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Byzantine scribes often appended notes to their completed handiwork, providing miscellaneous information about their lives and craft. These colophons frequently include valuable information such as the copyist’s name, the date, and the location. Yet while scholars have analysed the colophons in numerous ways, no one has systematically investigated the invaluable evidence that they provide about the contexts of manuscript transmission.

While palaeography can reveal the approximate dates of Byzantine manuscripts, it tells us far less about the contexts through which they were transmitted. Moreover, since extant manuscripts have most often been preserved in monasteries, scholars frequently assume that literary textual activity thrived primarily, if not exclusively, in monastic contexts.1 Yet while this may have been true in the Latin West,2 the preserved manuscript colophons from Byzantine Greek texts compel us to nuance significantly any such assumption of monastic dominance in the copying of manuscripts. This question is distinct from where texts in the Byzantine period were composed, although the answers may overlap significantly. Further, while the approach of this essay is prosopographical, it focuses on manuscripts themselves. A prosopography of the scribes, discussing their origins, language, training and the like, would require a separate investigation.

Chapter of

From Constantinople to the Frontier: The City and the Cities

Part of

The Medieval Mediterranean


Nicholas Matheou
Theofili Kampianaki
Lorenzo Bondioli


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