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One of the oldest books in existence expected to fetch over $2.6 million at auction

An Egyptian book written at the dawn of Christianity and considered one of the oldest books in existence will be auctioned in June in London.

The Crosby-Schoyen Codex – written in Coptic on papyrus around 250-350 AD and produced in an early Christian monastery – has an estimated sale value of between $2.6 million and $3.8 million, according to Christie’s.

Eugenio Donadoni, senior specialist in medieval and Renaissance manuscripts at Christie’s, examines one of the oldest books in existence, the Crosby-Schoyen Codex, ahead of an auction in New York on April 2, 2024. Andrew Hofstetter

“It’s exactly at this period, this transitional period, that papyrus scrolls start to turn into codices,” said Eugenio Donadoni, senior specialist in medieval and Renaissance manuscripts at Christie’s.

“So, books as we know them today. And what we have in this book are the earliest known texts of two books of the Bible.

The 104 pages (52 folios) were written by a scribe over a period of 40 years in a monastery in Upper Egypt and are preserved behind Plexiglas.

The codex contains the first epistle of Peter and the book of Jonah.

Donadoni attributes its preservation to Egypt’s dry climate, adding that only a handful of books from the 3rd and 4th centuries have survived to the present day.

“All the major discoveries of Christian manuscripts that we had in the 20th century and late 19th century are all concentrated in Egypt for these very specific climatic conditions,” he said.

A person shows off one of the oldest books in existence, the Crosby-Schoyen Codex, which is expected to fetch more than $2.6 million at auction. REUTERS
The codex contains the first epistle of Peter and the book of Jonah. REUTERS

The codex was discovered in Egypt in the 1950s and acquired by the University of Mississippi, where it remained until 1981.

Norwegian manuscript collector Dr. Martin Schoyen acquired it in 1988 and is now putting it up for auction along with other key pieces from his Shoyen Collection, one of the largest private manuscript collections in the world.

The codex is on display at Christie’s New York from April 2 to 9 and will be auctioned in London on June 11.

New York Post

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