|Description||Papers relating to Birdsall's work on an unfinished catalogue of biblical manuscripts within the Mingana collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts, consisting of two annotated, undated typed documents giving an overview description of the Greek manuscripts in the Mingana collection; a typed document entitled 'Greek hagiographical mss in the Library of the Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham', undated; notes and correspondence with Andre Jacob and others about Mingana Georgian 8, 1980, including partial transcription of Greek palimpsest text; notes on Mingana Greek 10, 1980, with letter from Joseph Gill S.J, Rome 1968 on Mingana Greek 10; notes and correspondence with Paul Leonard and Father Halkin about Mingana Braithwaite 3, 1968; hardback notebook containing Birdsall's notes on and transcriptions of the Mingana Greek manuscripts|
|Administrative History||James Neville Birdsall was born on 11 March 1928 in Leicester. He studied at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he was a pupil of Robert Casey, and then studied for a PhD at Nottingham University, which was awarded in 1959. His thesis was on the importance of a manuscript of Paul's letters known to New Testament scholars as cursive 1739. The thesis was never published, but research developed from it emerged in several of Birdsall's subsequent writings. |
He served the Baptist ministry before taking up academic appointments. He was Lecturer in New Testament Studies at Leeds University 1956-1961, and Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer, in New Testament Studies at the University of Birmingham from 1961 to 1983 when he retired. He was then Emeritus Professor in New Testament Studies and Textual Criticism. His research interests were in the Eastern church fathers and in the textual history of the New Testament. He was expert in biblical manuscripts, palaeography and codicology, and was particularly known for his work on the early Georgian versions of the scriptures. He was seconded from his post at Birmingham in the mid 1970s to work on a thesaurus of textual variants in Luke's Gospel, as the result of a British Academy award. He resigned from the project before completion but set the standards for the enterprise and completed the groundwork. The thesaurus was published by Oxford University Press in two volumes in 1984 and 1987.
He published a number of articles, some of which were reprinted for the monograph series 'Texts and Studies'. He never published a monograph but two significant essays were 'The New Testament Text' for the first volume of the Cambridge History of the Bible in 1970, and a history of New Testament textual criticism from 1881 to the present in the German encyclopaedic series Aufstieg und Niedergang der der römischen Welt ("Rise and Fall of the Roman World", xxvi, 1992)
He married Irene Adams in 1951 and they had two daughters and two sons. Neville Birdsall and his wife moved to Darlington when he retired, and he resumed his professional relationship with Leeds University through the Schools Adult Education Centre in Middlesbrough. He worked as a part-time tutor of liberal adult education classes in New Testament Greek during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Irene died in 1998. Neville Birdsall continued his writing and research and lecturing until the end of his life, despite increasingly poor health. He died on 1 July 2005
Sources: obituary by J. K. Elliott in the 'Independent', 15 August 2005 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/professor-j-neville-birdsall-503038.html Accessed July 2017; obituary article published online by Leeds University Secretariat http://www.leeds.ac.uk/secretariat/obituaries/2005/obituary3097.html Accessed July 2017