookseller Karl Wilhelm Hiersemann (1854-1924), who is well-known for his trade in Sinaitic manuscripts. Accordingly, it also appeared in one of his catalogues.11 Heffening was primarily interested in the Arabic translations of Ephraem Graecus in this fragment. However, he also undertook a precise codicological examination and established the connection to the Strasbourg parent codex, which he succeeded on the basis of the titles and their arrangement in the original table of contents.12 Heffening lists a number of points concerning codicology, palaeography, and textual continuity that underscore the relation of the two manuscripts.13 He was thus able to establish that the Hiersemann/Mingana fragment is the penultimate quire of the codex. He is quite hopeless that the last quire would turn up and also surmises that the table of contents may have belonged to the last quire. From this we can infer that he did not know that this last quire had already been published 20 years earlier by Kračkovsky. Heffening now turns to the colophon, which, in contrast to Østrup, he reproduces in a complete and correct transcription. He converts the date found there to mid-March 950 CE. His remark that “this dating, however, gives rise to various doubts” introduces the detective work by which he exposes the forgery.

9. Heffening gives four reasons for his suspicions: firstly, the location of the colophon in the manuscript: its placement on the first folio page is “a quite unusual and improbable procedure”.14 He notes that he is only familiar with colophons at the end of the manuscript. This point is not convincing to me, because there are indeed Christian Arabic colophons from the same period that are placed at the beginning of a manuscript, often at the end of the table of contents. A colophon on a blank first page, however, is indeed “quite unusual”. Secondly, the use of a different “deep black” ink: the ink used for copying has a brownish black colour, which could indicate that it is an iron gall ink. The ink of the colophon, by contrast, could be a carbon-based ink. This is, of course, impossible to know on the basis of digital images. Here, however, a microscopic or other non-invasive analysis could confirm Heffening’s observation that these are two different inks. This is not solid proof of a forgery, but an important detail that something is not quite right. Thirdly, the Arabic term al-hilāliyya (“lunar”) to denote the Islamic calendar: Heffening calls this expression “conspicuous for the 4th/10th century”.14 The earliest parallel he found dates to the year 687 = 1288-89 CE. On the one hand, Heffening agrees that the colophons of Christian Arabic manuscripts before the year 1000 CE use other expressions in most cases or dispense with labelling the calendar altogether. On the other hand, there are at least two colophons from the 10th and 11th centuries CE that use this formulation. We must discuss them below because they are directly connected to the forged colophon and this connection exists through provenance.

Figure 3: Footnote from Heffening’s article where he collects the “shards of the forged dating”.

10. The fourth reason is, in my view, the most convincing, even if it is only mentioned in a footnote in Heffening’s article:15

Figure 4: Writing exercises of the forger in the Strasbourg parent codex. Source: gallica BnF Gallica.

The Hiersemann/Mingana fragment contains all the textual building blocks in the margins that were used for the colophon. Heffening collected these “shards of the forged dating”, as he calls them, in his footnote (see fig. 3). This reason is also convincing because these marginal notes are otherwise difficult to explain. They could be categorised as pen trials, but even then it would be inexplicable why the scribe should practise writing words in the margins of his carefully copied manuscript in a different ink (!) that he needed for a colophon that he placed in the manuscript in a completely unconventional manner – one could say: as a later addition. What has slipped Heffening’s attention is the fact that the forger also left similar writing exercises for his colophon in the Strasbourg parent codex (f. 202v, see fig. 4).Heffening now adds the following important observation:

It seems reasonable to blame this forgery on the person who put this manuscript, originally belonging to the Sinai monastery, up for sale in Cairo; perhaps the seller hoped to obtain a higher price. In any case, the forger must have been well acquainted with Arabic palaeography, because he estimated the age of the manuscript quite correctly; in contrast to other such cases, he even assumed it to be half a century too young.16

11. Heffening provides here parts of a profile of the forger: it must have been someone who apparently had access to the manuscripts of St Catherine’s Monastery, was able to take them from there, and offered them for sale in Cairo; it must have been a person with scholarly knowledge, not only familiar with Arabic palaeography, as Heffening rightly emphasises, but also with the language and material properties of Sinai’s early Christian Arabic manuscripts in general. Furthermore, Heffening’s observation is also important for the historical context of the trade in Sinaitic manuscripts: it took place in Cairo with the involvement of people with some sort of scholarly background, who also used this knowledge to increase the value of the manuscripts they succeeded to sell.

