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THREE OLD BIBLES. As the visitor in Rome stands at the The scene bursting upon the view, as the opening of the massive colonnades which visitor enters this library, is one of ideal circle outward from the front of St. Peter's, splendor. Imagine a grand hall over 200 his eye sweeps over a scene not more won- feet long, divided by seven large, ornament. derful in its present appearance than in its ed pillars ; its walls and high arched ceilings historical associations. Before him rises decorated with graceful frescoes, and illumithe mighty dome of Michael Angelo, its vast nated in gold and brilliant colors; its lumiheight half hidden by the heavy pillared nous perspective extended to a junction with facade, from the top of which gigantic stat- two long transverse galleries, each as richly ues of Christ and the Apostles look down. . adorned as the main hall; the whole displayThe great square, glittering with fountains, ing a line of over half a mile of magnificent is pierced in its center by that needle like paintings; 'while in the recesses are shown obelisk of red granite which first sto d amid collections of costly and royal presents, the temples of Heliopolis, then in the circus vases of malachite, porcelain and alabaster, of Nero, and was removed three centuries mosaic tables, cabinets of enamels, carvings ago to its present position to adorn the scenes in ivory, and numberless other precious obof Christian worship as it once did those of jects of art. the heathen rites. Adjoining the cathedral There is no visible suggestion that these on the north is the spot where Caligula used halls are a library. Nowhere is a book to be to walk in his gardens, amusing his evening seen. Yet these galleries hold more than hours with the murder of Roman nobles and 125,000 books and manuscripts, comprising ladies, and where Nero afterwards looked many of the rarest literary treasures of the on the living forms of Christians bedaubed world. But all are locked up in gilded and with pitch, and fired for the imperial recrea- decorated cabinets, and seem to be made as tion. Here Charlemagne resided, during difficult of access as possible. Only one his Roman visits; and here the eye now

small obscure room is assigned for literary glances over the long walls and red-tiled roofs work; and this is open but three hours in of the Vatican palace, a huge mass of build- the day, and from these days are excluded ings occupying a square of 760 by 1150 all the numerous church festival days. The feet, and comprising nearly 5000 different Vatican library is a vast tomb of books; apartments.

the tomb is a splendid one, but its decoraPassing down the right colonnade, the tions and external beauty by no means comvisitor reaches the chief entrance to the pensate for the entombment of the treasures Vatican, the Scala Regia, a gigantic and which it shuts up from public use. highly adorned staircase leading to the audi- The oldest and most precious copy of the ence hall. After traversing various broad and Christian Scriptures, the Vatican Bible, has interlacing passages, one comes into a corri- remained hidden in this library four cendor 2000 feet long, in the walls of which turies, its guardians during the most of this are set 3000 slabs, covered with ancient in- long period neither using it themselves nor scriptions. This is the famous Lapidarian suffering others to use it. Within the last gallery. The fragments of pagan origin on half century their jealousy has been somethe right, are confronted on the left with what relaxed. In 1813, a German scholar early Christian epitaphs. While walking was allowed to stand between two keepers through this gloomy corridor towards the for a few hours and look at the book; but, heavy iron doors near its further end, one

if the attendants saw him noticing any pascan but feel that the striking contrast be- sage with special attention, they would tween the pagan and Christian epitaphs, snatch the volume away.

Twelve years forms a fit approach to the halls which en- later, Dr. Tregelles of England, though tomb that vast collection of heathen and armed with a powerful letter of introduction Christian literatures, the Libreria Vaticana. from Cardinal Wiseman, found that the


