Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Manuscripts Within Manuscripts: They Are Real!

Dr. Erik Kwakkel
            Regarding the previous post and the discovery of a manuscript-page containing John 7:50-8:12 within the binding of a printed book from the 1600’s – Happy April Fools Day!  There were some clues:  there is no research library in Christiania (Christiania is a small commune in Copenhagen); the subtitle to Hevelius’ Selenographia has the word Luna, not Lura (a Swedish word for “fool”); the initials of the Photomagnetic Hyperspectral Ultraviolet Light Scans (PHULS) can be pronounced “fools,” and there is no German periodical called the Zeitschrift des Lachens (“Journal of Laughter"). 
            Although this discovery was fictitious (including the digitally created picture), other discoveries – in which manuscripts are found within the bindings of other manuscripts, or within the bindings of printed books – are real, and the likelihood is very high that we are going to see more of them.  
            Rearrange the letters in the name of the fictitious Kirk Walkeek, and you can make the name of the real Dr. Erik Kwakkel of Leiden University, who, along with Dr. Joris Dik (whose name shares the same letters as the fictitious Jodi Kris) of Delft University of Technology, is developing technology and techniques which can read text on materials within book-bindings, using macro x-ray fluorescence spectrometry (MA-XRF) without dismantling the binding itself. 

Dr. Joris Dik
            Binding-materials have already been the source of several Greek uncial fragments, such as
            ● 0311 (which has text from Romans 8:1-13, and the earliest witness to the non-inclusion of εκ νεκρων in 8:11a),
            ● 0312 (which has text from Luke 5, from the late 400’s),
            ● 0313 (which has text from Mark 4:9 and 4:15 – from the late 400’s, with a distinct Byzantine reading),
            ● 0314 (which has text from John 5:43, from the late 400’s), and
            ● 0315 (which has text from Mark 2:9, 2:21, 2:25, and 3:1-2 – from the 300’s or 400’s!) – all fragments obtained by Christopher de Hamel.  (For some more information about 0313 see my report about it from 2015,)

This isn't real
either.  But
something like
 it is 
wait and see.
            Kwakkel, who blogs about his work at , also shares many images that he encounters in the course of his research at (often with brief analytical notes), as well as images and notes contributed by other researchers.  
            Entries from an earlier blog, now a sort of archive, can be found at the Turning Over a New Leaf project, found at and assorted images related to the project – hundreds of them – can be found at Flickr. Several of his lectures are also available online, such as this one about  professional medieval book-production
            It is just a matter of time, I suspect, before the remains of a Greek manuscript will be found embedded within a book-binding.  (If one could aim a MA-XRF machine at book-bindings in the Vatican Library, the discovery would probably be made within a week.)   If the book is not very important, the Greek manuscript will probably be physically extracted.  But if the case is otherwise, or if there is a significant risk of damage involved in the extraction-process – for example, the risk of tearing apart a page secured by glue – then perhaps textual critics should create a new category of evidence:  besides papyri, uncials, minuscules, lectionaries, versions, and patristic quotations, I recommend that the symbol “r” (“remnant” or “recycled” or, in Dutch, “rest” or “remainder”) should be affixed to whatever uncial-number or minuscule-number is assigned to a fragment that remains embedded within another book – so as to convey that there is a lack of direct accessibility to such manuscripts that is not a factor with the others.
            Who knows how many libraries within libraries there are, hidden within the bindings of books?  There’s only one way to find out.


Daniel Buck said...

A more literal, yet at the same time more idiomatic, translation would probably be "Journal of Laughs."

Ken Ganskie said...


Do you think this new technology could be used to "read" the scripture contained in the egyptian mummy mask that we've heard about recently (and I believe you have commented on previously somewhere) that contains a fragment of the book of Mark dating from the 1st century? I wonder if they could have used this technology instead of having to dismantle/destroy the mask. Just wondering.


Ken Ganskie

Unknown said...


You called it(Matthew 7:7)! That is what we are trying to do with support from the Arcadia Fund, use nondestructive technologies to try to reveal texts in layers of papyrus.

Check out the WIRED Magazine article on our work, or