Book and Paper Group Wiki > Papyrus
This page is currently being written and compiled by Marieka Kaye (January 2022).
See also: Support Problems § Papyrus
Wiki Compilers: Marieka Kaye
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Copyright 2023. The Book and Paper Group Wiki is a publication of the Book and Paper Group of the American Institute for Conservation. It is published as a convenience for the members of the Book and Paper Group. Publication does not endorse nor recommend any treatments, methods, or techniques described herein. Information on researching with the wiki and citing the BPG Wiki can be found on the Reference and Bibliography Protocols page. The BPG Wiki coordinators can be reached at email@example.com.
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BPG Papyrus. 2023. Book and Paper Group Wiki. American Institute for Conservation (AIC). Accessed March 21, 2023. https://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/BPG_Papyrus
The Importance of Provenance[edit | edit source]
An object’s “provenance” refers to an object’s history of ownership from the point of its creation and/or archaeological discovery through to its present day owner. It is instrumental in establishing how and when an object changed hands throughout its life, which makes provenance a key resource for authentication purposes. A well-documented provenance should behave much like a “chain of custody”; in the case of ancient artifacts, this includes clear evidence of documented archaeological discovery, acquisition, sales, subsequent purchases, etc. all the way up to the current owner or seller. Gaps in the chain, whether through missing documentation, opacity of sales, or lack of archaeological findspot, can indicate larger issues with the authenticity or licit status of the object. This is especially pertinent in the case of ancient and/or archaeological artifacts, due to the thriving market in antiquities that results in illegal excavations, looting of archaeological sites, illicit international trafficking, theft, and forgery.
Papyrus artifacts pose a challenge to provenance investigators due to several factors. The sheer age of many ancient papyrus objects can mean thousands of years of time that needs to be accounted for, during which time the object may have been buried at an archaeological site, or have changed hands many times. Papyrus artifacts primarily originate from Egypt and spread throughout the ancient civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean and into the Middle East, areas which have historically been the site of extensive colonial conflict and subsequent looting. “Looting” here refers to the illicit removal of artifacts from cultural and/or archaeological sites, including places of worship, active dig sites, and previously undisturbed sites. In many instances the looting of these sites is done by local inhabitants, some of whom rely on selling looted artifacts into the “grey” antiquities market as a form of subsistence income. Looting has also been practiced for centuries by invading and colonizing forces who remove cultural property as spoils of war. These practices were prohibited in the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970, which went into force in 1972, meaning that the illicit looting or removal of cultural artifacts from their country of origin after 1972 is strictly prohibited. However, pre-1972 antiquities and artifacts have already made their way into collections both public and private across the world, and many continue to circulate on the art market to this day.
A number of ongoing conflicts in the regions associated with historical papyrus production have also contributed to circumstances that allow artifacts to be illicitly removed from their country of origin. For example, numerous papyrus objects along with other Ancient Egyptian artifacts were removed from Egypt during the uprisings of the Arab Spring, many of which have been surfacing in auctions and collections over the past decade and into the present. Their removal is considered illicit by the 1970 UNESCO Convention, and therefore would be subject to repatriation and return if their provenance is discovered. This can often result in efforts to obscure the gaps in the provenance either through forged documentation, refusal to name previous sellers or collectors who “wish to remain anonymous”, and claiming the last known owner was in a free port country such as Switzerland. The phrase “Anonymous Swiss Collector” has become a cliche cover story for many illicit grey market items. Outside of the traditional art market, the proliferation of unregulated artifact sales over the internet through online auction and direct sales platforms like eBay and Etsy have made artifacts with no provenance or faked provenance easier to purchase and distribute than ever before.
Papyri are also heavily associated with the early formation of several religions, which grant them extremely high value to religious collectors. For example, many early versions of Christian scriptures were recorded and circulated on papyrus, often in papyrus codices, among a number of clandestine Christian sects throughout the Mediterranean region. The Nag Hammadi “Gnostic Gospels” are an example of this type of codex, and they and other contemporaneous papyrus artifacts have sparked international interest from Christian organizations, scholars, and collectors throughout history and into the present day. These parties fuel the market for Biblical papyri, with one high-profile example being the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, which is funded by the Green family.
