Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Coptic Manuscripts on Ebay

Every once in a while, I check what is being ripped to pieces and put on sale over at Ebay. I notice today that there are actually a number of whole manuscripts on sale, which is something of an improvement. In addition to the separation of manuscripts, I find the sales to be particularly duplicitous; Bohairic (Coptic) manuscripts are often advertised as 11th century which would be equivalent to finding a 6th century Greek uncial. Our earliest Classical Bohairic manuscripts come from the 11th century (although there is a catena from the 9th, and two continuous old Bohairic manuscripts from the 4th). It would be a wonder if this particular Turkish seller had found a treasure trove of 11th century manuscripts! Most Bohairic manuscripts date to the 18th and 19th centuries. If I knew how to report him, I would.

Caveat emptor!

In my opinion, ancient manuscripts should only be sold on Ebay under two conditions.
1) Each manuscript must be digitized.
2) Each manuscript must be classified by a designated scholar.

Scholars could volunteer their opinions. Buyer and seller would both be protected. Ebay's reputation would remain sound. It would not take a great deal of time on anyone's part, and would at least produce a (somewhat shoddy) image database of manuscripts which would otherwise be destroyed.


  1. Sorry, this is not a comment on the blog, but i am looking for a way to get in touch with Dr. Robinson to discuss the Byzantine Greek NT. Could anyone help me?

  2. I think this is a good idea, it is probably worth following up. I suspect that you would find some good support from special collections libraries in lobbying for this.