Sunday, June 26, 2011

What's Different About the Mar Saba Handwriting

I have gone through several hundred manuscripts at the Library of Zagora from the seventeenth century and I can't help notice that there is something different about the handwriting. This doesn't mean that I have changed my mind about authenticity. It just means that I am an honest person and I have decided to share an honest observation with my readership.

Mar Saba 65 is, as Morton Smith, notes in his 1973 book "remarkably cursive [and] as the manuscript progresses the cursive character of the hand becomes more marked." I had a recent exchange with one of my favorite scholars in the blogosphere - Andrew Criddle - at the Freethought and Rationalism Discussion Board and he actually summed up my general impression of the Priggos manuscript better than I have done hitherto. He noted:

the text by John Priggos (pictured above) seems to resemble the Mar Saba letter more in terms of some of its letter shapes than in its general impression. The Priggos letter seems to be a rapid confident example of a crude cursive. There is not a sense IMVHO (in my very humble opinion) that the author is trying to write in a script that does not come easily to him.

But this is precisely my point. I don't think I explained myself well to Agamemnon Tselikas when I referenced the handwriting sample.

Tselikas has repeatedly noted that the handwriting sample looks genuinely seventeenth or eighteenth century. He just can't believe that an educated Greek (= a monk) would make the kind of mistakes that the author does with the Greek language and basic things like the nomen sacrum as Tselikas notes in his BAR report:

Κυρίου. The abbreviation of the word normally consists of the letters κυ and not κου. see v. 16, 46. Also the scribe would normally abbreviate the words θεού as θ(εο)ῦ in v. 41, Ἰησοῦν, Ἰησοῦς as Ἰ(ησοῦ)ν, Ἰ(ησοῦ)ς v. 52 and 54 and Δαβὶδ as Δα(βί)δ v. 52.

He also notes that the scribe's knowledge of Greek seems to be spotty. In my mind when we take Criddle's observation about the handwriting coupled with Tselikas's statements I think Priggos seems to be a perfect candidate.

John Priggos began life without any formal education but later completing his studies after making his fortune as a merchant. As Lianaritakes notes in his 1996 dissertation, Priggos ended up getting educated later in life in the very system which produced and used these Byzantine manuscripts, only his knowledge would have necessarily have had some 'blind spots':

Το 1725 περίπου στή συνοικία τής 'Αγίας Παρασκευής Ζαγοράς γεννήθηκε ό μετέπειτα διακεκριμένος Θεσσαλός ευεργέτης 'Ιωάννης Πρίγκος. Το 1740, μετά άπο δώδεκα περίπου χρόνια άπο τότε πού έφυγε ό Καλλίνικος γιά σπουδές στην Κων/πολη, ό δεκαπεντάχρονος πλέον Πρίγκος, δίχως νά £χει πάει καθόλου στο σχολείο, αναγκάζεται νά ξενιτευτεί, εξαιτίας τής φτώχειας και τής όρφάνειας, ελπίζοντας σε καλύτερες ήμερες.

Άσχολούμένος με το εμπόριο, το σπουδαιότερο παράγοντα δημιουργίας νέων μεγάλων ελληνικών παροικιών1, παρέμεινε δυο χρόνια στην 'Αλεξάνδρεια, εννέα στη Βενετία, τέσσερα στη Σμύρνη καΐ το 1755 κατέληξε στο "Αμστερνταμ της 'Ολλανδίας. 'Εκεί έζησε περίπου εϋκοσι χρόνια "περιέβαλε με στοργή κάθε "Ελληνα πάροικο" καΐ τελικά ξαναγύρισε, οριστικά πλέον, πάμπλουτος στην πατρίδα του τη Ζαγορά το 1776, σε ηλικία πενήντα ενός χρόνων. Στο διάστημα αυτό της απουσίας του και άπο πόθο νά μάθει γράμματα κατάφερε νά αύτομορφωθεϊ. "Εμαθε νά διαβάζει, νά γράφει, καθώς επίσης νά μιλά καΐ ξένες γλώσσες.

"Ανθρωπος μέ μεγάλη πίστη στο Θεό και πολλή αγάπη στή δουλωμένη πατρίδα του καΐ τους νέους, θέλοντας νά φανεί ωφέλιμος στον τόπο πού γεννήθηκε, άρχισε άπο τήν 'Ολλανδία νά στέλνει βιβλία γιά το σχολείο της Ζαγοράς, πού λειτουργούσε οταν έφυγε, μέ παραλήπτη τον εφημέριο τού ναού της 'Αγίας Κυριακής π. Νικηφόρο Καραγιάννογλου.

