Evangelical Textual Criticism

Friday, December 10, 2010

Robinson on the Bodmer Papyri

Another book I picked up at SBL was James M. Robinson, The Story of the Bodmer Papyri: From the First Monastery's Library in Upper Egypt to Geneva and Dublin (Eugene OR: Cascade Books [Wipf and Stock], 2011 - yes that is the date printed in my copy as purchased in Nov. 2010).

It is an unusual book as the main story part was composed 'two decades ago' according to Robinson in the preface and has not been revised or up-dated (in fact 'two decades ago' is already perhaps a bit optimistic as internal evidence suggests a composition date of closer to 1980). The outline of Robinson's story has already been known in his paper 'The Pachomian Monastic Library at the Chester Beatty Library and the Bibliotheque Bodmer' (which is republished here but without the photographs found in the Occasional papers of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity (1990) edition).

So this was state of the art research, and tells the story of Robinson's interviews with the various characters involved in finding, selling and purchasing the manuscripts, but is now twenty years old (not even the bibliography of editions of the Dishna texts has been up-dated with e.g. P. Bodmer XXXVIII in 1991 or P. Bodmer XXX-XXXVII in 1999). It is nevertheless definitely worth a read; and there are loads of interesting details. Two things I noted were that P. Bodmer XVII (P74) was not from the same original collection (p. 21); and that the rebinding of P. Bodmer XIV-XV (P75) likely rendered it impossible to read (since the binding thongs did not go throguh the centre of the spine but through the front and back covers near the nner margin, with the result that the book couldn't be opened out enough to read the text at the inner margin; p. 32).


  1. Peter,

    I can't find where Robinson says that the book has not been revised or updated, only that he "did not prepare for publication at the time [20 years ago]," p. vii.

  2. I think this is the same as what is available here as PDF:
    It contains also the postscript.
    I have Robinson's approval.

  3. Re Brice's comment: he doesn't say that it has not been revised, that is my deduction. On p. 24 he says that the first draft was composed in 1980 and sent to various people. So various letters from 1980 are quoted. There are a couple of books from the early 80s referred to in the notes, but nothing more recent than that anywhere.

  4. Re Wieland: the text of your pdf was also published in Manuscripts of the Middle East and this text is reprinted (without the nice photos) in an appendix to this book. Or, at least the appendix is a revised version of that same publication.

    The book as a whole is a kind of extended version of the paper on the Pachomian Library - so if you read this "new" book through you get the story twice.

  5. Thanks Pete. I once corresponded with Robinson, and sent him my own articles on Bodmer papyri. He said he would add them to his bibliography, but I guess such recent works are not included then?

  6. I left it in the office and am home now so can't check on TW in particular. But unless you were publishing in the 70s and early 80s it won't be mentioned in this book. This book is really about the provenance of the manuscript find and Robinson's interviews with various people involved and then tracking the manuscripts into various different libraries.

  7. PMH: "But unless you were publishing in the 70s..."

    I was born in the 70s...

  8. I published some serious stuff in primary school in the 70s.

  9. Nice Tommy, we got three comments out of that.

  10. I think we'll need some controversy to get many more though. Are you in favour of women bishops?

  11. I bought this book too.

    I was not overwhelmed especially in terms of readability. I wish he would have summed up the juicy bits and the controversies a bit more. It is basically a rehash of his various articles. In addition to the two noted by PH, there is also one in his publication of the Lycopolitan John codex:

    The Chester Beatty codex AC 1390: mathematical school exercises in Greek and John 10:7–13:38 in Subachmimic

    It was cheap ($15), and is an important reference as I assume it now replaces all the older articles.

    For the record, I am opposed to both male and female bishops.

  12. "mathematical school exercises in ---Greek--- Swedish"

    See, you don't need to write on TC to get published in primary school.

  13. I don't think your link is active any more, Wieland. But the piece is now available on archive.org: