retracings - overwriting - reinforced

Steven Avery

retracings - overwriting - reinforcement

This retracings issue is one of the puzzles of the modern British Library and CSP scholarship.

CSP - Report on the different inks used in Codex Sinaiticus and assessment of their condition
Sara Mazzarino - 1.4.2 Re-tracing
The retracing of the characters (main text, corrections, some quire numbers and some of the squiggles) was repeated several times throughout the history of the Codex Sinaiticus, always using different types of inks.


The ink used for the second retracing of the main text, for example, appears to be more friable than the one used to write the original text, suffering from major ink loss.

... There have been two, possibly three, re-tracings of the brown ink text
And for vagueness and inaccuracy we can go also go back to Scrivener, who was apparently simply using Tischendorf as his source:

A full Collation of the Codex Sinaiticus with the received text of the New Textament (1864)
Scrivener (see note )

By this time [SA: 7th century or later, p. xxii] .... necessary to retrace the original strokes,
The full Scrivener quote is below on a separate post

Anyone who looks at the ms. will see that this is simply nonsensical. There is no large-scale retracing indicated by anybody of the main text. Mostly just selected letters on a small minority of pages. The CSP adds to the confusion. Where did Sara Mazzarino get her info? Tischendorf ??

Can anybody here play this game?

As to the Tischendorf confusion, we also have this from an 1863 article:

Christian Remembrancer (1863)
The Imperial Edition of the Codex Sinaiticus
Author may be:
Benjamin Harris Cowper

Again, even in the eighth century, the ink had become so pale in many places, that it had to be retouched. Indeed, it had been retouched before. This is one of the points which has to be examined. Is the Professor right in assigning the eighth century as the date for retouching the MS.? May not the fact that this was not the first retouching, indicate something faulty in the ink? If so, we cannot depend on this argument for the antiquity of the MS.
Apparently Tischendorf set up a retracing schema that involved double retracings in the early centuries. And somehow tied that into his early date.


You can see some discussion in the ending of John as well. Since the ink there is very strong, some possibilities are that it is recent, or that it was subject to retracing. It is also a section where Tischendorf had a type of x-ray vision, even before Superman.

"The Codex Sinaiticus inks have never been chemically characterized, and the type and proportions of ingredients mixed together have never been determined."

Skeat and Milne, Scribes and Correctors

... throughout the Codex nearly all B's superlines have been overwritten by one or other of the correctors. One of the few which escaped retouching is illustrated in Fig. 7. p. 20

We may now on analogy expect to find that the remainder of the Psalms were rubricated by scribe A, the writer of the accompanying text; here the primary evidence has been obscured by the fact that nearly all the original rubrics have been overwritten, but it is clear that in their first state they differed notably in style from those of scribe D ... The overwriting, apparently undertaken because the colour had faded badly, p. 35

The Eusebian apparatus is clearly the work of two scribes; the first numbered only sections 1-52 of Matthew, in a small fine hand using a rather faint pigment. Both section and canon number are capped with horizontal lines. The second scribe overwrote almost all the first hand's work, and entered the remainder of the apparatus, except in Luke where he got no farther than §106.(1) Apart from Matthew §§ 1-52, where he is merely overwriting, this scribe regularly omits the line over the canon number, and sometimes that over the section number as well.
.... Psalms, where A's numeration is similarly overwritten by D. p. 36

Cb2 .. That he follows Cb1 is proved by his overwriting of the latter's corrections p. 48
Nothing about overwriting in the main text from Skeat. Only a bit about superlines, rubrics, section #s and corrections.


Dirk Jongkind touches on some of these Skeat overwriting sections, p. 16

The Eusebian apparatus was not assigned to any of the scribes by Tischcndorf or Lake, but Milne and Skeat distinguish the work of two scribes: (29) scribe A writes the first 52 numbers in Matthew, scribe D all the remaining ones, retracing also the numbers initially written by scribe A. p. 16
and p. 119-120 going into the Matthew section numbers,

Concluding observations on the Eusebian apparatus

Scribes and Correctors states that the first 52 numbers of Matthew are by scribe A and were later retraced by scribe D who also adds all the other
numbers. This may be correct, but it does not show up as a changed level of quality in the Eusebian apparatus.127

127 Though I had genuine doubts whether Milne and Skeat were correct in their judgement on the retracement, it clearly proves to be the case when the apparatus is checked in the original. That a change of hand is also very likely is also indicated by the sudden absence of paragraphi after section 52. It may be, though, that not all the Eusebian apparatus after this section are by scribe D, at some places I suspect that scribe A took over again. The scribes were not totally consistent in the bookhand that they used; see for example the different alphas before column 4 of folio 74.8 (NT 16). p. 119-120
p. 38 is about red ink titles.
Milne and Skeat .... They also claim that the red ink in scribe A's section has been retraced, probably by scribe D.
Again, nothing about the main text.