συνθηκών, μέχρι τΙς 8 Σεπτεμβρίου 1765 εξακολουθούν νά είναι μέσα στά κιβώτια. Το σχολείο είχε κλείσει λόγω έλλειψης τών πόρων και δέν υπήρχε κανείς νά ξέρει νά τά διαβάσει."Εχοντας σπουδάσει ό ί'διος ό Καλλίνικος στην Πόλη, ερχόμενος σέ γνωριμία μέ τόσους αξιόλογους δασκάλους, άλλα και κάνοντας τόσα όνειρα τήν περίοδο τής πατριαρχίας του γιά τήν παιδεία, επισήμανε αμέσως, μέ τήν επιστροφή του το 1762 στή Ζαγορά, τήν έλλειψη τών σχολείων. Γι' αυτό προετοιμάζει τό έδαφος γιά τήν επαναλειτουργία τους. 'Αποστολές βιβλίων άπο τήν 'Ολλανδία έχουμε στις 6 'Απριλίου, στις 10 'Ιουνίου καΐ στίς 16 'Ιουνίου του 1762. Σύνολο βιβλίων 2163. Τά βιβλία του Πρίγκου πού έφθασαν στή Ζαγορά, εξαιτίας της ολιγωρίας, της αμάθειας των ζαγοριανών, άλλα καΐ τών ανωμάλων

John Priggos was born in 1725 nearly near the Church of Holy Friday in Zagora and later became its distinguished benefactor. He left in 1740, just as the future Patriarch Callinicos began to study in Constantinople. Priggos was now fifteen and without the money to develop his education, he was ultimately forced to migrate because of poverty and opportunity, hoping for better days.

He became involved in the mercantile trade, a business which established a class of rich Greeks. Priggos stayed two years in 'Alexandria, nine in Venice, four in Izmir and in 1755 came to Amsterdam. There lived about twenty years surrounded with a friendly community of Greeks and eventually came back to Zagora a wealthy man in 1776 at the age of fifty. During this period of absence he learned to write and educate himself. As Scouravas notes "he [Priggos] learned to read, write and also speak and foreign languages. A man of great faith in God and love to his enslaved homeland, he wanted to shower gifts on his birthplace and started in Amsterdam to send books to the school of Zagora, which was already functioning when he left. The books were sent to vicar of the Church of the 'Αγίας Κυριακής π. Νικηφόρο Καραγιάννογλου but they remained in boxes until September 8, 1765."

The school had been closed due to lack of money and the reality was that there was no one must know how to read. Having became acquainted again with Callinicus, who knew a great number of teachers and the school was ultimately reestablished. While in the Netherlands he shipped 2163 books in total between the 6th of April and the 16th of June 1762.

The point is that one of the books that was sent by Priggos and received by the Library of Zagoras was a 1646 edition of Voss from Amsterdam. I don't know how and why Priggos would have copied the letter to Theodore into the book but at the very least we can connect this sender of a 1646 edition of Voss to a cursive handwriting.

The bottom line is that Priggos would necessarily have been educated by someone associated with the Greek Orthodox church. The priest in the Greek communities scattered around the world acted as the teacher of the people, so the influence of the writing of the church was inevitable upon those being instructed.

Once Priggos became a wealthy man, he sends money and books to his native town to help establish a world class education system. This was a common practice at that time but the schools remained under the protection of church in Greece, due to the Turkish occupation and general political situation.

Lianaritakes makes clear that his self education, apparently started from his trying to read all the books he was familiar with, or he was close to. These books were certainly church books mostly written in the traditional Byzantine script. After he learned how to read adequately started to drawing the letters copying the books he read, many of which were written in the writing style of those same religious books. As such we should have no doubt that Priggos had two styles of writing - one used in commerce and that he was at least capable of reading and writing in the ligatures of the church writings that he was instructed from.

It would seem at least that his handwriting should be expected to be like the books he was reading.

It is worth noting that Criddle isn't alone in noting that there was something different about the writing in Mar Saba 65. Smith and many others noted the influence of western European greek printed typography over the writing. This would again make sense if the scribe was Priggos and he learned to write with the aid of printed books.

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