University of Chicago Library, Goodspeed Manuscript Collection Ms. 781, New Testament. Gospels (Khouban Gospels). Şəmkir, Azerbaijan (Shamkhor), 1670.


Four gospels in Armenian. Eusebian section numbers in the margins against the text. Concordance numbers in the lower margins. Pentecostal lection numbers. Portions of Matthew 16, Luke 22, and John 5 and 7 omitted. Formerly Goodspeed Ms. Arm. 29

  1. fols. 2r-69r Matthew.
    Note: Blank (fol. 69v).
  2. fols. 70r-113v Mark.
  3. fols. 115r-190r Luke.
    Note: Blank (fol. 190v).
  4. fols. 191r-249r John.
    Note: Blank (fol. 249v).
  5. fols. 250r-251v
    Colophon: The deacon Yovannēs (dated 1670). Glory be to the Eternal Father and Son, and to the Holy Ghost, now and always forever and ever. Amen. He gave strength to the humble deacon, who is called Yovannēs to complete the word of God, the Gospel. I began with the grace of God and finished it with his mercies in the Armenian year of 1119. During the patriarchate of his holiness Bedros the Catholicos, and in the time of Bishop Yovannēs of Alovans Shamkarou, which belongs to St. Asdouadzadzin, a celibate penitent named Khouban desired and commissioned a Holy Gospel. It was to memorialize his own soul, the souls of his parents Sarkis and Tilikhan, those of his brothers Sahag and Abraham, his sisters Marian, Marinos, and Kohar, his sisters-in-law Shahvoroum and Marian, their sons Van, Zaram, Zakar, and Khutchadour, their daughters Yaghloukhan, Louroum, Parin, Heriknaz, Toukldzam, and Hurikhan, Van's wife Naner, her father Zarsam, and all the relatives that are near to his heart. May God give life and health to those who are living; and to those who are dead, peace and salvation, Amen. Again, I beseech you father and brothers that whenever you read this holy writ, remember in your fervent prayers the above-mentioned celibate, who bought this Holy Gospel with a thrice-desiring heart and gave it to you. His is a son of Zion and a household member of Jerusalem according to the Prophet. His self was absorbed because he did not have any immediate heir in the world besides his brothers and their families, and he did this with the best intentions. Now they live, but they are corruptible according to the law of nature, but his memorial remains forever. Amen. It is food in store and a guide for their souls on the way that leads to heaven. And I beseech you to remember also this humble scribe. Remember and you shall be remembered in our Lord, Amen. And also remember the celibate penitent Khouban and his uncle Mardiros who sleeps in Christ. May the Lord remember him and be merciful to him, and forgive his sins and give comfort to his children, Aris, Tamana, and Huazant.


Marginal vignettes of multi-colored arabesques, medallions, and birds.


Headpieces of multi-colored floral, key, meander, fret, and foliate motifs (fols. 2r, 70r, 115r, 191r).


The major initial (40-55 mm) of each gospel's opening line is formed by figures of animals, such as birds and lions. Minor initials are formed by figures of birds or flowers.

Physical Description


Paper. 175 x 125 mm.

Number of Leaves

251 leaves.


1-251. Modern foliation in Arabic numerals in pencil.


21 numbered quires.


Written space 125 x 85 mm (fol. 13r). Each column is 125 x 40 mm with a space of 5 mm between.


2 columns, 22 lines. Ruling with hard point. Framing highlighted in red.


Written chiefly in bolorgir script in black ink. Each gospel's first line is inscribed in bird letters or bead and foliate forms. Second and third lines are written in erkat’agir script.

Text Divisions

Titles in red.


Water, dirt, and grease stains. Occasional tears. Insect damage.

Binding Description

Bound in blind stamped brown leather over boards (worm-damaged). Clasps lost, 1 strap present. Doublures of white linen, with painted floral and lozenge designs in red, green, and black.



The manuscript was written in 1670 (Armenian Era 1119) by the deacon Yovannēs at Shamkhor, the present-day Şəmkir, Azerbaijan (his colophon, fols. 250r-251v). Commissioned by the monk Xuban or Khouban, it is thought he presented the gospels as a gift to his family, who are remembered in the scribe's colophon.


Inscriptions of later owners are undated. Belonged to Kusan Talit‛ay. Belonged also to an antiques dealer, the mahtesi Yovhannēs of Sebastia, the present-day Sivas, Turkey (his inscription, fol. 114r). Inscription (fol. 69r); prayers (fols. 1r, 70r). University of Chicago Libraries bookplate and stamp (front doublure, fol. 1v).

Said to have been confiscated in the first quarter of the 20th century from a church in Trebizond, the present-day Trabzon, Turkey. Agents of the book collector H. M. Tashjian of Chicago, Illinois purchased the manuscript in Istanbul, Turkey, ca. 1919.


Acquired by the University of Chicago from H. M. Tashjian, June 1932.


  1. Merrill Mead Parvis, The Story of the Goodspeed Collection ([Chicago:] s.n., 1952), p. 20.
  2. Erroll F. Rhodes, An Annotated List of Armenian New Testament Manuscripts, Annual Report of Theology 1 (1959), p. 134 (1036).
  3. New Testament manuscript traditions. An exhibition based on the Edgar J. Goodspeed Collection of the University of Chicago Library, the Joseph Regenstein Library, January-March, 1973. University of Chicago. Library. Dept. of Special Collections. Exhibition catalogs ([Chicago: s.n., 1973]), 36, no. 75.
  4. Avedis K. Sanjian, A catalogue of medieval Armenian manuscripts in the United States (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 222-225.