Sofia Kotzabassi, Nancy Patterson Ševčenko, and Don Skemer, Greek Manuscripts at Princeton, Sixth to Nineteenth Century: A Descriptive Catalogue. Princeton: Princeton, University Press, 2010. Pp. xxix, 304; 279 color figs. $195. ISBN: 9780691143873.doi:10.1017/S0038713412001443
Reviewed by Dr. Leslie Brubaker, University of Birmingham in Speculum review 87.2 (April 2012)
A good manuscript catalogue is a scholarly tool that must perform a number of tasks and satisfy a range of users. It is both a historical guide to the books it catalogues and an “archaeological” guide to how these books were produced and what they contain. In exceptional catalogues, it is a guide to how we might better understand the role of the books themselves.
A manuscript catalogue is rarely intellectually exciting—the catalogue format works against the construction of sustained argument that gallops along under its own steam—but instead demands scrupulous attention to detail and an eye trained to isolate important points of comparison from generic similarities. For both of these reasons, it is hard to sustain the concentration that produces good catalogue copy. Greek Manuscripts at Princeton, Sixth to Nineteenth Century, a Descriptive Catalogue gives ample evidence of Sofia Kotzabassi’s and Nancy Patterson Ševčenko close attention to detail, of their highly trained scholarly eyes, and of their apparently inexhaustible powers of concentration. They have fulfilled all of the criteria listed above: this is the best manuscript catalogue I have ever consulted.