P.Bodmer XX+IX and the Bodmer Composite Codex

In my last post, I provided a provisional diagram of the Bodmer composite codex (LDAB 2565). I also mentioned that I did not think the booklet consisting of P.Bodmer XX (the Apology of Phileas) + P.Bodmer IX (Psalms 33-34) was ever a part of the composite codex. I did not fully spell out my reasoning for this, so I will do so here.

It seems that different parts of the codex arrived in Geneva in different batches. Because the codex contains diverse works copied by multiple different copyists using different pagination sequences, how do we know what parts belong together? In some cases, the codicological connections are clear. The last page of P.Bodmer V is a recto (right-hand page); on its verso is the beginning of P.Bodmer X (apocryphal correspondence of Paul and the Corinthians). The end of P.Bodmer X and the beginning of P.Bodmer XI (11th Ode of Solomon) actually appear on the same page, so that sequence is secure as well. Similarly, the end of P.Bodmer XI and the beginning of P.Bodmer VII (Jude) are on the same page. The final page of P.Bodmer VII is a recto, and on its verso is the title page of P.Bodmer XIII (Melito’s paschal sermon). The last page of P.Bodmer XIII is a recto, and on its verso is the short hymn known as P.Bodmer XII, so that link is secure as well.

The position of P.Bodmer VIII (1-2 Peter) is not clear. Nor is the (alleged) position of P.Bodmer XX+IX. So, the question is:  What causes me to think that P.Bodmer VIII belongs to the codex but P.Bodmer XX+IX does not?

The most conspicuous commonality among the quires that are definitely part of the codex is the interesting pattern of holes in all these leaves. It looks like this book was rebound at least once in antiquity. The first binding was a “normal” type for a multi-quire codex. That is to say, the sewing thread passed through the central fold of the quires. But the leaves also show holes that pierce near the central fold rather than through it. This second group of holes seems to indicate a secondary binding by stabbing through the closed quires from front to back at a slight remove from the central fold. The result of these two bindings is a distinctive pattern of holes through and near the folds of the quires. We can see them pretty clearly in the facsimiles of P.Bodmer V; the original holes appear in the photo as notches along the spine; the secondary holes show on the surface of the leaf (apologies for the quality of the picture, but it’s the best we have for now):

PBodmer 5 patterns of holes 2

A leaf of P.Bodmer V showing the two sets of binding holes in the composite codex; image adapted from M. Bircher (ed.), Bibliotheca Bodmeriana (K.G. Saur, 2000).

This pattern can be seen in all the parts belonging to the codex. Because P.Bodmer VIII has been fairly heavily restored with a substance resembling dark brown kozo paper, it is less easy to see this pattern of holes in the online images, but they are there. The secondary holes are still quite visible despite the restoration:

PBodmer 8 Pattern of secondary holes

Central fold of a bifolium of P.Bodmer VIII, showing secondary stabbing holes; image adapted from digital images at the Vatican Library

And another indication of both the original binding holes and the secondary stabbing holes can be seen in the parchment stays, which have been removed from this portion of the codex (it was a customary practice in antiquity to place folded parchment stays in the centers of the quires to prevent the binding threads from ripping through the papyrus). The Vatican Library has framed these stays separately (each folded in half), and the two sets of binding holes are clearly visible in the stays. The holes from the earlier binding through the central fold are quite visible because bits of the thread are still present:

PBodmer 8 Stay Labels

A Stay from P.Bodmer VIII, showing primary and secondary binding holes; image adapted from digital images at the Vatican Library

So, it seems pretty clear that P.Bodmer VIII shows this distinctive patterns of holes and was thus also bound (and rebound) to the other leaves. But what about P.Bodmer XX+IX? Although the best preserved among the leaves of P.Bodmer XX+IX are about the same size as the leaves of the composite codex, they are a slightly different (more trapezoidal) shape and do not show this distinctive pattern of holes:

PBodmer 20 Ap Phileas 15

P.Bodmer XX, folio 8 recto,; image source: M. Bircher (ed.), Bibliotheca Bodmeriana (K.G. Saur, 2000).

It is possible that the portions of the leaves carrying the distinctive pattern of holes may have broken off, but this leaf, at least, seems to preserve most of the inner margin, such that we might expect to see at least the stabbing holes. But there are also other reasons to doubt that P.Bodmer XX+IX belonged to the composite codex. The pagination of these pieces does not align with any of the various paginations of the texts known to be part of the composite codex. Not every page of P.Bodmer XX+IX carries a number, but those that do indicate that this sequence runs from 129 to 150. The highest sequence of page numbers in the texts known to be a part of the composite codex is 68. Nor can the copyists of P.Bodmer XX or P.Bodmer IX be associated with any of the copyists from the texts known to be part of the codex. The copyist of P.Bodmer VIII, on the other hand, is generally agreed to be the same as the copyist of P.Bodmer X+XI+VII. Furthermore, this format (roughly square codices, about 15 cm x 15 cm) is frequently attested among the Bodmer Papyri. It seems to have been a common format in the collection of which the composite codex was a part. For all these reasons, it seems to me that there is no good reason to believe that P.Bodmer XX+IX was ever a part of the Bodmer composite codex.

This entry was posted in Bodmer composite codex, Bodmer Papyri, Book binding, Codices. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to P.Bodmer XX+IX and the Bodmer Composite Codex

  1. Pingback: A Repair to the Bodmer Composite Codex | Variant Readings

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