Hundreds of ancient papyrus texts and documents are now accessible in the Digital Princeton University Library (DPUL). Princeton’s papyri date from approximately 1250 BCE to 900 CE. Best known are Princeton’s literary, early Christian, and sub-literary papyri. Among authors represented are Aristophanes, Demosthenes, Euripides, Herodotus, Hippocrates, Homer, Isocrates, Theocritus, and Xenophon. A much larger number are Greek documentary papyri, including census and tax registers, military lists, land conveyances, business records, petitions, private letters, and other sources of historical and paleographic interest from Ptolemaic (332-30 BCE), Roman (30 BCE-300 CE), and Byzantine Egypt (300-650 CE). Nearly all were discovered from the 1890s to the 1920s, buried or recovered from mummy cartonnage in and around the ancient Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus and the Fayum towns. The Princeton collections also include papyri in Egyptian languages (Hieroglyphic, Hieratic, Demotic, and Coptic); Arabic papyri from the Islamic period (from 640 CE); and a smaller number of Latin papyri from Roman Egypt and Ravenna. Additional papyri are in The Scheide Library and Cotsen Children’s Library. All Princeton papyri, whether or not digitized, are described in a Princeton Papyri_Checklist PDF (2018).
The Princeton collections of papyri were acquired from different sources. Princeton acquired 90 papyri from 1901 to 1922 through the Graeco-Roman Branch of the Egypt Exploration Society, which was established in 1897 for the stated purpose of “the discovery and publication of remains of classical antiquity and early Christianity in Egypt.” The bulk of Princeton’s papyri were acquired in the 1920s, either directly or indirectly through the British Museum. Many were received from 1921 to 1928 through Princeton’s participation in a five-member consortium that included Princeton and other universities (Columbia, Cornell, Michigan, University of California at Berkeley, the University of Geneva). Robert Garrett (1875-1961), Class of 1897, partially underwrote Princeton’s purchases. and then between 1924 and 1930 independently purchased approximately 750 Egyptian papyri through the British Museum for his own manuscript collection, which was first deposited in the Library for scholarly use and publication, then formally donated in 1942 with the rest of the Garrett Collection.
Digitization of papyri builds on Princeton’s early involvement between 1996 and 1999 in the Advanced Papyrological Information System Project (APIS), a collaborative cataloging-and-digitzation project supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). A selection of Princeton’s papyri were put online in the Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts and in the APIS database, which has since become part of Papyri.info , which also aggregates materials from other online resources. Emphasis in Princeton’s current digitization effort is on published papyri (“P.Princeton”) in older editions: Allan Chester Johnson, Henry Bartlett van Hoesen, et al., eds., Papyri in the Princeton University Collections, 3 vols.; and papyri in B. P. Grenfell, A. S. Hunt, et al., eds., The Oyxrhynchus Papyri; Fayûm Towns and Their Papyri; and The Hibeh Papyri. Also included are other Princeton papyri anticipated for publication in a fourth volume of Papyri in the Princeton University Collections. This volume will be an outgrowth of the Summer Institute in Papyrology, Princeton (July 7-August 8, 2014), co-directed by the papyrologists Jean-Luc Fournet (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris) and Nikolaos Gonis (University College, London), and organized by Professor AnneMarie Luijendijk (Princeton University, Department of Religion). Also to be digitized are all of the Pharaonic papyri in the Manuscripts Division, including five ancient rolls that were unrolled in the Library’s Preservation Office during the APIS project.
For detailed holdings information about Princeton’s holdings, consult the “Preliminary Checklist of the Princeton University Collections of Papyri,” which is accessible as part of the Princeton University Library Papyrus Home Page; or contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, at firstname.lastname@example.org
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