Codex Alexandrinus - Description


The manuscript measures 12.6 by 10.4 inches (32 by 26 cm) and most of the folios were originally gathered into quires of eight leaves each. In modern times it was rebound into quires of six leaves each. The material is thin, fine, and very beautiful vellum, often discoloured at the edges, which have been damaged by age and more so through the ignorance or carelessness of the modern binder, who has not always spared the text, especially at the upper inner margin. The vellum has been fallen into holes in many places, and since the ink peels off through age whensoever a leaf is touched a little roughly, no one is allowed to handle the manuscript except for good reasons.

The text in the codex is written in two columns in uncial script, with between 49 and 51 lines per column and 20 to 25 letters per line. The beginning lines of each book are written in red ink and sections within the book are marked by a larger letter set into the margin. Words are written continuously in a large, round and well-formed uncial hand, with no accents and only some breathings (possibly added by a later editor). The letters are larger than those of the Codex Vaticanus. There is no division of words, but some pauses are observed in places in which should be a dot between two words. The poetical books of the Old Testament are written stichometrically. There are no accent and breathing marks, except a few added by a later hand, but the punctuation was written by the first hand. The Old Testament quotations in the text of New Testament are marked on the margin by the sign 〉.

The only decorations in the manuscript are decorative tail-pieces at the end of each book (see illustration) and it also shows a tendency to increase the size of the first letter of each sentence. The capitals at the beginning of the sections stand out in the margin as in codices Ephraemi and Basilensis. Codex Alexandrinus is the oldest manuscript which use the capital letters to indicate new sections.

The interchange of vowels of similar sounds is very frequent in this manuscript. The letters Ν and Μ are occasionally confused, and the cluster ΓΓ is substituted with ΝΓ. This may be an argument which points to Egypt, but it is not universally conceded. A lot of iotacistic errors occur in the text; for example, αὶ is exchanged for ε, εὶ for ὶ and η for ὶ. It has not more iotacisms than other manuscripts of the same date.

The handwriting of the text from the beginning of Luke to 1 Corinthians 10:8, differs from that of the rest parts of the manuscript. Some letters have Coptic shapes (f.e. Α, Μ, Δ, and Π). The letters are more widely spaced and are a little larger than elsewhere. Delta has extended base and Pi has extended cross-stroke. Numerals are not expressed by letters except in Apocalypse 7:4; 21:17. In the past the codex had been judged to be carelessly written, with many errors of transcription, but not so many as in the Codex Sinaiticus, nor more than in the Codex Vaticanus. Besides the other corrections by later hands there are not a few instances in which the original scribe altered what he had first written.

The majuscule letters have elegant shape, but a little less simple than those in the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus codices. These letters, at the end of a line, are often very small, and much of the writing is very pale and faint. Punctuation is more frequent, usually on a level with the top of the preceding letter, while a vacant space, proportionate to the break in the sense, follows the end of a paragraph. At the end of each book the colophon is ornamented by pretty volutes from prima manu. There are found the Ammonian Sections with references to the Eusebian Canons stand in the margin of the text of the Gospels. It contains divisions into larger sections – κεφάλαια, the headings of these sections (τίτλοι) stand at the top of the pages. The places at which those sections commence are indicated throughout the Gospels, and in Luke and John their numbers are placed in the margin of each column. To all the Gospels (except Matthew, because of lacunae) is prefixed by a table of κεφάλαια (table of contents).

The various sections into which the Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypse were divided by Euthalian Apparatus and others, are not indicated in this manuscript. A cross appears occasionally as a separation in the Book of Acts. A larger letter in the margin throughout the New Testament marks the beginning of a paragraph.

The number of scribes were disputed in the past. According to Kenyon's opinion there were five scribes, two scribes in the Old Testament (I and II) and three in the New (III, IV, and V). Skeat and Milne, who had better tools for comparison, argued there were only two or possibly three scribes. Present scholars agreed in that case.

Many corrections have been made to the manuscript, some of them by the original scribe, but the majority of them by later hands. The corrected form of the text agrees with codices D, N, X, Y, Γ, Θ, Π, Σ, Φ and the great majority of the minuscule manuscripts. Kenyon observed that Codex Alexandrinus had been "extensively corrected, though much more in some books than in others". In the Pentateuch, whole sentences were erased and a new text substituted. Kings was the least corrected of the books. In the Book of Revelation only 1 of its 84 singular readings was corrected. This is in stark contrast with Codex Sinaiticus, in which 120 of the Apocalypse's 201 singular readings were corrected in the 7th century.

Each leaf has Arabic numeration, set in the verso of the lower margin. The first surviving leaf of Matthew has number 26. The 25 leaves now lost must have been extant when that note was written.

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