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The Crosby-Schøyen Codex The Crosby-Schøyen Codex, in Coptic, manuscript on...

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The Crosby-Schøyen Codex
The Crosby-Schøyen Codex, in Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century into 4th century]
The earliest known book in private hands, and one of the earliest books in existence. The earliest Christian liturgical book. The earliest complete texts of two books of the Bible, 1 Peter and Jonah. One of the earliest and most complete texts of Melito's tractate on the Passover. One of the earliest witnesses of Maccabees in any language.

146 x 152mm. A square-format single-quire papyrus codex, 51 complete or substantially complete leaves (of originally 68, including the outer wrapper), with fragments and stubs at beginning and end, each fragment, leaf and bifolium now preserved between 35 double-sided archival plexiglass plates, with a 36th double-sided glass plate added for the unplaced fragments (see Provenance), 11-18 lines written in two columns in a bold, large Coptic hand by a single scribe, the dialect generally Sahidic, but with occasional Bohairic and Sub-akhmimic variants (for a comprehensive codicological analysis of the codex, see Robinson, in Goehring, 1990, pp.XLIII-XLVIII; on the script, dialect forms and spellings, see Goehring, 1990, pp.LI-LXII), subscript and superscript titles, contemporary Coptic pagination survives, the first surviving page number ⲓⲑ (19) on f.13, decorated cartouches at the end of the texts of Melito and Jonah (ff.26 and 33), the opening fragment a flyleaf with remnants of leather binding (the opening 3 sheets with fragments surviving only at the spine as uninscribed inner margins, the first sheet originally likely front and back flyleaves with no text, the opening of Melito missing, f.4 the first with fragments of text, continuing in fragmentary fashion until f.13, whereupon more or less complete and from ff.23-62v entirely so, ff.63-68v with lacunae, a pale vertical lozenge over the sewing holes in the central fold of ff.34-35 where perhaps a sewing guard may have been, some darkening and defects but otherwise in exceptional condition). In two bespoke locking wooden boxes. With a custom-made rotating display plinth.

Provenance:
(1) During the 20th century, four outstanding finds of buried papyri and parchments transformed study of the Bible and early Christianity. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which were recovered from 1947 in a series of discoveries in the Judaean Desert, are chiefly in Hebrew with some Greek and Aramaic material, and date from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD. The other three finds were preserved in the dry sands of Egypt: the 'Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri', a group of 11 papyrus codices of Greek biblical texts dating from the 2nd to 5th centuries, found in 1930; the Nag Hammadi Library, 12 papyrus codices of Gnostic Christian texts in Coptic dating from the mid-4th to early 5th centuries, found in 1945; and the Bodmer Papyri found in the early 1950s. Of these Egyptian finds, the Bodmer Papyri, in various forms of Coptic, Greek and Latin dating from the 2nd to the 7th centuries, are both the most numerous, the most intact and the widest ranging in language, date and content. They comprise Biblical texts, Christian writings and pagan literary texts. Their discovery revolutionised understanding of the history of early Christian writings, for they surpass ‘in the quality of their preparation, in the length of their texts and in their textual significance’ all previous findings of Biblical papyri. They are collectively named after Martin Bodmer (1899-1971), Swiss bibliophile, scholar and collector, since most were acquired by him, despite the fact that the remainder are treasured in other famous collections, both public and private – such as the Chester Beatty Library, Duke University, the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., and the Collection of Martin Schøyen. For more on these finds, see Nongbri, 2018.

The Crosby-Schøyen Codex is part of the Bodmer Papyri find. Because the find itself was unrecorded, its precise limits and location have been the subject of much debate. Bodmer’s secretary, Odile Bongard, who made many of the purchases in Egypt on his behalf, was told by the dealer Phocion Tano, through whom she negotiated, that the manuscripts were unearthed in an underground chamber, perhaps a tomb or a storehouse, in Mina or Minia near Asyut (C. Méla, Legends of the Centuries, Looking through a Legendary Collection, Martin Bodmer Foundation, 2004, pp.34-38).

Another account of their origin, compiled from local traditions, assigns their provenance to the monastic complex of Pachomius near Dishna (B. Van Elderen, ‘Early Christian Libraries’, The Bible as Book, the Manuscript Tradition, 1998, pp.50-56 and Robinson, in Goehring, 1990, pp.IX-XLVII). This provenance is perhaps the more plausible: if the codex, as is generally held (see Contents below), is an Easter lectionary, then internal textual evidence indicates that it was intended to be the liturgy for the annual Easter celebration of the Pachomian koinonia of monasteries (on this, see Pietersma and Comstock, 2011, pp.27-46).

