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Thursday, January 03, 2013

The Bogdan Glosses

Ioan Bogdan (1864-1919)
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(click here for the Romanian version)

I heard first time about Ioan Bogdan while in high school: our history teacher quoted him to stress out the importance of the Slavonic factor in the evolution of Romanian language. The teacher explained us on that occasion that besides its origin (imposing the lion's share in vocabulary and grammar) any language had a so-called substratum (Dacian for the Romanian language), and a so-called superstratum (for Romanian being mostly Slavonic). Later I learned also about adstratum, but let's not digress now.

Ioan Bogdan was the creator of Slavonic-Romanian philology: study of Slavonic manuscripts (especially those authored in the Romanian countries), to pull out relevant information about the medieval Romanian history and about the evolution of Romanian language. Like Erbiceanu (a distinguished Hellenist who studied the Phanariote documents on the same purpose as Bogdan did in the Slavonic area), he realized the vital role of the regional context in the history of a nation and of a language.

Ioan Bogdan discovered and edited the chronicles of Macarie, Eftimie and Azarie, among other documents, covering a whole epoch in the history of the principality of Moldavia: the epoch of Petru Rares and his successors. These manuscripts had been created in Moldavian monasteries (the Neamt abbey would later get the renown of a National Library of Moldavia - Macarie had been the abbot there for a while, before becoming bishop of Roman). From these monasteries each of the manuscripts continued a life of its own, traveling to Iassy or Kiev, Krak√≥w or Vienna, Moscow or Sankt Petersburg, changing gifts between the princes and sovereigns of those places. A manuscript from Neamt made the journey up to Oxford: it is now at the Bodleian Library.  And Bogdan, a member of the Romanian Academy and professor at Bucharest University, also a member of the Muscovite Society of History and Antiquities, traveled in search of these documents across libraries and monasteries all over the place.

page from the Chronicle of Azarie
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The results Bogdan obtained are of interest for various disciplines: history, philology, and linguistics. To have a glimpse into the specifics of his domain,  let's talk a little bit about the so-called Bogdan Glosses. It's about the annotations made on a manuscript found by Ioan Bogdan in an exhibition in Moscow, in 1890. The manuscript was a Slavonic translation of a famous Byzantine collection of Ecclesiastical and Civil law: the Syntagma Canonum, that Matthew Blastares had compiled in 1335.

image of Matthew Blastares
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Several Slavonic renderings of the Syntagma  have been done during the years (one of them by Macarie, in 1556). The manuscript found by Bogdan was one of these translations (not the version of Macarie, just another one). What made it of unique value were the annotations: small comments on the text of the manuscript or just translations of various words from there. These annotations were 70 in Slavonic and 662 in Romanian. It was one of the first proofs of written Romanian in history. They remained known as the Bogdan Glosses.

There is no consensus regarding the date these annotations have been made. The estimates could have been made only indirectly, based on filigree and rhotacism considerations. Let me explain.

Firstly the specialists tried to determine the date for the manuscript itself. The analysis of the manuscript filigree allowed a rough estimation: between 1516 and 1536 (apud Magdalena Georgescu, who produced an edition of the manuscript in 1982). R. Constantinescu advanced a more precise date: around 1520. As for the glosses, the general opinion is that they have been written later (though not all the scholars are unanimous: for R. Constantinescu, both manuscript and annotations were written in the same time).

Now for the glosses, the presence of rhotacism in the Romanian words led to the conclusion that they could not have been written after 1616/1631 (as around that date the rhotacism mostly disappeared from Romanian language). Thus the date of the Bogdan Glosses was situated approximately after 1516/1536 (the date of the manuscript) and 1616/1631.

As for the origin of those glosses, Ioan Bogdan (based on calligraphy and linguistic particularities) considered that they had been probably written at the Neamt monastery (anyway in Northern Moldavia). His opinion was shared by Magdalena Georgescu, while Alexandru Rosetti suggested another localization (Northern Transylvania). Philosophi certant.

What is interesting, another Slavonic manuscript (from the 17th century, discovered in Moscow by R. Constantinescu) contains the same glosses! Thus led other two scholars (Ion Ghetie and Alexandru Mares) to consider the Bogdan Glosses not as simple annotations, rather as an original literary text in its own right: literary work in form of annotations.

(Some of the information above was provided by Wikipedia, also by Asistentul Judiciar)

(A Life in Books)

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