reasons, excuses, confusions - circularity

Steven Avery


Gavin Moorhead and others of the British Library are clearly aware that, even allowing for the resilience of parchment, Codex Sinaiticus is not the manuscript you would expect. Based on its supposed history of 1000+ years of active use and 1650 years of supposed total use and storage.

Gavin Moorhead quotes taken from:

Parchment Assessment of the Codex Sinaiticus Gavin Moorhead - May 2009

These quotes are also placed on:

British Library - and other - modern comments on research and condition and colour

Again and again, the ms. is "exceptional":


The Truly Exceptional and Unexpected Codex Sinaiticus

"any 4th Century parchment with this amount of flexibility, thinness, maker’s holes, repairs and striation is exceptional."
"the condition of the parchment is exceptional for its age"
"The parchment condition is: Exceptional for its age."

"survived the rigours of 16 centuries with an unexpected lack of damage"

"quality of the writing medium originally used by the scribes was truly exceptional, as is the quality of the parchment." - Sara Mazzarino

Beyond that, Gavin Moorhead acknowledged the difference in the Leipzig pages, in response to our inquiry. And Gavin even placed up a special 4-unit picture (fig. 14) showing the unexplained and significant colour disparities within the Brit portion of the ms.
(This was placed up in 2009, before there were any known public questions about the variance.)


Explanations that are off the British Library radar

Now, the British Library has a lot of prestige and reputation and scholastic capital invested in Codex Sinaiticus. Thus, the exceptions need an explanation, and two obvious explanations for all the anomalies (especiallly visible now with the Codex Sinaiticus Project) are outside the bounds of British Library propriety.

1) the manuscript was actually created in 1840 and the first substantive use of the parchment was less than 200 years ago

2) the 1844 Leipzig leaves moved out of Sinai in a way that predated the colouring, the staining and tampering, that can seen on the 1859 Russian-->Brit leaves

These do fit all the manuscript "facts on the ground", and these fit well the fully historical narrative. Yet, in BL "science", these can not be considered even as a possibility.

Meanwhile, no testing of the ms. materials and ink is done, what little that was planned in Germany was cancelled, and afawk none is planned today. A highly unusual situation for the high-profile ancient manuscript that has easy and known availability.

Similarly, modern British Library scholarship can not allow other manuscript tampering possibilities after 1844, such as some of the notes and sections numbers being placed on the manuscript, not can it
consider that the Hermas brouhaha was behind the end part of Hermas ending up in the New Finds dump spot.


Clues, Secrets and Environmental Conditions

Returning to (1) and (2) .. it was interesting that Gavin Moorhead thought to give some possible "explanations". While noting that:

a comprehensive condition assessment of the parchment was carried out so that experts could determine the level of conservation necessary prior to digitisation and to inform those wanting to solve the puzzles of its physical history. ... Much of the visual parchment evidence cannot answer many of the questions asked by those seeking proof about the origins of the Codex and the story of its survival.
Let's list some of the possible reasons given for the superb condition given in the Preliminary Examination.

Clues to explain the relatively small amount of ink corrosion and brittleness may be found in the ink recipe. But equally, explanations for the minimal damage and good condition may lie in the secrets of the parchment makers. The current condition of the parchment may also be due to the environmental conditions the codex has experienced throughout its existence.
However, the codex is said to have had a very difficult history. Starting for hundreds of years elsewhere, perhaps Caesarea, Alexandrian or the west (Hort). Being used and changed frequently. Later taken to Sinai where much of the ms. was supposedly lost over the centuries, and again there should be the heavy use and aging that generally leads to colour and grime. In fact, storage was said to be exceptionally sloppy.

And, i
f there is a super-ink, or super-parchment involved, nothing special has ever been identified. So really, no answer at all is given in the "Clues".


Any Reason but One for the Leipzig <--> England Variance

A similar situation arises in "explaining" the colour disparity between Leipzig and England.

(So far no attempt has been made to explain the colour variance within England, although it has been noted. And the totally different situation in Leipzig, where the colour and stain condition of the 43 leaves are remarkably consistent.

Neither has the Skeat and Milne quote been referenced about condition, which leads to the question of the far better condition physically of Sinaiticus compared to Alexandrinus).

From the thread:

white parchment

Yes, there does appear to be a difference across the photographs.

But there was colour variance throughout.

(This is true only in the British leaves. There is essentially zero variance in the 43 white Leipzig leaves.)

This probably reflected the degree of parchment degradation of the individual leaves.

en why do the Leipzig leaves show no degradation?
And, per Uspensky this "white parchment" would be the condition of the full 1845 ms.

