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Details & Cataloguing

Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts

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The Louis de Vaucelles Papyrus, in Abnormal Hieratic [Egypt (Thebes), Third Intermediate Period, c.950-550 BC]
14 large fragments cut from a papyrus roll (with varying losses), each c.210x150mm and with up to 20 lines of text, written on both front and back, mounted in perspex
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Provenance





Catalogue Note

THE LOUIS DE VAUCELLES PAPYRUS, BROUGHT TO FRANCE FROM EGYPT PROBABLY IN 1826

From the collection of Count Alexandre Louis Henry de Vaucelles (1798-1851), Egyptologist and politician; thence by descent.

Papyrus written in Abnormal Hieratic is extremely rare, especially when it survives as a collection of 14 large fragments. Abnormal Hieratic (a highly cursive form of Hieratic) was used in the Theban area from the second half of the 20th Dynasty (1189-1077 BC) until the beginning of the 26th Dynasty (664-525 BC). It derives from the script of Upper Egyptian administrative documents and was used primarily for legal texts, land leases, letters, and other texts. This type of writing was superseded by Demotic – a Lower Egyptian scribal tradition – during the 26th Dynasty when Demotic was established as a standard administrative script throughout a re-unified Egypt. The present text was probably written in Thebes c.950-550 BC and comprises a fiscal register or cadastre for two years concerning the Nile valley. According to some modern notes (typescript, enclosed), the papyrus was written during the reign of Taharqa who was a pharaoh of the Ancient Egyptian 25th dynasty (690-664 BC). The text is unpublished and has not been studied in detail.

On his trip to Egypt in 1826, the young traveller and scholar Louis de Vaucelles was among the first European explorers to go beyond the second cataract of the Nile into the land of Nubia. He pioneered the field of Nubian studies with his book Chronologie des Monuments de la Nubie, which he published in Paris in 1829. The book draws inspiration from his manuscript notebook Journal de Voyage en Egypte et Nubie from 1826, which was kept together with the papyrus, but which will be sold separately in our rooms in Paris, 17 December 2015.

Jean François Champollion (1790-1832), appointed Conservator of the Egyptian collections at the Louvre, Paris, in 1826, made his sole visit to Egypt in 1828-29, conducting the first systematic survey of the country's monuments, history and archaeology. He mentions De Vaucelle in his letters and diaries (Lettres et Journaux de Champollion, H. Hartleben, ed., vol.1, 1902, p.272). Champollion also wrote on De Vaucelles' life and scholarly achievements (see 'Le Comte Louis de Vaucelles, 1798-1851, pionnier de l'égyptologie en Nubie', Revue d'égyptologie, 14, 1962, pp.7-20).

Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts

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London