As a result of the work of generations of philologists, the researchers in the field of Byzantine studies have at hand numerous index-catalogues dealing with classification of texts. The most recent and significant of them are, of course, Clavis patrum Graecorum, Bibliotheca hagiographica Graeca, Clavis apocryphorum Veteris Testamenti, Clavis apocryphorum Novi Testamenti, and many others – a centuries-old tradition, that serves as a base for these exceptional reference books. Any study on (or even related to) certain medieval literary monuments must as a rule consult them, as they cover an enormous material, facilitate identifications of certain works, offer standardization, unification and classification, contain the primary bibliography, and represent not only the basics of our knowledge about one particular text, but also give an opportunity to study groups of texts and corpora.
It is a well-known fact, that almost all medieval Slavic literary monuments (9th–16th c.) are translations from Greek: whole miscellanies, single texts, excerpts used in compilations. In this sense, their adequate study is possible only if a comparison with the Byzantine originals is made. In Slavic medieval studies, however, there is no such instrumentum studiorum that contains a) classification of the translated texts and b) reference to their Greek originals. For this main reason the Slavic tradition, unlike the Armenian, Georgian, Arabic, Coptic, is not “visible” to the researchers of the Byzantine cultural commonwealth, it is not fully reflected in the abovementioned and other Claves, and, finally, remains isolated and thought more as a subject to be researched by the “national philologies”, than as a full member of the Byzantine-Slavic cultural space in the Middle Ages.
The aim of VERSIONES SLAVICAE initiative is to elaborate a freely accessible Internet-based electronic catalogue of medieval Slavic translations and their corresponding Byzantine sources. By adding more and more data it would hopefully expand to Clavis versionum slavorum Medii Aevi – a unique research tool with no analogue in its field (Byzantine and Slavic medieval studies).
The beginnings of our initiative were laid in December 2011 after a project entitled “Electronic database Operum patrum Graecorum versiones slavicae: cataloguing and study of the writings of John Chrysostom in Old Church Slavonic” won a grant from the Bulgarian Science Fund Young Scientists Program. Thanks to the kind institutional and technical support of the Central Library of Bulgarian Academy of Sciences we have developed the database in 2012 and made the first steps in filling it up. The first task during this 2-years project is to start cataloguing the works of John Chrysostom in order to test and develop our software and metadata. Chrysostomian homilies have very rich Slavonic tradition that is only partly investigated so there is also much of research to be done. We’ll add soon other texts too – hagiographical, homiletic, hymnographical, among others. Our ambiton is to represent exhaustively and bring together all the texts with their Greek parallels identified in different articles, studies, monographs and indices.
We got the inspiration for our idea from the Pinakes database (http://pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr), worked out by the Institut de recherche et d’histoire des textes on the base of a card-index, developed for two decades in the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies in Toronto. We are working in close collaboration with our French colleagues and we have successfully adopted some of the technical solutions and scientific principles they brought in. However, the Slavic material and state of research are completely different in comparison with the Byzantine tradition and this is why our database has metadata and structure of its own. One should have in mind also that we have almost no base to build upon: most of the descriptions of Slavic manuscripts lack identifications of the Byzantine originals of the texts, we do not have Patrologiae or series of critical editions (such as Sources Chrétiennes, Corpus Christianorum, etc.), and we have no previous experience with medieval Slavic text databases that are similar to ours.