The 'Crosby-Schøyen Codex' To Fetch Up To $3 Million In Auction

The 104-paged “Crosby-Schøyen Codex” is one of the world’s oldest books, which dates back as far as the third century A.D.

The Crosby-Schøyen Codex is one of the world’s oldest books from Alexandria, Egypt. It is a testament to human intellectual heritage that serves as a window into ancient Christian literature.

The codex can fetch up to $3 million, according to auction company Christie’s. It will go under the hammer in London on June 11.

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What the Schøyen Collection is

Norwegian businessman Martin Schøyen collected 1,000 volumes of early and later editions of different literatures around the world. His father, Engineer M.O. Schøyen (1896-1962), started The Schøyen Collection in 1920. The former extended their accumulation with ancient coins and other antiquities. 

The Schøyen Collection holds its headquarters in London and Oslo in Norway, with over 20,000 manuscripts of major cultural importance. 

The collection spans a diverse range of wisdom. They have excerpts from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Cairo Genizah of Hebrew MSS, the Oxyrhynchus hoard of classical papyri, among others. Now, their collection encompasses modern artifacts such as movie scripts and musical notations. 

The Schøyen Collection contains archives of world heritage manuscripts, both ancient and present-day materials.

“Single most important manuscript”

Christie’s included the Crosby-Schøyen Codex in its live auction event, Manuscript Masterpieces from The Schøyen Collection. It will commence on June 11. 

The Crosby-Schøyen Codex contains Bible texts from Jonah, 1 Peter, 2 Maccabees 5:27 to 7:41, Greek Bishop Melito of Sardis‘ Peri Pascha (On the Pascha, a homily; pp. 47-105), and an unidentified homily sermon for Easter. It dates back as early as the third century AD (250-350 AD), and is said to be one of the oldest manuscripts in codex form. It is made up of 104 pages and 52 leaves.

Britannica defined a codex as a manuscript containing Scripture, ancient literature, or historical records. It replaced the utilization of scrolls and wax tables which makes navigation easier and may also accommodate longer texts. 

According to The Schøyen Collection, the codex contains the earliest known texts of Jonah and 1 Peter. “Of the latter there is also a Greek papyrus slightly later, circa 300, from the same hoard, now in the Vatican,” the website said. “The present 1 Peter is copied from a Greek exemplar written before 2 Peter existed, i.e. ca. 60-130 AD.” They added the codex that recorded the “single most important” manuscript of the latter.

The "Crosby-Schøyen Codex" will be up for auction in June, with an estimate value that costs up to more than $3 million
The “Crosby-Schøyen Codex” will be up for auction in June, with an estimate value that costs up to more than $3 million /Photo from The Schøyen Collection’s website

The Schøyen Collection mentioned the ancient manuscript is part of the Bodmer Papyri, unearthed in the 1950s as per CBS News. The Bodmer Papyri had nine Greek papyrus scrolls, and vellum codices in Greek and “Sahidic (a dialect of the Coptic language).”

Up to $3.8 million for the Crosby-Schøyen Codex

A report from Reuters said the younger Schøyen was in possession of the codex in 1988. He will auction the Crosby-Schøyen Codex along with other manuscripts that are in his collection.

The codex has a value estimated between £2 million to £3 million (US$2.6 million to $3.8 million). 

The “Crosby-Schøyen Codex” originated in Alexandria, Egypt.

Christie’s Senior Specialist for Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts Eugenio Donadoni said through BBC that the text is a monumentally important witness to the early spread of Christianity in the Mediterranean. Donadoni explained ancient monks from Egypt used the codex to celebrate the earliest Easter celebrations. 

“The importance of the materials in this collection goes far beyond the scope of a private collection, or even a national public collection,” Christie’s said.

Their auction lot consists of other valuable holy manuscripts, like The Holkham Hebrew Bible ($1.8 million to $3.8 million), The Geraardsbergen Bible ($883,754 to $1.3 million), and The Venerable Bede ($378,810 to $631,253), among others.

Banner photo from The Schøyen Collection’s website.

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