Radiocarbon Analysis of Papyrus and Parchment Manuscripts: A List

It occurs to me that it would be useful to have (as complete as possible) a list of papyrus and parchment manuscripts that have been subjected to radiocarbon analysis. I have tried to arrange this list chronologically by the date when the analysis was carried out (which sometimes differs substantially from the date of publication). I would be grateful to be informed of omissions (especially Pharaonic-era papyri and medieval parchment manuscripts; I know that many have been analyzed, but I am not aware of the publication details). Thanks in advance. Links are provided for open access materials.

[Before 1972–date of analysis uncertain]. Parchment manuscripts from Renaissance-era Britain. Berger et al., “Radiocarbon Dating of Parchment,” Nature 235 (1972) 160-161.

1990. 14 Dead Sea Scrolls. Georges Bonani et al., “Radiocarbon Dating of Fourteen Dead Sea Scrolls,” Radiocarbon 34 (1992) 843-849. See also R.E. Taylor and Ofer Bar-Yosef, Radiocarbon Dating: An Archaeological Perspective (2nd ed.; Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, 2014), 38-42.

1994. 18 Dead Sea Scrolls. A.J. Timothy Jull et al., “Radiocarbon Dating of Scrolls and Linen Fragments from the Judean Desert,” Radiocarbon 37 (1995), 11-19. See also R.E. Taylor and Ofer Bar-Yosef, Radiocarbon Dating: An Archaeological Perspective (2nd ed.; Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, 2014), 38-42.

1994. The Glazier Codex. John Lawrence Sharpe, “The Earliest Bindings with Wooden Board Covers: The Coptic Contribution to Binding Construction,” pages 2.455–2.478 in Carlo Federici and Paola F. Munafò (eds.), International Conference on Conservation and Restoration of Archival and Library Materials. 2 vols. (Rome: Istituto centrale per la patologia del libro, 1999). The leather wrapping strap was analyzed (see also Nongbri, “A New Radiocarbon Calibration Curve and Early Christian Manuscripts“).

1995. The Vinland Map. D.J. Donahue, J.S. Olin, and G. Harbottle,” Determination of the Radiocarbon Age of Parchment of the Vinland Map,” Radiocarbon 44 (2002) 45-52 (see also Cummings, “Analysis Unlocks Secret of Vinland Map–It’s a Fake“).

1995. Cologne Mani Codex. Cornelia Römer, “Die Datierung des Kölner Mani-Kodex,” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 220 (2021) 94-96 (see also Nongbri, “Radiocarbon Dating of the Cologne Mani Codex“).

[Before 1998–date of analysis uncertain, originally published in Hebrew]. P.Mur. 22 and P.Mur. 29. Ḥanan Eshel, Magen Broshi, and Timothy A.J. Jull, “Four Murabbaʻat papyri and the alleged capture of Jerusalem by Bar Kokhba,” in Ranon Katzoff and David Schaps (eds.), Law in the Documents of the Judaean Desert (Leiden: Brill, 2005) 45-50.

1999. So-called “Dead Sea Scroll,” XJoshua. James H. Charlesworth, “Unknown Provenance: XJoshua,” in E. Tov et al., Discoveries in the Judaean Desert XXXVIII: Miscellaneous Texts from the Judaean Desert (Oxford: Clarendon, 2000), 234, note 8. See also Årstein Justnes and Josephine Munch Rasmussen, “More Dubious Dead Sea Scrolls,” Dead Sea Discoveries 28 (2021) 20-37.

[Before 2001–date of analysis uncertain]. Two Dead Sea Scrolls, 4Q427 and 4Q491. Magen Broshi and Hanan Eshel, “Radiocarbon Dating and The Messiah Before Jesus,” Revue de Qumrân 20 (2001) 311-317.

2005. Tchacos Codex (Gospel of Judas). Christian Askeland, “Carbon Dating the Tchacos Codex,” Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 58 (2021) 299-314.

[Before 2010–date of analysis uncertain]. 7 parchment and 3 paper manuscripts from the University of Seville, 13th to 17th centuries. F.J. Santos et al., “Radiocarbon dating of medieval manuscripts from the University of Seville,” Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 268 (2010) 1038-1040.

[Before 2010–date of analysis uncertain]. Artemidorus Papyrus. M.E. Fedi et al., “The Artemidorus Papyrus: Solving an Ancient Puzzle with Radiocarbon and Ion Beam Analysis Measurements,” Radiocarbon 52 (2010) 356-363.

[Before 2011—date of analysis uncertain]. The Voynich Manuscript. Widely reported in news outlets, but no proper publication of data yet?

