WATERTOWN — The Armenian Museum of America has announced the upcoming digitization of the most important piece in it’s collection, the Garabed Gospel, 1207 AD. The Garabed Gospel was delivered by Museum staff to the Northeast Document Conservation Center earlier this year and the digitization process is slated to begin very soon! This project is part of the Museum’s ongoing effort to maintain and preserve in perpetuity an active program of collecting, conserving, and documenting Armenian artifacts, books, and publications.
The scribe Garabed created this extraordinary work in 1207 A.D, at the monastery of Surp Garabed near the town of Jurak during the reign of Levon I of Cilicia. It required eleven years to complete the book and the elderly scribe noted that he went blind during that period. The book was given to priest Vartan, the donor’s ancestor, who returned with the book to his home in the town of Tomarza, where it remained for over 700 years passed down within one family lineage of priests (the Der Garabedian/Hazarshahian/Chorbajian family.) The name of each generation of priests is noted in the Gospel Book for over thirty-five generations. The Gospel Book escaped the death and destruction that many in the Der Garabedian family suffered in the Armenian Genocide.
The Garabed Gospel Book is made of 250 pages of goat skin, covered with leather-bound wooden covers. The text is in double columns in black ink with decorative figures on the pages edges in red ink. The artistic style is relatively crude, typical of the Cilician style. The larger size of the book is also typical of this early period. In the later mature Cilician style, Gospel books are often small enough to be carried in one hand, with refined delicate artwork.