The Binding of Codex Sinaiticus

After seeing Sinaiticus at the British Library this weekend, I immediately realized that Cockerell was not only responsible for its conservation, but had re-bound it in precisely the same way. Sewn on meeting guards to cords laced into English oak boards wrapped with pale alum-tawed pigskin. He even used the same "thorn" rolling stamp as was used on Bezae.

But after digging a little deeper, I now wonder which Cockerell was responsible for the current binding of Sinaiticus. Douglas Cockerell, author of Scribes and Correctors of Codex Sinaiticus, is credited with the conservation of Sinaiticus in 1935. It is also recorded that his son, Sydney Cockerell, aided him in this restoration before taking over for his retiring father at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. And then, as I can only assume, Sydney Cockerell bound Codex Bezae precisely the same way almost 30 years later. (Anyone interested in the genealogy of English bookbinders, click here.) Fortunately, I recently met someone who worked under Cockerell the Younger, perhaps he can solve this mystery. It is intriguing to think that Cockerell the Younger would have used the very same "thorn" rolling stamp on the binding of Sinaiticus that was used on Bezae. (Or else this wins as the most irrelevant detail in blogging on New Testament MSS for 2007.)

On the history of the binding of Sinaiticus, there is this interesting tidbit from one of Skeat's last articles. The Cockerell he refers to here is Douglas Cockerell, citing the relevant section of Scribes and Correctors. The second binding of the manuscript, previous to Cockerell's, was done by monks at St. Catherine's zealously following Tischendorf's instructions to carefully preserve anything that looked like the 43 leaves he was permitted to take with him:

"The monks got as far as sewing the leaves into quires, and then sewing the quires together. They then attached to the back two broad bands which were evidently intended to be attached to the binding boards. By this stage, however, the volume had become very out of shape. As Cockerell describes it, 'While the fore-edge is roughly square, the spine is badly out of shape. When the spine is straightened up, as in the new binding, the fore-edge becomes irregular. It is quite possible that this later binding was never actually completed. The sewing threads were deliberately cut from the bands, perhaps with a view to a fresh start.' However, by this time the monks seemed to have realised that their primary objective, of securing the leaves against future loss, had been obtained, and they took no further action."

(T.C. Skeat "The Last Chapter in the History of Codex Sinaiticus" NT 42.4 (2000): 314)


P. Smith said...

Thought you might like to know that I had heard that Bruce Metzger died yesterday.

M. Leary said...

Noticed that, what a great legacy. Your links are ever expanding, very helpful.

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