Digital Papyri at Houghton Library

Image: Panegyricus, [ca. 100-130], MS Gr SM6162e.

Houghton Library’s collection of papyri consists of 84 manuscripts dating from the 3rd century BC to the 6th century AD. Most of the papyri come from Oxyrhynchus, but there are also papyri from Hibeh and from the Fayûm. The collection comprises both literary and documentary texts. They are all written in Greek except for one (P. Oxy. 6.987), which is a bookplate written in Coptic. These papyri were given to the Semitic Museum at Harvard by the Egypt Exploration Fund, London, between 1901 and 1909. The Semitic Museum received this “gift” in return for the purchase of a life membership in the Egypt Exploration Fund for $125 by Jacob H. Schiff, the museum’s principal benefactor. In 1960 the papyri were transferred to Houghton Library.

The papyri from Oxyrhynchus were first published by B. P. Grenfell, A. S. Hunt in the first six volumes of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (London, 1898-1908). The papyri from Fayûm were published by B.P. Grenfell, A.S. Hunt and D.G. Hogarth in Fayûm Towns and their Papyri (London, 1900) and those from Hibeh by B.P. Grenfell and A.S. Hunt in The Hibeh Papyri, I (London, 1906). Among the literary texts, the most notable and best preserved is a papyrus of the Panegyricus of Isocrates (SM 6261). The collection holds also papyri of Homer, Plato, Thucydides, Demosthenes, Menander, and the Gospels. The documentary texts include contracts, petitions, lists, tax receipts, letters and other types of documents. They are primary sources for the study of the political, administrative and social history of the Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt.

This Web site provides strategies for searching Houghton's papyri as well as links to bibliographies related to these materials that were compiled by the Library. Permission to publish from any papyrus is granted at the discretion of the Curator. See Houghton's Reproductions and Permissions page for more information.

The digitization of Houghton's manuscripts was supported by the Provost's Fund for Instructional Technology at Harvard University. The project was directed by Francesca Schironi, assistant professor in the Department of the Classics, in collaboration with William P. Stoneman, Florence Fearrington Librarian and acting curator of Early Books and Manuscripts for Houghton Library, and his staff. Information about the history of the collection was provided by James Armstrong, Assistant Curator of Collections in the Semitic Museum. As digital images of the papyri become available, we will provide links to them from this Web page as well as from the HOLLIS catalog.