Due to the confluence of their vast age, their locations in historically and currently high-conflict regions, their historical and potentially religious significance, and their high market value, papyrus objects have long been prime targets for illicit activities. These include but are not limited to their illicit looting and removal from their source countries, their theft and resale from existing collections, and the forgery of their provenance documents and/or the papyri themselves. Some examples are:
- The alleged theft of a collection of Egyptian Exploration Society papyri from Oxford University and their subsequent sale to the Green family’s Museum of the Bible by papyrologist Dirk Obbink 
- The discovery that a large number of the papyri in the Green family’s Museum of the Bible collections are forgeries 
- The heavily disputed and purposefully obscured provenance of the newly discovered Sappho fragment said to have been found in cartonnage by papyrologist Dirk Obbink 
- The hotly debated authenticity and alleged forgery of the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife 
- The looting, authentication, sale, and subsequent conservation and publication of the Gospel of Judas 
- The online trafficking of illicit antiquities through eBay and other internet sales platforms 
Further reading and discussion on all of these cases can be found below in the bibliography for this section. These are but a small selection of relatively recent cases, but the issues that propel these cases have existed throughout history and are major factors in the trade and authentication of papyrus objects to this day.
Given the prevalence of illicit activities associated with the antiquities market and specifically the papyrus trade, it is imperative that conservators are aware of their role in relation to the grey market. It has been repeatedly proven that conservation work can be a legitimizing factor that allows antiquities of dubious or nonexistent provenance to fetch much higher prices on the art market, as well as lending a degree of credibility to an otherwise illicit object. These high sale prices help propel the demand for papyri, which can perpetuate the cycle of looting and lead to further illicit papyri and other antiquities being removed from their source countries and entering the grey market. It is therefore extremely important that conservators who work with papyrus educate themselves on provenance and the specific risks that papyrus artifacts pose so that they can approach them ethically. There are recommendations for heritage professionals about working with unprovenanced papyri that have been established jointly by the American Society of Papyrologists and the Association Internationale de Papyrologues that can help provide guidance . Awareness throughout the field on papyrus provenance will enable conservators to use their informed judgment on a case-by-case basis to decide how to approach papyrus artifacts they encounter in their practice in accordance with conservation ethics and international antiquities law.
History of Papyrus Conservation[edit | edit source]
Originally papyrus manuscripts were preserved and cared for by the scholar who discovered the pieces. Fragments were often taped or otherwise manipulated at the actual archaeological site. We have examples of postage stamps and all kinds of odd materials used to piece together fragments. The most famous of the early papyrus conservators is Dr. h. c. Hugo Ibscher (1874-1943), a trained bookbinder, who worked on the restoration and mounting of papyrus manuscripts at the State Museum in Berlin, starting in 1891. For over forty years, he worked on papyrus manuscripts at the Egyptian Museum in Berlin and all over the world, including Turin, London, Oxford, Brussels, Paris, Prague, Copenhagen, Cairo, Rome, and many others. He’s considered the founder of papyrus conservation and his son Dr. Rolf Ibscher (1906-1967) followed in his footsteps, hiding important pieces during the war. Apart from the work in Berlin, a lot of “conservation” occurred first at the British Museum where papyrus manuscripts were then divided among members of a collecting consortium. The conservators who were in charge of papyrus generally had book and paper backgrounds, and this remains the case today. There are very few places that can afford to have a dedicated papyrus conservator.
At the University of Michigan, which holds the largest collection of papyrus in North America, conservation activities began in the late 1980s, when Professor Ludwig Koenen raised awareness of the need for conservation of the papyrus collection. He was a professor in the classics department for papyrology who taught from 1975 until 2001, when he retired. He remains active in the papyrological community today.
During Prof. Koenen’s years, Julia Miller was working as a conservator at the University of Michigan, and she spearheaded the research and development of protocol for the treatment and housing of papyrus manuscripts. She later retired from her conservation duties, and is now a highly regarded scholar in the history of bookbinding and lecturer on the subject of early codices, especially the Nag Hammadi codices, which are early bound structures with papyrus textblocks and cover boards. She has constructed collections of incredible models that can be studied in the University of Michigan's Special Collections Research Center.
