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Gospels in Greek with Canon Tables and Prologues (Dumbarton Oaks MS 5)

early 12th century
27.5 x 21 x 10.5 cm (10 13/16 x 8 1/4 x 4 1/8 in.)
vellum, wood, silk, leather, silver

Not on view


Additional Images
Click an image to view a larger version
Additional Image Detail, cross on front cover
Detail, cross on front cover
Additional Image Detail, decorative metal on cover
Detail, decorative metal on cover
Additional Image Detail, decorative metal on cover
Detail, decorative metal on cover
Additional Image Detail, decorative metal on cover
Detail, decorative metal on cover
Additional Image Exterior, binding
Exterior, binding
Additional Image Folio 103r: opening of the Gospel of Mark
Folio 103r: opening of the Gospel of Mark
Additional Image Folio 7v: letter from Eusebius to Carpianus
Folio 7v: letter from Eusebius to Carpianus
Additional Image Front cover
Front cover
Additional Image Three-quarter view
Three-quarter view

This manuscript is a fine example of a complete Middle Byzantine Tetraevangelion. It contains a full set of canon tables, Eusebius’ letter to Carpianus, chapter headings to each gospel, evangelist portraits, and the text of each gospel. The elaborately conceived canon tables make this version of the gospel book notable: each page has an ornate head piece supported on columns and is further embellished with animals and floral décor (1v-6r). Five folios have full page illuminations with figures painted against framed gold backgrounds; Christ enthroned (12v) serves as the introductory page to the entire gospel text, while the seated evangelists as authors preface the individual gospels: Matthew (13v), Mark (102v), Luke (161v), and John (256v). The entire book consists of 327 folios.

The gospels are written in a single column of twenty lines, each having a framed headpiece at the beginning of the text. Dark brown ink is used, with subject headings in the upper margins in red or gold and chapter initials and numbers in gold throughout; some liturgical directions are added in red in the margins. The canon table folios are in excellent condition, but there is some damage to the faces of Christ and the first three evangelists; John’s face lacks the lower half of the nose, the mouth, and the chin, but the rest of his head is intact. The damage may be due to flaking rather than rubbing.

The binding is flush with the text block and the spine raised at the top and bottom. It is covered with dark red silk with traces of silver thread. In the corners of the front cover are metal fittings with symbols of the evangelists, and in the center, one with seven scenes from the Passion of Christ. Two clasps of plaited red leather with metal rings at the ends emerge from the back cover, intended to fit over metal pins on the front cover (one damaged).

-S. Zwirn

To page through a digital facsimile of this manuscript, visit:
High resolution files of the manuscript may be viewed here:

H. C. Hoskier, A Full Account and Collation of the Greek Cursive Codex Evangelium 604 (Egerton 2610 in the British Museum): with Two Facsimiles: Together with Ten Appendices (London, 1890), Appendix E, 2-3.

F. H. A. Scrivener and E. Miller, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament: for the Use of Biblical Students, 4th ed. (London ;New York, 1894), 251, no. 529.

K. Aland, M. Welte, B. Köster, and K. Junack, Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, Arbeiten zur neutestamentlichen Textforschung Bd. 1, 2nd ed. (Berlin, New York, 1994), 87, no. 678.

Sotheby & Co., Western Manuscripts and Miniatures: Auction in London Tuesday 7 July 2009, 10:30 AM (London, 2009), 22-25, no. 16, pl. pp. 22,24.

Exhibition History
Washington, D.C., Dumbarton Oaks, "Cross References," March 25 - July 31, 2011.

Washington, D.C., Dumbarton Oaks, "Four Byzantine Manuscripts", April 25 - September 29, 2013.

Acquisition History
Collection of Frederick North, fifth earl of Guilford (1766-1827);

Guilford sale, Evans, 29 February 1829, lot 644;

Payne, [dealer];

Collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), his MS 3886;

the Robinsons [dealers], sold in 1946 to D. M. Colman; 

Collection of Dudley M. Colman (d. 1958), of Hove, England;

Robert J. Barry [dealer], New Haven, Conn., sold to private collector;

Private Collection, until 2009, by descent; 

Sotheby's sale, Western Manuscripts and Miniatures, London, 7 July 2009;

Collection of Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington D.C.