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Posted on Monday October 5, 2015

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

Greek holdings from the Bodleian Libraries

Collection of 2,470 images of Greek manuscripts which includes not only texts and illuminated manuscripts from the Byzantine empire and Renaissance Italy, but also an important accumulation of papyri from the ancient world.

The present collection starts with five of the most famous and fragile of the Bodleian's Greek holdings, in complete sets of recent scans. The D'Orville Euclid (AD 888) and the Clarke Plato (AD 895) were each made for and annotated by Arethas of Patrae, and survive as major witnesses for their respective texts. The other three items are each in their own way so fragile that their preservation in digital form is especially vital. The earliest is a papyrus roll from Herculaneum (P.Herc. 118), dating from before the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79: the roll was given to Oxford University by the Prince of Wales in 1810, and mounted in twelve frames when it was opened at Naples in 1883-4.

The 13th-century Byzantine manuscript, MS. Barocci 131, is a vast miscellany of classical and Byzantine texts by Michael Psellus and many others, some rare or unique to this witness; its early paper is softened and crumbling, and the scans allow close study of its tiny script. Finally, the 14th-century Menologion has suffered badly from the flaking of the paint-layers which is so characteristic of Byzantine illuminations: it depicted the saints in a rich sequence of miniatures which covered almost every page.