2012-2013. Manichaean codices from Medinet Madi. Jason BeDuhn and Greg Hodgins, “The Date of the Manichaean Codices from Medinet Madi, and its Significance,” pages 10-28 in S.N.C. Lieu (ed.) Manichaeism East and West (Turnhout: Brepols, 2017) (see also “A New Radiocarbon Calibration Curve and Early Christian Manuscripts“).

2012. 9 parchment Torah scrolls. Fabiana M. Oliveira et al., “Radiocarbon analysis of the Torah scrolls from the National Museum of Brazil collection”, Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B 361 (2015),531–534.

[Before 2013–date of analysis uncertain]. 6 British historical parchments, 14th to 19th centuries. Fiona Brock, “Radiocarbon Dating of Historical Parchments,” Radiocarbon 55 (2013) 353-363.

[Before 2014–date of analysis uncertain] Gospel of Jesus Wife and Associated Fragment. Gregory Hodgins, “Accelerated Mass Spectrometry Radiocarbon Determination of Papyrus Samples,” Harvard Theological Review 107 (2014) 166-169 and Noreen Tuross, “Accelerated Mass Spectrometry Radiocarbon Determination of Papyrus Samples,” Harvard Theological Review 107 (2014) 170-171. The report of Hodgins lists many other papyrus manuscripts (mostly Pharaonic) that have been subjected to radiocarbon analysis.

2014. Papyrus amulet with a Christian prayer. Roberta Mazza, “P.Ryl. Greek Add. 1166: Christian Prayer Amulet with a Tax Receipt on the Back,” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 197 (2016) 73-84.

2014. Crosby-Schøyen Codex. Hugo Lundhaug, “The Date of MS 193 in the Schøyen Collection: New Radiocarbon Evidence,” Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 57 (2020) 219-234.

2014. Nag Hammadi Codex I. Hugo Lundhaug, “Dating and Contextualising the Nag Hammadi Codices and their Texts: A Multi-methodological Approach Including New Radiocarbon Evidence,” pages 117-142 in J. Verheyden, J. Schröter, T. Nicklas (eds.), Texts in Context (Leuven: Peeters, 2021).

2014. Wyman Fragment of Romans. Daniel Stevens, “The Wyman Fragment: A New Edition and Analysis with Radiocarbon Dating,” New Testament Studies 68 (2022) 431-444.

2015. 4 Early Quran Manuscripts. Michael Josef Marx and Tobias J. Jocham, “Zu den Datierungen von Koranhandschriften durch die 14C-Methode,” Frankfurter Zeitschrift für Islamisch-theologische Studien 2 (2015) 9-43.

[Before 2016–date of analysis uncertain]. Carbonized Ein Gedi Leviticus Scroll. Brent Seales et al., “From damage to discovery via virtual unwrapping: Reading the scroll from En-Gedi,” Science Advances 2 (2016).

[Before 2019–date of analysis uncertain]. Dated Arabic letters in Heidelberg. Eva Mira Youssef-Grob, “Radiocarbon (14C) Dating of Early Islamic Documents: Background and Prospects,” pages 139-187 in Andreas Kaplony and Michael Marx (eds.), Qur’ān Quotations Preserved on Papyrus Documents, 7th-10th Centuries and the Roblem of Carbon Dating Early Qur’āns (Leiden: Brill, 2019). Youssef-Grob’s paper is a great overall introduction to radiocarbon analysis as it applies to manuscripts.

2019. 7 parchment Quran manuscripts and a Syriac Bible. Ali Aghaei and Michael Josef Marx, “Carbon dating of seven parchment Qurʾān manuscripts and one Syriac bible of the National Museum of Iran,” Journal of Iran National Museum 2 (2021) 205–226.

2019. Several Arabic manuscripts. Ali Aghaei et al., “Radiocarbon Dating of Manuscripts Kept in the Central Library of the University of Tehran Radiocarbon (2023); (Arabic) LiLi Kordavani, et al., “Carbon Dating Analysis of Manuscripts kept in the Central Library of The University of Tehran,” Academic Librarianship and Information Research 56 (2022) 63-80.

[Before 2020–date of analysis uncertain]. P.Köln Inv. 5941 (Hebrew text on animal hide). Elisabetta Boaretto et al., “Date, Materiality and Historical Significance of P.Köln Inv. 5941,” COMSt Bulletin 6/2 (2020).

[Before 2021–date of analysis uncertain]. 15th-17th century parchment documents and modern parchment. Tuuli M. Kasso et al., “Volumes of Worth–Delimiting the Sample Size for Radiocarbon Dating of Parchment,” Radiocarbon 63 (2021) 105-120.