12. The detective work is not yet complete at this point. Another important aspect is provenance, on which Heffening does not comment. For this we must turn to the other two early Christian Arabic colophons in which the expression al-hilāliyya is used to designate the Islamic era. For the question arises as to how the forger came up with the wording of the text of his forged colophon in the first place. Did he have a model? I think the answer is yes. In my opinion, this can not only be clearly proven, but it also raises the question of whether we might even come across a second forged colophon as a result. The other two colophons are found in manuscripts that also originate from St Catherine’s Monastery and found their way into Western collections via the Egyptian and European antiquities trade. I will first discuss their colophon texts and then say something about their provenance history.

Figure 5: Colophon page of MS Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Or. Oct. 1108, f. 206r. Source: Stabi Digitalisierte Sammlungen, Public Domain.

13. The first manuscript is MS Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Or. Oct. 1108, an almost complete copy of an Arabic translation of the Gospels written on paper. The colophon is found at the end of the manuscript after the Gospel of John (f. 206r, see fig. 5). I will not reproduce the entire colophon here. Instead, I would like to draw attention to the striking parallels to the forged colophon. The colophon is introduced as follows (line 8-9): tamma nasḫ al-arbaʿat ʾanāǧīl al-muqaddasa fī niṣf aṣ-ṣawm (“The copying of the four holy Gospels was completed in the middle of Lent”). Compare this with the beginning of the forged colophon: tamma nasḫ haḏā l-kitāb fī niṣf aṣ-ṣawm al-muqaddas (“The copying of this book was completed in the middle of holy Lent”). In the Berlin manuscript, the date is given as follows (line 15-16): wa-kāna ḏālika fī šuhūr sana ṯamānin wa-ṯalāṯīna wa-arbaʿ miya al-hilāliyya (“This [i.e. the copying] took place in the months of the year 438 of the lunar era”). Compare the forged colophon: sana ṯamānin wa-ṯalāṯīna wa-ṯalāṯ miya al-hilāliyya (” … of the year 338 of the lunar era”). In the Berlin manuscript, this addition now follows (line 16): وكان نسخه في الرمانه والىقاع (“It took place in ʾlrmʾnh and ʾlb(?)qʾʿ”). Compare again with the forged colophon: وكان نسخه في الامانته.

Figure 6: Colophon of MS Bryn Mawr, Bryn Mawr College Library, Special Collections, BV 47, f. 79v. Source: OPenn.

14. The second manuscript is MS Bryn Mawr, Bryn Mawr College Library, Special Collections BV 47. It is an incomplete Arabic Psalter, i.e. a manuscript containing the biblical Book of Psalms, written on parchment. The manuscript ends with a series of prayers and the colophon can be found on the last page (f. 79v, see fig. 6). It comprises the following four lines:

(١) نسخ المزامير المقدسه الخاطي المسكين (٢) بطرس بن يوسف من اهل النار رحم الله من قرا (٣) ومن كتب وكان ذلك في شهور سنه اربع (٤) وثلثمايه الهلاليه وكان نسخه في الامانه.

(1) The holy Psalms were copied by the poor sinner (2) Buṭrus b. Yūsuf of the people of hellfire (?), may God have mercy upon the one who read (3) and the one who wrote. This took place in the months of the year (4) 304 of the lunar era. The copying took place in ʾlʾmʾnh. (Eng. tr. mine)

When I exchanged emails with Alexander Treiger in 2019 about the colophons of the Bryn Mawr and Berlin manuscripts, he wrote to me: “The colophon of the Berlin ms has an uncanny resemblance to the Bryn Mawr one.” In fact, the phrasings at the end are again clearly parallel to the formulation in the colophon of the Berlin manuscript and the forged colophon. Here is the comparison:

Bryn Mawr MS Berlin MS Strasbourg MS
وكان ذلك في شهور سنه اربع وثلثمايه الهلاليه

وكان ذلك في شهور سنه ثمان وثلثين واربع مايه اليلاليه

سنه ثمان وثلثين وثلث مايه الهلاليه

وكان نسخه في الامانه

وكان نسخه في الرمانه والنقاع

وكان نسخه في الامانته

We can now see that the strange expression الامانته, which Heffening also had no idea what it was supposed to mean, has parallels in both colophons. The whole thing looks like a graphic version of Chinese whispers. If we assume that the Berlin colophon is genuine, which I do, then everything could have started there and ended in the Strasbourg colophon (الامانته < الامانه < الرمانه). What is striking is not only the similarity in the wording, but also the relationship between the combinations of digits in all three dates: 304, 438, 338. It can also be no coincidence that the forged colophon has so many similarities in wording with the Berlin colophon and is puportedly exactly one hundred years older.

