A New Edition of Sappho by Dirk Obbink

Following up on the fascinating article on Professor Dirk Obbink by Charlotte Higgins in The Guardian, Roberta Mazza recently revisited her conversations with a representative from Christie’s in 2014 and 2015, which now raise “further questions and doubts on the newest Sappho provenance narratives, and more broadly on the mysterious ways in which ancient manuscripts move on the market.”

One of the frustrating things about the new Sappho papyrus is the repeated claim that we can be confident about its provenance because of existing documentation that has not yet been made public. All the way back in 2015, Professor Obbink said in an interview with Live Science that more detailed documentation about the provenance of the Sappho would be forthcoming:

“Obbink said he knew the Sappho papyrus had a legal, documented provenance all along. ‘There’s no question in my mind about where the piece came from,’ Obbink told Live Science. ‘I can absolutely guarantee that there’s no question about that.’ . . .In the coming months, Obbink said the plan is to make the collecting documents and related photographs of the London Sappho papyrus available online, including letters, transcripts and other papers from people, including Robinson, who worked on this collection early on.

De Gruyter Obbink Sappho Cover

This information has yet to appear. It is thus interesting to learn that Professor Obbink is set to publish a new edition of the collected works of Sappho with the respected German publishing house, Walter de Gruyter [[Update 22 February 2020: Link now dead. Archived link here.]]. It’s a little hard to tell what stage of production the volume is in. It has an ISBN. Amazon says the volume has 222 pages and is due out on 30 April 2020, but the de Gruyter website says the book has “approx. 202 pages” and isn’t due out until April 2025. So, perhaps we can look ahead to seeing the full provenance documentation of the London Sappho fragments later this year, or perhaps in 2025.

This entry was posted in Antiquities Dealers and Collectors, Dirk Obbink, Green Collection, Green Collection Sappho, P.Sapph. Obbink. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A New Edition of Sappho by Dirk Obbink

  1. Pingback: A New Edition of Sappho by Dirk Obbink — Variant Readings | Talmidimblogging

  2. OCLC WorldCat has a listing of Opera Omnia, Sappho, Dirk Obbink, with the ISBN above, same publisher, dated 2016.

    • Interesting. The only library link that I see on the page leads to the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, and the entry there also says April 2025 (http://d-nb.info/1091078629).

      • Mike Sampson says:

        I hope I’m not the only one who’s noticed the irony of the title ‘opera omnia‘. For such a fragmentary corpus, this is quite the claim: the Suda (σ107) says that she wrote 9 books of lyric, as well as epigrams, elegiacs, iambics, and monodies. Maybe there’s some other Sappho papyri lying around whose existence hasn’t been publicly announced yet…

  3. Interesting timing.
    Ideally the Obbink and Green Sappho fragments would be physically examined together.

  4. Pattycake says:

    I still don’t understand why the EES didn’t confront Obbink when they suspected he was involved in fraud rather than trying to “smoke him out”. How could he be smoked out when there was no announcement for the Mark publication? And why did MOTB allow Obbink to hang on to the fragment indefinitely? Why didn’t MOTB tell the free world they owned it considering all the hubbub surrounding it? And again, who told Obbink to prepare the Mark fragment in the first place?

    Also, wasn’t there a very large grant given to an individual (Obbink?) rather than an institution? What’s the justification for that?

  5. Anon. says:

    De Gruyter doesn’t have this book on its website any more, and the link above is dead.

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