In the 1980s Professor S. Kent Brown (BYU) coordinated an ambitious and successful project to microfilm important Eastern Christian manuscripts. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the project resulted in microfilmed copies of some 1700 manuscripts from collections in Egypt and Israel. Though the focus of the project was the manuscript heritage of Coptic Christianity, the microfilm collection includes manuscripts written in Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, Italian, Latin and Syriac. The manuscripts were expertly catalogued by Professor Brown and Dr. William Macomber. In 2001 the center began a long-term initiative to improve awareness of and accessibility to this important collection. The first phase of this initiative includes making the catalogues of the collections available online. A portion of the collection will also appear in the Resources section of this site. Catalogues of the manuscripts are published in the Text & Tools Series.
S. Kent Brown, “Microfilming Coptic Records in Egypt: Report of a Research Development Trip,” Newsletter of the American Research Center in Egypt, No. 114 (Spring 1981), 11-17.
S. Kent Brown, “Microfilming,” Bulletin d’Arabe chrétien 5.1-3 (1981): 79-86.
S. Kent Brown, “Microfilming Coptic and Arabic Manuscripts in Egypt,” Coptologia 5 (1984): 63-67.
S. Kent Brown, “Microfilming Coptic Records in Egypt: Report of a Research Development Trip,” in Acts of the Second International Congress of Coptic Study [sic], Roma, 22-26 September 1980, ed. T. Orlandi and F. Wisse (Rome: C.I.M., 1985), 27-29.
S. Kent Brown, “A Communiqué: Microfilming the Manuscripts of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt,” in Coptic Studies: Acts of the Third International Congress of Coptic Studies (Warsaw, 20-25 August, 1984), ed. W. Godlewski (Warsaw: Panstwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1990), 71-73.
S. Kent Brown, “The Preservation on Microfilm of Coptic and Arabic Manuscripts for Posterity—A Serious Challenge,” Newsletter of the American Research Center in Egypt, No. 153 (Spring 1991), 7-11.
Access to Complete Microfilm Sets
Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
The Library of Congress, Washington, DC
The Oriental Institute, Oxford University (From Fall 2010)
The Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome (From Summer 2010)
Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, Radboud University, Nijmegen (From Spring 2010)
L’Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes, CNRS, Paris (From Fall 2010)
Edited by Prof. Emanuel Tov
The Dead Sea Scrolls arguably represent the most significant manuscript discovery in recent history. These ancient texts have revolutionized the field of biblical and Judaic studies, and they have become an indispensable source for scholars and students alike. Although most of the texts have been published in some form or other, scholars have now only begun to grasp the true meaning and relevance of the scrolls for our understanding of ancient Judaism, the transmission of the biblical texts, and the origins of Christianity.
Since its inception in 1997, the Center has been actively working on creating a comprehensive research tool for the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The first version of our Dead Sea Scrolls database was published in 1999. In 2006 Brill Academic Press [Link] published a new, completely revised version of this database under the continued editorship of Emanuel Tov. This version gives a more complete coverage of all of the published non-biblical DSS materials, including scrolls identified in 2004 and 2005. Anyone using the CD-ROM will be able to access texts, images, and reference materials quickly and efficiently. The combination of a powerful text search engine and sophisticated image-manipulating software will enable scholars and students unparalleled research possibilities. A major new feature is the addition of morphological analysis to all of the texts. This data gives glosses and part of speech analysis for each word in the database. Available from E.J. Brill.
In 1999 Mar Bawai Soro, a bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East, began discussions with the Vatican Library to make their Syriac collections more accessible both to scholars as well as to the communities who produced these texts. Mar Bawai approached Brigham Young University to be a partner in the project, a proposal that was eagerly received. The scope of the first phase of the project was formulated by the parties and a contract between BYU and the Vatican Library was signed in early 2000. The manuscript photography was undertaken in two stages, one in June 2000 and another in April 2002. Reproductions of the thirty-three manuscripts photographed during these sessions were all published on a single DVD in an accessible and usable form. The manuscripts are accompanied by copies of their original catalogue descriptions and by a new description with updated bibliographical details. More here.
Kristian S. Heal, “Vatican Syriac Manuscripts: Volume 1”
The Psalms of Solomon are a collection of first century BC Jewish psalms. A number were written directly in response to the Roman capture of Jerusalem, and as a whole they portray the atmosphere of crisis present in the Jewish capital at that time. Originally written in Hebrew, they now survive only in Greek and Syriac translation. One Greek witness to a portion of this work (2.27b-16.9a) is found in the collection of the Biblioteca Casanatense in Rome. Robert Wright of Temple University describes the manuscript found there: “In the late nineteenth century the MS was described as in poor condition. During the 1950’s, so the librarian told me, they sent the MS to the monastery Abbisa di’ Gottoferrofi for restoration. This process entailed inlaying the sheets into larger pages, ‘frames’ if you will, and laminating Chinese rice paper on each side. Then a varnish or other coating was painted over parts of the pages, just over the upper corners of some, over the entire text area of others. During the last forty years or so, that coating has turned a chocolate brown, largely obscuring the text.” A BYU team was able to substantially improve legibility through the application of multispectral imaging.
