Monday, May 05, 2008

Schøyen Collection for sale

From Jim Leonard:
News is that Martin Schøyen is seeking to sell his collection of religious manuscripts.
The Schøyen Collection, in Oslo, Norway, is purported to be the largest private collection of religious antiquities in the world. This includes some important biblical manuscripts (see here). Apparently, the hope is that Norway's national government will purchase the collection through funds raised for the purpose.
Mr. Schøyen has been praised for his part in purchasing (rescuing) ancient Buddhist manuscripts smuggled out of Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Taliban's rise to power and its well publicised gratuitous destruction of the two giant Buddhas. He has the reputation of being devoted to the publication of religious manuscripts.
This link mentions the intended sale of the collection, as well as the story of the so-called "Buddhist Dead Sea Scrolls" manuscripts: The news article hardly mentions the other religious texts in the Collection.
For links to my early research on Codex Schøyen 2650 (GMatt mae-2), go here and scroll down to the fourth segment of the left column: Treasures Old and New (JL)

[TW: On another Schøyen MS, see here.]

4 Comments:

Rev. James M. Leonard said...

The Buddhist manuscripts raise the question yet again as to ethics and antiquities.

Had collectors such as Mr. Schoyen not created a market for them, they likely would have languished from neglect or perished through malfeasance of the Taliban.

Rev. James M. Leonard said...

Three scholarly misfortunes arise from the antiquities market in conjunction with the emergence of Codex Schoyen from obscurity.

First, according to H.M. Schenke in his edition of Codex Schoyen, 15fragmentary pages of Isaiah in the Middle Egyptian dialect were also offered in the deal with Codex Schoyen (1999), but, for whatever reason, the deal excluded the Isaiah pages. Consequently, so far as I know, this Middle Egyptian Isaiah has been resubmerged, away from scholarly examination.

Secondly, Codex Schoyen is missing the first four and a half chapters of Matthew. Schenke theorised that it may still be in the hands of the unnamed person who sold the rest of the Codex remains to Mr. Schoyen, awaiting the opportunity to cash in later. Judging from the pattern of preservation in the photos of the printed edition, one might also wonder if many more fragments will eventually emerge perhaps along with the first ten pages of the codex.

Thirdly, Schenke states that someone prepped the fragments of Codex Schoyen to make them more presentable and valuable for the purpose of the sale. In doing so, some fragments were taped together at wrong places. Presumably, this cannot be undone without further damaging the manuscript.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Peter and James for this info and insights.

From a bona fidei, die in the wool, of blessed assurance, with St Paul, St Peter, St Augustine, St Martinus Luther, St Ioannis Calvin, the Westminster divines, the Church of England contingency, the Hugenots, John Knox and the rest of the believers in that Kirk, I am, a humble advocate and believer in that most horrible and terrible doctrine inadequately expressed by T.U.L.I.P.

Malcolm :-)

Roger Pearse said...

It is sad news that Martin Schoyen has withdrawn from the market; he is very much a gentleman, and his efforts have benefitted us all. His collection is conspicuous for the fact that the catalogue and images of the manuscripts are freely accessible on the internet. Would that public-funded archives were so helpful!

It is certainly the case that unscrupulous dealers can inflict enormous harm upon manuscripts, as the recent stories about Bruce Ferrini and the gospel of Judas make clear. If true, then Ferrini deserves hanging for what he did to the heritage of all mankind. The idea that such people will not find a market hardly needs discussion.

But on the other hand the fact is that unless these items have a monetary value, the peasants who find them will burn them. It may or may not be relevant that all our finds come from Egypt which has a flourishing art market, and that we never get papyri from other North African countries where the climate is and was similar. That manuscripts could survive in Morocco is proven by the Tebessa Manichaean papyrus codex, found in a cave in 1906. That we do not have any more may well be due to the lack of commercial profit to the bedouin in selling them.

There is no simple answer to the problems of the art market, real as these are, for those of us who value manuscripts.