Greek Fragments in Göttingen and Bryn Mawr and Their Previous Owners

1. Last year, Georgi Parpulov published a short piece entitled “Membra disiecta sinaitica Graeca” in Fragmentology 5 (2022).1. Although the article is only 7 pages long, in it Parpulov accomplishes a lot: he identifies 18 dispersed fragments of Greek manuscripts from Sinai – not counting the joins identified among Sinai’s New Finds. These 18 manuscripts are today kept in 6 different institutions in Europe and North America.

2. We can group the fragments according to holding institution as follows (I link to digital images where available): Bryn Mawr, PA, Bryn Mawr College Library: (1) 2012.11.91, (2) 2012.11.105, (3) 2012.11.107, (4) 2012.11.108;2 Cambridge, Cambridge University Library: (5) Add. 1879.2, (6) Add. 1879.9, (7) Add. 1879.11, (8) Add. 1880.1; Göttingen, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek: (9) Theol. 11 (see below); Leipzig, Universitätsbibliothek: (10) Cod. Gr. 69.vii; (11) Cod. Gr. 71.a; (12) Cod. Gr. 72.c; (13) Cod. Gr. 72.d; London, British Library: (14) Add. 20004; St Petersburg, Russian National Library: (15) Gr. 54; (16) Gr. 60; (17) Gr. 69.v; (18) Gr. 419.

3. Parpulov does not say much about the provenance history of these fragments. The reason is probably that in most cases it is clearly related to Constantin Tischendorf (1815-1874). The fragments in Leipzig (10-13) and St Petersburg (15-18) were brought there by Tischendorf himself and some of them were described in his “Rechenschaft über meine handschriftlichen Studien” (1845), as detailed by Parpulov in the notes of his article.3 The fragments in Cambridge were bought on 23 February 1876 from Tischendorf’s estate. Likewise, the fragment in the British Library comes from Tischendorf’s collection. The British Museum bought it from him on 9 December 1854, as the ownership statement on the website of the digital images indicates. Hence, only the provenance of 5 fragments remains unclear: 4 in the Bryn Mawr College Library (henceforth: BMCL) and 1 in the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen (henceforth: SUB).

Figure 1: MS Göttingen, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, 4 Cod. Ms. Theol. 11, f. 1r. Photo courtesy by Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen.
Figure 2: MS Göttingen, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, 4 Cod. Ms. Theol. 11, f. 1v. Photo courtesy by Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen.

4. The fragment from Göttingen, whose complete shelfmark is Göttingen, SUB, 4 Cod. Ms. Theol. 11, has been digitised recently by the Handschriftenzentrum in Leipzig. The Rahlfs number of this fragment is 418. For a description, see here.4 The digital images will shortly be stored in a public repository. The SUB kindly allowed me to publish images of both sides of this single folio here (figs 1 and 2). For this and further information I am particularly grateful to Bärbel Mund and Dr Christian Fieseler. Archival material shows that the fragment was gifted to the SUB in 1923 by the Göttinger Universitätsbund. Initially, information about the fragment was recorded in form of a handwritten note in a staff copy of Wilhelm Meyer’s catalogue of the Göttingen manuscripts (fig. 3). Interestingly, the note says: “probably originating from the Sinai monastery” (“wahrsch[einlich] a[us] d[dem] Sinaikloster stammend”). Further, it says: “Bought in 1923 in Göttingen from the estate of Dr Grote” (“1923 aus d[em] Nachl[ass] d[es] Dr. Grote in Göttingen gekauft”).

Figure 3: Handwritten in a staff copy of Wilhelm Meyer’s catalogue. Photo courtesy by Bärbel Mund, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen.

5. The first bit of provenance information probably goes back to Alfred Rahlfs (1865-1935) who had identified the text of the fragment (4 Kings 8:12-9:24) and its origin by 1930.5 It is also possible that Rahlfs got this information from someone involved in the sale of the fragment. This and the second bit of information was integrated into the new catalogue compiled by Irmgard Fischer in 1968.6 Fischer identified the former owner Dr Grote as the numismatist Hermann Grote (1802-1895). At present, I am unaware whether Hermann Grote owned any manuscripts at all. The year 1923 when the Universitätsbund acquired the fragment strongly suggests that the former owner was not Hermann but Friedrich Grote (1860-1922). Friedrich Grote is well-known to have possessed a huge collection of fragments from Sinai. A number of manuscripts from this collection are held by the SUB to which they were gifted by the semitist Hugo Duensing (1877-1961).7 The library’s acquisition list (fig. 4) actually lists some of them right before the Greek fragment. Duensing was personally acquainted with Grote and his wife Käthe Hahn (1894-1975). The latter started selling parts of the collection in 1923. It is not only very likely that Hahn sold the fragment to the Universitätsbund, but also that Duensing might have been involved in the sale as a mediating party.

