codex

A book or tablet of writings inscribed on leaves of parchment, vellum, or papyrus, lighter than the waxed wood-leaves once used, with sheets grouped in book or tablet form rather than in roll or volume form. The name is commonly applied to old manuscripts of the Scriptures (in the originals or in important translations) or of the classics sewed together in sheaves to make a book, and it is most frequently used to designate copies (in whole or in part) of the Bible made before the invention of printing. The earliest codices are written in majuscules (capitals somewhat rounded) or uncials (large letters, but not a full inch as the name suggests). The greater of these are given symbols in Roman capitals, as Codex A (Alexandrinus), Codex B (Vaticanus), Codex C (Ephrremi Rescriptus). Codex Sinaiticus has, arbitrarily, the Hebrew Aleph. These four once contained the whole of the Old and New Testaments. Codex E (Basiliensis), Codex F (Boreelianus), and Codex G (Harleianus) contain the Gospels. Later manuscripts (the earliest is of A.D. 838) are in minuscules (small letters) or cursives (less angular than the others and linked in a running hand). Generally the material used was parchment (animal skins cleaned and prepared, by a special process, for writing upon both the flesh side and the hair side) or vellum (parchment of fine grade from calves, kids, etc.). Codices of papyrus exist only in short fragments. Sometimes the surface was colored and the lettering tinted as with the golden codex of the Vetus Itala at Verona and the silver codex of the Gothic Gospels at Upsala, which were on purple leaves. The writing was commonly arranged in two columns, but Vaticanus has three and Sinaiticus has four. The letters were not divided into word groups and there was no punctuation save some breathing marks. The lines were stichically rather than systematically arranged; that is, the apportionment of text to a line was largely determined by what could be conveniently uttered at a breath, and not by metrical division or by division into verses. The naming of the important codices has been fortuitous. One will be found designated by its origin, e.g., Alexandrinus, another by its place of custody, e.g., Vaticanus, another by its place of discovery, e.g., Sinaiticus, another by its owner or purloiner, e.g., Codex Bezre, another by some special circumstance, e.g., Codex Ephrremi Rescriptus, a manuscript in which a biblical text was erased to receive a copy of the works of Saint Ephrrem. Codex is also used in the sense of Code, for some legal compilations, as Codex Justinianeus, Codex Theodosianus, Codex Gregorianus.