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All Around the World from London to MA: Repurposing the Oldest Books in the Chapin Library

Tue, April 23rd, 2024
4:00 pm
- 5:30 pm

In the Chapin Library is a small, unassuming album bound in brown morocco leather. Inside are fragments of papyri inscribed with the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead constituting by far the oldest books in the college’s collections, as some fragments date back to the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt, ca. 1450 bce. The album is the result of papyrus reuse in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when less valuable pieces and flakes were assembled for the taste of collectors as a “book.” However, these papyri show evidence of ancient repurposing when the names of previous owners were erased and replaced by the name of a new owner.

This talk will focus on fragments of papyrus from the Chapin Library album that once belonged to a man name Padihor. Additional fragments of his papyrus now reside in the Morgan Library in New York and the Louvre in Paris. The Chapin Library fragments reveal an aspect that has yet to be reported; this sacred and expensive papyrus had previously belonged to a man named Amenemhat, whose name Padihor replaced with his own.

Speaker: Foy Scalf, Head of Research Archives at the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures of the University of Chicago, studies the intersection of ancient peoples, texts, and beliefs. His recent books include the edited catalog Book of the Dead: Becoming God in Ancient Egypt and a co-authored edition of The Archive of Thotsutmis, Son of Panouphis. He is currently working on catalogs of Book of the Dead manuscripts for the Getty Museum, the Huntington Library, and Williams College.

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