The Story of the Bodmer Papyri: From the First Monastery’s Library in Upper Egypt to Geneva and Dublin

By James M. Robinson

An exercise in bibliographical history, tracing the provenance of the Bodmer Papyri, one of the key collections of manuscripts relating to the New Testament.

ISBN: 9780227172780


The Bodmer Papyri consist of some thirty-five books, in Coptic and in Greek, as well as various fragments, pagan and Christian, and have proved an invaluable resource for the study and interpretation of the New Testament.

James Robinson scrupulously traces the story of the Bodmer Papyri from the history of their discovery, their acquisition by various institutions and individuals, current locations and study. He examines the form of the cache of manuscripts which consist not only of papyri but also of codex and scrolls, most of which are located at the celebrated Bibliothèque Bodmer near Geneva. However a large number are at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, a circumstance to which the second chapter is devoted, and a few are widely dispersed in Mississippi, Cologne, and Barcelona. In Egypt the manuscripts are known as the Dishna papers, since that is the name of the large town where they were sold. Robinson reveals that the manuscripts are the last remnants of the library of the Pachomian monastic order of Egypt, the result of his commission by the United Nations Educational and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to track down the location of the Nag Hammadi Codices discovery.

Robinsons’ sweeping work will fascinate bibliophiles and any individual seeking a physical history of the treasure trove of the Bodmer Papyri.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 224

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

James M. Robinson is Professor of Religion Emeritus at Claremont Graduate University, where he was founder and Director of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity. As permanent secretary of UNESCO’s International Committee for the Nag Hammadi Codices, he edited The Coptic Gnostic Library, reprinted in five volumes (2000); among his many other publications is Language, Hermeneutic, and History.



Part One
1. The Bodmer Papyri
2. Bodmer Papyri in the Chester Beatty Library

Part Two
3. Mississippi, Cologne, Barcelona
4. The Dishna Papers
5. The Pachomian Library

Appendix 1: The Pachomian Monastic Library at the Chester Beatty Library and the Bibliothèque Bodmer
Appendix 2: List of Papyrus Bodmer Publications

Collectors, Dealers, Scholars, and Institutes
Glossary of Technical Terms
Index of Names


Endorsements and Reviews

Only James M. Robinson – based largely on first-hand experience – could recall, review, and evaluate the intricate details of the discovery and collection of the Dishna papers, which became part of the ‘Bodmer Papyri’. In a detective-like fashion, he traces the complex history of this sizable collection, utilizing conversations, letters, and reports from native discoverers, Egyptian antiquities dealers, collectors of manuscripts, museum curators and conservators, as well as papyrologists, Coptologists, and editors of Greek, Latin, and Coptic texts. This history can never again be retrieved, and Robinson’s account will serve all future generations.
Eldon Jay Epp, author of Perspectives on New Testament Textual Criticism

To this huge advance in our knowledge of Christian-Coptic ‘Gnosticism’ [Robinson] has now added the story of his involvement with the puzzles posed by the Greek and Coptic Bodmer Papyri (BP) and their contribution to other parts of early Christian literature and history … No one is better qualified to unravel them. Robinson has written a very readable and detailed account.
J. Lionel North, in Journal of Theological Studies, Vol 64, No 2

There are two main aims to the book. The first is to produce evidence that manuscripts from a number of other collections, including the Chester Beatty Library, are part of the same find as nearly all the Bodmer papyri. The second is to argue that this find was made in the neighbourhood of Dishna and that it represents the library of a Pachomian monastery.
David Parker, University of Birmingham, in Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol 65, No 1

… this book is an important contribution to understanding one of the most significant manuscript discoveries of the twentieth century. … The volume will be of particular interest to New Testament textual critics and those interested in early Christian Coptic history.
Paul Foster, University of Edinburgh, in The Expository Times, Vol 125, No 3

This volume is the dense and detailed magnum opus of Robinson’s research into the provenance and history of early Christian papyri from Upper Egypt. … The book is comprehensively researched and Robinson’s career of academic heavy lifting is obvious. He illustrates clear first-hand knowledge of the manuscripts, a familiarity with relevant secondary sources, has accessed numerous unpublished letters, and has conducted his own interviews on the ground. The care and totality with which the history of these discoveries has been documented in this volume is impressive. This volume is the culmination of a lifetime of research.
Garrick V. Allen, in Reviews in Religion & Theology, Vol 21, Issue 3