Kirsopp Lake and the Sinaiticus ink

Steven Avery



Report on the different inks used in Codex Sinaiticus and assessment of their condition
Sara Mazzarino

Kirsopp Lake also had the chance to study the manuscript in depth and took pictures of the Codex leaves.

He produced two facsimiles[10] (one of the New Testament in 1911 and one of the Old Testament in 1922), this time including the fragments from Sinai brought back to Russia in the 1850s by the Archimandrite Porfiri Uspenski.

While developing the glass plate negatives of the leaves, Kirsopp Lake noticed a difference in the way the inks were reacting. Some of them would take longer to appear, suggesting differences between the media.[11] However, he does not provide any further explanation, but the difference of “behaviour” and “reaction” of the writing media may indicate a variation in composition (or proportions) of ingredients used to manufacture the inks. Kirsopp Lake therefore already had some understanding of the various scribes involved in writing the Codex Sinaiticus and, with further studies, he agreed with Tischendorf’s results.

[10] K. LAKE, H. LAKE , Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus:the New Testament, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, Preserved in the Imperial Library of St. Petersburg, Clarendon Press Oxford 1911 and K. LAKE, H. LAKE , Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus et Friderico-Augustanus Lipsiensis: the Old Testament Preserved in the Public Library of Petrograd, in the Library of the Society of Ancient Literature in Petrograd, and in the Library of the University of Leipzig, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1922.

[11] K. LAKE, H. LAKE , 1911, p. xix.

Kirsopp Lake[27] also mentions the red ink used, naming the pigment vermillion[28], and including the New Testament quire numbering in the text considered.

Very brief accounts of the condition of the inks have been given by Tischendorf and Kirsopp Lake in the introduction to their facsimiles. According to Kirsopp Lake, the ink corrosion was more pronounced on thinner leaves. The early accounts also mention the considerable ink loss and observe that this is more evident on the flesh side of the parchment. Milne and Skeat, who wrote about the “deplorable” state some of the most interesting and frequently consulted folia were,[40] were certainly referring mainly to the ink loss.
[27] See K. LAKE, H. LAKE , 1911, p. xvii.

[28] Vermilion is mercury sulphide (HgS) artificially created to imitate the native red compound named cinnabar. The very bright red colour is characteristic. Pure cinnabar was already known and used by the Romans. Pliny the Elder mentions its use and difficult sourcing in his Naturalis Historia. The earliest known description of the process to create vermillion (synthetic cinnabar) dates back to the 8th century. The names "cinnabar" and "vermilion" have been used interchangeably until the 17th century when vermilion became the more common term.

[40] See Q43, 1v (BL f.42v) Beginning of Isaiah and Q73, 1r (BL f.200r) beginning of New Testament.

p. xvii

p. xix

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