Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Codex Sinaiticus: world’s oldest bible goes online

World’s oldest bible goes online
The oldest bible in the world, the Codex Sinaiticus, written in Greek in the fourth century but now scattered between the British Library, Germany, Russia and St Catherine's monastery in Egypt's Sinai desert, has been reassembled as an online play. It is reported to have cost 1 million UK pounds to put the project together.

The Codex Sinaiticus
According to the British Museum, [#], The Codex Sinaiticus was made in the middle of the fourth century. It is one of two of the earliest Christian Bibles. The other is the Codex Vaticanus in Rome.

The handwritten Greek text has the earliest surviving copy of the complete New Testament and the earliest and best copies of some of the Jewish scriptures, in the form that they were adopted by the Christian Church.

Reasons to celebrate
There are quite a few reasons to celebrate the launch of this project. First, as the pages have been scattered for over 150 years, nobody alive has seen all the pages together in one place.

Second, and rightly, much is being made of the quality of the scanning and the result - ie. being able to zoom down to be able to see the insect bites and scars of some of hundreds of animals who made up the vellum pages.

Third, the evidence of collboration both at a project and an institutional level is totally inspiring. Last, it is a first class example of how many audiences, from student to scholar can benefit from having virtual acess to rare and precious primary sources

The British Library
The British Library, one of the project leads, has an exhibition opening today which traces the history of the manuscript, and the project.

The project was a collaboration between the B, the monks in the Sinai, Leipzig University Library, the National Library of Russia in St Petersburg, and the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing at Birmingham university.
The BL web site on the project is here. They also have a 10 minute, 4 meg, MP3 podcast, here

The Coex Sinaiticus web site
The web site has a wealth of detail on the history of project both in terms of the collaboration required from the various scholars tasked to transcribe and care for the manuscripts, as well as an extensive account of the technical parameters. There is no plugin required - they deliberately chose to build the web property on web standard HTML, CSS, Javascript and AJAX. See here for more detail on all this.

So - great project - congratulations all round.


sue said...

In fact there is a Wellington and an Auckland connection to the Greek manuscripts project:

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