Then we get a grabbag possible explanations:

The folios that have been subjected to greater fluctuations in relative humidity, heat and light tend to show a higher level of degradation and gelatinisation. These folios tended to be more yellowish.
However, the sections were split between Q37 f3v and Q37 f4r and this makes them vulnerable to mechanical damage and dirt as well.
The Leipzig folios were bound and stored under different conditions than those that ended up at the BL, so Q37 f4r may have been more exposed for a longer period of time.
In relation to a difference between the BL and Leipzig folios, my first impression was that the Leipzig folios were lighter.
However, they had been unbound, cleaned and flattened, so they appeared different anyway.

Let us focus on the key "cleaned". This would only have meaning if the Leipzig leaves were changed from yellow with age to white, by some sort of cleaning. Nobody has ever suggested this cleaning occurred, except in this "explanation" response. Dobschutz saw the Leipzig leaves in 1910 and described them as "snow-white". So what methods, tools, when and by whom was a supposed cleaning? Is there even a scintilla of evidence on the ms., or in the history, of such a cleaning?

Without that, the above really amounts to .. nothing. There is no explanation as to why the Leipzig pages, after 1650 years, are snow-white pristine, except to say they had been cleaned. What cleaning takes a ms. that is "yellow with age" and makes it snow-white? Where is there a history of this Leipzig super-cleaning having occurred?


Benefits and Limita
tions of the Standardisation of Measurements

One additional circular irony. In some circles, Sinaiticus has become the central figure in trying to express out the long-term nature of parchment and ink. (This comes up, e.g. on the Fountain-Pen Network forum and in various books.)

The condition assessment also served as a locator and quantifier of the visual evidence so that the information could be used as a guide to target safe handling; a tool for prioritising conservation; a resource for further analysis; an archive record for conservation treatment and a reference for future surveys... data matrix which contains a list of features to be documented and the methodology of how they will be observed and recorded. .... uses non invasive measurements that are standardised.... measured in an objective, consistent way... research reference tool for this project and as an archive for any future condition assessments... and enable identical assessments to be made across four geographic locations... utilise standardised measurements to ensure accurate assessment of the condition of the parchment... Transferable accuracy and repeatability in the observations were of immense importance for future assessments that might determine the rate of degradation and for comparative analysis. ... maximise the use of universal standards ... Improved Damage Assessment of Parchment network...glossary of information..evolved --- Gavin Moorhead
One part of this is truly commendable. From the CSP Sinaiticus may have performed an excellent function in helping to standardise tools like the photography of manuscripts (noting that the physical excellent condition of virtually all the leaves made it easy to work with) and using alphanumeric codes to describe condition (with the caveat that the colour codes used are imprecise, see the discussions on )

The IDAP concept of being able to measure future degradation of any ms by a standardised measure should also be seen as highly commendable, although it should be noted that the starting point is very late in the day, and the art of looking at the initial measurements (e.g. comparing multiple manuscripts) is very different than the art of looking at multiple measurements on one document (e.g. 10 or 100 years later.)


The Major Issue - Exceptional Manuscripts with Exceptional Provenance are not a reliable base of analysis and comparison

And I would suggest that all those involved with conservation, vellum and codicology and related studies, should be aware that Sinaiticus is "exceptional" in a way that makes it invalid as a source for understanding the properties and degradation of parchment and ink over a millennium and more.

Scientists and manuscript and textual scholars should be aware that its exceptional features may simply be a function of young age.


anecdotal sidenote .. the grasping at straws for explanations is a common occurrence.

In Facebook discussions, another attempt was made by "textual criticism" writer James E. Snapp, Jr. to say that the British Library had failed totally, despite their attempts at consistency. E.g. Gavin Moorhead noted:

The desire for comparison and standardisation of the condition assessment across all holding sites meant that it was important for any participant to use identical methodology.
Nah, they failed miserably, according to James.

James, ignoring the inconsistency in the British leaves, took the position that all the variances in colour between Leipzig and England were simply elements like shutter speed and lighting being inconsistent in the different locales. Despite the acknowledgement of the British Library, the colour bars, the major color distinctions that are easily visible to see, the care of the study group for consistency, photographs taken by others, etc.

The thread can be seen here:

Facebook - King James Bible Debate - Feb, 2016
Colouring and Staining, c. 1850s, of 90% of the Sinaiticus Manuscript, to Russian, 1859 - Any other Explanations?

Standing firmly in sand on such an explanation shows you how much the modern textual writers have become blinded to simply study and analysis.