Lecture: Grigory Kessel, "Between an Auction and a Theme Park: Tracing Syriac Manuscripts in the United States"

Apr 18, 2022, 4:30 pm4:30 pm
Special Collections - Level C - Firestone Library



Event Description

Our knowledge about Syriac manuscripts in the United States is unacceptably poor. This has to do with two main reasons. First, many collections kept at the university libraries have been badly cataloged and some have not been cataloged at all. Second, in the course of the 20th century multiple transfers took place: some small institutes were closed and their archives relocated elsewhere, private collections dissolved and new appeared, diaspora communities of various denominations of Syriac Christianity brought manuscripts from the Middle East. In my talk, I will present a survey of the current landscape of collections of Syriac manuscripts in the United States while paying special attention to the vicissitudes affecting Syriac manuscripts that happened to come on the private market.

Grigory Kessel is currently a member at the School of Historical Studies of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Prior to that he was a research associate at Institute for Medieval Research of the Austrian Academy of Sciences as well as at the University of Manchester. His research focuses on the literary heritage of Syriac Christianity with particular attention to the manuscripts. Besides manuscripts, his publications deal with Syriac medical and monastic texts. He participated in a number of cataloging projects, including the Sinai Palimpsests Project and that of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library. He was a recipient of a fellowship in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and was a holder of the ERC Starting Grant leading the project ‘HUNAYNNET: Transmission of Classical Scientific and Philosophical Literature from Greek into Syriac and Arabic’ the objective of which was creation of a digital trilingual and linguistically annotated parallel corpus of Greek scientific and philosophical literature and the Syriac and Arabic translations thereof.


  • Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies
  • Manuscript, Rare Book & Archive Studies