Figure 4: Entry on the acquisition list for the Greek fragment. Photo courtesy by Bärbel Mund, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen.

6. In May 2020, Giulia Rossetto contacted me regarding the provenance of another set of Greek fragments at BMCL, which she and Parpulov had then recently identified.8 These are: 2012.11.98, 2012.11.104, and 2012.11.106. Back then, I was only aware of two Christian Arabic (BV 47 and BV 69) and one Syriac manuscript (2012.11.102).9 My best guess at the time was that the Greek fragments from Sinai have the same provenance as the Christian Arabic and Syriac manuscripts. These were donated to the library by Howard Lehman Goodhart (1884-1951). The donation included over 1,000 historic books, mostly incunabula and prints, but also manuscripts.10 Majoring in Latin, Goodhart’s daughter Phyllis Walter Goodhart Gordan (1913-1994) graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1935 and later became a notable Renaissance scholar.11 The Goodhart collection had its origin in the aim of furthering Phyllis’s research. After graduating from Bryn Mawr College, Phyllis studied Greek palaeography at Harvard. In contrast to Oriental manuscripts, at least for some time her research focused on Greek manuscripts.12 Her graduation date, in fact, offers a terminus post quem for when Goodhart acquired these manuscripts, since this is when he effectively started his collecting activities. The provenance information recorded in the Triptych database confirms that the Greek fragments go back to Goodhart.

Figure 5: The scrapbooks bound in red leather in which the Greek fragments from the Goodhart collection came to Bryn Mawr College Library. Photo courtesy by Marianne Hansen.

7. Further research is required to uncover the provenance history of the Goodharts’ Sinaitic manuscripts. One of the sources of the Goodhart collection was the collection of Arnold Mettler-Specker (1867-1945). For instance, the leather covers of both the Christian Arabic manuscripts at BMCL bear Mettler-Specker’s Ex libris (I have already drawn attention to this in a previous post). The Greek fragments might have been accompanied by other signs of former owners. Marianne Hansen, Curator for Rare Books and Manuscripts at BMCL, wrote to me: “Most seem to have been tipped into two scrapbooks bound in red leather. […] They are no longer attached to the stubs and some have been moved to separate folders. They are not the work of Goodhart’s binder”. Hansen suggested that they might have been commissioned and filled by a previous dealer. She thankfully also sent me a snapshot of the scrapbooks (fig. 5). It would be interesting to know if Sinaitic fragments in other collections came in similar scrapbooks. Now, some of Mettler-Specker’s Sinaitic manuscripts were purchased from the Leipzig-based antiquarian Karl Wilhelm Hiersemann (1854-1924) and are very likely connected to Friedrich Grote as well. Of these, some made it into the Goodhart collection with a detour to the collection of Hans Peter Kraus (1907-1988) who, just as Goodhart, was based in New York City. There, Goodhart also bought manuscripts at Sotheby’s (former Parke-Bernet) auctions. Hence, one would have to check Hiersemann’s catalogues, pre-1951 Sotheby’s auction catalogues as well as Kraus’s catalogues in order to see if there are any traces of the Greek fragments now in Bryn Mawr.

Published: 8 September 2023. Last updated: 12 April 2024. License: CC BY-NC. Download PDF