Figure 7: Another writing exercise by the forger in the margin of Hiersemann/Mingana fragment. Source: University of Birmingham, ePapers Repository.

15. A really eye-opening moment for me, however, was when I realised that one of the margins of the Hiersemann/Mingana fragment – where the forger did his writing exercises! – also contains a textual fragment of the Bryn Mawr colophon. It reads: نسخ ا [كذا] المزامير المق [كذا] (see fig. 7). That is the beginning of the Bryn Mawr colophon – in the writing style of the Bryn Mawr colophon. Heffening had missed this detail and I am also surprised that Baumstark did not draw his attention to the Bryn Mawr colophon, since he had already worked on this Psalter and attached great historical importance to it.17 The forger must therefore certainly have had the Bryn Mawr manuscript to hand and copied the beginning of the colophon from it into the margin of the Hiersemann/Mingana fragment.

16. There is yet another parallel between the colophon of the Bryn Mawr Psalter and the colophon of the Berlin manuscript. The scribe in the colophon of the Psalter, Buṭrus ibn Yūsuf, refers to himself as min ahl an-nār, which literally means “of the people of hellfire”. In principle, this could be a self-derogatory designation that scribes often use in general. However, I only know this specific expression from this colophon – that is, if we disregard the very similar formulation in the Berlin colophon. There, in line 14, the scribe refers to himself as min ahl al-n(?)ʾrḥh (الىارحه), which seems to refer to a place name. So is the expression “of the people of hellfire” again the result of a copying error? It is also striking that in both cases the designation is followed by the tarḥīm formula (raḥima Aḷḷāh man qaraʾa wa-man kataba, “may God have mercy upon the one who read and the one who wrote”). It therefore looks very much as if there is a dependency between the two colophon texts. This could mean that the colophon of the Bryn Mawr Psalter also comes from the hand of the forger and is consequently not a reliable historical source.

17. A very likely explanation for this is that the forger was also the dealer of the Bryn Mawr Psalter. This connection again raises the pressing question of provenance. One key to this is the collection of Alphonse Mingana (1878-1937). The fragment on which the forger practised his writing is now part of this collection. There is also a further fragment of the same Strasbourg parent codex in the collection: MS Birmingham, Cadbury Research Library, Mingana Collection Chr. Ar. Add. 136.18 A membrum disjectum of the Bryn Mawr Psalter was also recently identified in the Mingana Collection by Miriam L. Hjälm: MS Birmingham, Cadbury Research Library, Mingana Collection Chr. Ar. Add. 137.19 From Alba Fedeli’s research, we know that Mingana acquired the Sinaitic fragments of the “Chr. Ar. Add.” series from the manuscript dealer Erik von Scherling (1907-1956) in the 1930s.20 This series also includes a membrum disjectum from the other codex examined by Østrup and acquired by Reinhardt in Cairo: MS Birmingham, Cadbury Research Library, Mingana Collection Chr. Ar. Add. 184.21 A fragment of the above-mentioned Syriac Strasbourg codex (also known as the Sinai Sahdona Manuscript), which was equally acquired by Reinhardt, can also be found in the Mingana collection: MS Birmingham, Cadbury Research Library, Mingana Collection Syr. 650.22 Here, too, the direct source was von Scherling. In my own research, I was able to establish that the Sinaitic manuscripts that von Scherling dealt in and that ended up in the Mingana Collection came from Käthe Grote-Hahn (from 1976 on: Käthe Rehfeld, 1894-1976).23 She had inherited them from her husband, the collector Friedrich Grote (1861-1922). Grote was also the previous owner of the Berlin Arabic Gospel manuscript, which he himself or a third party had acquired around 1894 and sold to Paul Kahle (1875-1964) in Cairo between 1903 and 1908.24 Grote was already active as a dealer in manuscripts in the 1890s – precisely at the time when Reinhardt acquired the Sinaitic manuscripts for the Strasbourg library. All this information concerning the provenance of the manuscripts involved thus points like a giant illuminated sign in Grote’s direction.