In the early 1990s, the book and paper conservator Leyla Lau-Lamb took over papyrus conservation duties and was heavily involved in the Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS), a “virtual library” that provides online access to Michigan's papyrological collection. Users are able to view digital images and detailed catalog records containing information on papyrus characteristics and corrections to published papyri. This digitization project involved a consortium of universities, including Columbia, Duke, Yale, and Michigan. Leyla was assigned the task of treating, rehousing, and inspecting 1,000s of fragments with the papyrologists working on the huge APIS project. Over two decades, Leyla developed and perfected treatment methods and standards, which she shared with people worldwide, and put Michigan on the map for being a source of knowledge for papyrus conservation. She also wrote the APIS conservation guidelines, which are highly referenced to this day. While the APIS project is no longer active, Michigan continues to digitize its collection, adding records to the database. The images and metadata from this project are still maintained by the universities in the consortium, and can be accessed through Papyri.info.
There are several other highly influential papyrus conservators who have dedicated their careers to this specialty. Their articles and research have shaped everything we understand and practice currently. Bridget Leach is a retired papyrus conservator from the British Museum, where she worked from 1990. Her particular research interest focused on pigments used on illustrated papyri, which the British Museum is fortunate to have. She has written some very valuable resources, which are listed in the bibliography below.
Another highly influential papyrus conservator is Myriam Krutzsch, who has worked at the Egyptian Museum in Berlin since 1975. She was trained by Otto Werner Luke, who was trained by Dr. Rolf Ibscher. Myriam solely works on papyrus and has written many valuable resources, most of which are in German, which is one of the major languages in the papyrological discipline. Her particular research interest focuses on the complex folding techniques of ancient Egyptian texts and papyrus manufacture. Leyla studied with her early in her career, therefore much of what is established at the University of Michigan is informed by Myriam's procedures. She generously takes on students and conservators from all over the world for periods of study in Berlin, travels to other institutions for consultation and teaching, is an active consultant at archaeological sites in Egypt, and continues to publish and give talks at conferences to continuously add to and update our knowledge on papyrus manufacture and care.
Material and Structure[edit | edit source]
Most of our knowledge about the use of papyrus for a writing surface comes from Pliny the Elder, who described the papyrus plant and its use in his Natural History from AD 70. He stated, “The nature of papyrus too is to be recounted, for on its use as rolls human civilization depends, at the most for its life, and certainly for its memory.”
Papyrus that was used for a writing material is generally identified as Cyperus papyrus, a tall flowering freshwater reed, which grows in Africa along the water’s edge, in particular the Nile River. The writing material is made from the core of the stem, and the particular variety used in the ancient world does not vary greatly from one sub-species to another, therefore it has not been specifically identified. Differences are observed depending on where the sub-species was growing.
The plant was used widely in everyday life, from sandal-making and basketry, to boats, sails, rope, and was even a food source. There are no ancient Egyptian representations or texts on the production of papyrus sheets and rolls, and no specific papyrus workshop has been uncovered.
The triangular stem of the papyrus would be cut or peeled in long strips. There has been longstanding speculation whether the core was cut into several strips or was peeled into a single thin layer, but it was likely a combination, and techniques likely varied throughout the years.
After cutting and peeling, the papyrus was laid in two layers, one horizontal and one vertical, to form a single rectangular sheet, with no gaps between the strips. The sheet could be rolled easier if the vertical strips were on the outside, therefore the vertical side is referred to as the verso. The majority of writing was completed on the horizontal, recto, side.
No adhesive was used to join the layers. When the wet strips were placed together horizontally and vertically, it is speculated that they were pressed or hammered together, leading to the physical bonding of the cell tissue of both layers. In order to form a roll, the edges of the sheets were adhered together with a starch paste, generally right over left on the recto, which does vary depending on the region and time period. There are also examples of fringes of horizontal strips used for joins, thus leading to a smoother three layers overlapping rather than four. Examples show anywhere from 7 sheets in length (Middle Kingdom) to 20 sheets in length (Roman Period, Early Islamic Period).
For a look at modern papyrus manufacture in action, check out Papyrus Making 101, an online exhibit from the University of Michigan Papyrus Collection, with a slide show showing the papyrus manufacture process.
