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Orsini’s New Book on Greek & Coptic Scripts

November 30, 2018

One of the most productive and important palaeographers today is Pasquale Orsini, but much of his scholarly work has been published in Italian and so has not received the widespread direct attention that it deserves.  It is a great boon, therefore, that a number of his essays have now been gathered into one volume and in English translation:   Pasquale Orsini, Studies on Greek and Coptic Majuscule Scripts and Books (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018).  Moreover, the book is available in “open access” for downloading (though only one chapter at a time) here.

The essays (originally published separately) address the scripts/hands of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts (Chap 1), the Bodmer Papyri (Chap 2), the identification and nature of the Greek “Biblical Majuscule” style (Chap 3), the Coptic “Biblical Majuscule” style (Chap 4), the “Sloping Greek Majuscule” (Chap 5), the “Liturgical Majuscule” (Chap. 6), and the “Decorated Liturgical Majuscule” (Chap 7).

The manuscripts at the centre of the discussions tend to be from the fourth century and later, although Orsini does briefly address a few earlier ones.  Among the many interesting topics touched on are examples of manuscripts in which two or more copyists were involved.  These include P.Bodmer XXIV, a single-gathering codex of the Psalms, 41 extant leaves (Psalms 17-118) of an original 49.  It is interesting that Orsini proposes a date in the early 3rd century CE, in contrast to the early 4th century date assigned by the editors of the manuscript.

On another manuscript, this one of personal interest, the Freer Gospels Codex (Codex W), the date of which has been a subject of occasional debate, dates ranging from the late 4th to the 8th century CE, Orsini judges that it “can plausibly be considered to be earlier than the sixth century” (pp. 155-56).  Codex W is also a prime example of the Greek “pointed sloping majuscule” (letters with pointed edges and leaning slightly to the right).

Although the several essays are highly specialized and technical in general character, those readers beyond the field of Greek palaeography will still find some useful and accessible information.  For those engaged in the study of manuscripts and palaeography/codicology, the book is a “must”.  And the open access means that all can readily have its benefit.

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6 Comments
  1. Tom Hennell permalink

    Fascinating Larry; especially the tables.

    Thanks for alerting us to the downloads (and of course to Orsini for giving us the opportunity)

    One specific question that has puzzled me for a bit; is the dating of P64+P67+P4 – which I presume is the 2nd century New Testament papyrus codex identified in the tables to the chapter on Biblical Majuscule. Orsini and Clarisse dated this 175-200 in their round-up article on dating early New Testement texts; and I take it from this chapter, that Orsini still holds to that date. But is it feasible for a papyrus text to be dated palaeographically within a 25 year range?

  2. Many thanks for publicizing this book and its free access.

  3. Phillip L. Forgione permalink

    Actually there is an option on the URL you linked to (mid left side) to download the whole work as an EBUB

    • Yes, but you have to use an E-PUB app to read it. Individual chapters come in PDF. Easier.

      • S Walch permalink

        For those with Windows 10, Microsoft Edge actually reads EPUB files natively like it can PDFs, without having to install a separate programme 🙂

        If you still have Edge enabled that is…

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