Vatican Shadows

A couple of days ago, the Vatican library opened free online access to hi-res photos of what is generally believed to be one of the oldest books in the world, P75, the remains of a papyrus book of the Christian Gospels in Greek that is commonly dated to the third century. That turned out to be the story of the year on this blog, with over 900 reads, 85 retweets and 7,500 Twitter impressions.

[The next two grafs have been revised, after I realized that I had posted on the same topic in January this year, and clean forgot.] P75 got me interested in the library's other Bodmer papyrus, donated to it in 1969, the famous P72, shelved as Pap.Bodmer.VIII. The new digital site neither indexes nor mentions it on the front page of the digital manuscripts site.

The old BAV portal's link still gives you access to Pap.Bodmer.VIII, a booklet of epistles, containing all the text of 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude. [This link I am giving you is not a secret, but rather one forgotten by the designers of the new portal. My apologies for overstating the case, when I first put this post up and claimed I had "discovered" the link.]

The writing on the P72 papyrus is thought to date to the 3rd or 4th century, roughly of the same period as the Codex Vaticanus, probably the world's oldest intact parchment codex.

The Wikipedia entry notes that P72 was dismembered from the "Bodmer Miscellaneous Codex," a little book dug from the sands of Egypt in which other works were: Nativity of Mary, the apocryphal correspondence of Paul to the Corinthians, the Eleventh Ode of Solomon, Melito's Homily on the Passover, a fragment of a hymn, the Apology of Phileas, and Psalm 33 and 34.

We don't know if  P72, where you can see the folds in the folios, is the oldest papyrus codex in existence, but Brent Nongbri, the Australian scholar, has recently argued: "It would seem that P.Bodm. VIII had a previous life, in which it preceded another work that was later removed when P.Bodm. VIII became part of the ‘Miscellaneous’ or ‘Composite’ codex." So it could be years or decades older than other parts of the codex.

You can read his short paper on his Academia.edu page, as well as a blog post he wrote.

As for P75 (the gospels), its date of making has long been estimated to be the 3rd century, but Nongbri published a critique this year in the Journal of Biblical Literature where he argued that this date is slapdash (my word, not his) and that the correct date is more likely to be 4th century, more or less of the same period as the Codex Vaticanus. I'll have more as the story continues.

Aside from all this excitement, the BAV has this week released an additional 34 items. Here is the full list:
  1. Vat.ebr.32,  - Details
  2. Vat.ebr.33, - Details
  3. Vat.ebr.230, - Details
  4. Vat.ebr.250, - Details
  5. Vat.ebr.270.pt.1, - Details
  6. Vat.ebr.270.pt.2 - Details
  7. Vat.ebr.271 - Details
  8. Vat.ebr.283 - Details
  9. Vat.ebr.286 - Details
  10. Vat.ebr.289 - Details
  11. Vat.ebr.296 - Details
  12. Vat.lat.276 - a 12th-century Augustine in Caroline minuscule with some Beneventan script on fols 258v-260v (my thanks to AaronM on Twitter for this info: https://twitter.com/gundormr/status/756196478452924416), Details
  13. Vat.lat.288 - Ambrose of Milan, Details
  14. Vat.lat.295 - Ambrose, Details
  15. Vat.lat.296 - a 10th-century Ambrose, Details
  16. Vat.lat.373 - made for the Renaissance bishop Pietro del Monte (c. 1400–57), from fol 111 he added the prologue to his Repertorium utriusque iuris, a major legal text - Details
  17. Vat.lat.650 - a 10th-century compilation with Alcuin and others, many very faint pages have also been scanned with what seems to be ultraviolet light. Details
  18. Vat.lat.674 - 14th century theological and scientific: here are some shape diagrams in the margin in a geometrical piece (140v, rotated):
      second half empty, Details
  19. Vat.lat.740 - Aquinas, Details
  20. Vat.lat.773 - Details
  21. Vat.lat.775 - Details
  22. Vat.lat.778 - Details
  23. Vat.lat.779 - Details
  24. Vat.lat.786 - Details
  25. Vat.lat.789 - Details
  26. Vat.lat.813 - Details
  27. Vat.lat.819 - Details
  28. Vat.lat.834 - Giles of Rome, Quaestiones, Details
  29. Vat.lat.836 - Giles of Rome, c. 1243-1316, Commentarius in librum II Sententiarum, Details
  30. Vat.lat.837 - ditto, Details
  31. Vat.lat.852 - Details
  32. Vat.lat.866 - Details
  33. Vat.lat.875 , Details,
  34. Vat.lat.14747 , an 18th century fair copy cataloguing the authors in the papal collection of printed books, the seventh volume, arranged by names, S-Z. Here is the pen drawing for S:
This is Piggin's Unofficial List 61. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to Digita Vaticana.


  1. Jean, FYI, P72 has been online for some months. http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/images-of-pbodmer-viii-p72-on-line.html

  2. Yes, I realized later that it had been part of one of my January 2016 roundups and I had completely forgotten it. I've revised the post to remove the incorrect claim that I had some uncovered a secret link. Thanks for paying such close attention and outpointing.