two prelati, who had been ordered to watch sarion, the patriarch of Constantinople, who him, acted as if they had a criminal in contributed so largely to the revival of learncharge. • They would not let me open the ing in the fifteenth century, and turned his volume,” he says, “ without searching my own residence into an academy and home pockets to deprive me of pen, ink and paper.” for literary men? So some have thought. They sought to distract his attention by Was it written in Alexandria, fifteen and a rude talk and laughter. If he began to half centuries ago, when that splendid city look closely at a passage, they would rough- was the chief seat of Christian learning, ly snatch the volume away. The fortune of and its bishop, the powerful Athanasius, Dean Alford, in 1861, was scarcely better. was entitled the “ Judge of the World ?” Although he had gained from the very high- Many great scholars have so conjectured. est authority, the papal prime minister, An- Or did it originate in Southern Italy, the tonelli himself, a special order authorizing Magna Grecia of old, when its cities were him “to verify passages," it would seem so celebrated for their literary culture? So that the custodians must have had a secret the most recent investigators infer, arguing hint that the order was to be rendered from the peculiar similarity between its practically worthless. For Alford found, to style of handwriting and that of the Herhis surprise and chagrin, that the librarian culaneum papyri, and from the extensive insisted upon interpreting the order to mean agreements between its readings and those “ that he was to see the book, not to use it.” of the other most ancient manuscripts of But the world moves, even at Rome. Five South Italy, some of which they think must years later, Tischendorf secured the privi- have been copied from this very book. But lege of studying these wonderful pages for these, with all other theories of its origin fourteen days, of three hours each; and, by and early history, belong to the realm of the aid of his accurate paleographical learn- conjecture. From what source it issued ; ing and marvelous memory, succeeded in what hands wrote these faded lines; in what giving the world a far better copy of this palaces, castles, monasteries, it has lain bible than had yet been known. The fail. from age to age; along what currents it ure of Mai's disgracefully imperfect edition has floated down the centuries ; through has resulted in the authoritative production what perils of wars and conflagrations in of a new reprint, copying the words letter for different countries it has passed unscathed letter.

—these are inquiries which offer wide room Let us imagine now that we have secured for the activity of the historic imagination; the orders necessary for a view of this price- but the facts that would answer them are less volume, and that the watchful attend- shrouded from us in the oblivion of forgotants have opened its locked cabinet and ten things. placed the book on the table before us. We Our chief knowledge of the Vatican behold a heavy quarto, bound in dingy red Bible is derived from its own pages; and morocco covers, containing 759 leaves of these, though they cannot tell us the story very thin and delicate vellum. The appear- of its origin and lines of transmission, exance of great antiquity speaks to the eye at hibit manifold evidences of its extreme once of the countless years of use through antiquity and value. The six narrow colwhich the book has passed. But if we ask umns of small, square, precisely written what is known of its history before it was letters shown by each open double page; brought to this “ magnificent mausoleum of the continuous writing, without breaks into dead books,” the answer is disappointing. words or sentences; the absence of capitals, Its external history previous to A.D. 1475, accents, breathings and punctuation marks; when it was first enrolled in the Vatican the retouching of the original handwritcatalogue, has entirely perished.

ing, now much faded by lapse of ages; the No one can tell who brought the Vatican peculiar paleographic division into sections, Bible to Rome, or whence it came. Was it antedating the Euthalian, Eusebian, and conveyed thither by the learned John Bes- even the Ammonian canons (A. D. 340)—all


justify the conclusion that this very copy of the slope of the mountain. On each side the Scriptures must have been written dur- rise fantastic mountain peaks, not dull and ing the first quarter or half of the fourth uniform in aspect, but glowing with gorcentury. Such scholars as Dr. Scrivener geous colors, streaked with crimson, green, agree with Dr. Tregelles in placing the writ- lilac, purple and pink, varying from the ing between A. D. 300 and A. D. 325. Da- dark red of granite, or the dead black of vidson and Tischendorf would put it nearly basalt to the dazzling white of limestone. at A. D. 350; while Westcott and Alford The convent buildings are enclosed within assign it to the sanie century without indi. heavy walls of red brick and granite. They cating more precisely the date.

are rude and irregular, constructed in difThe Vatican Bible contains the Greek ferent ages, and many of them now unused Septuagint translation of the Old Testa- and half ruined. The chief building is the ment except the first forty-five chapters of great church, probably thirteen centuries Genesis and Psalms 105–37, which have old. Its interior is profusely decorated been lost. In the New Testament the por- with pictures, hung with silver lamps, and tion after Hebrews 9:14, and with it First enriched with costly offerings. and Second Titus, Philemon, and the en- The convent has its library in a large, tire Apocalypse are wanting, these missing plain apartment, rarely visited by the parts being substituted in a comparatively monks, and, on account of their jealous recent handwriting of the fifteenth century. suspicions, usually closed against strangers. Dr. Tregelles, a consummate paleographist, It is this ancient library which has turned told Dr. Scrivener that he was “ deeply im- the eyes of the world of scholars with such pressed with the general appearance of the marked interest towards this decaying, and manuscript, as being far more venerable almost deserted, monastery. For it has than anything else he had ever seen,” and furnished a more precious contribution to said that, while he felt quite sure that it Scripture learning than the proudest and was already written at the time of the wealthiest capital of Europe could make. council of Nice, A. D. 325, he did not like Its preservation of one book through so to say how much earlier it might well have many centuries is a service to Christianity been written.