  1. Georgi R. Parpulov, “Membra disiecta Sinaitica Graeca“, Fragmentology: A Journal for the Study of Medieval Manuscript Fragments, 5 (2022), pp. 79-85. []
  2. Note that Bryn Mawr College Library is currently migrating its image database. The linked URLs will stop working within six months. This holds also for the URLs linked in paragraph 6. BMCL is committed to being open about its holdings. I will post an update concerning these images as soon as I have word from them. []
  3. G. R. Parpulov, “Membra disiecta”, p. 80, n. 4, 6; p. 82, n. 14. []
  4. Thanks to Felix Albrecht for making me aware of this. []
  5. See Alan England Brooke, Norman McLean, Henry St John Theckeray (eds), The Old Testament in Greek According to the Text of Codex Vaticanus, Supplemented from Other Uncial Manuscripts, with a Critical Apparatus Containing the Variants of the Chief Ancient Authorities for the Text of the Septuagint (Cambridge: University Press, 1930), p. 199. []
  6. Irmgard Fischer, Die Handschriften der Niedersächsischen Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen: Neuzugänge 1894-1966 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1968), p. 44. []
  7. See Felix Albrecht, “Duensing, Hugo Berthold Heinrich“, in: Friedrich W. Bautz, Traugott Bautz (eds), Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (Nordhausen: Traugott Bautz Verlag, 2012), cols 307-318, at col. 310; idem, “A Hitherto Unkown Witness to the Apostolic Constitutions in Uncial Script“, in: Markus Vinzent (ed.), Studia Patristica, vol. LXIV: Papers presented at the Sixteenth International Conference of Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2011, vol. 12: Ascetica, Liturgica, Orientalia, Critica et Philologica (Leuven, Paris, and Warpole, MA: Peeters, 2013), pp. 267-276. []
  8. The information that I gave Rossetto in 2020 is reproduced in Giulia Rossetto, Greek Palimpsests at Saint Catherine’s Monastery (Sinai): Three Euchologia as Case Studies, Veröffentlichungen zur Byzanzforschung, 44 [= Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften: Philosophisch-Historische Klasse: Denkschriften, 544] (Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, 2023), p. 263, n. 617 and partly overlaps with what I write in this post. []
  9. See Paul Géhin, Sebastian P. Brock, “Vestiges of a Syrian Orthodox Liturgical Collection“, Le Muséon, 131/3-4 (2018), pp. 337-379. The Syriac fragment 2012.11.102 is identical to MS olim Hiersemann 500/27. There is at least one other Syriac fragment in the collection: 2012.11.89. []
  10. See also Laura Aydelotte, “Incunables at Bryn Mawr and Marge at the Margins”, Provenance Online Project (30 January 2017), URL = <>. According to Eric L. Pumroy, “Poggio Bracciolini, Phyllis Goodhart Gordan, and the formation of the Goodhart collection of fifteenth-century books at Bryn Mawr College Library“, in: Roberta Ricci (ed.), Poggio Bracciolini and the Re(dis)covery of antiquity: textual and material traditions (Firenze: Firenze University Press, 2020), pp. 189-197, at p. 189, Goodhart possessed “roughly 150 medieval and renaissance manuscripts”. The manuscripts of Sinaitic origin probably have to be counted among these. The actual number of Sinaitic manuscripts or manuscript fragments in the former Goodhart collection needs yet to be determined. []
  11. See e.g. Patricia Labalme, “Phyllis Goodhart Gordan-A Memoir“, Renaissance Quaterly, 47/1 (1994), pp. 150-152; Pumroy, “Poggio Racciolini”. []
  12. Phyllis published a lively and intriguing account of her early manuscript studies entitled “Manuscript Hunters”; see Phyllis W. Goodhart Gordan, Of What Use are Old Books? A talk given 4 April 1972 to celebrate the adding of the one-thousandth incunabulum to the Bryn Mawr Library (Bryn Mawr, PA: Friends of the Bryn Mawr College Library, 1973). The account does not say anything about manuscript acquisitions and mostly details the manuscript copying and photographing work Phyllis and her Bryn Mawr classmate Helen Ripley carried out in different European libraries on behalf of Kirsopp and Silvia Lake for their Dated Greek Minuscule Manuscripts to the Year 1200. Interestingly, however, the account begins with brief allusions to trips that Phyllis had made with her father to Europe in search of “Cabalistic manuscripts” in the 1920s and 30s. They finally found what they were looking for in Munich in 1929. According to Phyllis, “the Professor of Semitics in Munich showed us several Cabalistic manuscripts in the University library. They were written in Aramaic, Spanish, and Latin with long Hebrew and Arabic passages”. The professor she refers to is probably Gotthelf Bergsträßer (1886-1933) or the then recently appointed lecturer for Judaic Studies Rabbi Joseph Akiba Prijs (Prys) (1889-1956). In 1933, the Goodharts met Giovanni Galbiati (1881-1966) at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan. At that time, Galbiati had already worked on Sinaitic manuscripts housed at the Ambrosiana; see e.g. Giovanni Galbiati, “Vergilius Latine et Graece in Palimpsesto Codice Arabico“, Aevum, 1/2 (1927), pp. 49-70. []

OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
Peter Tarras (September 8, 2023). Greek Fragments in Göttingen and Bryn Mawr and Their Previous Owners. Membra Dispersa Sinaitica. Retrieved July 23, 2024 from


    1. Dear Georgi, thanks for pointing this out. Felix Albrecht’s article is referenced in note 6.

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