Chester Beatty Library – Collections – The Western Collection – Manuscripts - Syriac | The Western Manuscripts Syriac Collection, Chester Beatty Library Syriac Collection
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Syriac

The present-day area of southeast Turkey, Syria and parts of Iraq were once predominantly Christian. The language spoken was Syriac until replaced by Arabic in the thirteenth century. Important centres for book production were established in these areas and fine illuminated manuscripts were created by and for the various churches. Aspects of early Syriac book design and illumination influenced other medieval Christian decorated manuscripts. 

The collection includes several early evangelaries and choir books, as well as an illuminated copy of the Harclean version of the Gospel Book, written in Syriac and dating from the 12th century (CBL Syc 703).  The most important text is Ephraem’s Commentary on the Diatessaron of Tatian (CBL Syc 709), c. AD 490-510. Although parts of the Diatessaron, a harmony of the four Gospels, is preserved in later translations, the Chester Beatty manuscript is the earliest copy known of this text and the only one in the language in which it was originally written. It is a unique document in the history of Christianity for which Chester Beatty received a special papal blessing from Pope Pius XII in 1959. The Trustees of the Library have since made two additional acquisitions of leaves relating to this codex.

Publications

McCarthy, Carmel (1993) 'Saint Ephrem's Commentary on Tatian's Diatessaron: An English translation of Chester Beatty Syriac MS 709 with introduction and Notes', Journal of Semitic Studies, Supplement 2.