Investigating the Kenneth Willis Clark Collection of Greek Manuscripts

Elizabeth Schrader will be investigating Greek MS 065, a New Testament Byzantine Gospel lectionary dated to the eleventh century. This is one of the most stunning manuscripts held by the Rubenstein Library. Throughout its millennium-long life this manuscript has always been treated as a precious object, evidenced by its careful minuscule hand, its intricate head pieces, its musical notations for Gospel chanting, and most notably, its fifteenth-century silver repoussé gilt cover depicting the crucifixion. For most of its existence, the manuscript was a centerpiece of Byzantine sacred liturgy.

However, when the manuscript was acquired by Duke in 1975, it was given a different sort of sacred authority: it was the featured object in a ceremony inaugurating the Kenneth Willis Clark Greek Manuscript collection. But how exactly did MS 065 find its way to Duke? Perhaps due to its obvious value, the manuscript’s provenance is well-traced. Inscribed in the gilded cover are the words Ὁ παρον ευαγγελϊον ϊστο ναον του αγϊου στεφανος της πισιδϊας [“This lectionary is the property of the Church of St. Stephen of Pisidia”]. John Sharpe writes, “From the Church of St. Stephen the Protomartyr, the manuscript eventually passed into the hands of Dositheos Kladis, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church, Izmir, Turkey. From him it was purchased in 1954 by Sfc. Philip M. Conalis while serving with the U.S. Army…In May 1975 the Friends of the Library of Duke University purchased the manuscript from Lathrop C. Harper, Inc., New York. On the 15th of May 1975, at a ceremony in the Biddle Room of Special Collections to name the Greek manuscript collection in honor of Kenneth Clark, the manuscript was presented to mark the event.”

Some questions Elizabeth will be investigating are: What might have inspired the Church of St. Stephen to add an expensive silver gilt cover to the lectionary in the fifteenth century? What were the circumstances under which Archbishop Kladis sold this treasured book to a U.S. Army Sergeant? What are the ethical implications of a rare book dealer acquiring a religious manuscript from a US military officer, and then selling it to an elite academic institution? Greek MS 065 is indeed a classic case of “manuscript migration”, whose travels shed light on a broader human story of Church practices, Western imperialism, and secularization.

Update: Elizabeth has been investigating Greek Manuscript 065 of the Kenneth Willis Clark Collection. This item is a New Testament Lectionary containing readings in a liturgical order for the Greek Orthodox church. It is a Byzantine document from around the 11th century with musical notations throughout. Flyleaves at the end contain the long ending of Mark and Luke 24.12-53 copied in a less professional hand. On the front of the lectionary is an inscription stating “This lectionary is the property of the Church of St. Stephen of Pisidia” indicating that this could be where this item originated. In 1954 Philip Conalis purchased the lectionary from the estate of Archbishop Dositheos Kladis, which was administered by the Greek consulate in Izmir, Turkey. In 1975, the manuscript was purchased by Lathrop Harper, Inc. Booksellers in New York and was acquired by friends of the Duke Library later in that same year. 

Update, continued:  After three semesters of research, Elizabeth has been able to transform her innovative research on Greek MS 065 into a digital humanities format. Elizabeth worked with Will Shaw, of the Digital Scholarship and Publishing Services, to make the manuscript’s provenance information accessible on Neatline. Neatline is a software allowing for researchers to present data chronologically, providing Elizabeth the opportunity to trace Greek MS 065’s development across millennia and continents  into the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s collection at Duke University. Read more about Greek MS 065’s provenance here.


Link, Neatline Exhibit, Greek MS 065, courtesy of Elizabeth Schrader:

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