Friday, September 26, 2008

The Goodspeed Collection at U Chicago

I have told a few people about this in person, but thought I'd blog about it now that I found the website.

A few weeks ago, we got to go to the special collections library at the University and actually put our hands on a few of the manuscripts in the collection. One of the manuscripts was a copy of Archaic Mark, which might be a 14th century copy of the gospel of mark, or a 20th century forgery. (They're testing right now.)

Standing next to that book was a strange and surreal thing for me. Sure, it might be a forgery, but if it's not, then my fingers were touching what I would consider a very sacred text. It's just staggering to look at something like that and see the amount of effort that went into a book back then. Everything from skinning the animal and stretching the vellum pages to the gold painted images and the painstaking penmanship. (Though the penmanship in Greek is generally nothing compared to the detailed work of a Hebrew scribe.)

This is from the first page of text in Archaic Mark

Margaret Mitchell, the professor of New Testament Studies here at U of C said that Manuscripts are to the Biblical Scholar what Test Tubes and Bunson Burners are to the Scientist. She wanted us to see these things, to touch them, to interact with them. It was an amazing experience for me. I'm sure most of the people reading this aren't getting as geeked out as I did, but man did I ever enjoy getting my actual fingers on those manuscripts.

I have since found the digitized manuscripts online, and figured I'd let you see what I'm talking about, though I don't think it's the same as actually touching the pages. You can go here to see all of Archaic Mark. (I start you off on the gold painted image that the book was open to when I saw it. The next page is the title page of the gospel.)

And here is a photo of a Hebrew manuscript as well so you can see how painstaking the Hebrew scribes were. This isn't quite as detailed as the copy I saw of Exodus, but you get the idea.


Nathan said...

I heard that when Mitchell visited Duke a couple of years ago she visited our special collections with a few of the NT profs and upon seeing a certain manuscript - I forget which one - she wept with joy.
I don't know if this story is true but I like it.

Joshua said...

I believe it. The woman is amazing, she loves what she's doing, and she's simply brilliant. I wouldn't be surprised at all to hear that she wept at the sight of a manuscript.

Tim 2 said...

I think it is pretty amazing. I sometimes wonder what things would be like if I were able to go back in time and experience some of the ancient world's marvels.

I am always intrigued by objects created by the hands of people who are long gone, but their work is left behind.

Like standing in front of some of the statues and works in the Oriental Institute and thinking that someone, we have no idea who it actually was, stood in the same capacity, relative to the object, and created it.