Meteoron 65, a 15th c. manuscript at the Holy Transfiguration Monastery at Meteora, contains Euthymius Zigabenus’ Commentary on the Epistles of Paul, but the last few pages of the manuscript have some rather unusual things written on them.
The commentary goes from f. 1r-279v, but after that, there are mostly blank pages except for three: 280v, 283v, and 284r.
On Pinakes, at the top of the page where it has the name of the owner of the manuscript, it says in the “Commentaire” section that there is a “liste de livres f. 280v” or a “list of books on folio 280v.” That list is the bottom left block of text on the page, numbered in Greek numerals. Also on Pinakes, in the biblography section of that same page, is a link to a bibliographical article called “La bibliothèque du hiéromoine Ignace dans le premier quart du 16e siècle et les collections de manuscrits des Météores” or, in English, “The library of the hieromonk Ignatius in the first quarter of the 16th century and the manuscript collections of Meteora,” written by Thibault Miguet. Below is the abstract of that article:
This paper offers a contribution to the complex history of the manuscript collection of the Meteora monasteries by reconstituting the collection of Ignatios, a 16th-century hieromonk who can be linked to the Meteora. This reconstitution is based on three previously edited book lists, which are here re-edited, translated into French and commented upon in light of a new analysis of the manuscripts: two of the lists, dated and signed, are preserved on the guard-leaves of the ms. Paris, BnF, Coislin 292 (Diktyon 49433). A third list, anonymous, written in a ms. today in the Meteora (Meteora, Mone Metamorphoseos, 65 [Diktyon 41476]), had not heretofore been connected to Ignatios. These lists enable us to trace the features and evolution of a rich private collection in the 16th century while also casting new light on the history of Greek libraries in the post-Byzantine era. (Online source here.)
You can find the full article online here (I have not read it yet; this PDF was also given to me earlier in another form; see below in the section that pertains to 283v.). I sent a friend of mine who is helping me slowly edit certain difficult parts of my translation (hopefully soon I will get around to posting some excepts of it) these three folios to help me figure out what they say, and he in turn put me in contact with a resourceful professor who was very eager to help me figure out what was going on.
I noted in my email that on 280v, it seems like the scribe was doodling, since the same character is written over and over, and that the two columns of text at the top are identical for the first large bit. Perhaps he was writing notes? This professor had this to say about that:
You may be right about someone using the last page as notes. Another possibility is that this page is a “pastedown” on the actual binding of the manuscript. Bookbinders would sometimes use old scraps of parchment as part of the binding process, and so sometimes you run into unexpected things basically glued into the back of the book. Usually things that the binder didn’t have any use for any more (and a common hymn would be a good candidate for that sort of thing)1. It’s hard for me to tell from the image if that’s what’s going on though.
280v sounds very much like some practice writing. Scribes would do that to warm up for their actual work, to test out their pen, sometimes just to doodle.
1 This is in reference to a comment I made about 284r (see below) in the email preceding this response of his.
The main point that I was curious about and why I sent the email in the first place was regarding the large writing on 283v. The first two of three lines very clearly say “Τοῦ Στεφάνου,” but the last line is where the trouble lies. I thought they were letters functioning as Greek numerals, especially the last two, since they have apostrophes, which denote that letters are functioning as numbers. The Γ would be a 3 (though it curiously lacks an apostrophe, so it couldn’t be a numeral), the Φ’ would be 500, and the last character looks like a cursive version of Ϟʹ which is a more modern rendition of the Greek number for 90. But what do 3, 500, and 90 paired together like this mean? I thought it was maybe a date, but 3590 doesn’t make any sense, and that’s not how it would be written anyway.
The professor that I was communicating with was also puzzled about it, so he asked another a colleague of his, and that second professor said the following:
The first two words are τοῦ Στεφάνου. The last line, however, is more problematic. It is comprised of two words. the first ΓΦ could be a form of γραφεύς; perhaps γραφέως if Stephanos is a scribe? The sigma at the end is more difficult–it’s either a word with a circumflex or the number 200. I showed the image to my Greek paleography class today and we couldn’t figure it out definitively either.