Conservation[edit | edit source]
Documentation[edit | edit source]
When documenting a papyrus fragment to be treated, it is important to note the following, which may best be informed by a papyrologist if otherwise unidentifiable:
Inventory #: locally assigned inventory number
Date: date (or estimated date) of the fragment
Place: place (or estimated place) of origin of the fragment
Subject: brief description of the contents of the fragment
Size: it is useful to measure the fragment by placing it on top of a gridded millimeter paper. Measure the length from the beginning of the fragment or roll to the end; also measure the width of any glued overlap. The overlap of two sheets is known as the kollesis.
Color: e.g., light cream, light brown, medium brown, dark brown, charcoal brown
Quality: e.g., strong, friable, delaminated fibers
Condition: e.g., pest, fire, water, or mold damage, mud, salt, dirt, other
- Lamp black (soot in a gum binder): very stable and usually insoluble in water
- Iron-gall: brown, used later (3rd - 4th century); often one can detect burn or breakthrough
- Mixed (lamp black and iron-gall) ink: brownish; mixed ink can be water soluble
- Red ink: earth pigment - iron oxide
- Green ink: mineral pigments - verdigris and malachite
- Other media may include Egyptian blue, yellow ochre, and green frit
- Condition of ink: e.g., strong, flaking, friable, missing, abraded, faded
Direction of the fiber
Most commonly, the side with the fibers oriented horizontally is considered the recto (front)—the fibers are parallel to the long edge of the roll. The side with the fibers running vertically is considered the verso (back). In a few cases the scribe turned the sheet 90 degrees. Also watch for recycled sheets, where the first text is washed off and reused by a different scribe. Occasionally the recto may contain horizontal writing, and the writing on the verso is turned 90 degrees, or vice versa. Pay attention to the color and consistency of the fragment. Usually scribes used the most beautiful, even fibers and lightest color for the recto, and inferior fibers on the verso.
Before any treatment is started, test the inks in several different areas. With a small brush, drop one tiny droplet of water over the ink, then cover it with a small square of blotting paper and a glass weight so you can keep an eye on the result. Check both the blotter and the ink after a few seconds up to two minutes or longer depending on how wet the treatment will be, and make sure the color does not bleed or smear. Do the same test with ethanol or a 50:50 ethanol: water mixture. Some transfer may occur depending on the friability of the ink. Very often a fragment cannot be read without the aid of wet treatment to assist in unfolding and revealing covered text. Therefore a small amount of ink solubility is often acceptable, but this risk of loss must be outweighed by the benefit to the research community.
Include in the photo:
- Scale (mm or cm)
- Color bar
- Inventory number
- Side (recto or verso)
- “Before,” “during,” or “after” treatment
- Date of photo
- Make sure the papyrus is not up-side down. Have a Greek alphabet reference sheet on hand, or ask a papyrologist for guidance.
- When capturing details, take note of the exact section, direction, and size framed in the photo, so you take the same “after” image.
Consolidation, cleaning, and repair[edit | edit source]
Consolidation of media should be the first step in any papyrus treatment plan, and is executed in the same manner as other varieties of manuscripts. The media often found on papyrus can be friable and soluble. However, often a fragment cannot be read without the aid of wet treatment to assist in unfolding and revealing covered text. Therefore, a small amount of media solubility is acceptable, but this risk of loss must be outweighed by the benefit to the research community. When assessing media on papyrus, conservators must be cognizant of any flaking, abrasion, and fading. Stabilization of the media with consolidants that are not water soluble prior to treatment may be considered. Media that remains covered by folds and creases thwarts the legibility of the text. This is highly important to papyrologists whose work is so exacting that even a single letter can change the way they read a piece.
Due to papyrus often found buried underground, the fibers can be embedded with sand and mud. Loose debris can be brushed away with a soft brush, in the direction of the fiber from the middle to the edges. A stiff bristle brush or sable brush with the bristles cut short are useful for cases where the dirt is more heavily embedded. The dirt can then be gently blown away with a rubber air bulb. Dried plant materials, salt grains, stones, and other larger debris can be removed with the aid of tweezers or dental tools. Salt should especially be addressed, as it is highly hygroscopic and swelling with moisture causes loss of text.
