Sometimes a prologue to a Gospel text will contain traditional information
about the life of the evangelist. The lives are attributed to an otherwise
unknown Dorotheus of Tyre or to Sophronius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem in
the first half of the seventh century.
Catenae are comments extracted from ecclesiastical writers. The comments
are written into the margin with the author's name abbreviated and a system
of symbols matching the marginal comment to the relevant place in the text.
After the fourth century biblical manuscripts begin to exhibit various systems
of capitulation. The numbers appear in the margin next to the place in the
column where the new section begins. Sometimes the new section will also be
designated by the first letter of the first word being placed into the margin
slightly and for the first letter to be enlarged. A table of chapters may
appear before the book.
Cola are single clauses after which a breath is taken. In order to facilitate
reading, some manuscripts are written colometrically with one colon per line.
A colon was considered to contain between nine and sixteen syllables. Several
bilingual Greek and Latin manuscripts of the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles have
the text arranged colometrically.
A colophon is an inscription written by a scribe which usually appears at
the end of a manuscript. Colophons include such information as the name of
the scribe who copied the work, remarks about the making of the manuscript,
prayers, and warnings against changing the text. (See examples in the discussion
Scholia which are systematically developed in order to elucidate continuously
the entire text, rather than random notes, is considered a commentary. The
commentary is written in the margins and sometimes interspersed between sections
of Scripture. (See Scholium)
The cursive style was used in Greek antiquity for writing non-literary,
everyday documents, such as letters, accounts, receipts, petitions, deeds,
and the like. Contractions and abbreviations for high-frequency words were
A regular system of lessons from the Gospels and Epistles was developed
for worship. In order to help the reader know where to begin and end, these
places were marked in the margin or between the lines of text. Notes indicating
what passages were to be read on which days were sometimes written in the
margin with red ink. Then a list may appear at the end of the codex.
Lectionary manuscripts were developed which tend to exhibit an early type
During the ninth century a reform in handwriting occurred from which was
developed a script of small letters in a running hand call minuscule. This
cursive script became popular for the production of books.
A system for contracting "sacred names" developed among Christian scribes
during the first centuries of Christianity. Eventually there were fifteen
such forms. Explanations for their origin range from a Christian attempt to
follow the model of the Jewish Tetragrammaton (four Hebrew characters representing
the name of God) to an imitation of contractions representing proper names,
titles, names of months, numerals, and formulae which occur in pre-Christian
ostraca (pottery sherds) and inscriptions.
Pagination in papyri is infrequent and when it does occur it is often the
work of an editor, perhaps a librarian. Consistent pagination began to occur
in codices in the early third century. Many great codices of the fourth century
have no pagination. When pagination is occurs, the numbers appear in the center
of the upper margin or the top outside edge. Some scribes only numbered the
even-numbered pages. Occasionally leaves, not pages, are numbered. Numeration
is also used for the numbering of quires.
A palimpsest is a parchment manuscript which contained writing but has been
scraped, washed off, smoothed and rewritten upon. Of the 250 uncial
manuscripts of the New Testament known today, 52 are palimpsests. It is only
through the use of modern technology, such as chemical reagents and ultraviolet
light, that the obliterated writing is able to be read.
Uncial is a formal style of handwriting, a "bookhand" which was characterized
by deliberate and carefully executed letters, each one separated from the
others. After the sixth century the style began to deteriorate and the letters
appeared thick and clumsy. E. G. Turner classifies the literary hands of the
first four centuries of the Common Era into three groups: Informal round hands;
Formal round hands (Biblical Majuscule or Uncial; Coptic Uncial); Formal mixed