History of The Book: Codex

February 27, 2012

Book, a tool for communication that had been used since 5,000 years ago. Book has survived many radical changes in format. An obsolete form of book is the cuneiform clay tablet, used in Mesopotamia by the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Persians from 3,000 BC. Cuneiform is based on a wedge-shaped mark, and represents one of man's earliest efforts to communicate by written language, until it was abandoned around 500 BC, in favor of alphabetic writing on papyrus.

Ancient Egyptian papyrus scroll was in common use until 300 AD. It was made by gluing sheets of papyrus together on alternate edges. Chinese 5th century BC books were made of bamboo strips bound together by cords. The saying of Confusius were recorded on bamboo. Chieh-yuan, a Buddhist scripture, was written in 448 AD, became one of the oldest manuscripts extant in China. Other primitive forms include leather rolls, as in the case of the Dead Sea Scrolls, was writing on bark, and palm leaves.

Codex, a conventional modern book. Codex is made by binding together along one edge a number of leaves piled on top each other, each leaf being folded from a sheet that contains two or more leaves. Codex was slow in replacing the scroll, and it was first used by Christians, such as the four Gospels, or St. Paul's Epistles. Vellum codices came into general use in the 4th century. The following are some most important historically codex in alphabetical order:

Codex Alexandrianus, "Codex A", a 5th century manuscript of the Greek Bible, nearly complete (773 leaves out of 820), evidently written in Egypt. Cyril Lucar, when Patriach of Constantinople, presented it to King James I of England (c.1625). It's now in the British Museum.

Codex Amiatinus, the best extant manuscript of the Vulgate edition of the Latin Bible. It was written at one or other of the twin Benedictine monasteries of Jarrow and Wearmouth, England, to the order of Abbot Ceolfrid, in 716 for presentation to Pope Gregory II. It is now in the Laurentian Library at Florence.

Codex Bezae, "Codex D", a 5th century bilingual manuscript of the Gospels, Acts, and part of III John, with Greek on the left hand page, and Latin on the right. Important for its additions to the common text. It was presented by Theodore Beza to Cambridge University Library in 1581.

Codex Ephraemi, "Codex C", a 5th century manuscript containing 64 leaves of the Old Testament, and 145 out of 238 of the New. It's a palimpsest, the Biblical text having been rubbed out to make room for a treatise of St. Ephraem Syrus. It's now on Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

Codex Fuldensis, a Latin Vulgate manuscript of the New Testament, written about 545 for Bishop Victor of Capua, Italy. Brought to Jarrow, England, 150 years later. It's now in Fulda, Germany, where it was taken by the English missionary St. Boniface (c.744). In it the four Gospels are rearranged so as to form one continuous narrative.

Codex Sinaiticus, "Codex Aleph", a 4th century Greek manuscript, containing one third of the Old Testament, and all of the New. Discovered in 1844 by Constantine Tischendorf in St. Catharine's Monastery on Mount Sinai. It was presented in 1859 to the Tsar of Russia, and was bought for the British Museum in 1933.

Codex Vaticanus, "Codex B", a 4th century vellum manuscript of the Greek Bible, of unsurpassed importance. Probably written in Alexandria, Egypt, 759 leaves survive out of 820, and the New Testament ends at Heb. 9:14. Its earlier history is unknown, but it has been in the Vatican Library since the 15th century, except for six years 1809-15, in Paris. Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus were the oldest Biblical manuscripts known before the discovery of the Chester Beatty Papyri in 1931, and the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1948-56.

Source Encyclopedia International by:

Howard Woodrow Winger,
Professor and Dean, Graduate Library School, University of Chicago.
Editor: Library Quarterly.
Author:

Frederick Fyvie Bruce,
Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegenis, University of Manchester, England.
Author:

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