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ANOTHER GROUP OF ARCHEOLOGISTS AND
'She doted upon the Assyrians her neighbours
when she saw men pourtrnyed upon the wall,—the images
Ezekiel xxiii, 12-15.
But all things have their end,
Webster, The Duchess of Malfi.
The Libraries of the East.—The Monasteries of the Nitrian Desert, and their Explorers.—William Cureton and his Labours on the MSS. of Nitria, and in other Departments of Oriental Literature.—The Researches in the Levant of Sir Charles Fellows, of Mr. Layard, and of Mr. Charles Newton.—Other conspicuous Augmentors of the Collection of Antiquities.
Bode in, We have now to turn to that vast field of research
Another and exploration, from which the national Museum of An
Awuiolo- tiquities has derived an augmentation that has sufficed to
E"tmohtm. double, within twenty-five years, its previous scientific and literary value to the Public. In this chapter we have Book in, to tell of not a little romantic adventure; of remote Anotmr and perilous explorations and excavations; sometimes, of Ar°h* sharp conflicts between English pertinacity and Oriental 3"TM*^ cunning; often, of great endurance of hardship and privation in the endeavour at once to promote learning—the world over—and to add some new and not unworthy entries on the long roll of British achievement.
Two distinct groups of explorers have now to be recorded. The labours of both groups carry us to the Levant. What has been done of late years by the searchers after manuscripts, in their effort to recover some of the lost treasures V"
of the old Libraries of the East, will be most fairly appre- Oitm«ea«. ciated by the reader, if, before telling of the researches and the studies of Curzon, Tattam, Cureton, and their fellowworkers in Eastern manuscript archaeology, some brief prefatory notice be given of the earlier labours, in the same field, of Huntington, Browne, and other travellers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Mention must also be made of the explorations of Sonnini and of Andreossi.
About the year 1G80, Robert Huntington, afterwards T«
Bishop of Raphoe, visited the Monasteries of the Nitrian or Robert Desert, and made special and eager research for the Syriac To«7h"tm« version of the Epistles of St. Ignatius, of the existence of which there had been wide-spread belief amongst the TIE,M: learned, since the time of Archbishop Ussher. But his quest was fruitless, although, as it is now well known, a Syriac version of some of those epistles did really exist in one of the monasteries which Huntington visited. The monks, then as afterwards, were chary of showing their MSS., very small as was the care they took of them. The
Book III, Chnp. IV. Another Group Of Arch.«oloGists And Explorf.b3.
And Those Of Sonnini, Browne, And Others.
only manuscripts mentioned by Huntington, in recording his visits to three of the principal communities—St. Mary Deipara, St. Macarius, and El Baramous—are an Old Testament in the Estrangelo character; two volumes of Chrysostom in Coptic and Arabic; a Coptic Lectionary in four volumes; and a New 'Testament in Coptic and Arabic.
Towards the close of the following century, these monasteries received the successive visits of Sonnini, of William George Browne, and of General Count AndrrOssi. Sonnini says nothing of books. Browne saw but few—among them an Arabo-Coptic Lexicon, the works of St. Gregory, and the Old and New Testaments in Arabic— although he was told by the superior that they had nearly eight hundred volumes, with none of which they would part. General Andreossi, on the other hand, speaks slightingly of the books as merely 'ascetic works, .... some in Arabic, and some in Coptic, with an Arabic translation in the marginbut adds, 'We brought away some of the latter class, which appear to have a date of six centuries.' This was in 1799. Browne died in 1814; Sonnini De Manoncourt, in 1812; Count Andreossi survived until 1828.
In the year 1827, the late Duke of Northumberland (then Lord Prudhok) made more elaborate researches. His immediate object was a philological one, his Lordship desiring to further Mr. Tattam's labours on a Coptic and Arabic Dictionary. Hearing that 'Libraries were said to be preserved, both at the Baramous and Syrian convents/ he proceeded to El Baramous, accompanied by Mr. Lin Art, and encamped outside the walls. "The monks in this convent,' says the Duke, 'about twelve in number, appeared poor and ignorant. They looked on us with great jealousy, and denied having any books, except those Book Hi, in the church, which they showed us.' But having been Another judiciously mollified by some little seductive present, on the AEmiloLonext day, 'in a moment of good humour, they agreed to B"lok» show us their Library. From it I selected a certain number of Manuscripts, which, with the Lexicon (Selim) already mentioned, were carried into the monk's room. A long deliberation ensued, .... as to my offer to purchase them. Only one could write, and at last it it was agreed that he should copy the Selim, which copy and the MSS. I had collected were to be mine, in exchange for a fixed sum of dollars, to which I added a present of rice, coffee, tobacco, and such other articles as I had to offer.' After narrating the acquisition of a few other MSS. at the Syrian convent, or Convent of St. Mary Deipara, his Lordship proceeds :—' These manuscripts I presented to Mr. Tattam, and gave him some account of the small room with its trap-door, through which I descended, candle in hand, to examine the manuscripts, where books, and parts of books, and scattered leaves, in Coptic, Ethiopic, Syriac, and Arabic, were lying in a mass, on which I stood. ... In appearance, it seemed as if, on some sudden emergency, the whole Library had been thrown down this trapdoor, and they had remained undisturbed, in their dust and neglect, for some centuries.'
Ten years later, Mr. Tattam himself continued these researches. But in the interval they had been taken up "«1"cTM
1 IN THE
by the energetic and accomplished traveller Mr. Robert Leyantime Curzon, to whose charming Visits to the Monasteries of the Levant it is mainly owing that a curious aspect of monastic life, which theretofore had only interested a few scholars, has become familiar to thousands of readers of all classes. Mr. Curzon's researches were much more thorough
Book in, than those of any of his predecessors. He was felicitous Another in his endeavours to win the good graces of the monks, and Geoupop seems 0ften to have made his visits as pleasant to his hosts
Otstsand as afterwards to his readers. But, how attractive soever,
Explorers. in .
only one of them has to be noticed in connexion with our present topic—that, namely, to the Convent of the Syrians mentioned already. 'I found,' says Mr. Corzon, 'several Coptic MSS. lying on the floor, but some were placed in niches in the stone wall. They were all on pnper, except three or four; one of them was a superb MS. of the Gospels, with a commentary by one of the early fathers. Two others were doing duty as coverings to large open pots or jars, which had contained preserves, long since evaporated. On the floor I found a fine Coptic and Arabic Dictionary, with which they refused to part.' After a most graphic account of a conversation with the Father Abbot— the talk being enlivened with many cups of rosoglio—he proceeds to recount his visit to a * 6mall closet, vaulted with stone, which was filled to the depth of two feet or more with loose leaves of Syriac MSS., which now form one of the chief treasures of the British Museum.' The collection thus 'preserved' was that of the Coptic monks; the same monastery contained another which was that of the Abyssinian monks. 'The disposition of the manuscripts in the Library,' continues Mr. Curzon, 'was very original. . . . The room was about twenty-six feet long, twenty feet wide, and twelve feet high; the roof was formed of the trunks of palm-trees. A wooden shelf was carried, in the Egyptian style, around the walls, at the
height of the top of the door, underneath the shelf
various long wooden pegs projected from the wall, .... on which hung the Abyssinian MSS., of which this curious Library was entirely composed. The books of Abyssinia