Medieval manuscripts 2010 : Coptic manuscripts

A new record for the number of types of writing support shown in a Bodleian masterclass (3: papyrus, parchment, and leather) was set by Jennifer Cromwell’s class on Coptic manuscripts. The problem facing curator Martin Kauffmann was to display a Coptic text written on leather through the visualiser camera that projects images of the items live during the masterclasses.

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MS. Copt. b. 13(P) is a text written on darkened and discoloured leather. The item is encased in glass, so that any light shining from directly above creates a flare in the projected image. Technician Jon Eccles from the Pitt Rivers Museum presented the solution: a strip of LEDs, easily held by Kauffmann to cast a raking light that illuminated the surface of the leather.

The item, a loan agreement dating from the 8th century, will gain further scholarly exposure in an article by Dr. Cromwell, ‘Condition(al)s of payment: P.CLT. 10 reconsidered’, forthcoming in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. (See attached Bibliography PDF for other references).

This document is one of a few texts in the Bodleian from the village of Jeme, near to Luxor (see attached Map PDF). Dr Cromwell noted the utility for her research of the papers of Walter Ewing Crum, kept in the Griffith Institute Archive, now housed in the Sackler Library, Oxford. These helped her to locate the document in the Bodleian.

Other items shown during the class were a much-reused piece of papyrus, MS. Copt. d. 32 (P), from the monastery of Bala’izah as excavated by Flinders Petrie in 1907; a set of parchment fragments including Biblical texts — conserved by being attached to fine netting – in MS. Copt. b.11; and a magnificently long papyrus scroll written during an 8th-century inheritance dispute, MS. Copt. a. 6 (P).

See descriptions of the Bodleian’s Coptic collection in the UKIRA gateway:

and on the Archives Hub:

Coptic Masterclass 2010 Bibliography, by Dr Jennifer Cromwell

Map of Egypt, for Coptic Manuscripts masterclass 2010