Recently, I reported that one of the Coptic fragments which were auctioned by Sotheby’s in July 2009 contains a portion from Metastasis Iohannis. This apocryphal writing, originally written in Greek, is actually part of the Acts of John (chapters 106-115).
Those who read this blog regularly know how much I enjoy reconstructing from scattered pieces the torn leaves of Coptic manuscripts. In my previous article on Metastasis Iohannis, I showed that a parchment scrap kept in the Louvre Museum in Paris (call number E 10 015) and the Sotheby-Bolaffi fragment are two bits of the same mutilated codex leaf.
The kinship of the two fragments can be ascertained with the help of a photo montage.
It can be seen in the picture above that a stripe in the middle of the leaf is still missing.
Fortunately, a few days ago, I found two other scraps of parchment which should be integrated into that lacuna. Both are in the Louvre Museum and are inventoried together with other small pieces of Coptic manuscripts under the call number E 10 094. Here they are:
And now a new Photoshop montage showing the place of the new pieces in the puzzle.
I should like to repeat here some issues related to the history of this torn leaf. Before suffering mutilation, the leaf used to be pages 45-46 of a codex which was probably produced in the 10th century in the scriptorium of Touton, in Middle Egypt. Shortly after being copied, the manuscript arrived in the library of the White Monastery in Upper Egypt, not far from Akhmim. In the next centuries, this magnificent library fell into decay and its parchment books were damaged (or were intentionally destroyed). In the 19th century, three bits representing the top of the leaf were integrated to the collection of the Louvre Museum in Paris. As to the lower part of the leaf, we don’t know exactly either when it came out of its cache, or where was it kept until recently. It is possible that during all this period it was part of one or more private collections. All we know for sure is that it came to surface again in July 2009, when it was offered for sale by Sotheby’s and bought by Bolaffi, the antiquity dealers from Turin. My guess is that Bolaffi sold further the fragment, which might mean that it vanished again. If it was not purchased by a museum or library, we cannot be sure whether it will ever come to light again. However, what is happening now should not worry us too much: the fragments of the lost White Monastery codices simply continue their journey that lasts for more than 1,000 years.
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Congratulations! This post was included in the November 2011 Biblical Studies Carnival. This is quite an achievement. My word, yes.
He, he, the mask praises you, master of ceremonies!
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