An update to this article has been added in italics on 18 Dec. 2018.
It was reported this year that the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) is returning one of their manuscripts to a previous owner in Athens. This is, of course, welcome news and is reminiscent of other similar situations.
GA 1424 (formerly Chicago Gruber 152), a 9th/10th century manuscript that is regarded as the earliest complete Greek New Testament in minuscule text, was recently voluntarily returned to Greece. Its recorded history can be traced back to at least 1885, when it was included by Athanasios Papadopoulos-Kerameus in his catalogue of the manuscripts at the Holy Monastery of Panagia Eikosifoinissa. This monastery is located in the mountains of the Serres region, of which Drama is the capital (the closest city to the monastery is called Kosinitza in Turkish, or Kormista in Greek). What the Liste refers to as 1424, was numbered 124 in the 1885 catalogue of the monastery. This manuscript was, however, looted from the monastery in March 1917, and subsequently remained in the US for nearly a century.
In 2010, Nadezhda Kavrus-Hoffmann explained how the manuscript ended up in the Gruber collection in Chicago:
"In 1917 all manuscripts were taken from the Kosinitza monastery by Bulgarians and transported to Sofia. Many manuscripts were eventually returned to Greece and are now in the National Library of Greece in Athens. But nearly three hundred manuscripts are still in Sofia, in the Ivan Dujcev Center for Slavo-Byzantine Studies. And an unknown number of Greek manuscripts and fragments found their way to European book dealers and are now dispersed throughout the world."
"Some of the former Kosinitza manuscripts were acquired by American collectors. A complete New Testament, Kosinitza 124 [i.e. GA 1424], came into the possession of Levi Franklin Gruber, who acquired the manuscript from Jacques Rosenthal, a Munich book dealer, in 1920. After Gruber’s death, his collection of rare books and manuscripts, including fourteen Greek manuscripts, was sold by his widow to the Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary in Maywood, Illinois, where Gruber was president from 1926 to 1941. The Seminary joined three other Lutheran theological seminaries in 1962 and formed the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, which in 1967 moved to Hyde Park near the University of Chicago. The Gruber collection is now housed in a special room of the School’s Jesuit-Krauss-McCormick Library."
In correspondence with the INTF, President of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), James Nieman, explains that 1424 may never have resided at the Maywood campus. It spent most of its time in Gruber’s private vault in a downtown Chicago bank and only came into the seminary’s possession via Gruber’s widow, likely in the late 1950s or early 1960s.
At the end of 2016, in a ceremony of homecoming, it was voluntarily returned to Greece by LSTC and now resides again in the collection of the Holy Monastery of Panagia Eikosifoinissa.
Examining 1424. From left to right: Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod Bishop Wayne Miller, President of LSTC James Nieman, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Archbishop Demetrios of America, and Rev. Donald McCoid. Image courtesy of LSTC.
Although some of the story about 1424 can be found online here, one important detail was still missing that the INTF needed for the Liste: the shelf number at its current location. LSTC has been very helpful in this regard. Earlier this year, we contacted them to inquire about the shelf number. They forwarded our request to a liaison for the monastery, who then contacted the monastery and was able to ascertain this information for us. Thus, we are now able to record the current location and shelf number of 1424 as Kormista, Panagia Eikosifoinissa, Icosifinissis nr. 3 (3P).
Similarly, in 2014, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, CA willingly returned one of their manuscripts to Greece, known in the Liste as GA 927. A 1960 report from Dionysiou Monastery, which was not made public at that time, recorded that manuscript number 8 was illegally removed from their premises. This manuscript was later acquired by the Getty Museum in 1983 "as part of a large, well-documented collection" and was subsequently given shelf identification Ludwig II 4. After the missing manuscript from Dionysiou Monastery was discovered, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports worked with the museum to help return it. Timothy Potts, director of the Getty Museum, said that returning the manuscript was "the right course of action." The Greek Minister of Culture and Sports, Panos Panagiotopoulos, noted: "The decision [to return the manuscript] also clearly demonstrates the respect the Getty Museum has for Greek cultural heritage and encourages us to continue to build and strengthen our collaborative relationship for the future." The manuscript has returned home to Dionysiou Monastery and has taken its old shelf number 8 again.
Although the purchase of a manuscript may be legal, if a manuscript is discovered to have been taken illegally at some point, returning it to its rightful place is not always straightforward. As we strive to keep the ever-changing Liste up to date, it is important to check holding institutions and online databases (such as Pinakes and Trismegistos) for the latest information. The best case scenario for completing this work is when holding institutions have digitized their manuscripts online and provided their own detailed information about their manuscripts. Normally when an institution already has images for public viewing online, we are granted permission for the NT.VMR to deep-link to them under a Creative Commons License. In updating the Liste, the fact that some monasteries or other holding institutions have no email or even phone number (let alone their own images of manuscripts) can often prove challenging. In some cases, we are lucky to even find a mailing address to request information about an institution’s manuscripts. We also rely on other researchers to inform us of new information and are very grateful to have been notified in many instances via the NT.VMR forum about location changes or even newly discovered manuscripts.
I mention the return of manuscripts to offer a quick behind the scenes look at the ongoing work of the INTF in its effort to update the Liste and to offer a centralized venue where these valuable artifacts can been seen and studied online.
Update 18 Dec. 2018 (HT: Dora Panella on facebook): The New York Times writes that a law suit has been filed against Princeton University for return of manuscripts in their possession that were allegedly stolen from the Holy Monastery of Panagia Eikosifoinissa. A university spokesperson denies any wrong doing on behalf of Princeton in their acquisition of these manuscripts.
 "A New Testament Manuscript Produced in the Stoudios Scriptorium: Codex 152 in the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago," Thirty-Sixth Annual Byzantine Studies Conference, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, October 8-10, 2010.
 "The J. Paul Getty Museum Announces the Return of a Byzantine Illuminated New Testament to Greece." <http://news.getty.edu/byzantine-manu-to-greece.htm>.