Greek Palimpsests of the Austrian National Library

The Austrian National Library (ÖNB) possesses a considerable number of Greek palimpsests. Many of the lower scripts and erased texts were studied and described during the general cataloguing of the Vienna Greek manuscripts in the 20th century, other palimpsests could only be examined in greater detail during the last two decades, thanks especially to new developments in image technology. Since 2001, several projects at the Division of Byzantine Research of the Austrian Academy of Sciences have undertaken a systematic analysis of the Greek palimpsests of the Austrian National Library with the aim to make them accessible to a larger public. This has resulted in new discoveries of several unique Ancient Greek and Byzantine texts

Important textual witnesses in Vienna Greek palimpsests

(FWF-Projekt P 24523-G19, 1. Juni 2012 – 31. Mai 2017)

Based on previous research, this project aims at recovering the cultural heritage hidden in the lower layers of selected codices of the Austrian National Library. Digital images of the palimpsest folios resulting from high-resolution multispectral capture and sophisticated processing – by the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library (EMEL) from California and the Fotoscientifica from Parma (Kamerasystem RE.CO.RD) – enable scholars to read texts that have been invisible before. Five unique Greek textual witnesses of great importance are being examined in cooperation with foreign specialists.

1) Aelius Herodianus, De prosodia catholica

The manuscript Hist. gr. 10 contains palimpsest fragments of the work De prosodia catholica on Greek accentuation by Aelius Herodianus (2nd cent. A.D.), one of the most important texts for the history of ancient Greek grammar, containing numerous quotations from ancient Greek authors. O. Primavesi – K. Alpers – J. Grusková, Aus den Untersuchungen zum Wiener Herodian-Palimpsest (forthcoming).

2) Florilegium Basilicorum Vindobonense

The manuscript Hist. gr. 10 contains also twenty folios of an unknown florilegium of the Basilica, the most extensive legislation that existed in the Byzantine Empire. B. H. Stolte – J. Grusková, Florilegium Basilicorum Vindobonense (forthcoming).

3) Scythica Vindobonensia

The Scythica Vindobonensia are the new fragments on Gothic incursions into Roman provinces in the Balkans in the middle of the third century AD, preserved in the manuscript Hist. gr. 73. The fragments come most probably from the Scythica by the historian Dexippus of Athens. The work on and interpretation of this text which is of utmost historical importance is continued in the Project Scythica Vindobonensia. G. Martin – J. Grusková, ‚Scythica Vindobonensia‘ by Dexippus (?): New Fragments on Decius’ Gothic Wars. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 54 (2014) 728–754 (with Figg. 1–4); J. Grusková – G. Martin, Zum Angriff der Goten unter Kniva auf eine thrakische Stadt (Scythica Vindobonensia, f. 195v). Tyche 30 (2015) 35–53 (mit Tafeln 9–11) (doi)

4) Eusebii Chronici fragmentum Vindobonense

A bifolium that may have belonged to a direct copy of the otherwise lost Greek original of the Chronicle of Eusebius has survived as palimpsest in the manuscript Iur. gr. 18. J. Grusková, Zur Textgeschichte der Weltchronik des Eusebios zwischen Okzident und Orient (Eusebii Chronici fragmentum Vindobonense – ein neues griechisches Handschriftenfragment), in: Byzanz und das Abendland. Budapest 2013, 43–51; J. Grusková – O. Gengler, The Vienna Greek Palimpsest of the Chronicon of Eusebius (Codex Vind. Iur. gr. 18) (forthcoming).

5) Vienna palimpsest of the legend of St. George

Of great importance are the majuscule fragments of a very old version of the legend of St. George in the Vienna manuscript lat. 954. E. Gamillscheg – J. Grusková, Zum Wiener Palimpsest der Georgslegende (BHG 670). Codices Manuscripti (2017) (forthcoming).

In addition to palimpsests in Vienna, the project also engages in further analysis of the palimpsest fragments of De cerimoniis aulae Byzantinae (Athous Vatop. 1003 and Chalc. S. Trinitatis 133 (125)), the work attributed to the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus. See M. Featherstone – J. Grusková – O. Kresten, Studien zu den Palimpsestfragmenten des sogenannten „Zeremonienbuches“ II. Codex Vatopedinus 1003 (mit Tafeln) (forthcoming).

Within the research focus “Greek palimpsests of the ANL”, other Vienna manuscripts are also examined, among them worthy mentioning are: Homilies by Gregor of Nazianz in mss Suppl. gr. 59 and Suppl. gr. 189 (V. Somers, J. Grusková); fragments of the Basilica in ms Suppl. gr. 200 (B. Stolte, J. Grusková); fragments of the Vita BHG 884 of John of Damascus in ms Phil. gr. 158 (R. Volk, E. Lamberz); Fragments of a homiletic and hagiographical collection in ms Phil. gr. 158 (E. Lamberz, O. Kresten, J. Grusková); Trophaea Damasci in ms Phil. gr. 286 (B. Campos); Diodorus of Tarsus, Commentary on Psalms in ms Theol. gr. 177 (O. Kresten, J. Grusková); fragment of a juridical text in the former fly-leaves (Blotius-Signatur 1536) of the ms Theol. gr. 238 (B. Stolte, J. Grusková). An important contribution towards the recovery of these texts are the new images created by the image scientists of Centre of Image and Material Analysis in Cultural Heritage of the Technical University of Vienna.

Project partners