Papyrological Institute at Princeton University Library

The Princeton University Library is hosting the Papyrological Institute (July 7-August 8), an intensive five-week summer course for graduate students in Classics, History, and other disciplines. This is the ninth in a series of such institutes held under the aegis of the American Sociey of Papyrologists, with the objective of providing participants with “sufficient instruction and practical experience to enable them to make productive use of texts on papyrus in their research and to become active scholars in the field of papyrology.” The focus this year are Greek documentary papyri from Byzantine Egypt, dating from the fourth to seventh centuries. The principal instructors are the distinguished papyrologists Jean-Luc Fournet, Professor at l’École Practique des Hautes Études, Paris; and Nikolaos Gonis, Reader in Papyrology, University College, London. Professor AnneMarie Luijendijk, Department of Religion, was the Princeton organizer. The Institute was made possible by funding from several Princeton sources, including the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Fund, Committee for the Study of Late Antiquity, and the departments of Classics, History, and Religion. External support came from the Onassis Foundation and the American Society of Papyrologists.

Like the faculty, the eleven graduate students are very international. There are 11 graduate students in Barcelona; Chicago; Manchester; Notre Dame, Indiana; Oslo; Ottawa; Paris; Princeton; State College, PA.; Toronto; and Vienna. Classes have been meeting daily in the newly renovated Hellenic Studies study room on A-Floor, Firestone Library. Most days are divided between lectures and transcription exercises focused on unpublished papyri in the collections of the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Most of these unpublished papyri were either donated by paid for by Robert Garrett, Class of 1897, one of Princeton’s premier collectors. Guest lecturers in the Institute include Professor Roger S. Bagnall, Leon Levy Director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University; Professor Raffaela Cribiore, New York University; Professor James Keenan, Loyola University, Chicago; and Gesa Schenke, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford. Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, gave a paper, “Magic Writ: Textual Amulets from Papyrus to Printing.”

After the Institute concludes, Professors Fournet and Gonis plan to edit additional Princeton papyri. These combined with two dozen or so student-edited papyri will form the basis of a published volume of Princeton papyri, complementing the three volumes in print: Alan C. Johnson and Henry B. Van Hoesen, eds., Papyri in the Princeton University Collections (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1931); Edmund H. Kase, Jr., ed., Papyri in the Princeton University Collections (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1936); and Allen C. Johnson and Sidney P. Goodrich, eds., Papyri in the Princeton University Collections (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1942). The Library’s Digital Studio is contributing new photography to facilitate the work of the Papyrological Institute and eventual publication of a new volume.

There are approximately 1,250 papyri in the Manuscripts Division, chiefly acquired from around 1900 to 1930, as well as a 3 leaves of a Greek mathematical treatise in the Cotsen Children’s Library and 21 leaves of the Book of Ezekiel in the Scheide Library. Papyri are in all the languages and scripts of Egypt, from the Pharaonic, Ptolemaic, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic periods. Most numerous are Greek literary, sub-literary, Christian, and documentary papyri. For an inventory of Princeton papyri and 30 digital images, go to the “Princeton University Library Papyrus Home Page” at In the next year, the Manuscripts Division hopes to put digital images of more than 200 published papyri online in the Princeton University Digital Library (PUDL). For more information, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, at

Papyrology seminar for blog

Nikolaos Gonis (left) and graduate students working on Princeton papyri.