18. Grote is indeed a very likely candidate for the profile of our forger. He seems to fulfil all the criteria described above: He had access to the manuscripts of St Catherine’s Monastery, traded in them in Cairo, was also interested in them as a scholar, and would probably have been able to familiarise himself with Arabic palaeography to the point that he could have imitated the writing of the Strasbourg codex. He also has a record as a fraudster. He apparently never earned the doctorate with which he adorned himself from 1891 onwards. A contemporary observer even publicly warned against him: “Everything that Mr Grote should offer must be treated with the greatest suspicion”.25 At the moment, however, the smoking gun is still missing, which clearly shows that Grote was the forger. And there is also another possibility, namely that he was rather among the forger’s target clientele. First of all, he surely was not the only one involved in the procurement and trade of Sinaitic manuscripts. Historical reports suggest that he operated within a local network of dealers. Secondly, several mostly nameless Middle Eastern agents of this network appear in connection with the trade in Sinaitic manuscripts. If they are not to be dismissed as straw men, it is quite conceivable that there was someone among them who would have been capable of producing the forged colophon.

19. Throughout history, colophons have been forged for various – not always economic – purposes. One of the best-known examples is that of the manuscript hunter Abraham Firkovich (1786-1874), who forged the colophons of several medieval Qaraite manuscripts (and inscriptions on Qaraite tombstones) for ideological reasons. His motivation was to protect his own religious community from reprisals in Tsarist Russia.26 Firkovich’s aim was to create a different past in order to change the present. In the case discussed here, the motivation was very likely much more prosaic. As Heffening already surmised, the forger simply wanted to increase or substantiate the monetary value of the manuscript.

20. This does not mean that such forgeries were not also predicated on a certain political and ideological framework. Christopher Jones developed an interesting “syntax of forgery”.27 He calls one of the most important components of this syntax “setting or atmosphere”: “A forger will usually not manage to impose on others unless his product, by accident or design, comes into a setting ready to give it a favourable reception”.28 Our forged colophon must also have been placed in such a setting. To understand the historical circumstances of the trade in Sinaitic manuscripts, it is essential to reflect on this setting. I think that one aspect of this setting has to do with the mostly nameless Middle Eastern agents. Reading Andrew S. Jacobs’ amazing new book Gospel Thrillers drew my attention to this: he argues that 19th-century Bible and manuscript hunters such as Constantin Tischendorf (and Grote needs to be counted among them as well) “relied on the East being a relatively passive and stable treasury of riches available for scholarly examination”.29 It is forgers, among others, who shake up this notion (Jacobs’ example is Konstantinos Simonides), and also challenge the figure of the pious, learned, white, male European Bible hunter. Even if our forgery was only about monetary value, it still seems to play with the desires and notions of Western buyers. It is precisely this dynamic to which the forgery points and which requires particular attention with regard to the history of trade in Sinaitic manuscripts.

Acknowledgements: I am very grateful to the following people for sharing information and feedback on this post: Marianne Hansen, Miriam L. Hjälm, Adrian Pirtea, Giulia Rossetto, and Alexander Treiger.

Published: 15 May 2024. Last updated: 15 May 2024. License: CC BY-NC. Download PDF



Cite this blog post
Peter Tarras (2024, May 15). Collecting Clues: A Forged Colophon and the Trade in Sinaitic Manuscripts. Membra Dispersa Sinaitica. Retrieved June 17, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/11o7w

