As a devotee of all things Egyptian, I am particularly fascinated by this papyrus fragment, one of the treasures of Special Collections. Written nearly 1800 years ago, it is one of the oldest items in the library.
This fragment was excavated from the rubbish heaps of the ancient city of Oxyrhynchus in Egypt in 1903-04. Inscribed on only one side, it was originally part of a papyrus roll containing the Gospel of St John which was produced some time in the late third century. The paper is made from the papyrus reed and owes its survival to the extreme aridity of Egypt where it was buried for so long.
Written in two columns in Greek, the text is of part of chapters fifteen and sixteen from John’s Gospel. In this section, Christ teaches the disciples, telling them to ‘Ask and ye shall receive’. These fragments are one of a number donated to the library by the Egypt Exploration Society – read more about this.