Readhering delaminated layers, bridging breaks, and reattaching detached pieces of a papyrus sheet must all be done with a light hand. Papyrus conservators use very dilute adhesives (e.g. methyl cellulose, wheat starch paste, funori) in the 0.5–1% range of concentration, to readhere delaminated layers. Tiny bridge mends using slivers of remoistenable toned Japanese papers are the most common technique for breaks and the reattachment of loose parts. Due to the miniscule size of repair strips, remoistenable tissues allow for ease of application and are crucial to a gentle and sympathetic repair. A conservator must always be aware of keeping away from the text. Lining is not an acceptable approach due to the amount of the adhesive required, and the way it may hamper future analysis and study.
Aqueous treatment techniques[edit | edit source]
Much papyrus treatment cannot be done without some form of wet treatment. The dry papyrus fibers are prone to breaking if they are manipulated without the introduction of moisture in some form. One concern when first approaching wet treatment is whether the laminar nature of papyrus will be compromised. Leach and Tait confirm that during modern conservation processes that involve the treatment of papyrus with water, the vertical and horizontal layers rarely delaminate, and remain firmly fused together (2000, 234). They further clarify that the adhesives identified in the cell sap are water soluble, and so is starch paste, so if the layers were adhered by no other means than by one or both of these adhesives, some delamination would be expected. However, this does not happen, further suggesting that the layers of a papyrus sheet are fused through hydrogen bonding during manufacture. On the other hand, if any external adhesives were used to fuse the layers, they may also crosslink with age, reducing solubility.
Apart from local application of water from a small brush to straighten out small areas of disrupted fibers, the most common wet treatment technique used to release folds, creases, and manipulate misaligned fibers is blotter washing. Papyrus can be humidified in all the same ways as paper, and papyrus conservators will often dampen blotters with deionized water and place a fragment between the damp blotters until the papyrus is evenly wet and relaxed. Papyrus then becomes a flexible material to work with, allowing the conservator to unfold and realign layers and fibers using small tools, such as micro-spatulas, sable brushes, and small rubber tipped colour shapers. After wet treatment, papyrus must be placed between dry blotters, under light weight, for a generous amount of time (typically a week), starting with frequent dry blotter changes to efficiently remove excess moisture. Due to the nature of such a lightly processed plant material, papyrus tenaciously retains moisture, and without proper drying the papyrus will curl and not safely remain planar.
While more commonly found in mummy cases, when it comes to bound papyrus, conservators may come across cartonnage, a composite material made up of layers of blank or inscribed sheets of papyrus that was often recycled from previous uses. Linen, parchment, paints, adhesives, and gesso may also be found in the composite structure of cartonnage, and the adhesive used to fuse the layers together was generally a natural gum, although there has been evidence of hide glue as well. Julia Miller (2015) explains cartonnage book boards in superb detail in her Suave Mechanicals (Vol. 2) essay, “Puzzle Me This.” She explains that cartonnage was used to stiffen leather book covers and was used on the Nag Hammadi codices and other early fourth-century codices (287). They continued to be used throughout the first millennium in Egypt. The separation of the papyrus layers in cartonnage is desirable to papyrologists, as they can discover new texts by revealing the layers that have been adhered together for centuries. Unfortunately the separation of the layers results in the destruction of valuable artifacts of early bookbinding. Currently papyrus conservators tend to avoid this aggressive treatment, which historically involved the use of boiling water, steam, acids, and enzymes. Much papyrus has been destroyed in the lust for obtaining precious texts from the ancient world as a result.
Fortunately, there are promising developments in the use of non-destructive optical imaging techniques to assist in deciphering the texts beneath the surface of cartonnage. An important study by Gibson, et al. (2018) lays out the assessment of eight different imaging approaches taken from optical imaging, X-ray imaging, and terahertz imaging, all of which give contrast to either organic or inorganic pigments underneath layers of papyrus. Ultimately the authors found that no single imaging technique can identify both iron and carbon-based inks at depths within cartonnage. A multimodal approach is required, and imaging is further challenged by the plaster, adhesives, textiles, and multiple types of media that may also lie between the layers. As is the case with papyrus conservation in general, interdisciplinary collaboration is key to gaining insight into the texts in cartonnage in the least damaging manner possible.
