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«January 2020»

Fellow Seminar

20 June 2019

Dr. Philip Rance will present his research proposal on the topic: "Aristocratic Libraries and Book Culture in the Late Byzantine Empire: The Case of the Leontarai Family" on 20 June 2019 (Thursday) at 16:30h at CAS conference hall.


This presentation introduces a major part of my CAS research project, concerning the acquisition, ownership and use of books in the late medieval Balkans, and offers some preliminary results. This aspect of the project aims to reconstruct the private "library" of the Leontarai, a prominent aristocratic family of generals, governors and courtiers, during the late Byzantine Empire. Usually such an exercise would be unachievable, but in the case of the Leontarai it is possible to identify Greek manuscripts, now dispersed across European collections (e.g. Florence, Venice, Leiden, Rome), that were once owned, read, borrowed or even written by three generations of this family, c.1400-1470s. Identification is based on owners' inscriptions, family notices and other annotations, as well as codicological criteria. Although some of these manuscripts have been examined individually, no previous study has investigated the group collectively or explored its potential for reconstructing aristocratic book culture in the late medieval Balkans. The focus of research in Sofia is a collection of Greek manuscripts, previously owned by the Kosinitza Monastery (near Drama, Greece) and now held in the Ivan Dujčev Centre for Slavo-Byzantine Studies of Sofia University. One of these manuscripts (D. gr. 253) was demonstrably in the possession of a member of the Leontarai family during the 1430s and can now be integrated into the project. Furthermore, the annotations to this manuscript include a list of authors and/or titles, which appears to be an inventory of books owned by the family in the late 1420s. If correctly interpreted, this document may be of assistance in recognising other relevant manuscripts both in this collection and elsewhere. More broadly, having identified diverse manuscripts connected to the Leontarai, the project seeks both to contextualise these book holdings within the family's history, social networks and relationships with monasteries, and to explore the literary tastes of readers in this socio-cultural milieu in south-eastern Europe in the late Middle Ages.

Philip Rance (Freie Universität Berlin) studied History and Classics (MA) at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, where he was awarded a Ph.D. in Ancient History. He has taught ancient and medieval history and Greek language and literature at universities in the United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium, and held senior research fellowships, including at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich (Humboldt Fellowship for Advanced Scholars), Koç University Istanbul (for research in the Topkapı Palace Library), Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel and Freie Universität Berlin (Humboldt Renewed Fellowship), where he is a Visiting Scholar. He has published widely on late antique and Byzantine history and literature, with a focus on military culture and Greek, Roman and Byzantine technical/scientific writing, its manuscript tradition and reception.


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