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The Papyrus Collection

The most extensive collection of papyri in Sweden belongs to Lund University Library. This collection consists of 800 papyri of varying content from Egypt, written in Greek during the first centuries B.C. and A.D. Among other papyri you will find a copy of a text from the Iliad, private letters, an astronomical calendar, receipts, leases etc. The collection is available in digital form on the net through APIS, an international organization for making papyri, ostraca and similar material accessible.

History of the collection

The collection was bought in Berlin in the 1930's from the coptologist Carl Schmidt, who was also a dealer in antiquities. Some of the envelopes containing the papyri have the signature 'Nahm', which might indicate that Carl Schmidt in turn bought the papyri from the antique dealer Maurice Nahman, active in Cairo and Paris.


In terms of chronology, geography and typology, the collection is not uniform. The main part consists of documentary papyri, but there are also literary texts. Several centuries separate the oldest papyri from the youngest, and they come from a variety of places in Egypt. Some are complete, others are very fragmentary; some are in good condition, others are not. They also differ much as far as the scripts are concerned. There are no rolls in the collection, only sheets that once have been parts of rolls as well as fragments from single sheets.

Among the papyri are e.g. a short extract of a song from Homer's Iliad, a fragment of a text by the historiographer Thucydides, parts of an astronomic calendar, several texts related to the administration of the temple in the village of Bakchias (today's Kom Umm-el-Atl), receipts, leases and letters.

Preservation and accessibility

From 2006 to 2009 a project was undertaken to preserve the papyri and make them accessible. The work was carried out by Dr. Karin Kulneff-Eriksson, Ph. D., in collaboration with APIS. The project was financed by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation. The Pilkington Floatglas company donated the glass plates in which the papyri now are kept. All the papyri were digitally photographed for publication and cataloguing in the APIS database.

You can browse and search the papyrus collection in, as well as other located collections of papyri.


Literature on papyri in the University Library collection (PDF, 0,1 MB, new tab)