Oldalképek
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

EXPLORERS.

Book III, than those of any of his predecessors. He was felicitous

in his endeavours to win the good graces of the monks, and

seemis often to have made his visits as pleasant to his hosts Gists and as afterwards to his readers. But, how attractive soever,

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. 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 Abbotthe 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

me

Chap. IV.

[ocr errors]

GISTS AND
EXPLORERS.

are bound in the usual way—sometimes in red leather, and Book III, sometimes in wooden boards, ... they are then enclosed in Another a case, ... to which is attached a strap, ... and by these ArchÆ0 straps the books are hung on the wooden pegs, three or four 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.D. 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 visites works of Eusebius, has . . . fallen into better hands than 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 ex

TON

as above.

Chap. IV.

[ocr errors]

EXPLORERS.

published, but

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

above).

OF ARCH-
DEACON
TATTAM.

Book III, ception, for there he found eighty-two Coptic MSS., some
ANOTHER of them very fine.
GROUP OF

Continuing the narrative, we find that on the 12th of AND *January they started across the desert for the valley of the

Natron Lakes, and pitched their tent at a short distance Miss Platt's Journal (un- from the Monastery of Macarius. The monks told them abridged in that of these convents there had once been, on the mounReriew, as

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

accompanied by a sort of cautious circumspection. After a look at the 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.

Chap. IV.
ANOTHER
GROUP OF
ARCHÆOLO-
GISTS AND
EXPLORERS,

TATTAM wished to purchase ; they informed him they could Book III, not part with it, .... but consented to make him a copy. He paid for two of the Syriac MSS. he had placed in the superior's room, for the priests could not be persuaded to part with more. . ... The superior would have sold the Dictionary, but was afraid, because the Patriarch had written in it a curse upon any one who should take it away. [It was the same volume which had been vainly coveted by Mr. Curzon, as well as by several preceding travellers, and of which he tells us he put it in one of the niches of the wall, where it remained about two years, when it was purchased and brought away for me by a gentleman at Cairo.'] * In the Convent of El Baramous, continues Miss Platt,

Mr. Tatram found about one hundred and fifty Coptic and Arabic liturgies, and a very large Dictionary in both languages. In the tower is an apartment, with a trap-door in the floor, opening into a dark hole, full of loose leaves of Arabic and Coptic manuscripts. At the Monastery of Amba-Bichoi, Mr. TATTAM saw a lofty vaulted room, so strewn with loose manuscripts as scarcely to afford a glimpse of the floor on which they lay, 'in some places a quarter of a yard deep. At Macarius Convent a similar sight presented itself, but of these Mr. TATTAM was permitted to carry off about a hundred.

As the reader may well imagine, the charms of the Syriac MSS. had made too deep an impression on Mr. TATTAM's heart to admit of an easy parting. Many were the longing, lingering looks, mentally directed towards them. Almost at the moment of setting out on his return to Cairo, he added four choice books to his previous spoils. In February, he resolved to revisit the convents, and once more to ply his most persuasive arguments. He was manfully seconded by his Egyptian servant, MAHOMMED, whose

[blocks in formation]

favourite methods of negotiation much resembled those of Mr. Curzon. The Archdeacon soon returned,' says Miss PLATT, 'followed by MAHOMMED and one of the Bedouins, bearing a large sack full of splendid Syriac MSS. on vellum. They were safely deposited in the tent.' At Amba-Bischoi a successful bargain was struck for an old Pentateuch in Coptic and Arabic, and a beautiful Coptic Evangeliary. On the next day, Mahommed brought from the priests a Soriana, a stupendous volume, beautifully written in the Syriac characters, with a very old wormeaten copy of the Pentateuch from Amba-Bischoi, exceedingly valuable, but not quite perfect.' The remainder of the story, or rather the greater part of what remains, must here be more concisely told than in the words of the reviewer.

The manuscripts which Mr. TATTAM has thus obtained, in due time arrived in England. Such of them as were in the Syriac language were disposed of to the Trustees of the British Museum. . . Forty-nine manuscripts of extreme antiquity, containing some valuable works long since supposed to have perished, and versions of others written several centuries earlier than any copies of the original texts now known to exist, constituted such an addition as has been rarely, if ever, made at one time to any Library. The collection of Syriac MSS. procured by Mr. Rich had already made the Library of the British Museum conspicuous for this class of literature ; but the treasure of manuscripts from Egypt rendered it superior to any in Europe.

From the accounts which Lord PRUDHOE, Mr. Curzon, and Mr. TamTam had given of their visits to the Monastery of the Syrians, it was evident that but few of the manuscripts belonging to it had been removed since the time of ASSEMANI; and probable that no less a number than

OW

« ElőzőTovább »