Another set of Dead Sea Scrolls, discussed in 2021 here.

A batch of materials from the Museum of the Bible, discussed in 2014 here.

The alleged radiocarbon analysis of a papyrus containing works of Sappho is not substantiated.

Posted in Cologne Mani Codex, Crosby-Schøyen Codex, Dead Sea Scrolls, Glazier Codex, P.Sapph. Obbink, Radiocarbon analysis | 10 Comments

Buying Papyrus in Roman Antiquity

I recently came across the reference in Theodor Birt that reminded me of an old problem. After a description of the production of papyrus sheets, Birt states that “the resulting sheets were sold individually (Die so entstandenen Blätter kamen einzeln zum Verkauf)” (Birt, Die Buchrolle in der Kunst, 1907, p. 6). The common view now is that the unit of sale for papyrus was the roll and not the individual sheet. The fact that we find kollēseis (the overlap where sheets are joined together) in the bifolia used to make up papyrus codices would seem to be decisive evidence that papyrus was purchased in rolls rather than individual sheets, at least in the Roman period. In some cases, we can even reconstruct the rolls from which the bifolia of papyrus codices were cut (scroll down at the link here). And we also find kollēseis in documentary letters, which suggests that these too were cut from rolls. P.Oxy. 42 3057 is a nice example of this phenomenon. It’s a letter (likely of the first or second century CE) with a prominent kollēsis running down the right side of the papyrus.

P.Oxy. XLII 3057; image source: The Oxyrhynchus Papyri Online

It’s certainly understandable that views change over time as new evidence accumulates, but there are a couple things about this quote from Birt that give me pause. First, no reference is given. Birt knew the literary and iconographic evidence very well, and he regularly cites his sources. It’s odd that he does not do so here, and I wonder what he may have had in mind. Second, I had thought one explanation could be that Birt believed, as many scholars did in those days, that the word χάρτης (Latinized charta) generally meant “sheet of papyrus” rather than “roll of papyrus” (the latter is the consensus view today). But now I see that Birt quite clearly regarded χάρτης as “roll” already in the early twentieth century. In another book, he wrote as follows: “In order to describe a roll as a roll per se, the Greeks used the words βύβλος, βυβλίον (or βίβλος, βιβλίον), χάρτης, χαρτίον (Um die Rolle als Rolle zu bezeichnen, …etc.)” (Birt, Kritik und Hermeneutik nebst Abriss des antiken Buchwesens, 1913, p. 274). So, I am still at a loss as to Birt’s source for the idea that papyrus was sold by the single sheet rather than the roll.

But this brings me to a second problem less directly related to Birt. As I noted above, it’s clear that most papyrus codices were made up of bifolia cut from rolls. The presence of kolleseis demonstrates this point, as does the occasional appearance of the prōtokollon among the leaves of codices (the prōtokollon is the first sheet of a roll, with fibers oriented at a 90 degree angle relative to the fibers of the rest of the roll).

What bothers me is that, when you are trying to make a papyrus codex, working with papyrus that has been rolled up is really challenging. The tendency of modern papyrus to curl is very strong. Even papyrus that is shipped flat tends to curl when not kept in a folder under some kind of pressure. I usually steam sheets and dry them under heavy weight before I arrange them into quires. This is a time-consuming and somewhat awkward process.

I’m aware that commercially available papyrus is not made in the same way as ancient papyrus. The modern process involves the use of chemicals and alterations of the color (there is an excellent video about the modern production process in Egypt that you can watch here). Ancient papyrus tends to be much finer (thinner) than modern attempts, and may well have had other different physical properties as well. But I wonder if the makers of ancient codices also encountered these kinds of problems, and if there were sources for buying papyrus by the sheet. Some papyrus codices, namely the Manichaean codices from Medinet Madi, are occasionally said to have been produced from specially prepared sheets and not from rolls, though it’s hard to be sure about this (only clear differences in fiber patterns across all bifolia or the complete absence of kollēseis would be compelling evidence, and these codices are too poorly preserved to make those type of judgements).

Finally, I should close with James Robinson’s observation that many of the Nag Hammadi codices (probably produced in the mid-to-late fourth century) seem to have been manufactured from rolls that were made up of very long kollēmata (sheets well over 1 meter long, as opposed to rolls with shorter kollēmata of about 20-30 cm in the preceding centuries). So by the fourth century, the method of manufacturing papyrus sheets seems to have changed, such that entire height of the papyrus reed was used to make large sheets. But even these, it seems, were still pasted into rolls to be sold and used by codex makers and others.