(2) Maguid Sameda (b.1900), Cairo antiquarian dealer. The modern provenance of what came to be known as the Mississippi Codices, and subsequently the Crosby-Schøyen Codex, has been most recently and accurately charted by Daniel B. Sharp (Sharp, 2023, esp. pp.174-177). On November 5th 1954, the Cairo antiquarian dealer Maguid Sameda wrote to David Moore Robinson at the University of Mississippi about the Egyptian export procedures for a gilded wooden Isis that he had recently purchased; in that same letter, he mentioned that there had been a 'find of books of Papairi [sic] this year [...] either Akhmeimic or Saidic': he was most likely referring to the Bodmer papyri, and what would later become the Mississippi Codices. Sameda and Robinson remained in contact and arranged to meet in Lucerne in the summer of 1955.

(3) Friends of the Library of the University of Mississippi. In the summer of 1955, David Moore Robinson (1880-1958), American Classical archaeologist, brought the Mississippi codices on approval back to the US from Lucerne, Switzerland, for the Friends of the Library. On 14 November of that year, he sent a cheque for $5,000, payable to the Swiss dealer Ernst Kofler-Truniger (with whom Maguid Sameda collaborated on sales to major institutions) for the two Coptic Codices and also a collection of 7 fragments of Coptic documents; a collection of 14 fragments of Greek documents; and a collection of 66 fragments of Greek miscellaneous documents. The Friends of the Library raised money to pay off the loan, which they did by 1960 thanks to several donations (see Sharp, 2023, p.174). Of the many donors, Margaret Reed Crosby was one of the more generous, donating $2,500, which led to Mississippi Coptic Codex I being renamed the ‘Crosby Codex’, after her husband. The Friends of the Library retained ownership of the codices from 1955 to 1963. William H. Willis, renowned classicist and papyrologist, introduced the Mississippi codices to the international community at the ninth International Congress of Papyrology, held in Oslo in 1958: the two Coptic codices were described in detail in his article and were known as Mississippi Coptic Codex I (or the Crosby Codex, subsequently the Crosby-Schøyen Codex) and Mississippi Coptic Codex II (Willis, 1961, pp.381-392). The codices were kept on deposit at the University of Mississippi, with ownership transferred on 8 May 1963 to:

(4) The University of Mississippi, where they remained until 1981. The codices were deaccessioned to raise funds to purchase the Rowan Oak papers, archival materials connected to William Faulkner (see Sharp, 2023, p.177, note 74). On 5 May 1981 the two Coptic codices were sold for $225,000 to:

(5) H.P. Kraus (1907-1988), one of the leading rare book dealers of the second half of the 20th century. Mississippi Coptic Codex II was purchased by Robert Van Kampen (1938-1999) and is now in the Van Kampen Foundation (another part of this codex is at the Bodmer Foundation, P. Bodmer XXII). Mississippi Coptic Codex I (our Crosby-Schøyen Codex) was sold in 1983 to:

(6) Winsor T. Savery, of Houston, Texas, through his 'Pax ex Innovatione' Foundation. While in Savery's possession, the codex was renamed 'The Savery Codex'. In a letter dated 31 July 1985 addressed to James M. Robinson, Savery granted him the authority to translate and publish the codex, a task which was concluded under the subsequent ownership of Martin Schøyen. Sold by Savery at:

(7) Sotheby’s, 6 December 1988, lot 29 (‘The Mississippi Codex’), to:

(8) The Schøyen Collection, MS 193.

In a 1990 exchange with Duke University, 41 other fragments were acquired by Martin Schøyen and reattached to their parent manuscript by Dr Walter Cockle of University College London. These fragments had been classified as P. Duk. Inv. C125 and had been bequeathed to Duke University in 1988 by W.H. Willis. Willis had, in turn, obtained them from Martin Bodmer in 1967 (according to his gift letter to Duke University of 29 December 1988: 'knowing my interest and earlier work on the Crosby, Dr Bodmer, when I visited him in 1967, gave me the numerous detached fragments of its missing first eight leaves that he found among the codices he had acquired in 1955'). The University of Mississippi, through Willis, had previously had these fragments on loan from Bodmer in 1962, with permission to photograph them and seek their points of attachment to the Codex itself (see Sharp, p.178), and had attempted to acquire them. Willis persisted in his attempts to acquire the fragments in order to reunite them to their parent codex, even after leaving Mississippi for Duke in 1963, but without success (a 1963 letter from Rodolphe Kasser to Willis communicated Bodmer's refusal to sell the fragments, but opened up to the possibility of an exchange for the greater academic good of reuniting them to the Crosby Codex: 'M. Bodmer [...] est tout à fait...

