THE SCHØYEN COLLECTION.

The Schøyen Collection is “a means to preserve and protect for posterity a wide range of written expressions of belief, knowledge and understanding from many different cultures throughout the ages”; from the Introduction:

The Schøyen Collection comprises most types of manuscripts from the whole world spanning over 5000 years. It is the largest private manuscript collection formed in the 20th century.
The whole collection, MSS 1-5381, comprises 13,642 manuscript items, including 2,242 volumes. 6,850 manuscript items are from the ancient period, 3300 BC – 500 AD; 3,851 are from the medieval period, 500 – 1500; and 2,941 are post-medieval. There are manuscripts from 134 different countries and territories in 120 languages and 184 scripts.

The Contents page divides the collection into The Bible (The Hebrew and Aramaic Bible, The Greek New Testament and the Septuagint, The Coptic Bible translation, etc.), History, Literature, and Palaeography (The beginning of writing and the first alphabets, Greek book scripts, etc.); here, for example, is what they call “the earliest alphabetical writing known” (Canaanite West Semitic on bronze, Israel/Palestine, 18th – 17th c. BC). I don’t know how seriously to take their descriptions (they seem overenthusiastic about the possible age of the Australian objects), but the items themselves are remarkable and a pleasure to investigate. Thanks, David!

Comments

  1. Well, it will be nice to tell the Chinese that AUSTRALIA, not China, has the oldest “single symbols, glyphs, marks representing names, places, tracks, gods”!
    Of course, they would never admit it. I’m sure that they’ll find some way to stretch 5,000 years of history back to 20,000, so that China retains its invincible position of “oldest living culture in the world”.

  2. There’s some pretty interesting stuff there, like this Qumran fragment. One of Ed’s commenters notes the fact that the provenance of some items has been questioned and, additionally, there was a controversy concerning Aramaic incantation bowls some time ago. But still, most if it is definitely legit and quite amazing.

  3. Crown, A. J. P. says:

    “oldest living culture in the world”
    @ dressing gown: Are the Australian ones from living culture? (I’m only asking, not arguing.)

  4. Crown, A. J. P. says:

    “oldest living culture in the world”
    @ dressing gown: Are the Australian ones from living culture? (I’m only asking, not arguing.)

  5. I was thinking of the Aborigines. How alive their culture is is another question.

  6. Ah, Norwegian. I was wondering why the name looked wrong …
    I guess the “Sørenssen” with tow esses (ss?) shoulda tipped me off.

  7. Crown, A. J. P. says:

    I thought -sen was swansk.

  8. Crown, A. J. P. says:

    I thought -sen was swansk.

  9. I’m putting my Aboriginal Studies 101 hat on.
    1. Yes, there’s a heap of active Aboriginal cultures still practised.
    2. It doesn’t make much sense to talk about a ‘single’ Aboriginal culture, since ‘Aboriginal’ identity is itself a post-invasion phenomenon. Maybe it makes sense in the context of, say, “European” culture, where there are both commonalities but also extensive differences. The same is true in ancient Australia.
    3. Are there still Aboriginal people in Western NSW who are the descendants of the people who made these items? Well, maybe. There are still plenty of Aboriginal people in Western NSW, and they have an active and distinctive culture (although it’s changed, just like all cultures change – English people aren’t any less English for having adopted the use of gun powder, watches, spectacles, and telephones, after all). Are they the descendants of the people who made those items? Who knows.
    @Hat, Re the dates: the incurable cynic in me wishes to suggest that they carbon-dated the lithic items…

  10. Crown, A. J. P. says:

    English people aren’t any less English for having adopted the use of spectacles
    You haven’t seen my spectacles. They’re totally foreign; when I look it the looking glass in the bathroom I see a Swede.

  11. Crown, A. J. P. says:

    English people aren’t any less English for having adopted the use of spectacles
    You haven’t seen my spectacles. They’re totally foreign; when I look it the looking glass in the bathroom I see a Swede.

  12. Claire, C-14 wouldn’t do much for earthenware. One’d use thermoluminescence, but that’s still less reliable and requires some knowledge of the radioactive background. And it requires the clay to have been burned.

  13. Also it might well be Swedish. I’m embarrassingly uninformed about Scandinaviana.

  14. John Emerson says:

    Kron looking into a mirror in that way would be a spectacle of spectacles.

  15. Sir Arthur Crown says:

    I’ve been informed by Lady Crown that the Swede in the bathroom glass was nothing to do with my specs, it was just the plumber.

  16. David Marjanović says:

    Carbon-dating only works with… carbon. Organic matter to be precise.
    ————
    If it’s written with ø rather than ö, it can’t be Swedish.

  17. -son Swedish, Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian (Nynorsk)
    - sen Danish, Norwegian

  18. Crown, A. J. P. says:

    I’ve been learning about Icelandic horse names from my daughter. