The medieval manuscript book has a special importance in the entire Armenian historical and cultural legacy. It is not only significant for its rich contents (historical, theological, philosophical, literary and diverse other works), but also valuable as a piece of art with the material on which it is written, its calligraphy, miniature painting, neumography, as well as reliable document which colophons speak about the place where it was written, persons having created it, time of writing and many other events. In this regard any manuscript book is an original cultural creation.
The aim of the project Armenian Scriptoria of Western Armenia and Cilicia (10th - I5thk centuries) was to carry out an exhaustive investigation and to show on the map drawn in its basis the scriptoria of Western and Cilician Armenia, as well as the richest legacy of Armenian art of manuscript books which were created in these centers. One must mention that Armenian monasteries (which were scriptoria as well) and other monuments of material culture on these territories were mostly destroyed during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and for diverse reasons, and the manuscripts written there are the only witnesses of their existence. Consequently, the present investigation is an attempt to save from oblivion a stratus of world civilization legacy and this opportunity is given precisely by the study of Armenian manuscripts from the viewpoint of their writing area.
The work was done in three stages: investigation, analysis and conclusion. At first, information was gathered and documented, with corresponding questionnaire, in order to fill the "passport" (conventional name) of each center. The data base was filled out utilizing the entire list of Armenian manuscripts, according to all published catalogues. Besides, a list of remarks found in collections of diverse scriptoria colophons was made out. They allowed filling out the "passports" of the scriptoria. According to them each scriptorium is presented in a short story (short historical and geographical essay) about the manuscript legacy and analytic data about these manuscripts (enumeration of manuscripts written in any given center, their number, the time of writing, the manuscript's scribe, painter, binder and receiver names, the material of the manuscript, the kind of calligraphy, the number and the dimensions of folios). Main historical, cultural or other important information, as well as mentioned people (i.e. demographic data), mentioned localities, monasteries, churches and other buildings, contained in the manuscripts' colophons of each center are summarized (with citations of the most interesting parts). Manuscripts written in each center after the 15th century are enumerated as well, which will be the basis of future investigations. At the end, general, as well as artistic (miniature painting and music) characteristic of each center is given.
The map of Armenian Scriptoria of Western Armenia and Cilicia was drawn after the generalization and classification of this rich information. (All data are kept in the Matenadaran). The map also includes some scriptoria of the neighbouring localities and regions.
The map will be published to the Web of the Matenadaran site. The entire information and conclusions proceeding from it can be integrally published afterwards and be useful from the viewpoint of history, culture and an critic. It may be used for studying not only Armenian, but regional cultural heritage.
The scholars who will undertake the future investigation shall include in it manuscripts of the 16th - 19* centuries. Later, one should apply the same principles to study scriptoria of Eastern Armenia and draw their map. Such an investigation must be carried out in the future about scriptoria abroad (Armenian communities of the Diaspora). At the end of this exhaustive work we shall have the map of Armenian manuscript writing all over the world. This will be the best way to present the contribution of the Armenian people to the world civilization history by the means of the art of book writing and painting.
In armenology it is traditional to study manuscripts according to their location, i.e. their scriptorium, as, being written in the same place they often show similarities of calligraphy or miniature painting, details completing each other and so on. The study of Armenian scriptoria, as a sphere of Armenian studies, developed in the Mashtots Matenadaran since the 1960-ies and the 1970-ies on the initiative of the late Director academician Levon Khachikyan. In the 1970-ies two maps were drawn, in correspondence with special card index, for the Exhibition Hall of the Matenadaran (author Artashes Matevosyan). Nowadays, the data of this card index are no more sufficient, as they are too succinct and don't include the information contained in catalogues published during the last decades. Another map including some limited information about scriptoria was published in the Armenian National Atlas (Vol. II, Yerevan. 2008, p. 152-153, author Husik Melkonyan).
What about the detailed investigation of each scriptorium, up to now studies have been done only partly (studies are written about some scriptoria, as the monastery of Metzop, Ani, the Sevan monastery, Skevra; articles have been devoted to others). At present, special themes of study are being put forward in the Matenadaran. They will be devoted to the history of Artsakh. Vaspurakan, Cilician Armenia, Haghpat and Sanahin scriptoria.
In the whole notion of scriptorium one can separate two different milieus of manuscript creating: the place and the scriptorium. The place of writing may be any locality, a village, a little town, a fortress or a town, in which calligraphers dwelled (as a rule they were clergymen) and. getting the order of writing a manuscript, they copied it, while scriptoria were functioning mostly in monasteries, or close to them. There, manuscript copying and every work connected with it were done by diverse specialists. Scribes and miniature painters were helped by parchment and paper makers, manufacturers of colors and gold leaves, binders and others. In monastic scriptoria the art of calligraphy was transferred from master to his pupils. There were also schools of calligraphy with traditions of their own.
Colophons of manuscripts written in each scriptorium contain inappreciable documental data. Colophons are remarkable not only for their diversity, but also for their reliability, as scribes didn't communicate indirect information, as they were eye witnesses of everything they tell.
The map of Armenian scriptoria is aimed to witness the diffusion of unticn culture. It shows the spreading of Armenian written culture in Armenia proper as well as in neighboring and faraway countries in which Armenian communities were established and dwelled in various periods.
The present map is an important part of the great program of drawing the general map of Armenian scriptoria. Printed in two languages (Armenian and English) and published to the Web, it will be useful for wide circles of specialists and readers.
After each scriptorium the title of the manuscript, its date and the place of its conservation is noted in abbreviated form. For instance, "Miscellany, 1284 (MM 4207)". The key of abbreviations concerning collections and lost manuscripts (collections, catalogues of manuscripts, collections of colophons and bibliography) is given at the end of the book.
For each scriptorium we note at first preserved manuscripts in chronological order, then manuscripts "partly written" in this scriptorium (taking into consideration manuscripts illuminated, bound or restored there) and, at last "lost" ones.
In the case if the manuscript is lost (mostly during the Armenian Genocide), or if its place of conservation is unknown, we cite the catalogue, the collection of colophons or the bibliography (abbreviated), thanks to the data of which we know the existence of the manuscript or the time ofA its writing.
There may be cases when the colophon doesn't mention the place of writing, but specifies the locality nearby. For instance, "... near the inaccessible fortress called Bardzr" (13th century, p. 852). In such cases, before the manuscript date we mention: "Written in the neighborhood".
If the exact geographic location of the scriptorium is not known, but we know the province or a town in the neighbourhood, a sign of interrogation is put on the map near its name.
Signs symbolizing scriptoria are of four kinds; they express the quantity of manuscripts written there between the 10'h and 15th centuries: 1 to 10, 10 to 20,20 to 50. and more of 50.