The Schøyen Collection, the largest private manuscript collection created in the last 100 years, has been forced to commence legal proceedings against University College London ("UCL") to recover 654 Middle Eastern incantation bowls. These form part of the Schøyen Collection’s permanent holdings. Access to the bowls was provided to UCL only for research purposes in the mid-1990s.
In recent months, the Schøyen Collection has become frustrated with the waste of time and money caused by a lengthy and inconclusive inquiry into their provenance. The Schøyen Collection had been willing, initially, to collaborate in a programme of verification of the provenance of the incantation bowls. This line of inquiry, which started as long ago as 2004, had been seen by the Collection as part of a much wider process of bringing the British museums sector into line with global best practice.
However, the Collection began to lose confidence in UCL’s conduct of its inquiries. Although the Schøyen Collection continued to give the University the benefit of the doubt for some time, following a series of unsatisfactory meetings and communications, it has now reluctantly come to the view that legal proceedings are the only way forward.
The Schøyen Collection strongly supports a tough regime for cultural protection. It makes every effort to comply with the law in every jurisdiction in which it operates. It is a private collection and asserts the value and importance of the ethical private collector in preserving the heritage of all mankind.
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 and other artefacts 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.