Koine majuscule letter stroke order, advice requested

Is vocalizing the Greek words and sentences important? If so, how should Greek be pronounced (what arguments can be made for one pronunciation over another or others?) How can I write Greek characters clearly and legibly?
Yama Ploskonka
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Koine majuscule letter stroke order, advice requested

Post by Yama Ploskonka » August 5th, 2020, 7:45 pm

This is the challenge:
could anyone point me to a reasonably trustworthy source regarding the proper stroke order for writing Koine using a kalamos (reed pen)?
Your own experience might be the best we have in this regard, so please don't be shy, we might need to figure out this one together...


The whys and wherefores follow, very long, sorry...

As part of a somewhat major personal project that I am heavily invested in (over 50% of my own time for the last 3-4 weeks), and that I hope at least part of the fruits will be released as Creative Commons, at least to the extent that Amazon will allow, right now I am trying to figure out enough of the Roman Era Greek calligraphy so that I can pass on said knowledge, so far mostly failing at finding something authoritative.

If you need to know :), my motivation/reasoning is that, if someone wants to explore Biblical Greek, knowing and being able to imitate the way that scribes and early believers wrote Scripture can be a motivator and part of a holistic (nice Greek word there) process of learning-teaching Bible Greek, as important and meaningful as the proper Koine pronunciation, etc.

Now, essentially all I can find so far is addressed to Modern Greek, or, equally problematic, to the use of modern pens or pencils, markers, or blackboard chalk.

A kalamos (the reed pens used by Koine scribes) works differently, more like a feather quill. Can''t do well a continuous single-trace circle or oval, normal procedure for writing requires several strokes per letter.
I know enough about medieval handwriting to be able to safely affirm that I need to know more about early AD writing practices before I pretend I can teach.

Does this all matter? Well, according to what I believe is wise advice shared in several posts in this forum, consistency and practice do matter, and, logically, if you are going to do it at all, why not do it the right way?

"Consistency" would mean, in my humble opinion, that someone just procuring A Little Knowledge of Bible Greek should of course practice Koine-era pronunciation together with writing practice corresponding to that era and its available technologies.
Of course, eventually some people that start with Yama and his majuscule uncial no spaces or diacritics or punctuation will go on later to Erasmian and medieval and modern-er conventions as found in standard interlinears, but doing the transition will probably hurt them less than the lack of consistency from using mixed upper and lower case and punctuation would hurt a total noob when the essential foundational text he is using comes from, say, 𝔓26, my favorite. Or 𝔓46, you get the idea.

"I guess" I could eventually "reconstruct" it, and it would seem that most instructors either assume that everyone invents their own way of writing, or else students are to imitate their teacher's style when writing in the blackboard... However, my own bad practice (self taught) is so far making me nervous, and not fit to teach. For example, my Π I start with the two legs and only then cover with a curly top, but based on the way Τ looks in ancient manuscripts, I suspect but I don't know if the curly top is traced before the legs...

Regarding similar matters already addressed in this forum, http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/vie ... ing#p23319 focused on handwriting resources, the best of them focus on modern Greek, others don't even attempt to address stroke order at all, none mention Koine more than being an issue with pronunciation. Also, http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/vie ... =48&t=2670 is a most entertaining adventure regarding someone who wanted to have his back tattooed with Scripture. Peter ended with some fragments of codex Sinaiticus, I'm just waiting for variants correctors to notice him and start putting him right, perhaps add lectionary markings :P

Besides those two threads, to my surprise there is zero information I have been able to find anywhere regarding a description of these matters, that I would consider are vital to those trying to give some scientific basis to paleographic dating. I know that Brent Nongbri does mention ink, another frequently ignored subject in his 2017 God's Library, but having only recently procured a copy of that book, I don't know if he mentions stroke order.

Please feel free and very welcome to correct me and point out other sources that do address actual writing as in, well, writing...
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Yama Ploskonka, papermaker since 2016 in Austin, Texas, very noob in Koine stuffs

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Koine majuscule letter stroke order, advice requested

Post by Jonathan Robie » August 6th, 2020, 8:54 am

Interesting! I don't know where to find these instructions, I would also be curious. I'd add this, though: given your goals, you should probably learn about wax tablets, too.

