Rare 1,700-Year-Old Manuscript Anticipated to Garner Up to $3.8 Million in Auction (News)

Image courtesy of Christie’s.

In book collecting, a passionate niche is dedicated to acquiring ancient tomes of historical significance. For enthusiasts of this kind, a remarkable opportunity looms on the horizon: Christie’s, the renowned auction house, is set to present one of the oldest books known to humanity this June. Reuters reported that the coveted artifact is the Crosby-Schøyen Codex, an old-fashioned treasure.

Dating back to approximately 250 to 350 A.D., the Crosby-Schøyen Codex is poised to captivate collectors, with its estimated value ranging between $2.6 million to $3.8 million. This ancient manuscript is a testament to a pivotal juncture in the evolution of written texts. Eugenio Donadoni, Christie’s senior specialist in Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, elucidated on its significance, stating, “It’s right at that period, that transitional period, when papyrus scroll starts turning into codex form,” adding, “So, books as we know them today. And what we have in this book is the earliest known texts of two books of the Bible.”

Comprising 104 pages of Coptic script inscribed on papyrus over 40 years, the codex emanates from a monastery in upper Egypt. Its contents include notable religious texts such as the First Epistle of Peter and the Book of Jonah. Unearthed in Egypt during the 1950s, the exceptional preservation of the Crosby-Schøyen Codex owes much to the arid climate of its place of origin. Donadoni emphasized, “All the major finds of Christian manuscripts that we had in the 20th century and at the end of the 19th century are all concentrated in Egypt for those exact climactic conditions.”

Following its discovery, the Crosby-Schøyen Codex found temporary residence at the University of Mississippi until 1981. Subsequently, it found its way into the hands of the Norwegian manuscript aficionado Martin Schøyen in 1988. Now, after decades in the possession of Schøyen, the coveted manuscript is poised to change hands once more through Christie’s auction. Accompanying this rare gem are select items from Schøyen’s esteemed private collection, regarded as one of the most expansive manuscript compilations globally.

Shielded behind protective plexiglass, the Crosby-Schøyen Codex currently awaits admirers at Christie’s New York office before embarking on a journey to London, where it will take center stage at the auction on June 11th. While the anticipated price tag of $3.8 million is undoubtedly substantial, it pales compared to the staggering $38.1 million garnered by Sotheby’s for the Codex Sassoon, a 1,100-year-old Hebrew Bible, in the previous year.

Nevertheless, the Crosby-Schøyen Codex is an unparalleled relic of human history; its allure is matched only by the extraordinary sum it is expected to command.

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