Reversing Previous Interventions[edit | edit source]
There is no documentation of ancient papyrus repairs, although patches of papyrus used to keep multiple broken pieces together are common. Modern examples of previous treatments and their detrimental results include the adhering of edges of papyrus to a false margin or inlay of paper, with paper fills placed between fragments, which often cause cockling, distortion and fracturing due to differential rates of expansion (Donnithorne 1986, 6). Small strips of thin material (paper, silk, goldbeater’s skin) and pre-gummed varieties (kraft parcel tape, margins of postage stamp sheets, and stamp hinges) were used for repairs, some more sympathetic depending on the adhesive. Plasters and gummed fabrics are also found, with poor aging qualities.
As with any book and paper object, pressure-sensitive self-adhesive tapes with plastic carriers and acrylic or rubber-based adhesives are rampant, with adhesives migrating through the papyrus causing local transparency and discoloration. Surface consolidants and coatings, such as varnish, glue size, and even cellulose nitrate have caused problems with contraction when drying, as well as delamination, staining, and discoloration (Donnithorne 1986, 6). The reversal of these interventions can follow the same treatment steps one would follow for the removal of old repairs from paper, but when working with the removal of adhesives from papyrus, one must remain vigilant about whether adhesives can be safely removed from the interstices of the minute fibers. Papyrus typically does not react well to organic solvents, which often aggressively draw out moisture, causing further embrittlement. Cellulose powder and other dry methods of reducing the tackiness of adhesives left behind during tape removal are not an option due to the intricate laminar structure of papyrus. Therefore removing tape carriers must be considered carefully to weigh whether removal will pose even more risk by exposing a difficult to remove sticky adhesive residue as a result.
Seals[edit | edit source]
Cartonnage[edit | edit source]
Case Studies[edit | edit source]
Housing[edit | edit source]
When thinking about the housing of papyrus for safe handling, a familiar choice has traditionally been glass. Those responsible for collections that are smaller in scale will often place all of the papyrus fragments between panes of glass as a protective housing, a practice that has been supported for decades. While annealed soda-lime glass is most commonly used, conservators have gravitated toward new glass technology, such as Gorilla Glass, as well as borosilicate glass, which has proven its reliability in photo conservation, especially in the treatment of daguerreotypes.
A common practice is to secure the fragment to the glass using tiny and discreetly placed strips of glassine or Japanese paper, coated with a water-soluble adhesive such as dextrin or wheat starch paste.
While polyester encapsulation, Stabiltex slings, and sheets of acrylic have been put into use in more recent years, glass has proven to be the most stable over time. It provides a smooth rigid support that does not bend or abrade the vulnerable and often frayed structure of the papyrus. As emphasized by the papyrus conservator Bridget Leach at the British Museum, glass is heavy and fragile, which encourages careful handling. When using glass, we avoid the risks associated with the static charge found in the polyester and acrylic substrates. Even the smallest amount of static can damage the papyri and the media it carries. As compared to acrylic glazing, glass is also virtually scratch proof, allowing for a clear view of both sides of the papyrus fragment for study.
Of course the housing needs of a particular collection ultimately depend on available space as well as the size and use of the collection. The weight and cost of glazing a collection of 18,000+ individual fragments such as the collection at the University of Michigan (U-M) is unrealistic, so through the years conservators at U-M adapted a folder system to safely house the majority of the collection. When pieces are exhibited, go out on loan, are used in extensive studies, or are in higher demand, they can be glazed as needed. Due to the size of the collection, only about one-fifth of the fragments have been published. There is still a large portion of the collection that is not regularly used and is in stable condition, so folders suffice.
At U-M there are two standard sizes of folders that are then placed into standard size boxes, both cloth-covered clamshells and gray/white drop-front storage boxes made of buffered board (illustrations). The folders are made of 20-point lignin-free buffered folder stock, and are lined on one side with buffered blotting paper adhered with EVA adhesive, which is rolled out in an even coat with a small roller. The lightly textured surface of the blotting paper provides gentle friction to prevent the papyrus from sliding when the folder is handled. The folders are left to dry and off-gas thoroughly before they are put to use. The boxes and folders are kept horizontal at all times.
