Report on Papyri Brought by Nahman: 7/17/30

Of this consignment the greater part consists of papyri in other languages than Greek, which I am not competent to read and which I can price only with great reserve. The Demotic papyri were examined by Sir Herbert Thompson, who kindly devoted a whole week to the workl but even in that time documents in so difficult a script as Demotic could of course be dealt with only very perfunctorily. Mr. Fulton of the Oriental Department here went hastily with me through a large number, though by no means all, of the Arabic documents, and Mr. Crum, in the course of one afternoon, made a rapid examination of the Coptic paper MS. and papyri. The Greek I have as usual examined myself; but the time available for such work is now extremely limited and I was repeatedly interupted. The examination was therefore much more perfuntory than usual, and the descriptions given below must be regarded as provisional only. In particular, I have briefly classed as "fragments" a number of pieces of which in previous years I should have attempted a more particular description. The literary fragments were examined by Mr. Milne.

There are in all thirteen lots, among which I place the Greek first. The prices asked are presumably, though this was not definitely stated, in Egyptian pounds and therefore a little more than English pounds.

A. Greek Papyri

Lot I. (1-13)

The prices which I have attached to these papyri add up to £91, of which £30 is for no. (1). That papyrus is the only one for which the British Museum would ask, subbject of course to the consent of the other parties to the Syndicate. I would suggest, in order to offer an even sum, raising the total to £100. If Nahman is unwilling to accept that amount, the price might perhaps be raised to £120, that of no. (1) being raised to £40; but I do not think it advisable, even at the risk of losing the papyri, to go beyond that; and certainly I could not recommend to the Trustees paying more than £40 for no. (1). It is unfortunate that this lot has to be purchased or refused en bloc; it is apparently impossible to make a selection. But all the items are worth purchaseing at a reasonable price.

Lot II. (1-44) "44 Fragmentary Greek Papyri," price asked £200.

Lot III. Price asked £100.

The single prices in Lot II add up to £109, which we may call £110. I do not recommend in any case exceeding this amount. There are some interesting pieces in the collection (e.g. 6,8,14,20,23,27,44), but nothing of outstanding importance, and speaking generally the quality of the collection is mediocre.

Lot III is a well preserved book, interesting for its village names, its evidence for the supply of garments, and as an early specimen of the codex form used for an official document, but £100 seems to me an exorbitant price. I would not recommend offering more than £50.

B. Arabic Papyri, etc.

Lot IV. "25 complete Arabic." Fayyum. Price asked £500.

Lot V. "64 Complete Arabic from Upper Egypt." Price asked £640.

Lot VI. "5 Arabic Letters on Paper." Fayum. Price asked £5.

Lot VII. "2 Arabic Vellum Rolls." Price asked £25.

Lots IV and V are certainly a very fine collection of Arabic papyri, though not of such rarity as Nahman seemed to think. There is a fair proportion of perfect or practically perfect documents and a considerable number of comparatively well preserved ones. Such dates as Mr. Fulton found were all about the middle of the third century of the Hegira, but some papyri may be earlier than that; many are letters. I can recommend the collection to any one desirous of acquiring a fine, representative set of early Arabic document. Dr. Barnett has no money available for this purpose, and Columbia is not interested in Arabic material; hence only Michigan and Mr Garrett are concerned here. Nahman has reckoned Lot IV at £20 and Lot V at £10 each, but I do not quite see why, since the average quality of the two lots is much the same. In any case the prices are too high. I would suggest an offer of £750 for the two lots together. Arabic papyri are not a very marketable commodity, and a firm refusal to advance beyond that price would very likely be effective in securing them.

The other two lots are not of great importance. The five paper documents are nice pieces, though much later than the others; one is evidently magical. £5 might stand. I do not myself feel that the two vellum rolls should cost more than £8 together.

C. Demotic Papyri

Lot VIII. "4 Large Demotic." Price asked £200.

Lot IX. "19 Demotic, complete." Price asked £200.

Lot X. "14 Fragmentary Demotic." Proce asked £50.

Lot XI. "8 Large Leaves, Demotic and Hieratic." Price asked £125.

Sir Herbert Thompson's descriptions follow below. He is very anxious that the British Museum should acquire at least the series of self-dedications. Dr. Hall has at the moment no money available, but Sir Herbert has offered a substantial contribution, and it might perhaps be possible to defer payment of at least part of the price. Michigan and Columbia are not interested in Demotic material, but Mr. Garrett is prepared to consider the large rolls. I would suggest, very tentatively, the following prices as the upper limit:- Lot VIII £80; Lot IX £150; Lot X £42; Lot XI £80. (see below).

Nahman Papyri. Demotic.

In 4 bundles viz. "4 large Demotic papyri," "8 large leaves," "19 complete," "14 fragmentary papyri."

Provenance: Probably all - certainly large majority - come from the Fayum and the smaller ones nearly all from Tebtunis (from place names, Gods and proper names).

Date: From Philometer onwards. There is nothing I can definitely state to be Roman. In each group I have marked them by a letter at bottom right hand corner of the containing sheet A, B, &c.

D. Coptic mss.

Lot XII. "6 Coptic fragmentary." Price asked £40.

Lot XIII. "1 Coptic MS. with pictures." Paper. Late; liturgical. Price asked £150.

Mr. Crum reports unfavorably on Lot XII, and it seems hardly worth buying. Sir Herbert Thompson is interested in Lot XIII and would be ready to pay about £50 for it.

H. I. Bell

P. S. I had been unable to see Sir Herbert Thompson when I valued the Demotic lots. I have now done so and have to make the following modifications:- Lot VIII not above £60; Lot XI perhaps hardly worth buying at all.



The following contributions are to be made to the purchase of papyri under discussion with Mr. H. I. Bell:

1. From the University of Chicago:


Item No.V, entire

£400 Sterling


2. From Columbia University:


Item No.I, half


Item No.II, half


Item No.III, half


Total receivable from Columbia



3. The University of Michigan must pay for the following items:


Item No.I, half


Item No.II, half


Item No.IV, half


Item No.VI, entire


Item No.VII, entire


Total payable



Of the amount owed by the University of Michigan, $1500 will be derived from Faculty Research Project No. 63, requisition to be issued by Professor Boak. The remainder, amounting to probably about $900, is to be drawn with President Ruthven's approval from a fund for the purchase of specimens, forming a part of the general appropriation for equipment, available July 1, 1931.

Mr. Christensen recommends that the Faculty Research Project No.63 be overdrawn to the amount necessary to make up the total payment, and that the Faculty Research Fund be reimbursed on July 1, 1931 from the source indicated above.

Click here to see the APIS entries of these papyri.

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Last modified: 03/21/2014