I have not read any of these beyond a quick browse, but they might be worth checking out:
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Yama Ploskonka
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Re: Koine majuscule letter stroke order, advice requested

Post by Yama Ploskonka » August 6th, 2020, 12:50 pm

Thank you, Jonathan,
I feel much encouraged as someone with your level of involvement with Koine-related stuffs would find this matter interesting.

A first look at the resources mentioned proves again that I need to learn more. To begin with, how to embed hyperlinks :)

other comments and follow ups:

T.Janz Greek Paleography: Introduction to Minuscule Bookhands https://spotlight.vatlib.it/greek-paleography/
This is a most excellent resource, all the more useful because it is found in toto online.
However, it might be of limited utility for Koine because the author starts with "Biblical Majuscule" from Vaticanus, and writing styles later than the 2nd century, though his graphic symbols for writing sequences might be a good example to follow. I have a instinctive feeling that what Janz calls "serifs" or "flourishes", i.e., the "thicker", ball-like endings for strokes, has another name. Likewise, that when he talks about the 15 degree angle for the pen, that might be more like a starting position, the Koine-era scribe changing the rotation a bit as he goes along. Strict angles are a feature of fraktur and such medieval hands, my "feeling" is that Koine-era did not feel that way. But, instinct is not good science, I need to study more. Yet, as a starting point to find out some of what I need to learn, priceless, thank you.

P.Fioretti Ink Writing and ‘A sgraffio’ Writing in Ancient Rome. From Learning to Practical Use.
Alas, I was not able to follow your link, but then found the article paywalled in Academia, from where I was able to get it https://www.academia.edu/1473370/Ink_wr ... ctical_use
Prof. Fioretti addresses one area of my particular interest, which is the process of teaching/learning to write. One early Scriptural papyrus that I need to find again was very obviously from someone learning to write, practicing. I should follow that thread deeper perhaps, it would be rather to expect that a learner would overemphasize the traces and aspects that are of more concern and need particular care.

In looking for that paper, I came upon a cute page, maybe of interest to someone fixin' to have a Let's Write Like The Greek! class.
https://the-history-girls.blogspot.com/ ... oline.html
Of academic value: this site mentions H.Eckardt's Writing and Power in the Roman World: Literacies and Material Culture Even the limited Gooble Books preview gives some useful info https://www.google.com/books/edition/Wr ... s3DwAAQBAJ
Which took me to Paul in the Greco-Roman World: A Handbook The G.B. preview https://www.google.com/books/edition/Pa ... 77DAAAQBAJ has a discussion regarding what Paul read, and how much did he himself write. But mine is starting to be a rabbit trail quest. :roll:

One thing that might be of interest here to the "wax tablet" side of this subject, this site with some too-generalized info, but perhaps of some use to one who can find grain away from chaff.
https://www.brighthubeducation.com/hist ... struments/
When I first saw this illustration for the Douris Cup, (attached, from German Wikipedia) showed something that clearly was not a kalamos. So now I know, it would be that the stylus used for wax tablets was bronze (or sometimes wood?). :) BTW, regarding wax tablets, M.West's Writing Tablets and Papyrus from Tomb II in Daphni is available online http://www.papirologia.unipr.it/didatti ... daphni.pdf

A Companion to Greek Literature
The fragment available in Google Books is enticing. But I've been at this all morning, and much else to catch up. :)

Vale, all of y'all

Yama
Douris_Man_with_wax_tablet.jpg
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Yama Ploskonka, papermaker since 2016 in Austin, Texas, very noob in Koine stuffs

S Walch
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Re: Koine majuscule letter stroke order, advice requested

Post by S Walch » August 6th, 2020, 1:49 pm

Yama Ploskonka wrote:
August 5th, 2020, 7:45 pm
I know that Brent Nongbri does mention ink, another frequently ignored subject in his 2017 God's Library, but having only recently procured a copy of that book, I don't know if he mentions stroke order.
Unfortunately not; Brent's excellent book isn't too fussed with how to write the specific handwriting/graphic styles, as his interests in GL lie elsewhere.

