Archival Expeditions Module
P.Oxy. 1787 Sappho's Tithonos poem (fr. 58)

Welcome to our Archival Expedition on The Textual Transmission of Female Greek Lyric Poets!

In three sessions we will gain an understanding of the textual transmission of Greek lyric poetry from antiquity to today and see examples of how papyri document Greek performative culture. We will learn to distinguish a high-quality papyrus bookroll from a cheap copy, dive into the history of the Duke papyrus collection, and explore the role of Hellenistic libraries and scholars in preserving, commenting on, and editing ancient literature.

At the end of this module, you will be able to navigate Greek papyrus bookrolls, modern papyrus editions, and scholarship on the material culture preserving female Greek lyric poets. The tabs on Digital Resources and Terminology introduce you to resources available in the field of Literary Papyrology and at Duke University.

For W Sept 16, 2020

  1. Assignment

    Papyrus as a witness of ancient reading culture & scribal practices.

    Duke Prof. William Johnson is an expert in ancient reading culture and text production. As an introduction, watch his lecture From Bookroll to Codex (1 hour without Q&A) and answer the following questions in your notes:

    • What characterizes a high-quality papyrus bookroll vs. a cheap copy?
    • In which respects does an ancient text edition on papyrus differ from a modern one?
    • Who were the readers of bookrolls in antiquity?

    Optional: read or listen to

  2. Assignment

    The history of the Duke Papyrus Collection & the provenance of papyri.

    William H. Willis

    William H. Willis and John F. Oates joined the faculty of the Duke Department of Classical Studies in the 1960s and were leading papyrologists in the field. The two professors co-founded The Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri that gathers information about papyri worldwide and were instrumental in building the Duke papyri collection housed at the David. M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Read the 13-page article by William H. Willis (1985) on ➔ The Duke Papyri: A History of the Collection and answer the following questions in your notes:

    • Why are papyri significant witnesses for ancient texts?
    • Where do the Duke papyri come from? Critically review its sources and the ways in which it connects to other international papyrus collections.

    For F Sept 18, 2020 & F Sept 25, 2020

  3. Student Projects

    Papyrological Research projects on Sappho & Corinna.

    Investigate the textual transmission of one female Greek lyric poet in your research project and prepare a brief presentation. Briefly explain what makes your document interesting and show your findings on the digital image linked to your document. Tip: Comparing the papyrus transcription and image to your text edition helps you identify the places of interest.

    Project: Sappho's hymn to Aphrodite (fr. 2)

    Ostracon: PSI 13.1300

    Comparing the papyrus transcription to your text edition, mark any scribal errors and deviations in the text. Be prepared to point them out on the archival image. Based on your findings, what level of literacy and proficiency do you think the scribe had?

    Modern text edition


    Project: Sappho's Tithonos poem (fr. 58) & more poems

    Papyrus images: P.Oxy. 1787, P. COLON. inv. 21351+21376

    Ancient editing has shaped the modern discussion of poem divisions. P.Oxy. 1787 preserves two Sappho poems (fr. 58 and fr. 59). A coronis typically marks the end of a poem. Show the coronides that are preserved on the papyrus and explain what they indicate. Optional: Consult the linked article that compares the use of punctuation in P.Oxy. 1787 with the one in the Colone papyri and discusses the transmission of the Sapphic poems in Hellenistic times.

    Diplomatic transcription with coronides

    More info on coronides in the Cologne papyri p. 240 & 250

    Sappho on beauty and Helen of Troy (fr. 16)

    Papyri: P. GC inv. 105 and P. Oxy. 1231

    By comparing the papyrus transcription to your text edition, show the places in which the finding of P. GC inv. 105 has improved the reading of P. Oxy. 1231.

    ➔ Image and Transcription: ZPE 189 (2014): 1-28

    Project: Corinna PMG 654a col. iii

    Papyrus: ➔ P.Berol. inv. 13284 col. iii + ivP.Berol. inv. 13284 col. iii

    Next to column III of the papyrus, there are scholia that translate Boeotian forms into Attic Greek. Show the scholia and explain what they comment on. Refer to the Annotations Nr. 251 of Duke PhD graduate Kathleen McNamee for help. What do the scholia tell us about the ancient editor and reader of Corinna's poem?

