Cotton Genesis
The Cotton Genesis is a 4th- or 5th-century Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 Illuminated manuscript
Illuminated manuscript
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...

 copy of the Book of Genesis. It was a luxury manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

 with many miniatures
Miniature (illuminated manuscript)
The word miniature, derived from the Latin minium, red lead, is a picture in an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript; the simple decoration of the early codices having been miniated or delineated with that pigment...

. It is one of the oldest illustrated biblical
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

A codex is a book in the format used for modern books, with multiple quires or gatherings typically bound together and given a cover.Developed by the Romans from wooden writing tablets, its gradual replacement...

 to survive to the modern period. Most of the manuscript was destroyed in the Cotton library
Cotton library
The Cotton or Cottonian library was collected privately by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton M.P. , an antiquarian and bibliophile, and was the basis of the British Library...

 fire in 1731, leaving only eighteen charred, shrunken scraps of vellum
Vellum is mammal skin prepared for writing or printing on, to produce single pages, scrolls, codices or books. It is generally smooth and durable, although there are great variations depending on preparation, the quality of the skin and the type of animal used...

. From the remnants, the manuscript appears to have been more than 440 pages with approximately 340-360 illustrations that were framed and inserted into the text column. Many miniatures were also copied in the 17th century and are now in the BnF
BNF may stand for:In science:*Biological nitrogen fixation, a process that converts nitrogen in the atmosphere to ammonia*British National Formulary, the standard drug reference manual**British National Formulary for Children...

 in Paris (Ms. fr. 9530).


The manuscript contains the text of the Book of Genesis on 35 parchment leaves (size about 27 x 22 cm), with numerous lacunae
Lacuna (manuscripts)
A lacunaPlural lacunae. From Latin lacūna , diminutive form of lacus . is a gap in a manuscript, inscription, text, painting, or a musical work...

The original codex contained 165 leaves, in the quarto size. It is written in uncial
Uncial is a majuscule script commonly used from the 3rd to 8th centuries AD by Latin and Greek scribes. Uncial letters are written in either Greek, Latin, or Gothic.-Development:...

 letters, in one column per page, in 27-30 letters per line. The nomina sacra
Nomina sacra
Nomina sacra means "sacred names" in Latin, and can be used to refer to traditions of abbreviated writing of several frequently occurring divine names or titles in early Greek language Holy Scripture...

 usually are written in an abbreviated forms: ΚΣ, ΚΝ, ΘΣ, ΘΝ, for κυριος, κυριον, θεος, θεον. It contains some illustrations (e.g. Joseph
Joseph (Hebrew Bible)
Joseph is an important character in the Hebrew bible, where he connects the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Canaan to the subsequent story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt....

 with his brethren in his own house, on their return into Egypt).

The miniatures were executed in a late antique style, retaining classical illusionistic qualities. Herbert Kessler and Kurt Weitzmann
Kurt Weitzmann
Kurt Weitzmann was born in Klein Almerode Germany on May 7, 1904 and died in Princeton, New Jersey on June 7, 1993. He was a highly influential art historian who studied Byzantine and medieval art. He attended the universities of Münster, Würzburg and Vienna before moving to Princeton in 1935, due...

 argue that the manuscript was produced in Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

, as it exhibits stylistic similarities to other Alexandrian works such as the Charioteer Papyrus
Charioteer Papyrus
The Charioteer Papyrus is a 5th century fragment of an illustration from an unknown work of literature. It is one of the finest surviving fragments of classical book illustration...


