A tenth century Greek manuscript recently came under the spotlight of the University of Cambridge’s Digital Library digitization program. The rare and important Greek text which could previously only be seen by a limited number of people, was photographed and made available, thus allowing readers to engage with the text in an active way — zooming in on the tiniest detail, browsing the entire document quickly and easily, linking it to related texts and further researching on the topic.
“A beautiful item in itself, the story of MS Ff.1.24’s journey through the hands of various collectors and scholars, of how it was interpreted, annotated, translated and repackaged, and how digitization enables the process of interpretation and transmission to still continue today and into the future, makes a fascinating tale,” a specialist of the Digital Library mentioned.
The book MS Ff.1.24, the code given to the Greek manuscript, comes from Constantinople and documents that were believed at the time to be the dying words of the sons of Jacob, the patriarchs of the Old Testament.
The main researcher of the book was Bishop Robert Grosseteste (1179-1253), who although already in his 60s by the time he took the book in his hands, taught himself Greek so that he could read and translate it. Grosseteste believed that the manuscript had been translated from an original Hebrew account and within it he identified passages appearing to prophesy the coming of Jesus.
Digital Library users who look at the manuscript today can see a close-up of Grosseteste’s own handwriting on the pages, commenting on the text as he translated it. His Latin version was popular, as over eighty manuscripts have survived up until today.