Nevertheless, you'll still see more than a few images in the book of zoomed-in manuscripts and can deduce from there the individual strokes for each graphic type.

You'll find most discussions of this sort aren't in English publications; Guglielmo Cavallo's Richerche sulla maiuscola biblica concentrates on the 'Biblical Uncial' type of handwriting (now more commonly "Biblical Majuscule", though used for more than just Biblical books). Cavallo also has quite a few other publications which are related; you'll see them all listed in Brent's Bibliography (p. 357).

If you want to know more on the subject of papyrology (which especially includes the handwriting styles used), I can't half recommend The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology. Interestingly, Cavallo has a chapter in said book on Greek and Latin Handwriting in the papyri (pp. 101-149). :)

There are an awful lot of images of manuscripts online, and I suggest starting from The Database of Dateable Greek bookhands and looking at some of the images linked from there. You'll get a taste for which bookhands were popular and when, and the exact strokes aren't too hard to determine.

You can also refer to the handy list of the specific graphic styles used in Greek papyri in Pasquale Orsini and Willy Clarysse's article Early New Testament Manuscripts and Their Dates: A Critique of Theological Palaeography in Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses (Vol. 88 Issue 4, 2012), which is accessible on academia.edu, on p. 468. PP. 451-460 gives a great outline of the major graphic style "canon's": Biblical majuscule; Alexandrian majuscule (uni & bimodular); Severe Style/Strenger Stil; Sloping Ogival majuscule; Upright Ogival majuscule; Round majuscule; Round Chancery Script.

Furthermore, though not directly related to Biblical majuscule, I have done something akin to what you want as it pertains to the severe style script seen in Papyrus 45 (Chester Beatty Papyrus I - images over at the CSNTM): I have included letter samples, a graphic presentation of the strokes, and a description of the stroke sequence. I've put it on a PDF on GoogleDrive for you here.

Hope that helps at least a little bit!

Edit:
Forgot to mention - the Vatican website has a decent introduction to the handwriting styles as well - link here.
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nathaniel j. erickson
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Re: Koine majuscule letter stroke order, advice requested

Post by nathaniel j. erickson » August 6th, 2020, 2:55 pm

could anyone point me to a reasonably trustworthy source regarding the proper stroke order for writing Koine using a kalamos (reed pen)?
It strikes me that "the proper stroke order" for writing would be dependent on a variety of factors, with the surface being written on and the person writing, being two obvious ones. There are a wide variety of extant majuscule hands. I am no expert and I have seen a wide variety myself. They show obvious similarities, but sometimes the letters are formed in rather different ways, which would likely indicate different scribal practices in how strokes were done. For example, in many hands it appears that the an upsilon was written with a line like "\" and then a small stroke added to that. However, sometimes the long, straight line is like "/", or is nearly vertical, which would seem to indicate that different people wrote it using a different order of strokes at different times or in different places. HANDBOOK OF GREEK & LATIN PALAEOGRAPHY by Sir E M Thompson, 3rd edition, published 1906, has a nice progression of different hands, with a few comments about how they were done: http://www.katapi.org.uk/G&LPalaeography/Ch9.html. Someone has done an awesome service by putting in high quality pictures of the different manuscripts which are discussed in the text.

Just musing here, but I wonder if the Italian guy who did the facsimile of Codex Vaticanus ever wrote anything on the subject of writing in majuscules? I suspect the various people who have been involved in such endeavors over the years at least formed very strong opinions about how it must have been done based on their own work trying to copy the texts.
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Nathaniel J. Erickson
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Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
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ὅπου πλείων κόπος, πολὺ κέρδος
ΠΡΟΣ ΠΟΛΥΚΑΡΠΟΝ ΙΓΝΑΤΙΟΣ

Yama Ploskonka
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Re: Koine majuscule letter stroke order, advice requested

Post by Yama Ploskonka » August 6th, 2020, 3:25 pm

Wow, thank you for so many links, I know where my morning went, I am suspecting where my afternoon will go :)
S Walch wrote:
August 6th, 2020, 1:49 pm

