Book III,
Chap. IV.
Group Of


And Those Of Sonnini, Browne, And Others.

Travels in
Africa, &c,
p. 43.

(repr. in
Ray's Coll.).

Tallees des
Lac delation,

Lord Prud-
hoe's Narra-
tive, &c, as
abridged in
vol. lxxvii,
pp. 45, seq.

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 AndreOssi. 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 margin;' but 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 Andr£ossi survived until 1828.

In the year 1827, the late Duke of Northumberland (then Lord Prudhoe) 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. Linart, 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 Bookiii, in the church, which they showed us.' But having been Another judiciously mollified by some little seductive present, on the akchiolonext day, 'in a moment of good humour, they agreed to jTM0*^ 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 ths researches. But in the interval they had been taken up EK8i;ABCHEa

* 1 IN THE

by the energetic and accomplished traveller Mr. Robert Levantine

Curzon, to whose charming Visits to the Monasteries of the Emsofmb.

Levant it is mainly owing that a curious aspect of monastic CuaZ0Nlife, 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

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Bookiii, than those of any of his predecessors. He was felicitous in his endeavours to win the good graces of the monks, and seems often to have made his visits as pleasant to his hosts Gists And as afterwards to his readers. But, how attractive soever,

Explorers. . . ..

only one of them has to be noticed m connexion with our present topic—that, namely, to the Convent of the Syrians mentioned already. 'I found,' says Mr. Curzon, 'several Coptic MSS. lying on the floor, but some were placed in niches in the stone wall. They were all on paper, 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 'small 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 are bound in the usual way—sometimes in red leather, and Book Hi,

iii ll- Chap. IV.

sometimes in wooden boards, . . . they are then enclosed in Another a case, ... to which is attached a strap, . . . and by these Aechiolostraps the books are hung on the wooden pegs, three or four Glomes. on a peg, or more, if the books were small; their usual size was that of a small, very thick quarto. . . . Almost all Abyssinian books are written upon skins. . . . They have no cursive writing; each letter is therefore painted, as it were, with the reed-pen. .. . Some manuscripts are adorned with the quaintest and grimmest illustrations conceivable, .... and some are worthy of being compared with the best specimens of caligraphy in any language.' Then follows an amusing account of the 'higgling of the monks,' after a truly Abyssinian fashion, ending in the acquisition of books, of the whole of which the travellers could not, by any packing or stuffing, make their bags containable. 'In this dreadful dilemma, . . . seeing that the quarto was the most imperfect, I abandoned it; and I have now reason to believe, on seeing the manuscripts of the British Museum, that this was the famous book, with the date of A.B. 411, the most precious acquisition to any Library that has been made in modern times, with the exception, as I conceive, of some in my own Collection. . . . This book, which contains some lost F"tm"'^, works of Eusebius, has . . . fallen into better hands than as ab0Te' mine.'

In the following year (1838), the Rev. Henry Tattam (afterwards Archdeacon of Bedford), in furtherance of the purpose which had previously enlisted Lord Prudhoe's co-operation, set out upon his expedition into Egypt. He arrived at Cairo in October, and in November proceeded up the Nile as far as Esneh, visiting many monasteries, and inspecting their Libraries, in most of which he only met with liturgies and service-books. Sanobon was an exBook in, ception, for there he found eighty-two Coptic MSS., some

Anotheh of them very fine.

Archlolo- Continuing the narrative, we find that on the 12th of

Gists And January they started across the desert for the valley of the


Muisplatt's Natron Lakes, and pitched their tent at a short distance journal (un- from the Monastery of Macarius. The monks told them

published,but ,

atmdgedin that of these convents there had once been, on the mounnlfw'u'* tain and in the valley of Nitria, no less than three hundred and sixty. Of fifty or thereabouts the ruins, it is said, may still be seen. At the Convent of the Syrians, the ArchResearches deacon was received with much civility, not, however, un

Of Arch- . . .

Deacon accompanied by a sort of cautious circumspection. After a Tattam. jook a£ tne church, followed by the indispensable pipes and coffee, the monks asked the cause to which they were indebted for the honour of his visit. He told them discreetly that it was his wish to see their books. 'They replied that they had no more than what he had seen in the church; upon which he told them plainly that he knew they had.' A conference ensued, and, on the next day, they 'conducted him to the tower, and then into a dark vault, where he found a great quantity of very old and valuable Syriac MSS. He selected six quarto volumes, and took them to the superior's room. He was next shown a room in the tower, where he found a number of Coptic and Arabic MSS., principally liturgies, with a beautiful copy of the Gospels. He then asked to see the rest. The monks looked surprised to find he knew of others, and seemed at first disposed to deny that they had any more, but at length produced the key of the apartment where the other books were kept, and admitted him. After looking them over, he went to the superior's room, where all the priests were assembled, fifteen or sixteen in number; one of them brought a Coptic and Arabic Selim, or Lexicon, which Mr.

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