Codex Assemanius

Codex Assemanius
A folio of Codex Assemanius from the Vatican Library

Codex Assemanius is a rounded Glagolitic Old Church Slavonic canon evangeliary consisting of 158 illuminated parchment folios, dated to early 11th century. Manuscript is of Macedonian provenience of the First Bulgarian Empire.

Codex is named after its discoverer, Italian Jesuit scholar and Vatican librarian of Syrian origin Joseph Assemani, who discovered it and bought it in Jerusalem in 1736. His nephew donated it to the Vatican Library, where the codex is still kept today.

By content its an Aprakos (weekly, service) Gospel. It contains only pericopes, i.e. parts read in the church. At the end of the manuscript there is a Menologium which mentions st. Demetrius, Theodosius, Clement and other Macedonian saints. The codex is held by many to be the most beautiful Old Church Slavonic book.

First to write about the codex was Mateo Karaman in his work Identitá della lingua letterale slava (manuscript, Zadar 1746). Manuscript was published by Franjo Rački (Zagreb 1865, Glagolitic), Ivan Črnčić (Assemanovo izborno evangjelje; Rome 1878, published privately, transcribed in Latin), Josef Vajs and Josef Kurz (Evangeliář Assemanův, Kodex vatikánský 3. slovanský, 2. vols, Prague 1929, ČSAV, phototypical edition) - republished by Josef Kurz in 1966 in Cyrillic transcription. The newest Bulgarian edition is by Vera Ivanova-Mavrodinova and Aksinia Džurova from 1981 (Asemanievo evangelie; Sofia: Nauka i izkustvo), with fascimile reproductions.

Manuscript abounds with ligatures. Linguistic analysis has showed that the manuscript is characterized by frequent vocalizations of yers (ъ > o, ь > e), occasional loss of epenthesis, and ь is frequently replaced with hard ъ, esp. after r. These are the traits pointing to the Macedonian area, and are shared with Codex Marianus. Yers are also frequently omitted word-finally, and occasionally non-etymologically mixed (ь being written after k and g).


  • Damjanović, Stjepan (2004). Slovo iskona. Zagreb: Matica hrvatska. ISBN 953-150-567-5. 
  • Schenker, Alexander (1995). The Dawn of Slavic: An Introduction to Slavic Philology. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-30005-846-2. 

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