You'll find most discussions of this sort aren't in English publications;
What follows might not be entirely "political correct", but here. Doing the dishes this morning, I was reflecting precisely on why is seems we have a lot of info regarding pronunciation, and so little about the actual writing sequences. It dawned on me that perhaps there is something "cultural" in play, and that Continental researchers, academia, etc. might care more about handwriting form than we do here in the US. Frowning at generalizations, of course.
My French elementary school teachers really disliked my independence when it came to writing, giving a really hard time to a classmate who was left-handed. Parents knew that the later would have not been an issue in the US, as we overheard at the time.
From what I have read so far from authors this side of the pond, by essentially not mentioning the matter at all, it would seem that an incoming student of Greek is expected to already be familiar and skilled in transcribing it, as I have not found evidence in foundational coursework here regarding how that skill is to be achieved.
Following that reflection, I had a mind about exploring European authors, perhaps even see about the B-Greek German list that I saw mentioned somewhere. Finding that I might not be completely off in my reasoning, great!


There is much more that is valuable to me in your note, thank you very much!
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Yama Ploskonka, papermaker since 2016 in Austin, Texas, very noob in Koine stuffs

Yama Ploskonka
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Re: Koine majuscule letter stroke order, advice requested

Post by Yama Ploskonka » August 6th, 2020, 3:53 pm

nathaniel j. erickson wrote:
August 6th, 2020, 2:55 pm

It strikes me that "the proper stroke order" for writing would be dependent on a variety of factors, with the surface being written on and the person writing,
...
different scribal practices in how strokes were done.
Hi Nathaniel!
I would believe that you are quite right. It is possible that those variations can give us pretty valuable insights into paleographic dating, as my understanding of scribal practice would make me assume that writing styles, including matters such as what strokes were used, were learned in a very formal manner, though likely did eventually have variations. Wow, someone could do a pretty decent PhD thesis on that one, since it is possible that with enough intent, it could be possible, as you say, to reconstruct those traces and patterns from observation of manuscripts, and draw "families" and relationships.

As to practicals for our day and age, hmm, not unlikely I was trying to cheat :) and rely on someone's else work, though perhaps if we're kind we could say that I was trying to follow "accepted practice". I shall seek Thompson's, as you suggest.
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Yama Ploskonka, papermaker since 2016 in Austin, Texas, very noob in Koine stuffs

Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: Koine majuscule letter stroke order, advice requested

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » August 6th, 2020, 5:00 pm

Very interesting thread, but I disagree with this:
as important and meaningful as the proper Koine pronunciation, etc.
* Speaking and hearing are the basics in human communication and language. Writing isn't.
* Majority (or at least large part) of the people back then couldn't read, let alone write.
* Writing styles differ vastly between individuals, in a different way than different voices differ. Even if education was more rigorous, they weren't completely uniform in writing style (as was already mentioned).
* Informal minuscules (which probably represent the majority of the written text of that time?) show more variation, about as much as today's handwriting.
* Today's people don't even write with a pen. But they talk and (hopefully) read about as much as before the computer era, and the language is very much alive.
* Writing very carefully and beautifully could be compared to detailed exegetical work on a text and the grammar. It certainly opens a new world for thinking about details, but doesn't help in internalizing the language so much. I would say that writing as quickly as possible is better for learning.

So, there is no and there was no one correct way to write letters. It's not like pronunciation where intonation and accent matters.

As much as learning about this can be important and meaningful for some ends, it's not on par with pronunciation for learning and understanding the language.

_________________

That said, I have a question if someone happens to know: what did the original manuscripts look like? Were all, some or any of them written in majuscules? I have thought that some of Pauls letters may have been like the oxyrynchus papyri's minuscules, but maybe some more literary works could have been more carefully crafted in majuscules even in their first form.
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S Walch
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Re: Koine majuscule letter stroke order, advice requested

Post by S Walch » August 6th, 2020, 5:27 pm

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
August 6th, 2020, 5:00 pm
That said, I have a question if someone happens to know: what did the original manuscripts look like? Were all, some or any of them written in majuscules? I have thought that some of Pauls letters may have been like the oxyrynchus papyri's minuscules, but maybe some more literary works could have been more carefully crafted in majuscules even in their first form.
I'd hazard a guess they'd've been written in one of the more formal scripts around in the first century CE. Cavallo notes at least seven different "graphic streams" for literary documents ("Greek and Latin Writing in the Papyri", Oxford HB of Pap. pp. 113-4).

