Universiteit Leiden

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Papyrological Institute

Digitalization of the papyrus collection

The papyruscollection of the Leiden Papyrological Institute is a modest collection, housed in the University Library of Leiden University. It was built up as a study collection and used in the first place for teaching and reaching a larger public.

For that reason, not only papyri and ostraca, but also other writing materials from Egypt were collected (stone, parchment, linen, lead, wood, waxed tablets, coins) from the period between the fourth century BCE and the eighth century CE. The texts are mostly written in Greek and/or Demotic, although Hieratic, Coptic and Latin are also represented, and while most texts are of a documentary nature, some are literary and sometimes unique. The collection started with the legacy of 21 Warren papyri in 1935, and was gradually enlarged by acquisitions and gifts to more than 660 numbered objects in 2012 (not counting the 235 coins), of which about 500 are Greek papyri. Apart from some folders with minor or unrestored fragments, all papyri are mounted between glass.

About half of the texts are published so far (mainly in the series Papyrologica Lugduno-Batava; see more detailed information on the Collections website of Trismegistos). Publication of the texts belonging to the Leiden collection is an ongoing task for staff members of the Papyrological Institute, in which advanced students are also involved. A new volume with Leiden texts will be published in 2020, edited by Francisca A.J. Hoogendijk and Joanne V. Stolk.

Many earlier publications of the Leiden texts were accompanied by (black-and-white) plates, and simple scans were made of a number of unpublished papyri for teaching purposes. The larger part of the collection, however, was never photographed.

In 2012 a new project was started to digitalize the whole collection of the Leiden Papyrological Institute, to facilitate, promote and encourage the study of the original antique texts and make the Leiden collection available on the internet.

With financial help of the Leiden Institute of Area Studies all papyri (kept in their glass mount) and other objects were scanned or photographed in high quality. The existing card catalogue at the Papyrological Institute with information on contents, date, and origin of the pieces is updated and digitalized. Moreover, the information which is already available on the published Leiden texts through the existing papyrological databases integrated in the Papyrological Navigator, is constantly updated so as to include not only the Greek text of the publication, but also the later corrections to the Greek text as published in the Berichtigungsliste, as well as a translation.

From the published texts of the Leiden collection, the images and metadata of each individual text have been entered into the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS). In this way the collection of the Leiden Papyrological Institute has been opened up, not only to professional colleagues, but to everyone who is interested in looking at or studying original texts which give so much information on the society of Graeco-Roman-Byzantine Egypt.

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