When there are many different individual fragments under a single inventory number, each small fragment is placed in a lignin-free buffered tissue carrier, which is then placed in the larger folders. This way the many fragments can stay together until they are identified and reassigned as appropriate. Eventually a papyrologist may be able to place these tiny fragments into configurations that make sense, or translate the bits of text they can decipher.
Boxes are housed in special shelving units designed to prevent over-stacking. These are kept in a locked vault with carefully controlled environmental conditions. For papyrus, the temperature is ideally maintained at 65 degrees F and 35% relative humidity. Most institutions do not have a dedicated vault for papyrus though, so a compromise was made at U-M to keep the relative humidity at 45% due to sharing a space with parchment.
Most glazed items are stored vertically, which prevents stress from the weight of stacked glass. The conservators inspect any fragments requested by researchers to assess whether it is safer to glaze the fragment prior to use or if handling in the folder will suffice. Due to limited conservation hours in the Papyrology department, this has been an efficient way to handle such a tremendous collection. For now the majority of the collection rests in boxes. The folder system allows for the most efficient storage when working with such a vast collection.
Imaging and Text Enhancement[edit | edit source]
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
Provenance[edit | edit source]
Allen, Gretchen. 2020. “Illicit Affairs: Conservators, Ethics, and Harm Mitigation in the Case of the Gospel of Judas.” The Art of Value. May 8. https://theartofvalue.blog/2020/05/08/textual-healing/.
Askeland, Christian. 2014. “A Fake Coptic John and Its Implications for the ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.’” Tyndale Bulletin 65(1): 1–10.
Askeland, Christian. 2015. “A Lycopolitan Forgery of John’s Gospel.” New Test. Stud. 61: 314–34.
“ASP Resolution Concerning the Illicit Trade in Papyri.” 2007. American Society of Papyrologists.
“Association Internationale de Papyrologues Working Party on the Commerce in Papyri Recommendations.” 2007. Association Internationale de Papyrologues.
Benaissa, Amin, Todd Hickey, Roberta Mazza, Noha Salem, Paul Schubert, and Jakub Urbanik. 2021 “ASP-AIP Joint Resolution on the Papyrus Trade.” The American Society of Papyrologists. https://www.papyrology.org/resolutions.html.
Bernhard, Andrew. 2015. “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife: Textual Evidence of Modern Forgery.” New Test. Stud. 61: 335–55.
Bilby, Mark. 2020. “Exposé of New Testament Papyrus Fraud and Theft.” Voces Anticae. May 21. https://vocesanticae.com/2020/05/21/expose-of-new-testament-papyrus-fraud-and-theft/.
Boin, Douglas. 2014. “Papyrus, Provenance and Looting.” The New York Times, March 2.
Brodie, Neil. 2006. “The Lost, Found, Lost Again and Found Again Gospel of Judas.” Culture Without Context 19: 17–27.
Brodie, Neil. 2009. “Consensual Relations? Academic Involvement in the Illegal Trade in Ancient Manuscripts.” In Criminology and Archaeology, edited by Penny Green and Simon Mackenzie, 41–58.
Brodie, Neil. 2014. “The Antiquities Market: It’s All in a Price.” Heritage & Society 7: 32–46.
Brodie, Neil. 2017. “The Role of Conservators in Facilitating the Theft and Trafficking of Cultural Objects: The Case of a Seized Libyan Statue.” Libyan Studies, 1–7.
Canfora, Luciano. 2013. “The So-Called Artemidorus Papyrus: A Reconsideration.” Museum Helveticum 70 (2): 157–79.
Choat, Malcolm. 2016a. “Provenance and the Papyri.” Markers of Authenticity. April 25. https://markersofauthenticity.com/2016/04/25/provenance-and-the-papyri/.
Choat, Malcolm. 2016b. “Lessons from the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” Affair.” Markers of Authenticity. June 19. https://markersofauthenticity.com/2016/06/19/lessons-from-the-gospel-of-jesus-wife-affair/.
Choat, Malcolm. 2018a. “Forgery, (de)Authentication, and Modes of Expertise.” Markers of Authenticity. March 27. https://markersofauthenticity.com/2018/03/27/forgery-deauthentication-and-modes-of-expertise/.
