From May 28th to 31st, I was able to work at the Asian and African Manuscripts Room of the British Library examining several Coptic Old Testament manuscripts. Ilana Tahan, Lead Curator of Hebrew and Oriental Studies in the British Library, was extremely welcoming and instrumental in the success of my research trip.
First, Ms Tahan and I finalized the creation of a showcase of BL Ad. 17183, a Coptic-Syriac palimpsest Biblical manuscript. It was decided that our colleague, Theresa Kohl, will create a Collection Items entry for the British Library homepage that will briefly describe the manuscript and also provide a link to our site where visitors could view all of the multi-spectral images of the Book of Ruth and Ms. Kohl’s digital transcription of that Coptic text.
Furthermore, I managed to examine eight manuscripts (most of them in very fragmented forms) that are not fully or at all represented in our photographic records and establish in what form they are; how they are stored; and how relevant they are to our project.
Most importantly, though, during this visit at the British Library, I was able to start my codicological survey of Or. 5000 (previously published by E. A. Wallis Budge, The Earliest Known Coptic Psalter, 1898). Around 100 years ago the manuscript was taken apart from its original binding (the binding is still there but kept separately) and placed in glass frames, 2 folia in each frame. All together the manuscript can be found now in 154 frames. This division was done in order to preserve the papyrus folia better. Even in the short period I had to work with the first folia of Or 5000 I was able to detect several corrections and possible manuscript preservation attempts by the initial scribe that are not easily visible in our black and white images. I plan to finish the study of the rest of the folia in the near future.