Friday 16 January 2015

Sappho and the Peripatetic Papyri (2) Pap.Robs

David Robinson
(University of Mississippi)
[Second of five posts on the collecting history of the 'New Sappho manuscript] The Christie's November 2011 manuscript sale Lot 1, ("Collection of Greek and Coptic Papyri Fragments, Egypt, 2nd to 4th century") contained among other things
A number of fragments belonged to the collection of David M. Robinson, a large part of which was subsequently bequeathed to the Library of the University of Mississippi. The collection is briefly described by William H. Willis in 'The New Collections of Papyri at the University of Mississippi', Proceedings of the IX International Congress of Papyrology, 1961, pp.381-82. Two of the packets were part of the collection of P. Deaton.
It is from these manuscripts that the Sappho fragments are reported to have come. So who was  David M. Robinson? The University of Mississippee has a large collection of artefacts owned by the scholar and is currently struggling to study and redisplay them. There is a Biographical Sketch of David M. Robinson (1880-1958) associated with the webpage of the collection. This esteemed scholar retired from Johns Hopkins University as Professor Emeritus of Art and Archaeology in 1947
and accepted an invitation from the University of Mississippi to be Professor of Classical Archaeology in the Department of Classics. He brought with him his vast collection of classical antiquities and continued to teach and publish there until his death in January, 1958. 
Robinson had accumulated a large collection of antiquities:
[an] extensive collection of Greek vases of all periods, Greek and Roman sculpture, bronzes, terracottas, inscriptions, coins, lamps, and household objects, there are collections of potsherds dating from the Neolithic Age to the Late Roman Empire. In all, there are more than 2,000 objects in the collection and many need further study. [...] [they] came to the University in part through the bequests and gifts of Professor Robinson and his widow Helen Tudor Robinson, but the bulk of the collection was purchased from the estate of Mrs. Robinson
The papyri seem to have been separated from the antiquities, and were subsequently bequeathed to the Library of the University of Mississippi.
Professor Robinson also bequeathed to the University his extensive collection of books and papers most of which are housed in the John Davis Williams Library. Robinson’s excavation notes and records from his famous exploration of Olynthus are maintained in the University Museums.
A number of papyri purchased by Robinson were sold by the library in the 1980s. Among them was the the Crosby-Schoyen Codex. This significant object was from the so-called "Bodmer Papyri", scattered between several European collections, including in Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, Genève, and Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. They probably came from a monastery at Faw Qibli (near Dishna), and had perhaps been buried for safety during the Arabic conquest, and not found until 1952 and dispersed through the antiquities market. These papyri all seem to have passed through the hands of several middlemen (see James M. Robinson, The Story of the Bodmer Papyri: From the First Monastery's Library in Upper Egypt to Geneva and Dublin, Cambridge) ending up with the dealer Sultan Maguid Sameda [of the Art Gallery Maguid Sameda, 55 Gambhouria Street in Cairo]. Sameda was reportedly the source of the papyri which Robinson cquierd for his personal collection and they were apparently purchased in the period 1953-55 (?). It is unknown what the relationship is (if any) between the fragments that ended up in this private collection (and thence at Christies in 2011) from and the Bodmer material.

What is also clear is that not all the material catalogued by Willis in 1961 was included in the Christie's sale. Or rather is not mentioned in the skimpy description proffered by Christies in their catalogue [I am grateful to Roberta Mazza for a copy of Willis]. 

In the Robinson papyri, according to Professor Obbink, the old professor had not noticed that there was a chunk of  a nice piece of literary text in fine bookhand of the third century and nice straight edges. A new piece of Sappho. The University of Mississippi librarians and those studying and cataloguing the collection (William H. Willis for example) did not notice it either. Odd that.

In 1981 (Robinson 2013, p. 89), the University Library later de - accessed many of these documents (including the Codex which is how Schoyen got it, and if we are to believe the new collecting history the Sappho came on the market). Reportedly they did this in order to raise money to purchase 'Faulkner materials'.

The Christie's sale blurb also mentions that another "two of the packets were part of the collection of P. Deaton”, Roberta Mazza identifies this as the "Egyptologist John Deaton who sold papyri to Brigham Young University in 1980". A John Charles Deaton of Richhmond, Virginia is listed here, is this the person concerned? What on earth are archaeologists doing buying, collecting and selling antiquities?

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