The private library at the Villa of the Papyri, the only library preserved from the classical world, was unearthed in 1753 and is providing an unparalleled look into the classical era. Some scholars compare this discovery-an extraordinary amount of new information on ancient philosophy and philosophers from the period 300 BC to AD 79-to that of the Dead Sea Scrolls in terms of the quantity of historically significant writings.
The most serious problem facing scholars of this collection is that the 1800 fragile scrolls are carbonized and often difficult or impossible to read with the unaided eye. In 1999 Professor Marcello Gigante initiated a joint project between the Center and the Biblioteca Nationale to subject the papyri to Multi-Spectral imaging. During the subsequent three years over 30,000 images were made of the extant papyrus fragments. Scholars have responded well to the project. Recently Professor Richard Janko of the University of Michigan wrote that “all future study of the Herculaneum papyri will gain enormously from this development [of the multi-spectral images].” This project is now coordinated by Ancient Textual Imaging Group, led by Prof. Roger Macfarlane (Department of Humanities, Classics and Comparative Literature, BYU).
Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) is an American oriented educational Institution affiliated with the Maronite Order of the Holy Virgin Mary. Though a thoroughly modern University spread over three campuses, NDU possesses a valuable collection of manuscripts and unique folio editions relating to Eastern Christianity and its history, kept at the five-century old Louaize Monastery. In 2000 Brigham Young University began a joint project to digitize this valuable collection of manuscripts. Extending over a two year period, the project resulted in the digitizing of 614 Christian Arabic manuscripts. In 2003, NDU established the Center for Digitization and Preservation, housed at the Mariam and Youssef Library. The Center is responsible for continuing the work of digitally scanning the manuscript collection in order to preserve these materials and provide access to this unique collection to scholars around the world.
The Pontifical Oriental Institute (POI) is one of the world’s premier centers for the study of Eastern Christianity. Founded in 1917, the POI has established a tradition for the careful and conscientious scholarship. The POI is known the world over for its superlative collection of Christian oriental literature. Part of this treasury is a small but valuable collection of Slavonic manuscripts, which were catalogued in 1997 (OCA 255). Old Church Slavonic is the liturgical language of the Russian and Eastern European Orthodox Christians. In 2002 BYU completed a project at the POI to digitize the complete collection of 54 manuscripts. This project was part of a larger initiative on the part of the library to improve access to manuscript collections for both students and external academics.
Edited by Dr. David G. K. Taylor
A great number of essential Syriac texts are not readily available to scholars, even in some of the world’s great research libraries. In order to remedy this situation, Brigham Young University joined with The Catholic University of America to undertake a joint project to produce an on-line research collection for Syriac studies. The Library is especially rich in early manuscript catalogs, dictionaries, and grammars, and contains many of the indispensable editions of Syriac texts that were produced in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.
Collection Home: http://lib.byu.edu/collections/syriac-studies-reference-library/
Monica J. Blanchard, “Digitization of Syriac Books and Other Holdings at The Catholic University of America,” Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 8 (2005): 111-12.
Kristian Heal, “BYU-CUA Eastern Christian Research Library,” Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 8 (2005): 113-14.
George A. Kiraz, “eBethArké: The Syriac Digital Library, First Report,” Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 4 (2001): 269-71.
Founded in 1875 by the Society of Jesus, the Université Saint-Joseph (USJ) is one of the premier academic institutions in Lebanon. One of the treasures of the University is the Bibliothèque Orientale. This library was integral to the vision of the University and boasts arguable the finest collection of its kind in the Middle East. Among its many treasures is a collection of 3500 manuscripts that were carefully collected during the 19th and early 20th centuries by Jesuit scholars. Under the guidance of one of the library’s great directors, Louis Cheikho, 1500 of the manuscripts were catalogued in the early 1900s. In 2000 the library began an extensive process of manuscript conservation. In 2002, BYU began a joint project with the library to digitize their manuscript collection, beginning with the catalogued manuscripts. In 2004 this project was assumed by the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library.
Founded by the Lebanese Maronite Order in 1961, l’Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik (USEK) now harbors 5,500 students distributed over nine faculties and three institutes. The central library of the university possess a collection of some 200 manuscripts and a number of extremely rare and valuable early Syriac and Christian Arabic printed volumes, including a copy of the first book printed in Lebanon (Syriac and Garshuni Psalter printed in 1610). This collection is only part of the larger collections of manuscripts of the Lebanese Maronite Order. Numbering in excess of 2500 manuscripts, this collection is the object of a joint initiative between USEK and BYU which began in 2003. In 2004 this project was assumed by the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library.
BYU collaborated with the Society of Biblical Literature and the Freer Gallery of Art in a project to image five Greek biblical manuscripts from the Freer collection. All of these manuscripts are very early and of high importance for textual criticism and other aspects of Septuagint and New Testament studies. Of particular importance is the Freer codex of the Gospels (Codex W), perhaps the single most important biblical manuscript in America.