The book has long been a constant companion of man and it is impossible to imagine the modern world without a book in one form or another. And once, on the contrary, it was difficult to imagine a book as an object of everyday necessity – so difficult was its production. For a modern person, familiar with unique technologies, interesting and unusual facts about ancient books, manuscripts and methods of their production are always surprising.
Cuneiform Poem – Epic of Gilgamesh
A well-preserved ancient work “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, written in cuneiform on clay tablets, has come down to us. The poem was created over 150 years – XVIII-XVII centuries BC. e. The oldest version of the poem consists of six passages.
The more complete and later version is recorded on 12 tablets, each with 6 columns, written in small cuneiform, and it consists of 3,000 verses.
Deciphering was done by George Smith. He found in the poem a flood myth similar to that set forth in the Bible. He also argued that the tablets found were only part of the poem, and it should consist of 12 songs, each with 300 lines.
Later (early and mid-20th), other fragments of an ancient manuscript book were found, and more recently, in 2015, the epic was replenished with another 20 lines.
Interesting! The epic was based on the legends of the Sumerian people. The work tells about the demigod Gilgamesh – a mighty warrior, the king of Uruk, the wild man Enkidu, created from clay.
Book of the Dead – handwritten book of antiquity
The name “Book of the Dead” was given to the papyrus, which includes various religious texts, Egyptian hymns, and prayers. He, along with other things, was placed in the tomb at burial. Some believe that another translation is more suitable for the book – the Book of Resurrection.
There are many copies of the collection, consisting of both several chapters and more than a hundred chapters. The best examples of it are written on thin papyrus and were found during excavations of the city of Thebes. Most of the scrolls belonged to wealthy priests and family members, dating back to 4,500 years.
The papyrus sheets depicted various moments of the funeral ritual, scenes of the posthumous trial, drawings of the represented afterlife.
Researchers disagreed on the purpose of the book. It contains fear of death, hope for better times after earthly life, guidance on how to get through the dark world and be reborn again, advice on how to save the body in the grave.
Codex Sinai – parchment manuscript
In 1844, an ancient manuscript of the Bible on parchment was discovered in the Sinai Monastery. It contained an incomplete text of the Old Testament and a complete text of the New Testament, written in the 4th century. The manuscript was named Codex Sinai (Book of Sinai). Until the 19th century, she was in the monastery.
Interesting Handwritten Book Facts:
- the code is written in Greek;
- the text contains many notes left by former scribes, editors;
- is of great importance in understanding the content of the Bible;
- consists of 400 leather pages 38×34.5 cm in size.
Garima Codex (Gospels of Garima)
In the middle of the last century, a thick parchment book (more than 300 pages) with text, drawings and ornaments was discovered in the monastery of St. Garima (Ethiopia). The handwritten book was named Garima’s Code. Later it turned out that the Codex contains two books.
The Codex is considered one of the oldest Christian manuscripts – 330-650. n. e.
- the books of the codex are written in different handwriting, but the decorations are done in the same manner;
- the first book consists of 348 pages, the second – of 322, there are portraits of the evangelists (Luke, Matthew, Mark, John);
- some bird images in Book II did not exist in Ethiopia;
- the binding of the first is made of wooden planks bound with gilded copper;
- the second binding is silver.
Novgorod Psalter or Novgorod Code
One of the ancient Old Slavonic books of Russia – the Novgorod Codex – was discovered at the Novgorod excavations (2000). Three linden wax planks (tsera), of which it consists, are small – 19x19cm, their thickness is 1cm. Each has a recess so that it is convenient to pour wax, and holes for connecting to each other.
- the planks lay for about 1000 years in a swamp without air access, so they were well preserved;
- creation date – 988 – 1036;
- the text of Psalms 76 and 75 and partially the text of Psalm 67 are well preserved;
- under the main texts there were traces of overwritten notes (what was written earlier was erased, then a new text was written), some of them were restored.
Printed Book – Diamond Sutra
The content of the text of the Diamond Sutra is the basis of Mahayama Buddhism. Its creation is attributed to the III-IV c. e. One of the six Chinese translations of the sutra (Kumarajiva’s translation) is dated May 11, 868. The long scroll (4.8m) was acquired by archaeologist Mark Stein from a monk in the Magao Caves.
