The Red Gospels of Ganjasar, currently Manuscript 949 in the Goodspeed collection at the University of Chicago, an Armenian manuscript dating to the beginning of the 13th century, probably created around the city of Ani, near the southern border of the Kingdom of Georgia. Two artists signed the illuminations: the rather famous Ignatios, whose works date between 1223-1237, who composed the canon tables for the book, and a scribe named Abas, who painted the remaining images. The name of the latter is signed in Georgian, Armenian, and Greek.
The book is bound with a later binding of deep red leather (from which the manuscript was named) on a wood backing, attached with silver nails and etched with a geometric floral pattern on the front and back covers. The text is written on fine vellum, organized into gatherings of 5 folios, sewn to a stiff cloth backing with four neat, evenly spaced threads vertically sewn along the seam. It is written in a neat, even Armenian uncial, each character roughly 3 cm in height, with larger initials, in a typical black/dark brown ink. Marginal illustrations are liberally scattered throughout the text, often of complex floral designs, though various beasts and fowl have their fair representation as well.
Prefacing each gospel is a framed image of its evangelist, sitting in his study with writing instruments, beneath a picture of his representative beast (the angel, lion, ox, and eagle). Sixteen full-page images precede the text itself, which were at some point excised and trimmed and are now haphazardly re-sewn into the manuscript. The first 7 are all events from the life of Christ, from the Annunciation to his ascension, painted in red, blue, gold, and green. They are typical of Armenian art, with primitively drawn faces emphasizing large, oval eyes. It has been suggested, though, that the underlying theology (especially in the depiction of Christ on the cross) and artistic models are Byzantine, and that thus, especially in this period of Byzantine domination of the area, they should be interpreted in a multicultural context.
Despite lavish illuminations and the obvious quality of the materials, the book was intended for functional use in the churches of the cosmopolitan setting of Ani.
The manuscript displays several defects; the pages are swollen, and display warping, most likely from water damage. The rebinding was also inexpertly done. Most of the pages have been trimmed, and the end sheets are coming loose from the wood. On the whole, it is rather well preserved, and a fine example not only of the Armenian manuscript tradition but of the constant cultural, artistic contact with its neighbors.