I was trying to get some of the Oxyrhynchus examples he gives, but seems the Oxford website is down at the moment. Thankfully the PSI one is online, so these will do:

PSI 1214 | PSI 1092 | PSI 1285 | PSI 1091 | PSI 1088 (recto).

These are probably the styles used for the Gospels; as for Paul's letters: they're not really like the normal documentary letters we see in the papyri (they're like, 1000% longer for one), so it could be they were like the documentary papyri, or more likely as one of the examples above.

If one goes to Trismegistos and the search page (https://www.trismegistos.org/tm/), put in "AD01" under "date", you'll get a rather long list of documentary papyri examples.

The one linked below is BGU 16 2660, dated to the 14th of August, AD 01.

BGU 2660.
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Yama Ploskonka
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Re: Koine majuscule letter stroke order, advice requested

Post by Yama Ploskonka » August 6th, 2020, 10:14 pm

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
August 6th, 2020, 5:00 pm

* Writing very carefully and beautifully could be compared to detailed exegetical work on a text and the grammar. It certainly opens a new world for thinking about details, but doesn't help in internalizing the language so much. I would say that writing as quickly as possible is better for learning.
...
As much as learning about this can be important and meaningful for some ends, it's not on par with pronunciation for learning and understanding the language.
Hey Eeli!

Between the option of being guided to learn to write Koine, or being expected to guess things on your own, I still think that having an instructor teach the basics of good form might be best. Unless you are graded on your handwriting, which to me would feel akin to meeting the Gadarene swine. My handwriting is awful, in any language, though for some reason so far my Koine with kalamos looks real pretty, go figure.

It is indeed a fact that in an advanced Koine class, the ancient stroke order for writing with a kalamos is irrelevant, because inefficient. Having now access to modern pens, perhaps an eclectic approach is good, better if at least a bit normalized, without undue pressure. Some of which is your point, and I would say that you are right: if you need speed, then speed you need, “classic form” becomes a Renaissance-faire skill.
Though I should guess that someone who cares about aesthetics could make a point about how those are important. Since most publications use the modern Greek standards, and “manuscripts” are today digital anyway, the same arguments about dropping handwriting from school do apply.
However, the whole field of Koine academia has essentially zero value in national GDP, or return-of-investment, the later being actually negative. Therefore, doing something just because it is beautiful and classic, like kalamos work on papyrus, without any profit, isn't it a good fit?
Writing Koine nicely is probably easier to achieve than speaking it to even the lowest level of satisfactory... I still believe that inviting people to write might be a good motivator to do more later, and satisfactory enough in itself as a life experience even if they never do continue further, a not useless foundation if they do. And, in my case, if I'm going to teach any Koine writing, I need to be as period-accurate as possible, thus the need for the strokes...

Yet, after one full day in this subject, and all y'all's help, I am all too aware that there are enough variations that I could get away with anything, and people would have a hard time proving I were wrong... :)


As to your question, “original manuscripts?” You mean, autographa manuscripts by Peter, Paul, Luke, etc.? My personal guess, as of today, is that perhaps some of Paul’s letters were written in wax tablets, apparently that was somewhat standard for letters. See the paper by West that I link to in my original post for some titillating pictures of some characters, much smaller than I would have imagined. Definitely majuscule, or so I'd dare affirm.
I might posit with my usual excessive self confidence that the Gospel of Luke would have been from its original considered worthy of being written on a scroll, before cheaper codex copies were made. In sum, I concur with your guess.

Peace,
Yama

To everybody:
Thank you. This was a most wonderful day, and y'all made it so, encouraging and guiding me to learn, to discover, to face my doubts and perhaps helping me to become a bit more humble, which by now might be obvious I need a lot more of. Tomorrow is scheduled to be a stressful day, nothing bad, just one of those aging things that need to be addressed. Being able to relax today, and focus all day long at least sideways on The Word was wonderful, an unearned privilege. See you sometime later in the week.
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Yama Ploskonka, papermaker since 2016 in Austin, Texas, very noob in Koine stuffs

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