The Codex and Crafts in Late Antiquity, by Georgios Boudalis

The Codex and Crafts in Late Antiquity, by Georgios Boudalis
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  forward to many more such texts of Christian or Jewish srcinand encourage the editors to release these as soon as practicable. doi:  10 . 1093 /jts/flz 034  J. K. E LLIOTT The University of Leeds The Codex and Crafts in Late Antiquity . By G EORGIOS B OUDALIS . Pp. xix  þ  181 . New York: Bard GraduateCenter,  2018 .  ISBN  978 1 941 79212 4 . £ 22 . 50 . T HIS  book was borne out of Georgios Boudalis’s research fellow-ship at Bard Graduate Center, followed by a  2018  exhibition,which was curated by the author himself and based directly onthe material discussed here. (The book also includes a checklist of the objects in the exhibition.) As seems clear from the title,Boudalis devotes his attention to the codex—quite easily the mostimportant technological advancement in the history of the book.A great deal of ink has been spilt on the subject of the codex inlate antiquity, particularly in relation to the peculiar Christianpreference for this book form. A number of proposals—plausibleand otherwise—have been advanced, with no signs of an emergingconsensus yet. Some have regarded the codex as a profoundlyChristian innovation, aimed to accommodate the four-Gospelcanon or the Pauline letter collection. Others have sought to findthe solution in the new book-form’s utility, against the back-ground of the contemporary Roman book-technological develop-ments. Needless to say, all of the above-mentioned lines of argument are necessarily speculative, and are likely to remainsuch unless some new striking evidence comes to the fore. In arefreshing contrast to the aforementioned approaches, the chief concern of the present work is not to investigate why the codexrose to dominance as a book-form but rather to consider the man-ner in which this particular development took place. To this end,Boudalis undertakes to relate how the evidence from the techni-ques used in the contemporary trades might elucidate the techno-logical development of the codex form itself.The book is in two parts, following the technological develop-ment of the book from ‘The Precursors of the MultigatheringCodex’ (Part I) and ‘The Multigathering Codex’ itself (Part II).In chapter  1 , Boudalis outlines the characteristic of the Romanwooden-tablet codex, followed by the single-gathering codex in REVIEWS 388 D ownl   o a d  e d f  r  om h  t   t   p s :  /   /   a c  a d  emi   c . o u p. c  om /   j   t   s  /   ar  t  i   c l   e- a b  s  t  r  a c  t   /  7  0  /  1  /   3  8  8  /   5  3  8 2  0  9  6  b  y  g u e s  t   on1  5  O c  t   o b  er 2  0 1  9   chapter  2 . We may note here that a great bulk of early Christianpapyrus codices were composed of a single gathering (or ‘quire’),and Boudalis helpfully highlights just how this type of codex wasconstructed. But it was the multi-quire codex construction thatwon the day, and Boudalis dedicates eight chapters to its nature,development, and characteristic features. To my knowledge, noone has hitherto presented, in a single publication, such a wide-ranging set of evidence concerning the matters from sewing of quires to spine and lining to boards, end-bands, book covers, andso on. The discussions are detailed yet lucid and richly illustratedthroughout by colour and black-and-white images; the readingexperience thus often feels like a guided tour at a museum.Perhaps the greatest strength of Boudalis’s work is the convinc-ing demonstration of how the techniques, already in use in otherloosely related crafts (e.g. production of baskets or shoe-making),were employed in the formation of codex throughout the variousstages of the book-form’s development. Stemming from of thisanalysis comes his conclusion that, as such, the codex was not somuch an ‘ingenious invention’ but an ‘innovation’ that evolvedfrom and is reflective of the aforementioned techniques employedby artisans involved in making other products with related mater-ial features. Aword of caution is in order here, however. If we fol-lowed this logic to its consequences, we could easily end up withno ‘inventions’ at all: most inventions are contingent on precedingand concomitant developments in related spheres of human activ-ity. Furthermore, Boudalis’s exclusive focus on bookbinding— certainly, a relevant field of enquiry—finds a book historianwishing for further work which would integrate his findingsconcerning the physical make-up of late antique codices with theirpresentation of the textual contents, particularly the matters suchas text layout, pagination, and the quality of handwriting. Evenso, Boudalis’s rich analysis provides solid foundations for suchfurther lines of inquiry, and is bound to become an essential pointof reference for anyone interested in the codicology of an-cient books. doi:  10 . 1093 /jts/flz 038  P ETER  M ALIK Advance Access publication  15  March  2019  Kirchliche Hochschule,Wuppertal-Bethel, Germany peter.malik@isbtf.de389 REVIEWS D ownl   o a d  e d f  r  om h  t   t   p s :  /   /   a c  a d  emi   c . o u p. c  om /   j   t   s  /   ar  t  i   c l   e- a b  s  t  r  a c  t   /  7  0  /  1  /   3  8  8  /   5  3  8 2  0  9  6  b  y  g u e s  t   on1  5  O c  t   o b  er 2  0 1  9 


Oct 16, 2019
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