Album of Armenian Paleography

(ISBN: 87-7288-556-4)
2002 Denmark
556 pages
Size: 11" x 14 3/4"
Language(s): English

A comprehensive selection of some 200 definitively dated, handwritten texts, sampled from among the 31,000 manuscripts preserved in the major public collections of Europe, the Middle East, the former USSR and North America. There were chosen to reflect the range of Armenian manuscript hands from the earliest dated codices of the ninth century to the cursive script of the nineteenth century. Added to them were a handful of early lapidary inscriptions of the fifth-seventh centuries, and at the other chronological pole, some specimens of the handwriting of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Armenian scholars and intellectuals. Other important paleographic documents, some undated, illustrate the preliminary chapter by Dickran Kouymjian devoted to the history of Armenian paleography. Each selected manuscript is illustrated by a high-quality colour facsimile of a typical folio page, and is accompanied by an alphabet table drawn from letters appearing on that page and a sample transcription of several lines. These alphabet tables were not traced or drawn by hand as was customary in earlier paleographic works. They were generated electronically from a scan of the page itself under the supervision of Michael Stone. Finally, each entry has a bibliography of important earlier paleographic literature on the manuscript and comments of important features. The 192 individual alphabet strips were also combined into a series of chronologically arranged tables for all 38 Armenian letters. These are found at the end of the volume and provide a visual history of the subtle changes in letter forms over a thousand year period. They are also intended to assist in the dating of undated Armenian manuscripts or fragments. The dated manuscripts were selected dominantly from the three major repositories: the Mastoc Matenadaran, Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Erevan; the Armenian Patriarchal Library in Jerusalem; and the Library of the Mekhitarist Fathers on the island of San Lazzaro in Venice. Other choice manuscripts were included from well-known collections in Baltimore, Dublin, London, Paris, Tubingen, Leiden, and Vienna. All photographs are new, taken especially for the Album. Thanks to the large format of the volume it has been possible to show virtually all specimens in actual size. In addition, each facsimile page is accompanied by a colour enlargement of one line of the text, enabling the reader to study the lettering in even greater detail. Rather than take a dogmatic position on various questions concerning the development of Armenian writing, the authors have tried to present as much information as possible as a resource for future monographs on individual hands, schools, and regions. Dickran Kouymjian's detailed history of Armenian paleography presents all major and most minor books and articles on the subject. Much attention is given to the presentation of the ideas of the early pioneers of Armenian paleography whose workds were published exclusively in Armenian: Yakob Tasean, Garegin Yovsepean, Hraceay Acarean, Karo Lafadaryan and Asot Abrahamyan. Michael Stone's analysis of the mutation of Armenian writing considers the various scripts as groups but also each letter individually. Whenever possible Michael Stone avoided using the traditional Armenian terms for the scripts - erkatagir, bolorgir, notrgir, slagir, preferring very neutral and universally-used terms such as minuscule and majuscule. In a separate section, computerized tables are used to show changes in the forms of individual letters. By following the development of letter shapes, it is possible to discern the evolutionary process of the Armenian scripts in a far more detailed and sophisticated manner than the traditional division of the Armenian hands into types: erkatagir, bolorgir, notrgir, slagir, thereby providing much more precise datings than those previously available to scholars.

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