Sixty manuscripts – a microcosm of the palaeographic section of the Schøyen Collection – are to be auctioned in July.
The idea for the sale has been years in the making and has two objectives. The first is to provide a textbook reference of Western writing for students and scholars, adding to the many scholarly volumes already published on various sections of the Schøyen Collection. The second is to provide working funds for the continued support of a unique collection that has been recognised to rank “with the Bibliotheque Bodmer near Geneva and the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin as a major repository of manuscripts from antiquity.”
The sixty lots to be auctioned have been part of the Schøyen Collection of more than 13,500 manuscripts spanning more than five thousand years, and have been handpicked to represent every major Western script from the first centuries BC to around 1300 AD. They include some of the oldest manuscripts of the Bible in Greek, Hebrew, Samaritan, Syriac, Armenian and Latin; three items in Anglo-Saxon; and manuscripts that were in the great libraries in St Catherine’s in Mt Sinai, St Martin’s in Tours and Canterbury Cathedral before the Norman Conquest. The items have been studied by scholars and many have been published.
Martin Schøyen, owner and curator of the Schøyen Collection, said: “The fact that so many different scripts have never appeared in any single sale until now means that the sale catalogue constitutes a unique scholarly resource for students of the history of writing, which is at the heart of civilisation.
“I want to leave a legacy that illustrates the history of Western script. Some examples of scripts are so rare and exist only in fragments. Putting those together in a narrative with more complete, albeit still rare, manuscripts is the thematic focus of this particular sale,” he added.
In addition, Mr. Schøyen commented on the unfavourable tax regime in Norway. “People are taxed yearly according to the value of their assets, regardless of income, which puts private collectors, even those who provide a well attested scholarly and educational service, at a disadvantage,” he said. “This inevitably means that collectors are forced, from time to time, to sell parts of their collections and break them up.”
In addition to actively encouraging access to the items for scholarly research and publication, the Schøyen Collection runs a website that gives public access to about six per cent of the manuscripts in the Collection.
The History of Western Script is available from Sotheby’s, priced at £25.
Note to Editors:
The Schøyen Collection crosses borders and unites cultures, religions and unique materials found nowhere else. The Collection, based in London and Oslo, contains over 20,000 significant manuscripts of major cultural importance and is an important part of the world’s heritage.
There is no public collection that has the Schøyen Collection’s unique array of manuscripts from all the greatest manuscript hoards, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, The Cairo Genizah of Hebrew MSS, The Oxyrhynchus hoard of classical papyri, The Dishna Biblical papyri, The Nag Hammadi Gnostic papyri, the Dunhuang hoard of Buddhist MSS, and many others. Nor is there one with such a variety, geographically, linguistically and textually, and of scripts and writing materials, covering so a great span of time — 5,000 years of history.