[ARMENIAN MANUSCRIPT IN SCROLL] Hmail [i.e. The Collection of Spells]
Manuscript in scroll. Upper Armenia, 1680. 13 meters 87 cm in length (42,9 ft). 9 cm in width (3,5 inch). Composed of 35 pieces glued together. Text written in one column. 31 illuminated miniatures, 44 ornamented book initials. The manuscript is complete. Tears and wears of the scroll, with minor marginal losses, generally scroll is preserved quite well, no recent restoration was done.
The tradition of hmail amulets in Armenian culture dates back to the 15th century (the earliest known example is from 1428). They were created in different parts of Armenia and were made for the travellers. Usually the scroll consisted of the prayers and spells with some elements of ‘folk Christianity’ as well.
According to the major specialist in scrolls Davit Ghazaryan (Matenadaran, Scientific Research Institute of Ancient Manuscripts named after Mesrop Mashtots, Yerevan, Armenia), who examined our manuscript, it was written in Bardzr Hajq in the Upper Armenia. Most probably the miniatures and text were done by the same person who signed his name in the colophon adding the date as well. The collophone translates: ‘The book for protection was rewritten by the hand of sinful deakon Jakob, who is from the province Vorotna, from the village Aghuerdz. Amen. For enjoyment of Čianshah, Msrshah and Halapshah, the sons of khoja Paghtasar, who is from the province Arzrum, from the Papert city. It was written on 1129 of the Armenian era (=1680) on May 13’. According to Ghazaryan none other example of Jakob’s work is known, although the whole area is pretty well-researched.
Amulet tradition was quite strong in Armenia in the 17th-18th centuries, however not so many examples of it have survived to our day due to the format and the constant use. The important characteristics are length, the quantity and the quality of the miniatures. In our case, the miniatures are masterly done but by a local master, not a specialist illuminist. The quantity is appropriate to the length although we have to add that it’s common for the amulets to be without illustrations. For example the earliest known scroll that is preserved in full length is from 1478 and doesn’t have any illustrations.
The significant quality of our specimen is in the size. It’s almost 14 meters long while the standard sizes are 6-7 meters. Also the longer the scroll the loss of the fragments is more likely. The longest ones that are preserved in Matenadaran in Yerevan are not preserved in full. 50% of all the scrolls in existence today lack some fragments.
Together with this scroll we acquired two printed Armenian scrolls from 1718 and 1730, they are in need of restoration so we did not include them in our catalogue. However they are described, so do not hesitate to contact us about them.