  1. This numbering was already noticed by Johannes Oestrup, “Über zwei arabische Codices sinaitici der Strassburger Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek“, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 51/3 (1897), pp. 435-471, at p. 454, n. 2: “Von sonstigen bibliographischen Merkmalen bietet A [= MS Strasbourg, Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire, Or. 4226] unten auf fol. 2r die Notiz βιβλίον λθ’ d. i. Buch Nr. 39 (in irgend einem Bücherverzeichnis der Klosterbibliothek)”. Eberhard Nestle then also drew the connection to Margaret D. Gibson’s Catalogue of the Arabic Mss. in the Convent of S. Catharine on Mount Sinai, Studia Sinaitica, III (London: C. J. Clay and Sons, 1894). See Eberhard Nestle, “Zu den Codices Sinaitici“, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 51 (1897), pp. 713-714, at. p. 714. See also Willi Heffening, “Die griechische Ephraem-Paraenesis gegen das Lachen in arabischer Übersetzung: Ein Beitrag zum Problem der arabischen Ephraemübersetzungen und ihrer Bedeutung für eine kritische Ausgabe des griechischen Ephraem“, Oriens Christianus, 3. Serie, 2 [24] (1927), pp. 94-119, at p. 97, n. 1: “gerade diese Nummer ist in Gibson’s Katalog als fehlend bezeichnet”. []
  2. That post was about a fragment of a table of contents from one of his manuscripts. I drew attention to another of his manuscripts (MS Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. Ar. 71) in which the original table of contents got separated from the codex and had to be replaced later. In the present case, we now have an example of a manuscript in which the original table of contents has been preserved together with the manuscript. []
  3. Oestrup, “Über zwei arabische Codices sinaitici”. A very good overview of earlier research can be found in Vasiliki Chamourgiotaki and Emanuele Zimbardi, “A Preliminary Survey of Isaac of Niniveh’s Arabic Collection in the MS Strasbourg 4226 (Ar. 151)“, Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies, 25/2 (2022), pp. 365-416, esp. pp. 371-375. []
  4. Oestrup, “Über zwei arabische Codices”, p. 453, n. 4; Eng. tr. mine. According to E. Nestle, ““Zu den Codices Sinaitici“, p. 714, this second manuscript might be the missing number 54 in Gibson’s Catalogue. []
  5. Silvia Köpstein, “Carl August Reinhardt – Kaufmann, Philologe, Sammler, Konsul“, Mitteilungen aus der Arbeit am Wörterbuch der Ägyptischen Sprache, 5 (1996), pp. 13-58. []
  6. I would like to thank Marianne Hansen, Curator for Rare Books and Manuscripts at Bryn Mawr College Library, for drawing my attention to this Greek fragment. Another fragment of the same manuscript is in the Special Collection of the Bryn Mawr College Library (2012.11.106); Georgi Parpulov identified this as a join with MS Sinai, St Catherine’s Monastery, Frag. Smith Lewis 47. I briefly mentioned the Bryn Mawr manuscript in a previous post. The Strasbourg fragment was identified as coming from the Cairo Genizah. Here it is worth retracing the provenance history in detail, as it is not unlikely that the same dealers in Cairo could have been involved in the sale of Sinaitic and Genizah manuscripts. To the best of my knowledge, this possible connection has not been considered in research to date. []
  7. I. Kračkovsky, “Новозавѣтный апокриФъ въ арабской рукописи 885—886 года по P. Xp. [A New Testament Apokryphon in an Arabic Manuscript of the Year A.D. 885-886]“, Византийский Временник, 14/2-3 (1907), pp. 246-275. []
  8. A re-edition and English translation of the colophon can be found in Miriam L. Hjälm, Peter Tarras, “Early Christian Arabic Colophons from the Palestinian Monasteries: Edition with Translation and Commentary“, in: George A. Kiraz, Sabine Schmidtke (eds), Literary Snippets: Colophons Across Space and Time: A Colophon Reader (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2024), pp. 47-98, at pp. 64-66. []
  9. See I. Kračkovsky, “Новозавѣтный апокриФъ”, p. 247; Heinrich L. Fleischer, “Beschreibung der von Prof. Dr. Tischendorf im J. 1853 aus dem Morgenlande zurückgebrachten christlich-arabischen Handschriften“, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 8/3 (1854), pp. 584-587, at p. 587. []
  10. See Gérard Garitte, “Homélie d’Éphrem ‘Sur la mort et le diable’: Version géorgienne et version arabe”, Le Muséon, 82 (1969), pp. 123-163, at pp. 125-129. See also Michel van Esbroeck, “Un feuillet oublié du codex arabe Or. 4226, à Strasbourg“, Analecta Bollandiana, 96 (1978), pp. 383-384. []
  11. See Karl W. Hiersemann, Orientalische Manuskripte: Eine Sammlung hervorragender Stücke aus dem 9.-19. Jahrhundert (Leipzig: Karl W. Hiersemann, s. a.), p. 1 (no. 1). []
  12. Heffening also emphasises that the relation between the fragment and the Strasbourg codex had already been suggested to him by Anton Baumstark, who had described the fragment for Hiersemann’s catalogue. However, no reference to the Strasbourg codex appears in the catalogue description. []
