Description of the Collection
The Papyrus Collection of the National Museums in Berlin is the most important papyrus collection in Germany and ranks among the
five largest collections of its kind in the world. It contains some ten thousand papyri, 7000 ostraca, over 1000 parchments, about
500 papers, about 200 textiles with writings and paintings, over 100 wood and wax tablets, some leather book bindings and manuscripts
and a sheet of lead. About half of the texts is written in Greek, the rest in Egyptian, Aramaic, Hebrew, Syriac, Persian, Latin and
Arabic. Furthermore, the collection holds about 100 papyri and ostraca with drawings and paintings.
The holdings of the Berlin Papyrus Collection come from excavations in Egypt (Elephantine Theadelphia, Tebtynis etc.) in the early
20th century or were purchased and donated. The importance of the collection is based not only on its extent, but also on the possession
of important individual pieces and archives. Important examples of ancient Egyptian literature are two Sinuhe manuscripts, the "Dispute
between a Man and his Ba", the "Eloquent Farmer" and the tales of the Papyrus Westcar. Among Greek literary papyri the collection
contains the world's oldest surviving book role in Greek from the 4th century BC., which contains the musical poetry of Timotheos'
"The Persians", and a large fragment of the mostly lost comedy of Menander "The Kithara Player". Outstanding documentary pieces are
a marriage contract from the year 311 BC., the earliest dated document in Greek language, a tax-exemption from the offices of Cleopatra
and the extensive papyrus-roll "Gnomon of the Idios Logos", which served as a guide for a high Roman tax official. Among the Latin papyri
an excerpt from a speech on judicial reforms, which the Emperor Claudius delivered to the Roman senate, and a fragment from Cicero's
speech for Gnaeus Plancius are to be mentioned.
Berliner Griechische Urkunden (BGU), published volumes I–XIX, Berlin 1895–2005.
Berliner Klassikertexte (BKT), published volumes I–X, Berlin 1904–2012.