Provenance - the poof factorProvenance refers to the origin or derivation of an artifact. When employed by experts in the fields of rare manuscripts and valuable objets d'art, it refers to a works being traceable to some particular source or quarter. The provenance of a valuable piece helps establish its historical origin and, potentially, its authenticity. Naturally, provenance has more significance in the case of a sensational item, and a missing provenance is unfortunate but not necessarily insurmountable. Of course, provenances themselves can be forged in much the same manner as the works they are supposed to authenticate. Dealer markings, penciled notations, and the like are sometimes falsely added to a work to indicate previous ownership.
Real or Fake: Studies in Authentication (2009)
The provenance of Codex Sinaiticus presents some real problems and mysteries. In the early 1800s Europeans were travelling throughout the middle east, looking at monastery libraries, seeking ancient manuscripts.
We will look at a number of these individuals here and their reports. We will notice that there is a marked change in the St. Catherine's Monastery around 1840.
St. Catherine's Monastery - Codex Sinaiticus up to 1859
Antiquity - (compare to Golden ms)
Journal of a Tour in the Levant, Volume 2 (1820)
To my inquiries after manuscripts and a library, the priests answered, that they had only three bibles, and I took their word the more readily, as Pococke states that they had no rare manuscripts. But Mr Bankes, by persevering and rummaging, found out a library, of 2,000 volumes, of which three-quarters were MSS and of these, nine-tenths were Greek. The greater part were theological but some were interesting, Mr Bankes bought away.
1--a thick MS, containing Hephaestio on the Greek Metres, an Oration of Isocrates, the Letters of Phalaris (which were the subject of much controversy some years ago);
2d. Another containing three first books of the Iliad, and part of the fourth; two Tragedies of Aeschylus. and much Greek poetry;
3d. Another thin one. containing the Medes of Euripides, and the beginning of his Hyppolitius:
4th, An Historical Work of Cedrensu (a Byzantine historian quoted in Gibbon);
5th, a very fair one. containing, it appears, all the Physics of Aristotle, probably of no remote antiquity, as it is written with contractions, which were not used in the early ages.
There were also many Arabick, Syriac. and Coptic MSS. The Arabick MSS. Burckhardt says, are of little literary value.
See his Life, prefixed to his Travels in Nubia, quarto, page 68.
Travels in Nubia is here:
Travels in Nubia: with maps (1819)
John Lewis Burckhardt
Journal of a tour through Egypt, the peninsula of Sinai and the Holy Land in 1838, 1839...(1842)