February 10, 2011
Yesterday afternoon, as I was preparing to go to the library, I looked out my window and saw a UPS truck stop across the street. Usually when this happens, the UPS man delivers a package to my neighbor’s house; but, on this occasion, he crossed the street and walked up my driveway. I went to the front door, expecting the doorbell to ring; it did not, and I was puzzled. I opened the door: no package, and no delivery man. I speculated that the delivery man had perhaps gone to the wrong house and, realizing this, had gone away. Having no way to check this supposition, I put the question out of my mind, and prepared to leave as planned. I opened the garage door, stepped outside, and brought in the mail. As I walked back to the house, I noticed leaning up against the wall beside the garage door a standard 9½ by 13 inch envelope. (Apparently the delivery man did not trust my front steps, although I had worked to clear the ice off of them earlier this week.) Inspecting it, I found that it was from the Vatican Library. I went inside, shut the garage door, went upstairs and opened the envelope. It contained another envelope, a brown, manila one, in which was found a CD-ROM copy of the manuscript Ottoboniensis graecus 99, containing the complete Greek text of John Kyparissiotes’ Decades; I had ordered this from the Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana a few weeks ago. With great expectation, I put it onto my computer and began to read it. The Greek hand is very fluid and legible. Inside, on the initial page of the manuscript, there is an inscription in Latin:
Ex codicibus Joannis Angeli
Ducis ab Altaemps
ex Graeco manuscripte
There may be a small horizontal line above the last two letters of “Altaemps,” which would indicate that that word is an abbreviation for something (Duke from High Emp…?). At the risk of publicly exhibiting my ignorance, I confess that am unsure who the duke John Angelus (or, more likely, John Angelos Doukas) was; if some kind reader can enlighten me upon that point, I would appreciate the information. (No doubt I should take a look at a book by Demetrios Polemis titled The Doukai: A Contribution to Byzantine Prosopography [London 1968], as well as at the Prosopographische Lexikon der Palaiologenzeit.) It is possible that the words ab Altaemps ex Graeco manuscripte indicate that the copy was written out by hand by a scribe from the All-Temps Agency. But I consider this a highly remote possibility.
The earlier part of this volume consists of a series of short ascetic writings by Dorotheus of Gaza. The latter half appears to be devoted entirely to Kyparissiotes’ Decades.
I had been hunting about for the Greek text of the Decades for a number of years; my inability to find a single copy of Vasileios Dentakes’ edition of the work (Ἰωάννου τοῦ Κυπαρισσιώτου, τῶν Θεολογικῶν ῾Ρήσεων Στοιχειώδης Ἔκθεσις. Τὸ κείμενον [μετὰ τῆς λατινικῆς μεταφράσεως τοῦ Franciscus Turrianus] νῦν τὸ πρῶτον ἐκδιδόμενον [Editio princeps]. Athens 1982) led me finally to put in an order for the original manuscript last month. Its arrival yesterday was therefore a very satisfying occurrence; I shall now be able to see what Kyparissiotes says in his actual words, and not merely through the lens of Francesco Torres’s Latin translation. At some point soon, I will go back over the translations already placed on-line and check them against the Greek.
Anyway, I am now, as it seems, the possessor of the only copy of the Greek text of John Kyparissiotes’ Decades in the Western hemisphere. Not that this is a distinction eagerly sought after by others, or even one which, in the larger scheme of things, conveys very much merit. Yet I hope that it is something I may put to good use, and from which others may derive both profit and edification.