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The Crosby-Schøyen Codex
The Crosby-Schøyen Codex, in Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century into 4th century]
The earliest known book in private hands, and one of the earliest books in existence. The earliest Christian liturgical book. The earliest complete texts of two books of the Bible, 1 Peter and Jonah. One of the earliest and most complete texts of Melito's tractate on the Passover. One of the earliest witnesses of Maccabees in any language.

146 x 152mm. A square-format single-quire papyrus codex, 51 complete or substantially complete leaves (of originally 68, including the outer wrapper), with fragments and stubs at beginning and end, each fragment, leaf and bifolium now preserved between 35 double-sided archival plexiglass plates, with a 36th double-sided glass plate added for the unplaced fragments (see Provenance), 11-18 lines written in two columns in a bold, large Coptic hand by a single scribe, the dialect generally Sahidic, but with occasional Bohairic and Sub-akhmimic variants (for a comprehensive codicological analysis of the codex, see Robinson, in Goehring, 1990, pp.XLIII-XLVIII; on the script, dialect forms and spellings, see Goehring, 1990, pp.LI-LXII), subscript and superscript titles, contemporary Coptic pagination survives, the first surviving page number ⲓⲑ (19) on f.13, decorated cartouches at the end of the texts of Melito and Jonah (ff.26 and 33), the opening fragment a flyleaf with remnants of leather binding (the opening 3 sheets with fragments surviving only at the spine as uninscribed inner margins, the first sheet originally likely front and back flyleaves with no text, the opening of Melito missing, f.4 the first with fragments of text, continuing in fragmentary fashion until f.13, whereupon more or less complete and from ff.23-62v entirely so, ff.63-68v with lacunae, a pale vertical lozenge over the sewing holes in the central fold of ff.34-35 where perhaps a sewing guard may have been, some darkening and defects but otherwise in exceptional condition). In two bespoke locking wooden boxes. With a custom-made rotating display plinth.

Provenance:
(1) During the 20th century, four outstanding finds of buried papyri and parchments transformed study of the Bible and early Christianity. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which were recovered from 1947 in a series of discoveries in the Judaean Desert, are chiefly in Hebrew with some Greek and Aramaic material, and date from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD. The other three finds were preserved in the dry sands of Egypt: the 'Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri', a group of 11 papyrus codices of Greek biblical texts dating from the 2nd to 5th centuries, found in 1930; the Nag Hammadi Library, 12 papyrus codices of Gnostic Christian texts in Coptic dating from the mid-4th to early 5th centuries, found in 1945; and the Bodmer Papyri found in the early 1950s. Of these Egyptian finds, the Bodmer Papyri, in various forms of Coptic, Greek and Latin dating from the 2nd to the 7th centuries, are both the most numerous, the most intact and the widest ranging in language, date and content. They comprise Biblical texts, Christian writings and pagan literary texts. Their discovery revolutionised understanding of the history of early Christian writings, for they surpass ‘in the quality of their preparation, in the length of their texts and in their textual significance’ all previous findings of Biblical papyri. They are collectively named after Martin Bodmer (1899-1971), Swiss bibliophile, scholar and collector, since most were acquired by him, despite the fact that the remainder are treasured in other famous collections, both public and private – such as the Chester Beatty Library, Duke University, the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., and the Collection of Martin Schøyen. For more on these finds, see Nongbri, 2018.

The Crosby-Schøyen Codex is part of the Bodmer Papyri find. Because the find itself was unrecorded, its precise limits and location have been the subject of much debate. Bodmer’s secretary, Odile Bongard, who made many of the purchases in Egypt on his behalf, was told by the dealer Phocion Tano, through whom she negotiated, that the manuscripts were unearthed in an underground chamber, perhaps a tomb or a storehouse, in Mina or Minia near Asyut (C. Méla, Legends of the Centuries, Looking through a Legendary Collection, Martin Bodmer Foundation, 2004, pp.34-38).

Another account of their origin, compiled from local traditions, assigns their provenance to the monastic complex of Pachomius near Dishna (B. Van Elderen, ‘Early Christian Libraries’, The Bible as Book, the Manuscript Tradition, 1998, pp.50-56 and Robinson, in Goehring, 1990, pp.IX-XLVII). This provenance is perhaps the more plausible: if the codex, as is generally held (see Contents below), is an Easter lectionary, then internal textual evidence indicates that it was intended to be the liturgy for the annual Easter celebration of the Pachomian koinonia of monasteries (on this, see Pietersma and Comstock, 2011, pp.27-46).