of such value as to inspire grateful recogniWhile the seclusion of the Vatican Bible tion of the Providence which buried it so in its splendid repository at Rome is a dis- securely from the perils of the past, and has tinguishing fact in its history, the most disentombed it so signally in our day. striking circumstance in our knowledge of In the year 1814, Constantine Tischenthe Sinai Bible, is the strange place and dorf, a young German scholar, made a story of its discovery. The Vatican palace journey into the East to discover ancient is encircled and filled with the monuments Scriptures, which might be reposing unof human art, and its air is tremulous with known in its dilapidated monasteries. In the chantings of papal worship, or the in- the course of his explorations, he visited cessant footfalls of devotion and curiosity this ancient convent at the base of Mount crowding thither from all the world. But Sinai, and was hospitably received by the about the lonely fortress convent is spread monks, who even admitted him to their the perpetual silence of the desert, and over neglected library. In the middle of the its walls and towers frown the awful crags room was a large waste basket heaped with of Sinai. Among human abodes a center torn pages and fragments of old parchment. of busier concourse could hardly be con- 'While Tischendorf was looking them over, trasted with a spot of more utter isolation. he was told that the contents were worth

The convent stands in a valley so narrow less, having been gathered to be burned. that, while its lower wall touches the dry But in that basket he discovered 120 leaves bed of the torrent, which sweeps down the from one of the most ancient Greek Bibles wady for a few weeks only in the year, its he had ever beheld. He asked for them, side walls mount steeply along 250 feet up but was allowed to keep only forty-three;

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nor would the monks, whose suspicions were unique importance to Christian learning of now aroused by his evident sense of the this ancient Bible, that the imperial influvalue of these fragments, permit him to ence was turned towards removing it from copy a word of the pages they withheld. its obscure and neglected depository, which

Nine years later Tischendorf revisited was finally accomplished. the convent, hoping to secure the rest of The year 1862, the one-thousandth annithese precious leaves; but they were hid- versary of Russia, was celebrated by the den away. He, however, chanced upon a publication of this Bible, under imperial single fragment of the book, containing auspices. It was issued in four large folio eleven lines of Genesis, and departed, feel. volumes, each leaf of the size and form of ing that the volume itself had long ago the corresponding leaf in the original, the perished. It afterwards appeared that the color of the ink, size of the type, spaces and monks, using as samples the leaves they had lines, all closely imitating the appearance of kept from him, had found their companion the ancient Scripture. Only 300 copies were pages and secreted them with the fragments allowed to be printed, two hundred of which first discovered.

have already been distributed to the chief The last days of January, 1859, found libraries of the world, by the Emperor of this indefatigable explorer again among the Russia. peaks of Sinai, and before the walls of its The Sinai Bible contains the New Testaconvent. This journey was made under the ment, the Epistle of Barnabas, a portion of powerful patronage of the Emperor of Rus- Hermas, and twenty-two books of the Old sia, the head of the Greek church. As the Testament. The whole is written on fine caravan drew near to the convent walls, the vellum, made from antelope skins into the cord was let down, as usual, from the high largest pages known in our ancient manudoor at the top of the wall, for letters of scripts. While most of the oldest manuintroduction. The unexpected impression scripts have only two columns to the page, made by the imperial documents sent back and the Vatican Bible has three, the Sinai was shown by the immediate appearance of Bible alone shows four. The letters are the steward to take the Russian commis- somewhat larger than those of the Vatican, sioner through a separate entrance on the and much more roughly written. The book ground, by way of the garden. The rest of contains many blunders in copying, and the party were hoisted through the air into there are a few cases of willful omission. the convent, as are all ordinary visitors. At Its remote age is attested by many of the the close of this visit, Tischendorf was in- same proofs which have been mentioned in vited into the cell of the steward, and a the description of the Vatican Bible; but parcel, wrapped in red cloth, was laid before the appearance here of the Eusebian canons him. On opening it, he was astonished and shows that we cannot place its writing much delighted to discover, not only the frag- before the middle of the fourth century. ments taken away from his hand fifteen It has been thought by some that this years before, but also the entire Bible, of book is the single venerable survivor of the which they were a portion, henceforth to be fifty issued by Eusebius, A. D. 331, by orknown to the world as the Sinai Bible, sec- der of the Emperor Constantine. The ond only to the Vatican' in antiquity and extreme costliness of the volume, its magvalue. He begged the privilege of taking nificent size, its form of writing, and the it to his room, and spent the night in tran- probable date of its appearance favor this scribing, lest the opportunity might never supposition. Its pages, during their long

