These two manuscripts are good examples of the typical layout and conventions employed for luxurious Byzantine Gospel books. As shown in both manuscripts, these copies would display a full-page image of the author of each Gospel facing a page with a decorated headpiece at the beginning of the Gospel text itself, which in turn starts with an ornamental initial. Normally, the Evangelist was depicted seated as a scribe at work. In the next manuscript, we see a common feature that was included at the beginning of these Byzantine Gospels: the Canon Tables, which provide an exhaustive list of those passages that were paralleled in two or more Gospels. Originally gathered by Eusebius of Caesarea in the fourth century, these tables or lists were designed to prove the essential agreement between the different accounts of the events of the life of Christ as told in each of the Gospels.
The binding of Ms. 30 is particularly interesting for it still has a large portion of a silk-brocade cover over the wooden panels. While the most common bindings of that time would have consisted of heavy wooden boards covered with thick leather (a pretty durable binding suitable for monastic study), from the thirteenth century onwards wealthy individuals commissioned books bound in fine silk brocades and sophisticated velvet. These books were mostly devotional works, or even works of literature, destined for private use.
These two manuscripts were originally part of the library of Baroness Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906). She bought a group of more than ninety Greek manuscripts in 1870-1872 through Reverend Reginald Barnes, who, acting on her behalf, had purchased them around 1864 from a dealer in Ioannina (north-western Greece). The Baroness died in 1906, and, following the death of her husband in 1921, all the manuscripts were sold. A first lot of fifty-two codices was auctioned in London at Sotheby's in May 1922. The University of Michigan Library acquired fifty-six, most of them from the Polish antiquarian book dealer Wilfrid M. Voynich.