Syriac Scripts: 20th/21st century, East Syriac


The object of this lesson is threefold:

  • to serve as a reminder that Syriac manuscripts have continued to be copied up to the present (see further)

  • to show the kinds of supports and writing instruments used in these more recent manuscripts

  • to offer samples of the continued use of the scripts we have looked at so far


For number 3, there is really nothing unexpected in terms of letter shapes. Estrangela is generally used, if at all, for decorative purposes or titles (much as Blackletter or Fraktur typefaces may be used in English-language newspaper names, for example), but both Serto and East Syriac have continued in regular use throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. While the kinds of supports (such as a composition book or datebook) and writing instruments (pencil, ballpoint pen) may seemingly be more pedestrian than for earlier manuscripts and thus confer upon these modern manuscripts less gravitas, there is not really a new ductus in letter-forms. These manuscripts often appear less carefully executed than at least some earlier copies (some of them are actually drafts for works intended to be printed). Even in earlier periods, scribes who knew how to write, but not necessarily how to write well, nonetheless produced manuscripts.


In what follows, sample pages are thus offered with no comment on the forms of the letters, but a few remarks highlight supports and writing implements.

Example 1 - Through World War II

Zakho, ACZ 9, f. 3v (dated 1908)


Tell Kaif, QACCT 30, f. 3r (dated 1914)


This manuscript, a Ḥudrā, serves as a reminder that manuscripts do not have to be old to show examples of damage.

Zakho, ACZ 12, f. 4r (dated 1920)

Epistle Lectionary

Zakho, ACZ 73, f. 3r (dated 1926)

Rites of Consecration of Myron and of Baptism

Tell Kaif, QACCT 31, f. 4r (dated 1936)


The paper of this manuscript, another Ḥudrā, has a sheen that is almost glossy.

Tell Kaif, QACCT 199, f. 3v (dated 1937)

Hymns for Palm Sunday

Example 2 - Post World War II

Tell Kaif, QACCT 134, f. 5v (dated 1953)

This manuscript is a late copy of the Letters of Patriarch Timotheos I.

Tell Kaif, QACCT 20, f. 4v (dated 1964)

Epistle Lectionary

The lines for the text block, which seem to be in pencil, are clearly visible.

Zakho, ACZ 57, f. 4v (dated 1967)

Memre of the Rogation of the Ninevites