History of the codex

According to Tischendorf it was written in the 5th century.
The Cotton Genesis appears to have been used in the 1220s as the basis for the design of 110 mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

 panels in the atrium
Atrium (architecture)
In modern architecture, an atrium is a large open space, often several stories high and having a glazed roof and/or large windows, often situated within a larger multistory building and often located immediately beyond the main entrance doors...

 of St Mark's Basilica
St Mark's Basilica
The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, northern Italy. It is the most famous of the city's churches and one of the best known examples of Byzantine architecture...

 in Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

, presumably after it was brought to Venice following the sack of Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 by the Fourth Crusade
Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade was originally intended to conquer Muslim-controlled Jerusalem by means of an invasion through Egypt. Instead, in April 1204, the Crusaders of Western Europe invaded and conquered the Christian city of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire...

 in 1204. The manuscript arrived in England, and was acquired by Sir Robert Cotton in the 17th century. His collection passed to the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...


It was brought from Philippi
Philippi was a city in eastern Macedonia, established by Philip II in 356 BC and abandoned in the 14th century after the Ottoman conquest...

 by two Greek bishops, who presented it to King Henry VIII, whom they informed that tradition reported it to have been the identical copy which had belonged to Origen
Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...


In 1731, while the codex was at Ashburnham House
Ashburnham House
Ashburnham House is an extended seventeenth-century house on Little Dean's Yard in Westminster, London, United Kingdom, and since 1882 has been part of Westminster School...

 with the rest of the collection, it was reduced by fire to a heap of charred and shrivelled leaves. Afterwards the rest of the codex was divided in two parts. One part of it (29 folios) was moved to the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

, another to the Bodleian Library
Bodleian Library
The Bodleian Library , the main research library of the University of Oxford, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and in Britain is second in size only to the British Library...


Until the middle of the 19th century it was thought to be the oldest manuscript of the Septuagint. According to Thomas Hartwell Horne
Thomas Hartwell Horne
Thomas Hartwell Horne , was a theologian, and librarian. He was born in London and educated at Christ's Hospital. He then became a clerk to a barrister, and used his spare time to write. He was initially affiliated with the Wesleyans but later joined the Church of England.Horne wrote more than...

 it was not only the most ancient but the most correct manuscript that is extant. According to Swete the manuscript even before the fire had been imperfect.

Most of the London fragments of the codex were deciphered and published by Constantin von Tischendorf
Constantin von Tischendorf
Lobegott Friedrich Constantin Tischendorf was a noted German Biblical scholar. He deciphered the Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, a 5th century Greek manuscript of the New Testament, in the 1840s, and rediscovered the Codex Sinaiticus, a 4th century New Testament manuscript, in 1859.Tischendorf...

 in 1857; the rest of the codex with the Bristol fragments were deciphered by F. W. Gotch in 1881.

See also

  • Vienna Genesis
    Vienna Genesis
    The Vienna Genesis , designated by siglum L , is an illuminated manuscript, probably produced in Syria in the first half of the 6th Century. It is the oldest well-preserved, surviving, illustrated biblical codex.- Description :The text is a fragment of the Book of Genesis in the Greek Septuagint...

     – another illuminated Greek manuscript of the Book of Genesis
  • Early Christian art and architecture
    Early Christian art and architecture
    Early Christian art and architecture is the art produced by Christians or under Christian patronage from about the year 100 to about the year 500. Prior to 100 there is no surviving art that can be called Christian with absolute certainty...

Further reading

  • Calkins, Robert G. Illuminated Books of the Middle Ages. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1983.
  • Alfred Rahlfs
    Alfred Rahlfs
    Alfred Rahlfs was born in Linden, Hannover, Germany. He studied Protestant Theology, Philosophy, and Oriental Languages in Halle and Göttingen, from where he received a Dr. Phil. in 1881...

    , Verzeichnis der griechischen Handschriften des Alten Testaments, für das Septuaginta-Unternehmen, Göttingen 1914, p. 107-108.
  • Constantin von Tischendorf, Monumenta sacra inedita (Leipzig 1857), XIII, XXII-XXXVI.
  • Weitzmann, Kurt. Late Antique and Early Christin Book Illumination. New York: George Braziller, 1977.
  • Weitzmann, Kurt and Herbert L. Kessler. The Cotton Genesis: British Library, Codex Cotton Otho B VI. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.