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New Approaches to the Great Paris Magical Codex

10.13.2022 – 10.14.2022

Event Summary

The Bibliothèque Nationale de France preserves an extraordinary document: a fourth-century CE papyrus codex from Upper Egypt. This handbook is over seventy inscribed pages long and is equivalent in length to four or five normal-sized papyrus rolls. But despite its great size, it contains only fifty-three recipes, many of unusual length and complexity. The research team on the Transmission of Magical Knowledge project has been re-editing and re-translating all of the magical handbooks from Roman Egypt. This work has revealed that the papyrus codex from Upper Egypt, long understood as the “typical” or “model” handbook of the age, is, in fact, a marvelous outlier in the group, a manuscript that was probably never used for the preparation of quotidian magical spells, but rather a book to be read and to fire the imagination of its readers. This conference presented twelve talks focusing on special features of both its materiality and its content.

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