Berlin Мiscellany

Written by Анисава Милтенова
Berlin Miscellany Berlin Miscellany

A miscellany from the beginning of the 16th century with prevalent apocryphal and narrative compositions. Created by an anonymous Bulgarian scribe.


The codex is written on parchment consisting of 138 ¼ folios with dimensions 194 х 138 mm. Written by a single scribe, its orthography displays Midle Bulgarian features and falls into the group of single yer documents – the ь sign stands for etymological ъ and ь; the nasal vowels ѧ and ѫ are rarely mixed, the rendering of ѫ with оу is observable; ѣ, ѧ and е are interchangeable; a limited number of letters representing iotа vowels is present, as well as signs for ꙃ and ѕ. The main part (ff. 135) was sold to the Berlin State Library in 1858 by Vuk Karadžić, the discoverer of the manuscript, where it is currently kept under № 48.

In 1984, Heinz Miklas identified three manuscript folios found on the territory of Herzegovina. The fragment ended up in St. Petersburg as a present from Vatroslav Jagić, who had received it from Valtazar Bogišić. The folios are kept at the Russian National Library under № Q.п.І.15. The facsimile edition of H. Miklas (1988) presents the document in full. V. Jagić discovered a twin of the Berlin Codex in a Serbian copy dating from the 16th century as part of the A. F. Gilferding collection - № 42 - in the St. Petersburg Library, which document supplements the contents of the manuscript. Separate parallels and additions from the 16th century are available under № 119 from the Melec monastery collection at the Central Library of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kiev, under № 531 from the 15th century at the Synodal Collection of the State History Museum of Moscow and under № 541 at the Volokolamsk collection (ff. 113), Russian State Library, Moscow.

With its rich contents, the manuscript is one of the most valuable documents dating from the Second Bulgarian Kingdom as it provides clues to the tendencies of the literary life of that period. The document includes works of quite different genres and of varying functions and topics: excerpts from the Nomocanon, excerpts from rulebooks and prescriptions for the clergy, guidelines for the betterment of faithful Christians in their faith, Paterikon stories and moral instructions, apocrypha, sermons, etotapocriseis, hymnographic materials, books of prognostication, etc. Some of the original works include: writings by the Old Bulgarian scribe Peter Chernorizets, Tale of the Cross Tree by presbyter Jeremiah, an anonymous redoing of On the Letters by Monk Chrabar with an added alphabetic acrostic (known as the Second Anthology of Slavic Literature).

Of particular value is the copy of the hymnographic Glory of St. Paraskebe: Припѣ(л) ст҃ѣи пѧт҃цѣ. гла(с) .е҃. (69v). The manuscript is an anthology of texts of varied age and provenance. The language and contents of the miscellany have been studies by M. Yovcheva and L. Tasseva. who note that among the texts the following are included, which show signs of the particularities of the Preslav Literary School: the Oration of Petar Chernorizets (8r–9r), Tale of the ill-tempered women (10a–15b), the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius of Olympus (97a–120a), a description of the appearance of the Virgin and Christ (34r–35v), A Tale of Earthly Delights (96v–96r) and the Tale of the Power of Joseph (122r–130r). Among these compositions one also finds the Catecheses of Theodore the Studite, the narratives of Mage Daniel, On Emperor Maurice and On the Musician Philemon.

The Exegesis on the evangelical parables in the form of erotapocriseis (70v–70r) also speaks of an earlier age. Other contemporaneous texts in the miscellany speak of connections to Russian literary tradition: Parable of the Blind and the Lame by Cyril of Turov (28b–31a), also known as Parable of the Body and Soul. The compilation Catecheses of the Holy Fathers also includes the canonical answers of the John II, Metropolitan of Kiev, after the answers by Metropolitan Gregory to the questions of abbot Germanos, also of Russian origin. The Catecheses of Theodore the Studite (5r–8r) show traces of the distribution of the possible protograph in East Slavic regions. On the other hand, in the copies adjacent to the apocryphal Apocalypse of St. John the Evangelist, the Questions of St. John to Abraham concerning the Righteous Souls, there are particulars indicative of a long-lived Balkan tradition and of a Serbian influence.

The main portion of texts in the Berlin Codex bear the traces of editorial intervention, which is characteristic of the compiler as a person with broad knowledge and a bright mind. According to scholars, he belonged to the lesser clergy, while the miscellany was compiled at the behest of a person of elite standing for personal use. The manuscript reflects a new moment in the history of miscellanies of mixed content – the regrouping and cataloguing of works that had already been translated or created over previous centuries.


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SESDiva ERA.Net RUS Plus Call 2017 – S&T

SESDiva. Project № 156

SESDiva aims at creating a virtual museum of written culture in relation to the social, religious, cultural, and ideological environment and relations between the South and East Slavs throughout the centuries from the 11th to the beginning of the 20th century.

Duration: 2018-2020
Program: ERA.Net RUS Plus Call 2017 ‐ S&T Projects