Gospels in Greek with Canon Tables and Prologues (Dumbarton Oaks MS 5)
Byzantine, early 12th century
Vellum, wood, silk, leather, silver; 27.5 x 21CM
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. Five folios have full page illuminations with figures painted against framed gold backgrounds; Christ enthroned serves as the introductory page to the entire gospel text, while the seated evangelists as authors preface the individual gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. 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).