Report on Papyri: 1924

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17 September, 1924

This year's collection is a very large one and owing to the circumstances in which it was bought, time being insufficient for a preliminary sifting out, it includes an unusually large proportion of worthless or comparatively worthless fragmens. Since even scraps at first sight negligible prove at times to contain valuable material (for instance, the Psalter fragment, II,25, was found among the rubbish at the bottom of Box II) it was necessary at least to look at every fragmen of any size, so that the work of damping out and examination was a lengthy one. Very little time could therefore be given to any single piece, and the descriptions and datings which follow can even less than usual be regarded as authoritative. Mr. Milne assisted in the examination of literary papyri, and some (but only a selection) of the Demotic, Coptic, and Arabic papyri were examined by Sir Herbert Thompson & Messrs. Crum and Fulton respectively.* On the work of damping out and preparing Mr. Lamacraft reports as follows:-

The collection of papyri brought to the British Museum by Prof. Kelsey at the end of May last has now been dealt with sufficiently to render the pieces fit for description and valuation, before distribution amongst the syndicate of purchasers.

The total number of pieces and fragments of a fair size handled exceed 4700 and of these over 4000 pieces have been relaxed, straightened out and flatened. Many fragments have been joined up, and had time not been so pressing many more pieces could have been identified and placed together; but with such a large number of fragments (each of which had of necessity to be handled at least 4 times during treatment) only very distinctive pieces in the same box could be so brought together.

A proportion of the very dirtiest pieces have been washed and others badly encrusted with crystals have been steeped in distilled water to remove the bulk of the impurities. Some pieces badly joined together by the Arabs have been lifted and righted; while other pieces specially made up to deceive are left as specimens of faked pieces.

Although the work here reported has greatly increased the value and appearance of the collection there are a large number which were in such deplorable condition that they are still in need of a great deal of patient application before being considered fit for mounting under glass.

Valuable assistance has been given by my colleague, Mr. A.J. Watson, when available from other duties, and about 15% of the total have been dealt with by him.

Chas. T. Lamacraft
H. I. Bell, Esq.

  

In making the distribution the better pieces have been assigned first, and the later the less valuable ones. the smaller or more imperfect fragments have benn made up in packets, varying in number roughly according to the value of the fragments contained in them, and charged at a small flat rate, since such fragments, though they may yield little of substantial value, are useful for seminar practice. All the Boxes described were acquired from Mr. Nahman except those otherwise described. In dates Roman numerals refer to centuries (A.D. unless specially stated). Extreme dimensions are given.

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