Measurements of the kollēmata that make up the rolls of the first quire of Nag Hammadi Codex I from Robinson’s introduction to The Facsimile Edition of the Nag Hammadi Codices, page 67

Posted in Book Trade in Antiquity, Codices | 3 Comments

More Digital Images of Papyri at the Bodleian Online

A couple years ago, I noted that the Bodleian Library at Oxford had put digital images of several early Christian manuscripts online. Now they have uploaded images of many more manuscripts, and there are several old favorites among them. The most substantial pieces of the Oxyrhynchus codex of Philo of Alexandria, for example, are held at the Bodleian, including a fragment that preserves a parchment stay and binding thread:

One of the fragments of the Oxyrhynchus Philo codex at the Bodleian (Bodleian Library MS. Gr. class. c. 74; image source: Digital Bodleian, CC-BY-NC 4.0)

(Sidenote: I’ve written a bit about the excavation of the different parts of this codex here, and there has been some interesting recent work on the copyists of the codex by Sean A. Adams in a Festschrift for James Royse, who of course wrote the essential treatment of this codex in a 1980 article.)

As far as I can see, there are about 100 other Oxyrhynchus pieces among the newly digitized materials, including some new and much-improved images of P.Oxy. 1.1, the Gospel of Thomas:

P.Oxy. 1.1, the Gospel of Thomas; (Bodleian Library MS. Gr. th. e. 7 (P); image source: Digital Bodleian, CC-BY-NC 4.0)

In addition to the Oxyrhynchus papyri, there are now images of other important papyri in the Bodleian, like this fragment from the Psalms that is generally thought to be one of the earliest surviving codices:

Papyrus codex fragment containing the Psalms in Greek (Bodleian Library MS. Gr. bib. g. 5 (P); image source: Digital Bodleian, CC-BY-NC 4.0

It’s great to see these excellent images made more widely available. Thanks once again to our colleagues at the Bodleian Library for making it happen.

Posted in Bodleian Library, Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Oxyrhynchus Philo | 4 Comments

Inks, Imaging, and EthiCodex

Over the last several years, one of the big changes in the study of ancient manuscripts has been an increased interest in thinking about the materials that go into the production of ancient books. In the case of early codices, this generally means some combinations of papyrus, parchment, leather, inks, threads, and wood. When working with fragmentary codices, we almost always deal with papyrus or parchment mounted in between two panes of glass, and we often study the materials through this glass.

P.Amh. Gr. 1, Ascension of Isaiah, mounted in a glass frame sealed with tape; image source: The Morgan Library & Museum

Over at the project blog for EthiCodex, our specialist in materials analysis, Ariadne Kostomitsopoulou Marketou, has made a series of posts about some practical experiments looking into the significance of this fact. Along the way, she introduces us to the production of different kinds of inks, and the set-up of a hyperspectral camera, as part of a collaboration with the Colourlab at NTNU Gjovik and The Lying Pen of Scribes project.

Check out the posts:

Image from the Rossano Gospels, folio 121r, Mark the Evangelist copying the beginning of his gospel.

Posted in Imaging, Ink | Leave a comment

A Cursed Figurine

I had the opportunity recently to revisit an interesting artifact at the Louvre. It is a small nude female figurine with hands and feet bound, pierced through with thirteen pins. According to the Louvre website, the figurine was bought in 1975 from a person (or business?) identified as “Mathéos, Alkis Dimitrios,” about whom I know nothing (any leads are welcome). The seller reported that the figurine came from Egypt.

Magical figurine; Musée du Louvre E 27145; image source: Brent Nongbri 2022

The figurine is said to have been found together with a defixio (a lead curse tablet) inside a small ceramic jar. The assemblage is assigned to the third or fourth century on the basis of the script of the defixio, which is said to resemble the writing of papyri of those dates (specifically this papyrus from the year 236 CE and this papyrus from the year 372 CE).

Magical assemblage: vase, figurine, and defixio; Musée du Louvre E 27145; image source: Brent Nongbri 2022

I had seen the measurements of the figurine (9 cm high) before, but I didn’t appreciate just how small this set was. Nor had I seen the full “kit” all together: vase, figurine, and defixio. The display in the Louvre is nice–well lit in a dark space below the ground level. But text of the tablet is tough to read in the display, and the pedagogical materials provide neither a Greek text nor a translation into a modern language.