    K. McNamee, Annotations 237–240, Nr. 251

    Diplomatic Transcription

    Project: Corinna PMG 655 fr. 1

    Papyrus: P.Oxy. 23.2370

    Before Corinna's poem three words are preserved on the papyrus ('Apollonius'; 'or Ares'). What does the editor Edgar Lobel and the scholar Martin West argue (a) about the audience of Corinna's Boeotian poems and (b) the place of PMG 655 among Corinna's works? What role does the preface play in their argument?

    Diplomatic transcription

    M. L. West, CQ 20 (1970) 277-287

    Project: Erinna 4

    Papyrus: PSI 9.1090

    Show us on the digital image the scribal practices that Prof. William Johnson observes in the papyrus (PSI 9.1090 = 2373). What does Prof. Johnson infer from these practices and from the quality of the papyrus edition about the scribe and reader?

    W. A. Johnson (2004) Bookrolls and Scribes in Oxyrhynchus: pp. 17-18.

    Articulated transcription

  4. Assignment

    The Hellenistic scholars at work.

    Read the ➔ chapters on The Library of the Museum and Hellenistic Scholarship and Other Hellenistic Work (14 pages in total) and answer the following questions in your notes:

    • Does the Hellenistic scholarship on ancient texts differ from today's scholarship in Classical Studies? Why/why not?
    • How did the Hellenistic scholars leave their imprint on our modern text editions?

    If you have any questions about an assignment, contact

Digital Resources

How to find papyri of ancient works: the Leuven Database of Ancient Books (LDAB) has long been the common starting point to find fragments of ancient bookrolls and codices. In addition, the Database of the Centre de Documentation de Papyrologie Littéraire (CeDoPal) hosted by the University of Liège, Belgium, is useful for finding literary papyri and bibliography on individual fragments. To search for the fragments of a specific author such as Corinna or Sappho, select Author and Include the delendum in your search, then hitSearch. Once you have identified where the papyrus is located, you can search for the collection and enter in its databse the call number in order to find more details and possibly a digital image.

Are you puzzled about what the abbreviations of print editions stand for? This checklist is a handy tool to identify the primary edition of an ancient papyrus. The checklist was begun by Duke professors William Willis and John Oates and continues to be updated by Duke Prof. Joshua Sosin. The Papyrology Room does not as its name suggests host the Duke papyri modern scholarship on ancient papyri that is assembled in one place and accessible through a cardreader. You can request access privileges from the Business Manager of the Duke Classical Studies Department.

The Duke Papyrology Room hosts modern scholarship and editions of ancient papyri. It is located on the first level of Perkins Library opposite the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Reading Room. Its shelves are organized according to the following categories from left to right and within them in alphabetical order: papyrus editions – ostraca editions – tablet editions – SammelbuchBerichtigungsliste (list of corrections) – corpora – series – instrumenta – congresses proceedings – Demotic – journals. Here you find the elaborate shelf list.

The Databank of The Paleography of the Papyri PapPal hosts the images of dated payri (that preserve an ancient document on the back, e.g.) and thus offers valuable comparanda for estimating the date of other papyri and studying the diversity of ancient scripts.

The Duke Papyri are stored in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Room. To request one or several for on-site study, you must first register as a researcher with the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and request them through the Duke Catalogue. To find a papyrus in the catalogue, look up its call number starting with p.Duk.inv in the Duke Papyrus Archive, that was started by the Duke Research Associate Peter van Minnen. Then request the call number through the main library catalogue.

Papyrological Terminology

The University of Michigan Library provides a papyrus glossary of terms used by scholars to discuss ancient papyri and scripture. The introduction of Turner's (1987) Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World (GMAW ) pp. 1-23 discusses the papyrological terms in context and refers to the description of papyri in the same handbook in which the terms appear. Since the handbook shows images of all the discussed papyri, GMAW is a good place to get more familiar with visual markers in papyri. ➔ Extract from Turner.

If you would like to get a feel of literary papyri from different centuries and scribes, I recommend the following books that provide a sneak peak of dated papyri with images and a description of their most interesting features. They have been used in scholarship for the paeleographic dating of literary papyri (i.e. by comparing characteristics of scribes' writing styles) and can be found in the Duke Papyrology Room.

Ancient book production and scribal practices can be studied in more depth in William A. Johnson (2004) Bookrolls and Scribes in Oxyrhynchus and the Duke classes CLST 360 The History of the Book, LATIN 584S Latin Palaeography, and GREEK 586S Papyrology.