Paris Philo Codex (sort of?) Online

Paris Philo Codex

Bibliothèque nationale de France (Ms. Suppl. grec 1120, Philo of Alexandria

In an earlier pair of posts, I described the extant fragments of a substantial papyrus codex of the works of Philo of Alexandria that was found at Oxyrhynchus (LDAB 3540). The other major Roman-era source for Philo’s works is a shorter but much better preserved papyrus codex containing Quis rerum divinarum heres sit and De sacrificiis Abelis et Caini kept in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Ms. Suppl. grec 1120, LDAB 3541). It is generally assigned to the roughly the same period as the Oxyrhynchus Philo (3rd century CE).

I discuss this codex at some length in my forthcoming book, so I don’t want to give away all the secrets, but I just discovered that the BnF has made some images of the codex available online at Gallica (and they have been online since January of 2017!). I say “some” because, unless I’m missing something, there are only 22 images online, but the codex contained more than 44 leaves. The images appear to be scans of microfilm, and the quality is not great, but it’s certainly better to have this than nothing at all. The images are here.

The codex was published back in 1893 by Jean-Vincent Scheil (an Assyriologist!), and his complete edition is available online at I understand from conversations with James Royse that the edition is not adequate and that Royse is preparing a new edition of the text even as we speak.

Scheil acquired (that is to say bought, not “discovered” as is sometimes mistakenly reported) the whole codex, complete with its leather cover. I don’t see any images of the cover included in the images on Gallica, so I’ll post one from Scheil’s edition here.

Paris Philo Codex Cover


Scheil, Jean-Vincent. “Deux traités de Philon.” Mémoires publiés par les membres de la Mission Archéologique Française au Caire 9.2 (1893): iii–viii (“Préface”), 151–215 (text of Philo).


This entry was posted in Book covers, Codices, Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Paris Philo of Alexandria. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Paris Philo Codex (sort of?) Online

  1. Thanks, Brent! I wonder whether the leather cover is contemporary with the script within, dated more or less to the third century, or whether it is a later rebinding. If contemporary, the cover predates the Nag Hammadi codices by a century or more, displacing them as the commonly cited “earliest intact books in codex format.” Or am I missing something here?

    • Good question. I think this item usually is regarded as the earliest book to be discovered intact in codex format, although the third century date is open to question. It’s tough to judge from the available evidence, but I do think there is at least a possibility that the cover is secondary. The reported structure of the book itself when it was found is a little odd: four quires–two with 5 sheets each and two with 6 sheets each, plus an additional single leaf that was (and still is) pasted to the inside of the back cover.

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