The full Greek text of the defixio is available through the PHI Greek Inscriptions site. The original edition of the Greek text of the tablet can be found online here. Below I reproduce an English translation from Beard, North, and Price, Religions of Rome Volume 2: A Sourcebook (Cambridge University Press, 1998), pages 266-267:

I entrust this binding spell to you chthonic gods (παρακατατίθεμαι ὑμῖν τοῦτον τὸν κατάδεσμον θεο[ῖ]ς καταχθονίοις), Pluto and Kore Persephone Ereschigal and Adonis also called Barbaritha and Hermes chthonian Thoth Phokensepseu Erektathoti Misonktaik and Anoubis the powerful Pseriphtha, who holds the keys of Hades, and to you chthonic divine demons, the boys and girls prematurely dead, the young men and women, year after year, month after month, day after day, hour after hour, night after night; I conjure all the demons (ὁρκίζω πάντας τοὺς δαίμονας) in this place to assist this demon Antinous. Rouse yourself for me and go to each place, to each neighborhood, to each house and bind Ptolemais whom Aias bore, the daughter of Horigenes, so that she should not be fucked, buggered or should not give any pleasure to another man (ὅπως μὴ βινηθῇ μὴ πυγισθῇ μὴδὲν πρὸς ἡδονὴν ποιήσῃ ἑταίρῳ ἀνδρὶ), except to me alone Sarapammon, whom Area bore; and do not let her eat nor drink nor resist nor go out nor find sleep except with me Sarapammon, whom Area bore. I conjure you, Antinous spirit of the dead, in the name of the Terrible and Fearsome, the name at whose sound the earth opens up, the name at whose sound the demons tremble in fear, the name at whose sound rivers and rocks burst asunder. I conjure you, Antinous spirit of the dead (ὁρκίζω σε, νεκύδαιμον Ἀντίνοε), by Barbaratham Cheloumbra Barouch Adonai and by Abrasax and by lao Pakeptoth Pakebraoth Sabarbaphaei and by Marmaraouoth and by Marmarachtha Mamazagar. Do not disregard me, Antinous spirit of the dead, but rouse yourself for me and go to each place, to each neighbourhood, to each house and bring me Ptolemais, whom Aias bore, the daughter of Horigenes; prevent her from eating, from drinking, until she comes to me, Sarapammon, whom Area bore, and do not allow her to accept the advances of any man other than me alone Sarapammon. Drag her by the hair, the guts, until she does not reject me, Sarapammon, whom Area bore, and I have her, Ptolemais, whom Aias bore, the daughter of Horigenes, subject to me for the entire extent of my life, loving me, desiring me, telling me what she thinks. If you do this, I will release you (ἀπολύσω σε).

The figurine seems to have been made by following a set of instructions very much like those preserved in a papyrus codex in Paris, BnF MS Supp. grec 574 (PGM IV):

BnF MS Supp. grec 574, folio 5 recto; image source: Gallica

These instructions have been translated in Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), page 44:

Wondrous spell for binding a lover (φιλτροκατάδεcμοc θαυμαcτόc). Take wax [or clay] from a potter’s wheel and make two figures, a male and a female. Make the male in the form of Ares fully armed, holding a sword in his left hand and threatening to plunge it into the right side of her neck. And make her with her arms behind her back and down on her knees. …[Instructions for inscribing the figurine’s body parts follow.] …And take thirteen copper needles and stick 1 in the brain while saying, “I am piercing your brain, [name]”; and stick 2 in the ears and 2 in the eyes and 1 in the mouth and 2 in the midriff and 1 in the hands and 2 in the pudenda and 2 in the soles, saying each time, “I am piercing such and such a member of her, [name], so that she may remember no one but me, [name], alone. And take a lead tablet and write the same spell and recite it. And tie the lead leaf to the figures with a thread from the loom after making 365 knots while saying as you have learned, “ABRASAX, hold her fast!” You place it, as the sun is setting, beside the grave of one who has died untimely or violently, placing beside it also seasonal flowers. The spell to be written and recited is: “I entrust this binding spell to you, chtonic gods (παρακατατίθεμαι ὑμῖν τοῦτον τὸν κατάδεcμον θεοῖc χθονίοιc)…” [a spell very much like the one on the defixio follows.]

Further bibliography on the figurine and the defixio can be found at the Louvre website. For reasons why we should avoid calling this figurine and others like it “voodoo dolls,” see this recent article.

Posted in Antiquities Market, Magic | 2 Comments

First Fragments at the Chester Beatty

A great new exhibition has just opened at the Chester Beatty Library (or, as the institution now calls itself “The Chester Beatty“) in Dublin. It’s called “First Fragments: Biblical Papyrus from Roman Egypt.” It opened on 28 October and runs through 3 September 2023. It features the Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri, a group of manuscripts close to my heart.