I’m guessing this ms. is from Μονή Μεταμορφόσεως (Monastery of the Transfiguration) in Meteora, but there are several other monasteries there with collections. The contents seem to match up with the Transfiguration. I don’t know if your colleague has access to the Greek ms. catalogue from the 1960s (it’s kind of hard to find) so I’ve attached the pictures from our copy; the description does not expand the abbreviations either. There is also a recent article from 2021 that discusses this ms. too which I attach as well (I don’t think it even mentions this part of the ms.) (This recent article is the same article by Thibault Miguet linked to above; this professor pointed me to it before I even realized it was mentioned on Pinakes.)
It was very nice to hear that my simple question to a friend became, over the course of a few days, an exercise in a Paleography classroom in an American university.
Below are the images that that second professor provided, from Νίκος Α. Βέης, Τα Χειρόγραφα των Μετεώρων: κατάλογος περιγραφικός των χειρογράφων κωδίκων των αποκείμενων εις τας μονάς των Μετεώρων, 1998, pp. 84-85:
On p. 85 of Βέης, in the image immediately above, the author agrees that the last character is a Σ, and he says: “On folio 283v (which was added onto the binding) through large letters: Of Stephanos”, with the three letters following. Pertaining to 280v, he says that among other things there is a riddle, and it goes on to list what the text of the riddle says. It then lists out the catalogue of books, the names of some of which I could make out easy enough in the manuscript, but the rest of which were too abbreviated or messy to read.
Anyway, after a few more days, the first professor emailed me back with insight from a second friend of his, this time a PhD from Yale who had done a lot of manuscript work during his studies. The email reads:
He thinks that the final letter on the bottom row is in fact an eta (η), and that, taking into account the macron above the letter, you’ve got an abbreviated γ(ρα)φέ(ν). So the whole thing would mean “written by Stephanos”. Which makes a lot more sense to me than having a mysterious number, and also why the final letter … Doesn’t really look like a sigma…
All of these are promising little pieces of insight. If the manuscript was in fact written by someone named Stephanos, it would be really interesting to see if there is any evidence anywhere that could prove useful in corroborating such a claim. If I find anything about it, I will make a post.
This page is really damaged. I was not too concerned with what it said, since it does not have anything to do with Euthymius Zigabenus’ Commentary on the Epistles, but there are a few things that were immediately recognizable. Right in the middle of the page is the doxastikon of Pascha:
Ἀναστάσεως ἡμέρα καί λαμπρυνθῶμεν τῇ πανηγύρει καί ἀλλήλους περιπτυξώμεθα. Εἴπωμεν, ἀδελφοί, καί τοῖς μισοῦσιν ἡμᾶς συγχωρήσωμεν πάντα τῇ Ἀναστάσει καί οὕτω βοήσωμεν Χριστός Ἀνέστη ἐκ νεκρῶν θανάτῳ θάνατον πατήσας καί τοῖς ἐν τοῖς μνήμασιν ζωήν χαρισάμενος. (This is what footnote 1 is referencing above, since I said in my email that this hymn was listed here.)
Immediately to the left of the paragraph is another block of text that says (to the best of my knowledge and reading ability, at least, though the scribe made a few spelling mistakes that I am correcting here):
Ὅταν μέλλῃς δέσποτα κρίσιν δικαίαν ποιῆσαι(???) τότε ῥῦσαι μου ἐκ τοῦ πυρὸς τοῦ ἀσβέστου καὶ ἀξίωσον ἐκ δεξιῶν με στῆναι, Κριτὰ δικαιώτατε.
The second half of that text, which should correctly read “τότε ῥῦσαί με, ἐκ τοῦ πυρὸς τοῦ ἀσβέστου, καὶ ἀξίωσον, ἐκ δεξιῶν σου μὲ στῆναι, Κριτὰ δικαιότατε,” is the last third of the Kontakion of Meatfare Sunday, when the Orthodox Church celebrates the Last Judgement.
There are some other things that I can read pieces of on this page, but it all seems like random things slapped together.