A mind-blowing price has been announced for the world’s oldest Christian book

A mind-blowing price has been announced for the world's oldest Christian book


Coptic papyrus valued at millions of dollars

One of the world’s earliest books is expected to fetch more than $2.6 million when it goes up for auction later this year. The Crosby-Schoyen Codex, written on Coptic papyrus in Egypt, is the earliest Christian liturgical book, according to international auction house Christie’s, which will auction in London on June 11.

The codex, consisting of 52 leaves, or 104 pages, is said to have been written by a single scribe over a period of 40 years in a monastery in Upper Egypt.

According to CNN, carbon dating suggests the book was written sometime between the mid-3rd and 4th centuries. One of the earliest evidence of the spread of Christianity, the codex contains the first letter of Peter and the Book of Jonah.

The pages are stored behind plexiglass in two locked wooden boxes. Christie’s auction house estimated their value at $2.6-3.8 million.

The codex is part of the Bodmer papyri, which were discovered in the 1950s and include biblical texts, Christian scriptures and pagan literary texts.

It was eventually acquired by the University of Mississippi, where it remained until 1981. It changed hands several times in the 1980s before being acquired by Norwegian manuscript collector Martin Schoen in 1988. This makes the codex the oldest known book in private hands.

Eugenio Donadoni, a senior specialist in books and manuscripts at Christie’s in London, told CNN in an email that the rarity would be of “interest to both institutions and individuals.”

“Crosby-Schoyen provides early evidence of a development in culture and textual transmission, as well as in the history of the book, that was unparalleled in significance until the invention of the Gutenberg printing press and the 20th century revolution in electronic publishing and communications,” he said.

“This is one of the earliest copies of the book as we know it today, and as it is in private hands, it is unlikely that anything like it will ever come to auction again.”

Donadoni added: “This is of great significance as evidence of the early spread of Christianity throughout the Mediterranean: the first monks in Upper Egypt, in the earliest Christian monastery, used this very book to celebrate the first Easter holidays, just a few hundred years after the birth of Christ and just a hundred years or so after the last Gospel was written.”

“The manuscript contains the two earliest complete texts of two books of the Bible, 1 Peter and Jonah, which were used in Easter services,” the expert noted.

According to the catalog published by Christie’s, the codex’s good preservation is largely due to the “favorable climatic conditions” in Egypt, where the manuscript was discovered.

The codex was included among a larger collection of “masterpieces of manuscript art” from the Cheyenne Collection, which Christie’s describes as “one of the largest and most complete collections of manuscripts ever assembled.”

The codex is currently being auctioned at Christie’s in New York, where it will remain until April 9.


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