There are many early Christian papyri in the Beatty collection, but the designation “Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri” generally refers to a group of eleven Greek papyrus codices in varying states of preservation that Beatty purchased mostly between 1930 and 1934:

  • I. Gospels and Acts (LDAB 2980)
  • II. Pauline letters (LDAB 3011)
  • III. Revelation (LDAB 2778)
  • IV. Genesis (LDAB 3160)
  • V. Genesis (LDAB 3109)
  • VI. Numbers and Deuteronomy (LDAB 3091)
  • VII. Isaiah (LDAB 3108)
  • VIII. Jeremiah (LDAB 3084)
  • IX + X. Ezekiel, Daniel, Susanna, and Esther (LDAB 3090)
  • XI. Ecclesiasticus (LDAB 3161)
  • XII. Letter of Enoch, Melito’s On Passover, and the Apocryphon of Ezekiel (LDAB 2608)
End of the Epistle of Enoch, beginning of Melito’s Peri pascha in BP XII f.13; image source: Chester Beatty Online Collections

It’s a fascinating collection for a number of reasons, many of which are explored in this exhibition. The displays use examples from each of the books to highlight such topics as book construction and repair, scribal practices (corrections, textual divisions, nomina sacra), and stichometry. The exhibit also uses the texts preserved on the papyri to discuss different aspects of early Christianity (the role of women, the practice of translation, and textual fluidity, among many other topics). And there is more than we usually see in such exhibitions about issues of provenance. While the exhibition focuses on the Beatty Biblical Papyri, other pieces in the collection are also featured.

A real highlight for me were the superb models of some of the codices produced by Kristine Rose-Beers, Head of Conservation at the Beatty. I’ve been experimenting with making models for a few years now, and I’m always amazed to see real professionals bring these artifacts to life. I’m desperately curious to see how her model of Codex I (the Gospels-Acts manuscript, P45) holds up with use. We’re quite certain that this codex was made up of single-sheet quires. I’ve always wondered how such a large papyrus codex could function with this kind of binding, but Kristine’s model looks sturdy:

Model of Beatty Codex I (P45)

The exhibition was put together by Jill Unkel, Curator of Western Collections at the Beatty. She also authored the catalog, which is very nicely done and has some really excellent illustrations (and it’s affordably priced at just €15). The text is clear and accessible enough for non-specialists but also with some interesting details for those more familiar with the manuscripts. It especially fun to see the Beatty’s materials put use in explaining book production:

Illustration from the exhibition catalog: Jill Unkel, First Fragments: Biblical Papyrus from Roman Egypt (The Chester Beatty, 2022), page 21.

This is the sort of topic that is much easier to understand when you have ample illustration, and the Beatty collection is such a good resource for that.

It’s an ideal time for an exhibition like this. In recent years, there have been a couple of top-notch dissertations on the New Testament codices (Peter Malik on the Revelation codex and Edgar Ebojo on the Pauline epistles codex). The original editions and facsimiles edited by Frederic Kenyon are now online, and there was a new facsimile of the New Testament books produced a couple years ago (and I’ve written a bit myself about the acquisition of the collection and the construction of the Pauline epistles codex). Sometime in 2023, a volume should be published that will contain essays based on the conference that took place in Dublin last year, The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri at Ninety. This volume will feature some incisive work on Beatty as a collector.

This is a fantastic exhibition. And it looks like there are also a lot of associated lectures and activities coming up in the next couple months. If you’re interested in early Christianity or the history of the book, it’s a must see. And if you’re not able to travel to Dublin, do check out the online 3D tour with links to the various artifacts on display (click here and scroll down).

Posted in Book binding, Chester Beatty Papyri, Codices | 6 Comments

Tyrrell and Purser’s Editions of Cicero’s Letters

I sometimes need to check the extensive notes in the old edition of Cicero’s letters by Tyrrell and Purser:

Robert Yelverton Tyrrell and Louis Claude Purser, The Correspondence of M. Tullius Cicero, Arranged According to its Chronological Order; with a Revision of the Text, a Commentary, and Introductory Essays (7 vols., Dublin: Hodges & Figgis, 1879-1933)

Robert Yelverton Tyrrell (1844-1914) and Louis Claude Purser (1854-1932); images adapted from W. B. Stanford, “Articles on Classical Subjects in Hermathena,” Hermathena 115 (1973) pp. 1-12

The volumes are not as easy to find online as they should be. Various libraries have nice sets of organized links to electronic versions, but these direct to HathiTrust, which means that several volumes are challenging or impossible to access outside the US.

