A Guide to the University of Toronto’s Classics Department Papyrus Collection at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

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Barker, Clare
Papyrology , papyrus , Alan Samuel , University of Toronto , Thomas Fisher Library , Ancient Greek , Coptic , Arabic , Tax Receipt , Infra-red photography , digital collection , P. Hibeh , catalogue , third century BCE , damaged papyrus , stained papyrus , gesso , Rostovzteff-Welles , Bernard P. Grenfell , Arthur S. Hunt
The Classics Department Papyrus Collection at the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library was formed by Alan E. Samuel when he arrived at the University of Toronto in 1966. The collection consists of three inventory types: the Paper Towel (PT) Inventory, which was purchased in 1965 by Samuel when he was in Egypt; the Oxford University Gazette (OUG) Inventory, which consists of small fragments excavated from El Hibeh by Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt in 1902 and 1903; and the Rostovzteff-Welles (RW) Inventory, which consists of larger papyrus fragments from the same source as the OUG Inventory. The entire collection is described in an appended catalogue that provides information on the condition and contents of each inventory designation and lists the storage method, material type, language(s), proposed date(s), document type(s), number of fragments and dimensions. The collection consists mainly of Greek documents and letters extracted from Ptolemaic mummy cartonnage dating to the third century BCE, but there are also a few Demotic pieces, as well as late Greek papyri, three Coptic pieces and one Arabic letter. In order to make the papyri readily available for scholarship and decrease their handling, they were photographed in visible light and near infrared. The near infrared photographs improve the legibility of the ink by increasing its visibility through thin layers of gesso and certain stains. Additionally, the contrast of the ink against the papyrus background is high at near infrared wavelengths, which improves the legibility of extremely darkened papyri and effaced, faded and washed out ink. Three Ptolemaic documents that were poorly legible in visible light, but significantly improved in near infrared photographs, are also transcribed and translated in this paper: a receipt for various tax payments, a list of names and payments, and a list of names for tax collection in arrears.
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