So we have a massive disconnect, even in the post-2000 science.

Scrivener and the CSP analysis talk of major retracings.
The CSP site shows a smidgen of minor retracing sections, the overwriter is unidentified.
Skeat and Jongkind, for the main text, tell us .. nothing.
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Steven Avery

additional notes

Recording the physical features of Codex Sinaiticus

Fresh ink applied by the scribe directly upon faded or flaked text without erasing or washing it out intentionally, has been called ‘overwriting’ in the documentation form and it is normally indicated by a visible change in the density and colour of the ink.

Overview of the conservation of Codex Sinaiticus at the British Library
Helen Shenton

"Some squiggles have been retraced"

Multi-spectral imaging for the Codex Sinaiticus Barry Knight, Head of Conservation Research, The British Library

Photonics developed procedures for resolving palimpsests, in other words, being able to distinguish the underwriting from the overwriting on parchment manuscripts that have been cleaned and re-used. It was felt that this could also be useful for examining the Codex Sinaiticus.

Facebook - Sinaiticus
super-ink - retracing - Aug 14, 2014


[textualcriticism] retracings of Codex Sinaiticus - corrected ending of John's gospel
Steven Avery - Jan, 4, 2014

It would be very helpful if we know how much is purported to be retraced, the centuries conjectured, and any scribal information. Is 5% of the text involved, or 95%? Information on these types of questions (including others like the rebinding) is not always consistent from the different sources. And as to specifics of the degree of retracing, and how it is identified (heavy ink?) there simply seems to be a dearth of information. e.g. The Mark cancel sheet has a number of dark lines around Mark 15:46 to 16:1, is that a retracing?

If there were large-scale retracing, as in Vaticanus, that could also influence scribal habits. And you would want verification, e.g. by ultra-violet, that there is retracing rather than correction. How do you know an overwrite does not make changes?
[textualcriticism] retracings of Codex Sinaiticus - corrected ending of John's gospel - Steven Avery - Jan 14, 2014

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Steven Avery


Spots where there is overwriting per the CSP, using google.

These are generally a small numbers of letters on a page or relating to corrections.
Often, even those could simply be the same scribe who put in the letters
Are there any full pages or columns overwritten?

Show pictures of some of these.

1 Maccabees, 12:28 - 13:3 library: BL folio: 30 scribe: A "page partly overwritten"

Isaiah, 1:1 - 1:27 library: BL folio: 42 scribe: B, overwriting by corrector d

Isaiah, 4:2 - 5:20 library: BL folio: 43b scribe: B, overwriting by corrector d

Isaiah, 5:20 - 6:11 library: BL folio: 44 scribe: B, overwriting by corrector d

Isaiah, 8:23 - 10:3 library: BL folio: 45b scribe: B, page partly overwritten

Isaiah, 10:3 - 10:29 library: BL folio: 46 scribe: B, page partly overwritten

Isaiah, 19:20 - 21:14 library: BL folio: 49b scribe: B, entire page overwritten

Isaiah, 28:15 - 29:9 library: BL folio: 52b scribe: B, overwriting by corrector d

Isaiah, 30:8 - 30:29 library: BL folio: 53b scribe: B, overwriting by corrector d

Isaiah, 30:29 - 32:11 library: BL folio: 54 scribe: B, overwriting by corrector d

Isaiah, 39:8 - 40:30 library: BL folio: 57b scribe: B, overwriting by corrector d

Isaiah, 40:30 - 41:26 library: BL folio: 58 scribe: B, overwriting by corrector d

Isaiah, 45:22 - 47:10 library: BL folio: 60b scribe: B, overwriting by corrector d

Isaiah, 48:20 - 49:22 library: BL folio: 61b scribe: B, overwriting by corrector d

Isaiah, 52:5 - 54:1 library: BL folio: 63 scribe: B, overwriting by corrector d

Isaiah, 54:1 - 55:10 library: BL folio: 63b scribe: B, overwriting by corrector d

Isaiah, 60:20 - 62:11 library: BL folio: 66 scribe: B, some letters overwritten

Jeremiah, 10:25 - 11:23 library: LUL folio: xx scribe: B1, overwriting by corrector d
Jeremiah, 22:17 - 23:13 library: LUL folio: xxv_v scribe: B1, overwriting by corrector d