Most of the volumes are on, but they are a pain to search. So, here is an organized set of links for the files. Most are on, but a couple I could only find on Google Books, meaning there may be limited access in some countries.

First Edition

Second Edition

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Manuscripts of Martial

Several years ago, I took some time to dive into the poet Martial’s references to pugillares membranei, generally understood to be parchment codices. At the time, I wanted to consult the manuscripts of Martial to check on some of the readings in the lemmata of the Apophoreta, but only a couple manuscripts were online. Now that I am returning to Martial, I see that many of the primary manuscripts are now fully digitized and freely available. I post some links below. If anyone can supply links to the missing pieces, please let me know in the comments.

Alpha Group

  • Vienna, ÖNB Cod. 277, 9th century (online at ÖNB)
  • Paris, BnF Latin 8071 9th-10th century (online at Gallica)
  • Leiden University Library, VLQ 86, 9th century (digitized but behind a paywall)
BnF Latin 8071, fol. 50v

Beta Group

  • Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Ms. lat. fol. 612, 12th century (not yet digitized)
  • Vatican Library, Pal. 1696, 15th century (online at DigiVatLib)
  • London, British Library, Arundel MS 136, 15th century (not digitized, as far as I can tell from the catalog entry)
  • Florence, BML Plut.35.39, 15th century (online at BML Digital Repository)
BML Plut. 35.39, fol. 212r

Gamma Group

  • Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Adv. 18.3.1, 9th century (online at National Library of Scotland)
  • Leiden University Library VLO 56, 12th century (digitized but behind a paywall)
  • Paris, BnF Latin 8067, 10th century (online at Gallica)
  • Vatican Library, 3294, 10th or 11th century (online at DigiVatLib)
BnF Latin 8067, fol. 88r
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The Pagination of the Crosby-Schøyen Codex and the Problem of the Contents of P46

In an article I published earlier this year, I suggested that surviving examples of single quire codices provide evidence for thinking that the Beatty-Michigan codex of the Pauline epistles (P46) may have contained more leaves than is usually supposed. The first editor of the codex, Frederic Kenyon, attempted to calculate the original size of the quire by using the surviving page numbers. He concluded that the book originally consisted of a quire of 52 bifolia (= 104 folia = 208 pages), which would not have had sufficient space to contain the set of 14 letters typically found in later manuscripts of Paul’s letters. In the article, I pointed out that some of our better preserved single-quire codices are not completely symmetrical in regard to the numbers of inscribed pages in the two halves of the codex. This led me to the conclusion that “page numbering of single-quire codices is not necessarily an exact guide to the total number of bifolia that originally made up the quire.”

One more piece of evidence for that conclusion is a phenomenon that I neglected to mention in the article: Single-quire codices can have more than one sequence of page numbers, and the changes in sequences can be unpredictable. An example of this phenomenon is the Crosby-Schøyen codex (a.k.a. Mississippi Coptic Codex I a.k.a. the Savery Codex, a.k.a. Schøyen MS 193 a.k.a. LDAB 107771). This square-format single-quire papyrus codex was reasonably well preserved when it appeared on the antiquities market in the 1950s. It was missing its outer folia, but the blank inner margins of these leaves were left intact at the spine. These can be seen reasonably well in the image below.

The Crosby-Schøyen codex before it was taken apart, view of the quire showing the broken remains of the outer folia surviving at the spine; image source: William H. Willis, “The New Collections of Papyri at the University of Mississippi,” in Leiv Amundsen and Vegard Skånland (eds.), Proceedings of the IX International Congress of Papyrology (Oslo: Norwegian Universities Press, 1961), 381-392, plate V.

There was also a leather spine strip protecting the outside of the spine, so we can say with confidence that the codex, when complete, consisted of a stack of 35 sheets. Thirty-three of these sheets were true bifolia, and two of them were stubbed singletons, meaning that the codex consisted of 68 folia (=136 pages). These pages carry at least five separate texts: Melito’s sermon on the passover, 2 Macc. 5:27-7:41, 1 Peter, Jonah, and an unidentified text. We also find multiple sets of page numbers in the codex. An example of the different sequences can be seen in this second photo taken before the codex was disassembled. 2 Macc. 5:27-7:4 ends on a page numbered ⲝⲋ (= 66) and 1 Peter begins on the facing page numbered with a new sequence beginning with ⲁ (= 1).

