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are bound in the usual way—sometimes in red leather, and Book Hi,
ill 11- Chap. IV.
sometimes in wooden boards, . . . they are then enclosed in Anotm^
Gboup Op Abch.xolo
a case, ... to which is attached a strap, . . . and by these
straps the books are hung on the wooden pegs, three or four 01 " AN"
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 r«tt»,«se, works of Eusebius, has . . . fallen into better hands than M ,bOTe' mine.'
In the following year (1S38), 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
Researches or Arch
Book Hi, ception, for there he found eighty-two Coptic MSS., some Another or them very hne.
Continuing the narrative, we find that on the 12th of January they started across the desert for the valley of the Natron Lakes, and pitched their tent at a short distance joumai (on- from the Monastery of Macarius. The monks told them
abridged in that of these convents there had once been, on the mountel"i"'" 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 Archdeacon was received with much civility, not, however, unDkacon accompanied by a sort of cautious circumspection. After a Tattaji. jo()k aj. tj)e 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.
Tattam wished to purchase ; they informed him they could Booriu, not part with it, ... . but consented to make him a copy. Another 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 wus purchased and brought away for me by a gentleman at Cairo.'] 'In the Convent of El Baramous/ continues Miss Platt, 'Mr. Tattam 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, lie 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
favourite methods of negotiation much resembled those of Mr. Curzon. 'The Archdeacon soon returned,' says Miss Platt, 'followed by Mauommed 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. . . Eorty-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 Pruohoe, Mr. Curzon, and Mr. Tattam 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
nearly two hundred volumes must be still remaining in the Book in, hands of the monks. Moreover, from several notes in the Ahothm manuscripts . . already brought to England, it was certain""""" that most of them must be of very considerable antiquity . .. G,STS AI"" In several of these notices, Moses of Tecrit states that, in the year 932, he brought into the convent from Mesopotamia about two hundred and fifty volumes. As there was no evidence whatever to show that even so many as one hundred of these MSS. had ever been taken away (for those which were procured for the Papal Library by the two Assemani, added to those which Mr. Curzon and Mr. Tattam had brought to England, do not amount to that number), there was sufficient ground for supposing that the Convent of the Syrians still possessed not fewer than about one hundred and fifty volumes, which, at the latest, must have been written before the tenth century. Application, accordingly, was made by the Trustees to the Treasury; a sum was granted to enable them to send again into Egypt, and Mr. Tattam readily undertook the 1W1 commission. The time was most opportune. Had much more delay been interposed, these manuscripts, which, perhaps, constitute the greatest accession of valuable literature which has been brought from the East into Europe since the taking of Constantinople, would, in all probability, have been now the pride of the Imperial Library at Paris. M before.
Mr. Tattam thought he could work most effectively M». through the influence of a neighbouring Sheikh with the superior of the convent. By which means he obtained, after some delays, a promise that all the Syriac MSS. should be taken to the Sheikh's house, and there bargained for. 'My servant,' he says, 'had taken ten men and eight donkeys from the village; had conveyed them, and already bargained for them, which bargain I confirmed. That night