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Sylvie L. Merian - Protection Against the Evil Eye? Votive Offerings on Armenian Manuscript Bindings

decoration30 Nov. 2010

The lecture will explore an unusual type of metal decoration found on a number of Armenian manuscript bindings. These bindings were embellished with odd objects haphazardly attached onto the covers, and sometimes even onto the spine and flap. The items may include coins, crosses, crucifixes, seal stones from personal signet rings, metal belts, jewelry, and small metal repouss? objects shaped like hands, eyes, crescent moons, or human faces. Some of these objects were clearly donated by the faithful as memorials to themselves and their families to express their Christian piety. Others surely functioned as ex-votos. However, this does not fully explain their entire purpose. In view of the ubiquitous belief in evil forces, the evil eye, and malevolent spirits in the Near East, Sylvie L. Merian will discuss the use of these objects as apotropaic devices to avert evil, thereby protecting not only the donor but also the religious manuscript itself. Sylvie L. Merian received her Ph.D. in Armenian Studies from Columbia University's Department of Middle East Languages and Cultures in 1993, writing her dissertation on Armenian bookbinding. She has published and lectured on Armenian codicology, bookbinding, and manuscript illumination, as well as on the history of the book. She currently works as Reader Services Librarian at the Morgan Library & Museum.


30 Nov. 2010
365 Fifth Avenue, at 34th Street, Room 9205
New York
Free and open to the public
Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center (MEMEAC)
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