This project, which began in 1998 under the direction of Dr Dirk
Obbink, Tutor in Greek Literature (Christ Church), works to capture
digitised images of Greek and Latin papyri at Oxford and Naples,
for the creation of an Oxford bank of digitised images of papyri.
The newly digitised versions of the literary texts will be published.
The collection of papyri housed at Oxford represents a sizeable
amount of ancient manuscripts, published and unpublished, of Greek
and Latin authors and historical documents (3rd century BC-7th century
AD). Housed in the Ashmolean (mainly from Oxyrhynchus in Egypt)
and in the Bodleian (from Herculaneum in Italy), the latter are
largely the works of the Epicurean philosopher Philodemus (ca. 110-40
BC), which were carbonised and thus preserved by the eruption of
Vesuvius in 79 AD. More originals are housed in the Biblioteca Nazionale
P.Oxy 2075 © Imaging Papyri Project
The papyri in the Ashmolean were recovered from the rubbish heaps
of Oxyrhynchus and other Graeco-Roman towns and brought to England
in the late 19th century. They preserve the works of numerous lost
Greek authors, as well as important historical documents, private
letters, and imperial decrees. The Herculaneum papyri are being
re-edited with a translation and brief commentary by an international
team (first volume: Philodemus On Piety, editor D Obbink, Oxford
1996). The Oxyrhynchus Papyri are edited by a working group of students
and scholars from around the world (a Major Research Project of
the British Academy) and are published annually in The Oxyrhynchus
Papyri (67 volumes to date).
The work is very painstaking: the aim is to reconstruct as much
as possible of each original papyrus roll and then to reconstruct
the text. The reconstruction requires a constant sequence of conjecture,
objection, improvement, and eventually, agreement. No single scholar
can see all that needs to be done.
B.Grenfell and A. Hunt excavating in the Fayune, Egypt. © Imaging Papyri Project
The papyri are also used for teaching purposes and provide the
material of dissertations. At the same time, digital and scanning
technologies offer a wide range of possibilities for improved readings
and transmission of images. Digitally recorded images of the papyri
can be captured and enhanced for further legibility; this data can
then be indefinitely stored for future use and dissemination. Images
can be linked to on-line versions of edited texts with translations,
for simultaneous viewing, study, and improvement. The papyri, originally
found together, were separated by dealers and collectors and now
reside separately in numerous European collections.
The objective of the project is to create a data-bank of digitised
images of papyri, photographs, and facsimiles at Oxford, internationally
renowned as a centre for the study of ancient manuscripts, which
would facilitate instantaneous transmission of images to collaborators
and other interested parties, and allow for re-combination and collation
of pieces preserved separately. Since the images are permanently
storable, a welcome
by-product comes in the reduced user wear on the delicate original
papyri and facsimiles.
From P.Oxy.3577. A letter referring to Oxyrhynchus
© Imaging Papyri Project
An American consortium for imaging papyri in American collections
(APIS) has agreed to contribute a mirror image of its site for distribution
via the Oxford server to European users. We also implemented at
Oxford a copy of the data bank of on-line texts of documentary papyri
at Duke University (DDDP) for continued maintenance and development.
To this body of digitised texts will be added on-line texts of the
literary and subliterary papyri which will be further linked to
the archived images.
Director: Dr Dirk Obbink