Thursday, February 22, 2018

Papyri of the Iliad; Also: Academic Conventions

In my recent blog post entitled Manuscripts, I wrote:

"[...]several months ago, I sent a email to a distinguished scholar, asking him whether he could round out some areas of my knowledge of the Oxyrhynchus papyri project: Are any of the papyri still in the boxes Grenfell and Hunt put them into between 1897 and 1904? Are we approaching the state of things where all that is left are tiny little pieces of papyrus? Questions like that.

"He hasn't gotten back to me. That hurts my feelings, but it's entirely his prerogative, of course. Finally today I sent an email to the general guestions-and-suggestions-etc address of the Oxyrhynchus project, which is perhaps where I should've inquired to begin with."


In Studies in the Text and Transmission of the Iliad, Munich & Leipzig, 2000, p 87, West writes that, as the Egypt Exploration Society wished, he did not give any details of the 850 unpublished Oxyrhynchus papyri (Correction: 827 unpublished papyri used by West in his edition, plus 23 first published in Manfrdi et al, Papiri dell'Iliade, Florence, 2000. I think. Much of what I write in CI and about Classics on my blog should be proofread by experts before anyone thinks of taking it seriously, because of things I don't know and full-time academics do know.) used in his edition of the Iliad, 1998--2000, and he thanks them for their permission to now include their inventory numbers and summary details in his catalog of papyri of the Iliad, which contains a total of 1569 items.

Because of those details, I can see that those 850 papyri which in 2000 were either unpublished or published for the first time, are certainly not inconsequential little scraps. They seem generally to be about as big as most of the Homeric papyri already published. This does not give the impression that the Oxyrhynchus project is almost all out of significant papyri. I need to try to find out how many more have been published in the last 18 years, and discovered in that time, if the existence of those latter have been made known to the public.

To judge from West's pointed expression of thanks to the Egypt Exploration Society for their permission to divulge details about unpublished papyri, maybe the reason that neither the above-mentioned distinguished scholar nor anyone else from the EES has yet gotten back to me with details about unpublished papyri is that such details are conventionally thought of as proprietary secret knowledge of the EES, only rarely made public in extraordinary circumstances, such as when a scholar of West's stature is involved. I'm ignorant of the ways in which things are usually done in Classical Studies and papyrology, Perhaps I've been making making requests for information which are generally considered impolite at best. Consultation with some Classicists and papyrologists about mores and conventions, learning a little about the way things are usually done, certainly would do me no harm, and might save both myself and some scholars a great deal of future embarrassment.

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