(2) Maguid Sameda (b.1900), Cairo antiquarian dealer. The modern provenance of what came to be known as the Mississippi Codices, and subsequently the Crosby-Schøyen Codex, has been most recently and accurately charted by Daniel B. Sharp (Sharp, 2023, esp. pp.174-177). On November 5th 1954, the Cairo antiquarian dealer Maguid Sameda wrote to David Moore Robinson at the University of Mississippi about the Egyptian export procedures for a gilded wooden Isis that he had recently purchased; in that same letter, he mentioned that there had been a 'find of books of Papairi [sic] this year [...] either Akhmeimic or Saidic': he was most likely referring to the Bodmer papyri, and what would later become the Mississippi Codices. Sameda and Robinson remained in contact and arranged to meet in Lucerne in the summer of 1955.

(3) Friends of the Library of the University of Mississippi. In the summer of 1955, David Moore Robinson (1880-1958), American Classical archaeologist, brought the Mississippi codices on approval back to the US from Lucerne, Switzerland, for the Friends of the Library. On 14 November of that year, he sent a cheque for $5,000, payable to the Swiss dealer Ernst Kofler-Truniger (with whom Maguid Sameda collaborated on sales to major institutions) for the two Coptic Codices and also a collection of 7 fragments of Coptic documents; a collection of 14 fragments of Greek documents; and a collection of 66 fragments of Greek miscellaneous documents. The Friends of the Library raised money to pay off the loan, which they did by 1960 thanks to several donations (see Sharp, 2023, p.174). Of the many donors, Margaret Reed Crosby was one of the more generous, donating $2,500, which led to Mississippi Coptic Codex I being renamed the ‘Crosby Codex’, after her husband. The Friends of the Library retained ownership of the codices from 1955 to 1963. William H. Willis, renowned classicist and papyrologist, introduced the Mississippi codices to the international community at the ninth International Congress of Papyrology, held in Oslo in 1958: the two Coptic codices were described in detail in his article and were known as Mississippi Coptic Codex I (or the Crosby Codex, subsequently the Crosby-Schøyen Codex) and Mississippi Coptic Codex II (Willis, 1961, pp.381-392). The codices were kept on deposit at the University of Mississippi, with ownership transferred on 8 May 1963 to:

(4) The University of Mississippi, where they remained until 1981. The codices were deaccessioned to raise funds to purchase the Rowan Oak papers, archival materials connected to William Faulkner (see Sharp, 2023, p.177, note 74). On 5 May 1981 the two Coptic codices were sold for $225,000 to:

(5) H.P. Kraus (1907-1988), one of the leading rare book dealers of the second half of the 20th century. Mississippi Coptic Codex II was purchased by Robert Van Kampen (1938-1999) and is now in the Van Kampen Foundation (another part of this codex is at the Bodmer Foundation, P. Bodmer XXII). Mississippi Coptic Codex I (our Crosby-Schøyen Codex) was sold in 1983 to:

(6) Winsor T. Savery, of Houston, Texas, through his 'Pax ex Innovatione' Foundation. While in Savery's possession, the codex was renamed 'The Savery Codex'. In a letter dated 31 July 1985 addressed to James M. Robinson, Savery granted him the authority to translate and publish the codex, a task which was concluded under the subsequent ownership of Martin Schøyen. Sold by Savery at:

(7) Sotheby’s, 6 December 1988, lot 29 (‘The Mississippi Codex’), to:

(8) The Schøyen Collection, MS 193.

In a 1990 exchange with Duke University, 41 other fragments were acquired by Martin Schøyen and reattached to their parent manuscript by Dr Walter Cockle of University College London. These fragments had been classified as P. Duk. Inv. C125 and had been bequeathed to Duke University in 1988 by W.H. Willis. Willis had, in turn, obtained them from Martin Bodmer in 1967 (according to his gift letter to Duke University of 29 December 1988: 'knowing my interest and earlier work on the Crosby, Dr Bodmer, when I visited him in 1967, gave me the numerous detached fragments of its missing first eight leaves that he found among the codices he had acquired in 1955'). The University of Mississippi, through Willis, had previously had these fragments on loan from Bodmer in 1962, with permission to photograph them and seek their points of attachment to the Codex itself (see Sharp, p.178), and had attempted to acquire them. Willis persisted in his attempts to acquire the fragments in order to reunite them to their parent codex, even after leaving Mississippi for Duke in 1963, but without success (a 1963 letter from Rodolphe Kasser to Willis communicated Bodmer's refusal to sell the fragments, but opened up to the possibility of an exchange for the greater academic good of reuniting them to the Crosby Codex: 'M. Bodmer [...] est tout à fait...

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