This edition is considered one of the first printed books in the world, namely, the second dated sample of woodcut (print on paper from a wooden board). The sutra speaks about the illusory nature of the world, about how a bodhisattva should think, speak and behave.
The oldest Ostromir Gospel
The posadnik Ostromir ordered the deacon Gregory to rewrite the text of the Gospel, on which he worked in 1056-1057. Gregory himself mentioned this in the manuscript. The Gospel is written in the Old Slavonic language, which is most valuable in the study of the history of the Russian and Ukrainian languages. The manuscript is considered one of the oldest handwritten books of Kievan Rus.
- manuscript material – high-quality parchment sheets 20x24cm;
- on several sheets, sewn cuts and traces of gadfly bites obtained during the life of the animal are visible;
- the book is written in a very beautiful handwriting, the letters are at first 5mm high, and on the last pages – already 7mm;
- columns (there are two) on each page consist of 18 lines;
- the author used cinnabar (a red paint based on a mercury mineral);
- there are notes in the margins, drawings, images of the evangelists;
- on the basis of the Gospel, grammars and dictionaries of the Old Slavonic language were created.
Along with the Gospels – Novgorod and Ostromirov – Izbornik Svyatoslav is in the list of the most ancient manuscript books in Russia. The manuscript was named after Prince Svyatoslav Yaroslavich, on whose order it was written. It consists of two books – Izborniki 1073 and 1076.
- two scribes wrote the book – John the clerk and the unknown;
- in the New Jerusalem Monastery (1817) found “Izbornik” 1073, consists of articles of a philosophical content, excerpts from the Aristotle doctrine of 10 categories, it contains drawings, a portrait of Svyatoslav with his family;
- the second “Izbornik” consists of excerpts from the writings of the Byzantine church fathers and biblical books.
Devil’s Bible (Code Gigas)
This handwritten edition on parchment is not only one of the oldest first books, but it can also be ranked among the most unusual editions. A handwritten book was created in the monastery of Podlazice (Czech Republic) at the beginning of the 13th century. It contains the full text of the Bible, and also contains the works of Flavius, Seville and others in Latin. It is assumed that one person wrote it for 20-30 years.
Interesting and unusual about the book:
- consists of 310 parchment sheets 89x49cm, total thickness – 22cm, weight – 75kg;
- each page has 2 columns of 106 lines;
- letter size – 2.5-3mm;
- initially there were 320 sheets, then 8 sheets were cut out, 2 sheets were lost it is not known how;
- the size of a wooden binding covered with white leather – 91.5×50.1 cm;
- 160 donkey skins were required for publication (according to other versions, calf skins were used);
- there are two page-sized miniatures, two images, decorated initials and marginals (there are 57 of them);
- In the legends associated with the writing of the Code, it is said that the monk who wrote it did not do without the help of the devil, having spent only a night on a huge and laborious work, therefore, sometimes the manuscript is called “The Devil’s Bible.”
Unusual and interesting facts about books
Manuscripts, old and ancient books are of interest to modern people not only for their content, but also for unusual facts from their history, which we learn about literally bit by bit.
Interesting facts about manuscripts and books:
- in Bulgaria (south-west of the country), it is believed that the oldest manuscript in the world was found – it is 2500 years old, consists of six sheets coated with 24-fold gold;
- the rarest edition of the Bible is the Gutenberg Bible in 1456;
- a 45m long papyrus scroll is kept in the British Museum;
- an old manuscript of the Gospel, written in 1188 for Henry the Lion – one of the oldest manuscripts;
- the medieval encyclopedia of animals (1250-1260) – there are 148 handwritten pages and 112 drawings of animals (real and fictional);
- handwritten copy of the Hebrew Scripture in Hebrew – IX-X centuries. n. e .;
- the prototype of the book was the notebooks of the ancient Greeks (tetrad) – they folded 4 parchment sheets in half and stitched them in the center so that they turned out to be 16 pages;
- information about the first book printed with typesetting stamps dates back to 1119;
- about 1,600 years ago there was a public library in Constantinople with over 120,000 copies of handwritten books.
The world of old and ancient books and manuscripts is little known and prepares us a lot of unusual and interesting facts that we will learn with pleasure and surprise, expanding our horizons.