The Crosby-Schøyen codex before it was taken apart, opened to the end of 2 Macc. 5:27-7:41, page numbered ⲝⲋ (= 66) and the beginning of 1 Peter, page numbered with a new sequence beginning with ⲁ (= 1); image source: William H. Willis, “The New Collections of Papyri at the University of Mississippi,” in Leiv Amundsen and Vegard Skånland (eds.), Proceedings of the IX International Congress of Papyrology (Oslo: Norwegian Universities Press, 1961), 381-392, plate V.

The first surviving page number in the codex is ⲓⲑ + ⲕ (that is, 19 + 20), but we can tell from the fragments of the damaged outer folia of the codex that this is not folio 10 of the quire, as we might expect had the pagination began with “1” on the recto of the first folio. Instead, pages 19 + 20 fall on folio 13, meaning that 3 folia (= 6 pages) preceded the beginning of this sequence of page numbering. We can summarize the schemes of page numbering in a table:

Folio in QuireTitle of TextPagination in Codex
1 recto – 3 versoContent unknown[page numbering not preserved]
4 recto – 26 rectoMelito, Peri paschapages numbered [ⲁ]-ⲙⲉ ([1]-45)
26 verso – 37 verso2 Macc. 5:27-7:41pages numbered ⲙⲋ-ⲝⲋ (46-66)
38 recto – 54 recto1 Peterpages numbered ⲁ-ⲗⲅ (1-33)
54 verso – 62 versoJonahpages numbered ⲁ-[ⲓⲍ] (1-[17])
63 recto – 68 versoUnidentified text(s)[page numbering not preserved]

So, we see three distinct series of page numbers. The first extends across two tractates, but the following two tractates each begin with a new set of page numbers starting at 1. And there are even more oddities. The numbering of the pages in 2 Macc. 5:27-7:41 contains an error in that two successive pairs of pages are numbered ⲛ-ⲛⲁ (50-51). And Jonah actually begins on the last numbered page of 1 Peter (folio 54 recto = page ⲗⲅ = 33), but then the verso of that page (the second page containing the text of Jonah) begins another new pagination sequence with the number ⲁ (= 1)!

The use of multiple sequences of page numbers in this single-quire codex provides another example of why we need to exercise some caution when we use a single sequence of page numbers to try to reconstruct the original number of folia for a damaged single-quire codex like P46.

Posted in Chester Beatty Papyri, Codices, Codicology, Crosby-Schøyen Codex, Schøyen Collection | 2 Comments

A New Article on the Date of Codex Sinaiticus

The October 2022 issue of Journal of Theological Studies will contain an article I wrote on the dating of Codex Sinaiticus. It’s out now in pre-print format, and thanks to my institution–MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion, and Society–the article is available open access.

It’s basically axiomatic that Codex Sinaiticus is one of the “great fourth century majuscules.” But how exactly do we know the date it was produced? Tischendorf assigned the codex to the fourth century in his publication of the first leaves, but early opinions of the date varied. It is sometimes supposed that it was one of the books that Constantine ordered to be produced (Eusebius, Life of Constantine 4.36), perhaps around 330 CE. But others have dated the handwriting to a period some decades later, ca. 360 CE.

There are some fixed points for orientation. The Eusebian apparatus in Codex Sinaiticus is a bit irregular, as I have described in an earlier post, but it was almost certainly part of the original production of the codex, which means that the book must have been produced after the time that Eusebius developed the system (ca. 300 – 325 CE?). While the Eusebian apparatus gives us a rough terminus post quem, a small set of marginal notes may provide a terminus ante quem. Milne and Skeat believed these notes were copied by scribe D and, because of their occasional cursive characteristics, could be dated with some precision. They claimed the notes “certainly belong to the fourth century, and probably the first half of it” (Milne and Skeat, Scribes and Correctors, p. 62).

Correction insertion marked by cursive κατω and ανω in Codex Sinaiticus at quire 85, folio 7r, column 1 (Lake’s N.T. 92, Heb. 8:6); image source:

In this article, I point out that these so-called “cursive” notes are very minimal (a total of only five different letters) and not entirely “cursive.” And to the extent that one can use such a meager sample for the purposes of dating, datable parallels for these few “cursive” letters actually extend into the fifth century. So, if Milne and Skeat are correct that the notes are the work of scribe D, then the range of possible dates for the construction of the codex should be broadened: early fourth century to early fifth century. I also suggest that this particular range of possible dates (ca. 300 – 425 CE) makes the codex a good candidate for radiocarbon analysis. Read the paper to find out why (and it’s better to go to the pdf version; some unusual characters in a couple of the block quotes did not reproduce well in the web version).

Posted in Codex Sinaiticus, Codices, Palaeography, Radiocarbon analysis | 3 Comments