Choat, Malcolm. 2018b. “How Do We Edit Forgeries?” Markers of Authenticity. September 13. https://markersofauthenticity.com/2018/09/13/how-do-we-edit-forgeries-2/.
Choat, Malcolm. 2019. “Forging Antiquities: The Case of Papyrus Fakes.” In The Palgrave Handbook on Art Crime, edited by S. Hufnagel and D. Chappell, 557–86.
Cockburn, Patrick. 2016. “Fake Antiquities Flood out of Syria as Smugglers Fail to Steal Masterpieces amid the Chaos of War.” The Independent. September 7. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-isis-civil-war-antiquities-fakes-palmyra-a7228336.html.
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Depuydt, Leo. 2014. “The Alleged Gospel of Jesus’s Wife: Assessment and Evaluation of Authenticity.” Harvard Theological Review 107(2): 172–89.
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Conservation[edit | edit source]
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Cockle, Walter E. H. 1983. “Restoring and Conserving Papyri.” Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies of the University of London 30: 147-165.
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Krutzsch, Myriam, and Jörg Graf. 2006. "Falttechniken an altägyptischen Handschriften (Folding techniques on ancient Egyptian manuscripts)." Ägypten lesbar machen – die klassische Konservierung/Restaurierung von Papyri und neuere Verfahren (Making Egypt readable - the classic preservation / restoration of papyri and newer processes), eds. J. Graf and M. Krutzsch. Berlin : Walter de Gruyter. 71-83.
Krutzsch, Myriam. 2009. "Geduld Will Beim Dem Werke Sein. (Conservation Research in the Berlin Papyrus Collection)." Research in Book and Paper Conservation in Europe: A State of the Art, Ed. P. Engel. Austria : Ferdinand Berger. 43-50.
Krutzsch, Myriam. 1994. "Geduld Will Beim Werke Sein. Zur Erinnerung an Hugo Ibschers Aufnahme in der Berliner Papyrussammlung 1894 (Patience wants to be at work. In memory of Hugo Ibscher's recording in the Berlin papyrus collection in 1894)." Archiv für Papyrusforschung und verwandte Gebiete 40(2): 165-166.
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Photography and Imaging[edit | edit source]
Alexopoulou, Athina, Agathi-Anthoula Kaminari, Athanasios Panagopoulos, and Egert Pöhlmann. 2013. “Multispectral Documentation and Image Processing Analysis of the Papyrus of Tomb II at Daphne, Greece.” Journal of Archaeological Science 40(2): 1242-1249.
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Cockle, Walter E. H. 1974. “Taking Photographs of Papyri.” Akten des XIII. Internationalen Papyrologenkongressess, Marburg/Lahn, 2-6 August 1971, Eds. Von E. Kiebling and H.A. Rupprecht. Munich. 83-88.
Coles, Revel. 1978. “International Papyrological Photographic Archive: Report of the Cairo Mission, February/March 1978.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 32: 223 - 231.
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Enhancement of Script[edit | edit source]
Allegra, Dario, et al.. 2016. “X-ray Computed Tomography for Virtually Unrolling Damaged Papyri.” Applied Physics A: Materials Science and Processing 122(3): 1-7.
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History of This Page[edit | edit source]
This page was created in October 2018 by Alexander Bero using material contributed by Marieka Kaye and Theresa Smith.
|Paper Conservation Topics|
Surface Cleaning · Hinge, Tape, and Adhesive Removal · Washing · Sizing and Resizing · Bleaching · Enzymes · Chelating Agents · Alkalization and Neutralization · Humidification · Consolidation, Fixing, and Facing · Backing Removal · Mending · Filling of Losses · Drying and Flattening · Lining · Inpainting
|Book Conservation Topics|
|Structural Elements of the Book||
Endpapers · Endbands · Sewing and Leaf Attachment · Book Boards · Board Attachment · Book Decoration · Fastenings and Furniture
Washing of Books · Alkalinization of Books · Leaf Attachment and Sewing Repair · Board Reattachment · Use of Leather in Book Conservation
Animal Skin and Leather · Cloth Bookbinding · Paper Bookbinding · Parchment Bookbinding
Bookbinding Traditions by Region or Culture · East Asian Book Formats · Ethiopian Bindings · Greek-Style Bindings · Western African Books and Manuscripts