existence, have undergone at least ten difAfter considerable effort, Tischendorf se- ferent revisions, some of them occurring cured permission from the reluctant monks soon after the original writing, but most of to take this precious Scripture to Cairo, them having been made several hundred where it was copied. On his return to years later. The various hands in which Russia, he made such representations of the these alterations, corrections, interpolations and notes have been written, are noticeable tended to have written the whole. Finally, among the evidences of the antiquity of the a critical examination of the Sinai Bible, the original writing.


worn and decayed appearance of the volume, The first fuc-similes of the Sinai Bible the fading of the inks in some places even to had hardly been issued when a curious at- indistinctness, the many interlineations by tack was made upon it. A certain wily different hands, and in the styles of writing Greek, pamed Simonides, declared that the characteristic of different ages, and even book, so far from being a relic of extreme the peculiar blunders of the scribe and the antiquity, was merely a piece of his own marked similarity of readings to those of handiwork. He said he had written it be- the few other ancient bibles which are extween November, 1839, and August, 1810, tant, made it perfectly certain that the for his uncle, then Superior of a monastery, Greek's extravagant claim was utterly false. on dit. Athos. It was to be a copy froin a The one useful result of his preposterous Moscow Bible, in antique style and uncial attack was to turn the attention of scholletters, and upon vellum. He afterwards ars so strongly upon the abundant proofs of gave it to the archbishop of Sinai, who had the great age of the Sinai Bible, that its sent it to the Sinai convent, where he him- position and value were thenceforth imself had since seen it twice.

pregnably established in the world of This extravagant story was at once tested letters. more rigorously than its author relished. It is an interesting fact that each of the Simonides was proved to be a perjurer and three great divisions of the Christian church a forger in some of his previous exploits. possesses one of the three most ancient and He could produce no living witness in be- valuable Bibles in existence. The Roman half of his tale. Both the archbishop and church holds the Vatican Bible; the Greek the “ uncle," whose names he had made use church has secured the Sinai Bible; and the of, had conveniently died before the Greek leading Protestant nation, the English concocted his narrative. The librarian and people, are using the Alexandrian Bible. brethren at Mt. Sinai testified that Simon- Such a division of these three important ides had never been seen at the con- Scriptures will be regarded by many as a vent, and declared that the Bible had cer- mere coincidence, but by some as a Provitainly been in the convent throughout their dence. memory, and that its title stood duly entered The name of the Vatican Bible recalls its in all the ancient catalogues. Further ex- long and close seclusion in its splendid palaamination showed that the story of the tial tomb; that of the Sinai Bible, its strange Greek involved the curious improbability recovery from the crumbling convent at the that this pretended copying took place at a

foot of the mount of God; while the Alextime when, according to his own previous andrian is associated with the thoughts of statements, he could have been only fifteen scholarly use, with the open doors, the freyears old. A little calculation showed that quented halls, and the silent but ceaseless inthis precocious boy must have written at dustries of scholarship in the British Musethe rate of 20,000 large, separate uncial um. Within these walls students are gathercharacters (which are peculiarly slow of ed from all parts of the world. Germans and construction) every successive day for nine Italians, French and Americans, Greeks, months. When this difficulty was brought Persians and Hindoos- all are welcomed to light, Simonides took refuge in the per- and afforded the amplest facilities for work fectly safe offer to do the same task for the in the grandest scientific, historic and litetrifling sum of $50,000, which he knew rary collection on the globe. Such an exwas not likely to be raised. It was noticed, perience there as that of the writer of these however, that he did not consent to prove lines, deserves grateful mention. He was his ability by sitting down, in the presence cordially received, introduced to the ancient of competent examiners, and doing one manuscript department, provided freely with day's copying at the rate at which he pre- the services of competent assistants, and

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