Jeremiah, 26:14 - 27:9 library: LUL folio: xxvii_v scribe: B1, overwriting by corrector d

Jeremiah, 32:38 - 33:21 library: LUL folio: xxxii scribe: B1, overwriting by corrector d

Jeremiah, 39:26 - 40:4 library: LUL folio: xxxv_v scribe: B1, overwriting by corrector d

Jeremiah, 52:7 - 52:32 library: LUL folio: xlii scribe: B1, overwriting by corrector d

Proverbs, 4:15 - 5:21 library: BL folio: 130 scribe: A, overwriting by corrector cb

There are a moderate number of pages in the Sinaiticus online that say they have overwriting, but generally just some letters, here is an example from Isaiah:

"page partly overwritten"

The overwriting is immediately obvious and easy to be compared to the faded writing on the same page. It is a very modest phenomenon in Sinaiticus.

And one scholar wrote to me:
"places in the prophets have been retraced due to excessive fading"

However, this is far from speaking of two or three retracings of the ms main text., places unspecified. Plus, every retracing should be easy to recognize, even by the eye, better with spectral technologies. Nobody can write letter after letter perfectly over another letter. (This is easily seen in Vaticanus.)
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Steven Avery

1) What did Tischendorf write, and why?
Clearly Scrivener had total misinformation
2) what was behind the CSP (Sara) strange indication of a large-scale main text 2nd and 3rd retracing

We do have a reference to Tischendorf on multiple early retracings.

"We may add that a scribe of the eighth or ninth century has retouched with fresh ink many pages of the Sinaitic MS. ; and this had already been done to a considerable extent by a still earlier scribe (Tischendorf, N. T. ex Sin, Cod. p. xxxviii. f.)."

Where in the Tischendorf pages do we find eight-ninth century mentioned?

Ezra Abbot

Novum Testamentum Graece - Ex Sinaitico Codice (1865)
What a tangled web. Mutiple retouchings even by the 800s. We will plan on pulling out the Tischendorf section.

Yet today's writers can't point out what is supposed to have been retouched when, and how they would come up with the date.


Remember, on Vaticanus there is a major retouching disagreement, with Tischendorf moving it up hundreds of years from what was claimed in Rome. Afawk, the basis of the change was never given.
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Steven Avery

The Scrivener Retracing Note

Full Collation (1864)
Acts 4:15 - Mark 1:7

"By this time [SA: 7th century or later, p. xxii] the primitive writing, especially on the smooth side of the vellum which had been nearest the animal’s body, became so much faded through age, that (as in the case of the great Codex Vaticanus and others) it was thought necessary to retrace the original strokes, which seems to have been done carefully and faithfully, if not with all possible regard for neatness. The renovator now and then introduces, perhaps by mere accident, some slight change into the text, whether correcting an error of the scribe (e. g. Act. iv. 15 ...), or bringing in one of his own (e. g. Mark i. 7 ... for ...). This retracing of the lines of the text must have been accomplished about the eighth century; for while the work of all the correctors we have yet enumerated is occasionally covered by the operation, it never touches the notes of the reviser we shall next name (if indeed he is not the same person), whose style bespeaks the 8th or 9th century." - p. xxiv-xxv
The reference to a later corrector, later then the supposed retracing, is to corrector D, as Scrivener continues:

(11) D much resembles in manner Cod. Y of the Gospels, and Cod. B of the Apocalypse. His corrections are not found in the N. T., but (if the hand be the same in all places) twenty times in the Shepherd of Hermas (the first sixteen lines of which he has defaced by coarse breathings and accents), and in the Old Testament. ... Facsimile ... Isaiah viii:22. To him (Da) may be ascribed some Arabic scrawl spread over the manuscript, earlier than the elegant note in that language at the foot of the three columns containing Apoc. vii. 12—viii. 12.
So we have a reference to a facsimile note, presumably from Tischendorf's edition, and we can a few spots where we can compare the actual ms.

Make sure to search out other sections, like the Hermas accent marks.

Acts 4:15
Acts 4-15.jpg

Scrivener also references the renovator here:

The original ink, which varies in hue according as it was impressed on the rough or smooth side of the skin, where it has not been covered by the strokes of the renovator (see p. xxiv), is for the most part of a yellowish brown, occasionally of an ashey tinge p. xxx-xxxi
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Steven Avery

finding any Tischendorf sections

Scrivener gives hints with Acts 4:15 and Mark 1:7.
This is in 1863 book,
trying to find here
There does not seem to be a scribal section there, so it would have to be in another Tischendorf book, maybe the big one, unless Scrivener is passing on unpublished information, e.g. from Tregelles.

