Friday, December 05, 2008

P39 and 0313 Failed to Sell at Sotheby's

We have reported earlier on the blog, here, that P39 and 0313 were on sale in a Sotheby auction December 3 (Western & Oriental Manuscripts Sale: L08241). As Peter subsequently suggested in the comment section, neither of the MSS were sold.

Reuters, Dec 3, reports on P39:

"An unusually large fragment from possibly the oldest copy of part of the Gospel of John failed to sell at a Sotheby's auction on Wednesday.

But a compendium containing a previously unknown, 14th century manuscript of Medieval traveler Marco Polo's adventures along the Silk Road and into China the century before did fetch 937,250 pounds ($1.4 million), around four times its estimate.

The Gospel fragment, a torn piece of papyrus with Greek writing on it and dated to around 200 AD, had been expected to raise between 200,000 and 300,000 pounds.

Its failure to sell was the second setback for the auction, after the most valuable lot, an early Carolingian Gospel Book valued at 2.0-3.0 million pounds, was withdrawn 'at the request of the consignor.'"

Read the whole story here.

One of the interesting things with P39 is that its text agrees verbatim with Vaticanus, and nearly so with P75, and the beautiful calligraphy shows that it was produced by a professional scribe. See Reuters' full-size image here.

As for the other manuscript, 0313, two of our blogmembers have some personal affections to it (I presume), so I would guess they are very happy that the MS was not sold. From the Sotheby catalogue description:

"A fragment from an extremely early codex of Mark. This is Gregory-Aland 0313, one of a small group of early Christian manuscript fragments identified in an English collection about five years ago, first reported by P.M. Head in TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism (8) 2003, and cited by Dr Head in Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies 36 (2003), esp. p. 28, n.1, and in the Tyndale Bulletin (56) 2005, esp. p. 61, n.1. It is written up more fully in the current issue of the Journal of Theological Studies, n.s. 59 (October 2008). The text was originally identified by Dirk Jongkind, and the dating of the fragment is credited to the advice of Professor Herwig Maehler. It has also been photographed for the website of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, Frisco, Texas."


  1. Tommy, beautiful calligraphy shows that it was copied by an excellent, very competent, scribe, but how does it follow that "the beautiful calligraphy shows that it was produced by a professional scribe"? What does money have to do with it?

  2. Thanks Peter,

    Let us then say he was an excellent, very competent, scribe (who had copied many times before; hence, possibly a professional scribe).

    And, yet, no one apparetly wants to buy his work, so your right about the money.

  3. Or she. And she was probably beautiful, too.

  4. Yes, fair enough. The more beautiful then the more likely to have been a female scribe. And the date fits too.

  5. W.r.t. Eusebius, HE, VI.23:
    At that time also Origen’s commentaries on the divine scriptures had their beginning, at the instigation of Ambrose, who not only plied him with innumerable verbal exhortations and encouragements, but also provided him unstintingly with what was necessary. As [Origen] dictated there were ready at hand more than seven shorthand writers, who relieved each other at fixed times, and as many copyists, as
    well as girls trained for beautiful writing; for all of these Ambrose supplied without stint the necessary means.

  6. Now, we don't want to interpret this in within the context of 'a certain “phallic-centered” orthodoxy and sensibility' do we boys.

  7. I didn't see the description of the Gospel that didn't sell. Was it Vulgate or Itala?

  8. Daniel, if you mean the Carolingian Gospel book, it is not in any catalogue, since it was withdrawn, but it was most probably a Vulgate MS.