Introduction: Papyri & Ostraca Collection


Professor Dr. Rosario Pintaudi
Curator of Papyri
Bibliotheca Medicea Laurenziana, Firenze

Papyri constitute one of the most relevant and distinguished sections in the enormous number of written texts in The Schøyen Collection. There are nearly 1100 Hieroglyphic, Hieratic, Demotic, Greek, Aramaic, Coptic, Arabic and Syriac papyri in the collection. They document all periods of Egypt’s history and culture, from pre-dynastic ca. 3300 BC, via the pharaohnic and Ptolemaic periods to the Christian and Arabic periods in 11h c., as well as Israel (1st c. BC), and Syria (10th c.). In addition to papyrus the writing materials are parchment, stone, clay, wood, bone, textiles, glass, faience, copper, and gold.

The strength of the collection is classical texts of Homer, Hesiod, Euripides, Isocrates, and Menander, several represented with the earliest witnesses to parts of their main works, as well as Biblical texts of the Septuagint and Greek New Testament, and Coptic early Biblical texts. Many of these are the earliest mss known of their parts of the Bible. Besides this, every day’s life of a whole population, living from Fayum to Middle Egypt, from Arsinoe to Oxyrinchus is documented.

There are papyri with original provenance of pharaohs from Hor Aha, the first pharaoh, to Tutankhamon, and of institutions from Bibliotheca Alexandrina to the White Monastery. Further papyri with provenance from Morgan’s excavations in Dacour in 1885, from Fustat, Dishna, Nag Hammadi, Kamoula, Cusae, Crocodopolis, Pathyris, Poinkoris, Thebes, Sohag, Qumran and Nitrian desert. The collection has part of the only papyrus surviving from antiquity north of the Alps, in the Benedictine Abbey of St. Martin in Tour (from 675-1789). The main sources for the papyri in The Schøyen Collection have been 6 public and 16 private collections mainly formed in the 19th and first half of the 20th c. It is worthwhile to inform all papyrologists that several famous and relevant papyri collections, such as Adler, Michailidis, Atiyah and Fackelman, now are available for study in The Schøyen Collection.

The first volume of the catalogue, Papyri Graecae Schøyen (P.Schøyen I), Papyrologica Florentina volume XXXV, by Rosario Pintaudi was published in 2005. In January 2010, to commemorate his 70th birthday, the second volume was published, with an introduction by the noted biblical scholar James M. Robinson, and incorporating essays and texts in honour of Martin Schøyen's contribution to scholarship. Further volumes are in preparation. The aim is to make available for scholars worldwide rich and unpublished materials of wide and outstanding interest.