"imperita renovata esset" - renotvationis on the page from Tischendorf that Abbot noted AND
renovationis eius quae praecessit manifesta vestigia sunt
1863 - used by Scrivener .. verses Acts 4:15 not found, maybe he got that some other way Tregelles, etc.
1863 paragraph with retracing.jpg

Tabula VII and XVI note below in Abbot too
1865 - used by Abbot
also in here

Find the spot of Tabula VII and XVI in Tischendorf

Abbot gives a page
(Tischendorf, N. T. ex Sin, Cod. p. xxxviii. f.)."
Novum Testamentum Graece - Ex Sinaitico Codice (1865)
what is the f. ?

See in Note two - Tischendorf says go to Tabula VII and Tabula XVI
Yet the rest of the text seems to be the New Testament, maybe other books, and then a 2-page
Addenda et Corrigenda
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Steven Avery

Review of Retracing Notes after Scrivener

Hansell (has some Latin)

Kirsopp Skeat


Kirsopp Lake 1912

To give a simple example, and the book is online,

Kirsopp Lake works with all the scribes, and says what they did. In no case are they said to be retracing.
His later book, with the German pics, is said to have basically the same Preface information as the 1911.

Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus, The New Testament the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas (1911)

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Steven Avery


2015 - New Perspectives

Section 5: Codex Sinaiticus Today 219

17 A Physical Perspective of Codex Sinaiticus: An Overview from British Library
Folios 221
Gavin Moorhead, Sara Mazzarino,
Flavia Marzo, Barry Knight

Differences in Ink

In many cases there are differences in the thickness or colour of the ink within quires
or words that may result from a second application of ink. Some of these differences
may have been caused by different amounts of ink being released by the pen used by
the scribes.
In other cases, the composition of the ink differs from that used for the
original text, and has caused ink offsets or transfers on the facing folios evident on Q79
F6v, Q89 F4v, and Q63 F3r (Figure 17.15}. The text originally written by Scribes A, D
and B2 appears affected by ink offset. The ink causing these offsets is dark brown, and
the characters affected are the first letters of the text line almost exclusively.
Thus, one
possible explanation for this phenomenon is that the pen was dipped in the ink prior to
the beginning of every line
and a larger amount of ink was therefore deposited on the

Alternatively, these letters may have been retouched or retraced. In several places the
edges of the letters of darker ink are outside the original characters, or conversely, in
others the edges of the original characters are visible clearly. Typically the reapplied ink
is darker, less uniform, and thicker, covering almost completely the ink originally used.
Therefore the offsets may have been caused by the ink failing to dry properly, perhaps
due to an excessive quantity of binding agent in the ink making it stickier and slower
to dry. Some binding marks as well as some corrections and annotations have also been
retraced, probably with this same ink, and show similar characteristics and degradation
patterns: uneven distribution on the surface and a tendency to form heavy craquelure
and flake off. However, only the text shows offsets.

The offsets often do not appear directly opposite the transferred letter. For example,
the offset of the first letter of line three of Q70 F8v appears as an offset on line four of
Q7r Frr. This phenomenon may be the result of the current misalignment of the manuscript's
folios, probably caused by one of the re bindings that occurred in the Codex's history.
Another possible explanation is that the Codex was in a disbound condition when
the darker ink was used. The sections and bifolios may not have overlapped perfectly,
explaining the misalignment of the marks. p. 230

There is also evidence of retouching with a completely different ink, much closer to
the class of carbon-based inks, for example, in parts of Q45 F4v and F5f. It is black,
shiny and thick. The tool used for writing with this ink is also different from that used
originally. It produced softer, thinner strokes that look more rounded at the edges compared
to the squared ones produced by the original types of pens. The interaction of this
ink with the parchment is good, with no degradation and little flaking.
The ink does not
penetrate the parchment but forms a thick layer sitting on the surface. The letters have
not been retraced accurately in this ink, so the edges of the original ones are still visible.
Both main text and corrections have been retraced with the black ink. p.231

Klaus Wachtel p. 97
Thirty corrections per
page could suggest a radical rewriting. In fact, the text as written by the first scribes has
changed considerably, but about two thirds of the corrections are merely orthographical,
concerning spellings, or graphical improvements, like reinforcing faded strokes.

David Parker p. 282 minor
The insertion of E)E to
form 0EOL and addition of an accent on the following Oat Q86 F2v (Column 3 Line
2) looks somewhat different, and the change on Q86 F8v (Column 1 Line 33), which is
partially a rough retracing of letters in the manuscript, looks unlike the neat corrections
at Q65 F3v and Q75 F3r. We have retained the designation 'e' for all these corrections
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