  13. Interestingly, Heffening mentions as one feature common to both manuscripts parchment binding strips with Greek uncial letters. Sebastian Brock published a short note about the binding strip that was attached to the Hiersemann/Mingana fragment. See Sebastian P. Brock, “An Additional Fragment of 0106?“, The Journal of Theological Studies, 20/1 (1969), pp. 226-228. He identified it as coming from the 7th-century uncial manuscript 0106 (= Codex Tischendorfianus I), parts of which were brought from Sinai by Tischendorf. I’m currently unaware whether the strips found in MS Strasbourg, Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire, Or. 4226 have also been studied. The manuscript was restored in 1980 and it looks, at least in the digital images, as if the strips have been removed. []
  14. W. Heffening, “Die griechische Ephraem-Paraenesis”, p. 96; Eng. tr. mine. [] []
  15. See W. Heffening, “Die griechische Ephraem-Paraenesis”, p. 97, n. 2. []
  16. W. Heffening, “Die griechische Ephraem-Paraenesis”, p. 97; Eng. tr. mine. []
  17. See Anton Baumstark, “Das Problem eines vorislamischen christlich-kirchlichen Schrifttums in arabischer Sprache”, Islamica, 4 (1929), pp. 562-575, at p. 569; idem, “Die älteste erhaltene griechisch-arabische Text von Psalm 110 (109)”, Oriens Christianus, 3. Serie, 9 (1934), pp. 55–66. []
  18. See van Esbroeck, “Un feuillet oublié”. []
  19. See Miriam L. Hjälm, “Lost and Found: Christian Arabic Membra Disjecta in the Mingana Collection”, in: Israel Muñoz Gallarte, Marzena Zawanowska (eds), Lost and Bound: Reconstruction Techniques in Fragmentary Manuscripts of the Jewish and Christian Traditions, Aramaeo-Arabica et Graeca, 5 (Salamanca and Madrid: Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca and Editorial Sindéresis, 2022), pp. 125-154, at pp. 139-143. []
  20. See Alba Fedeli, “Manuscript Acquisitions and Their Later Movements: A Further Note About the Case of the Lewis Quranic Manuscript“, in: Boris Liebrenz, Christoph Rauch (eds), Manuscripts, Politics and Oriental Studies: Life and Collections of Johann Gottfried Wetzstein (1815-1905) in Context, Islamic Manuscripts and Books, 19 (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2019), pp. 228-247, at p. 229 []
  21. I was able to identify this fragment as a restored table of contents of MS Strasbourg, Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire, Or. 4225. I will write something about it here soon. []
  22. See Sebastian P. Brock, “A further fragment of the Sinai Sahdona Manuscript”, Le Muséon, 81 (1968), pp. 139-154; Françoise Briquel-Chatonnet, Manuscrits syriaques de la Bibliothèque nationale de France (nos 356-435, entrés depuis 1911), de la bibliothèque Méjanes d’Aix-en-Provence, de la bibliothèque municipale de Lyon et de la Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg: Catalogue (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 1997), p. 203. []
  23. See e.g. Peter Tarras, “The Collector’s Heir: Käthe Rehfeld (Previously Grote, Née Hahn)“, COMSt Bulletin, 9 (2023 [2024]), pp. 115-128, at pp. 121-122. []
  24. On this, see Peter Tarras, “The Legacy of a Failed Amateur Enthusiast: Friedrich Grote’s Sinaitic ‘Discoveries’ and Their Post-Sinaitic Fate”, in: Ute Pietruschka, Christoph Rauch, Torsten Wollina (eds), Oriental Manuscripts in Germany: Collection Histories between Academic Curiosity, Commercial Ambitions and Imperialism, forthcoming. []
  25. Otto Hartwig, “Der Handschriftenfund auf der Sinaihalbinsel“, Zentralblatt für Bibliothekswesen, 11 (1894), p. 428; Eng tr. mine. []
  26. See Dan D. Y. Shapira, “Нынешнее состояние ряда приписок к колофонам на библейских рукописях из первого собрания А. С. Фирковича [The Present State of Some Colophons and Marginalia on the Bible Manuscripts in the First Firkowich Collection]”, in: Материалы одиннадцатой ежегодной международной междисциплинарной конференции по иудаике [Proceedings of the Eleventh Annual International Interdisciplinary Conference on Jewish Studies], vol. 1, (Moscow: Sefer, 2004), pp. 102-130; idem, “On Firkowicz, Forgeries and Forging Jewish Identities“, in: János M. Bak, Patrick J. Geary, Gábor Klaniczay (eds), Manufacturing a Past for the Present: Forgery and Authenticity in Medieval Texts and Objects in Nineteenth-Century Europe, National Cultivation of Culture, 7 (Leiden: Brill, 2014), pp. 156-169. []
  27. See Christopher P. Jones, “A Syntax of Forgery“, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 160/1 (2016), pp. 26-36. []
  28. Ch. P. Jones, “Syntax”, p. 27. []
  29. Andrew S. Jacobs, Gospel Thrillers: Conspiracy, Fiction, and the Vulnerable Bible (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023), p. 21. []

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