Lot 9
  • 9

Gospels, in Armenian, decorated manuscript on vellum [Armenia, c.1000]

6,000 - 8,000 GBP
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  • Vellum
two leaves, each 280mm. by 190mm., with remains of 2 columns, 21 lines in black ink in fine and large uncials, small marginal strokes in red and green marking the openings of chapters, seventeenth- or eighteenth-century interlinear addition on fol.2v (apparently an exhortation), some folds, small holes and discolouration, hessian binding



Quaritch, Bookhands V, cat.1147 (1991), no.7; Schøyen MS 651.

Catalogue Note


These leaves are from an extremely early Armenian Gospel Book. They comprise Luke 14:16-24, 25-33 and 15:1-14. At the beginning of the fourth century Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity officially. The first text translated into Armenian was the Bible, produced by the scholars, St. Sahak (c.350-439) and his assistant Mesrop Mahtots (c.361-439). Gospel Books came to be the most treasured and lavish of Armenian books, and they were often revered as sacred relics and carried into battle at the head of armies.

Few Armenian manuscripts predate the present example: a handful of manuscripts survive for the later ninth and the tenth century (cf. Sacred: Books of the Three Faiths, 2007, p.74), but they are not common until the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968), whose Armenian manuscripts are the subject of a two-volume work by S. Der Nessessian (1958), owned none as old as the present example.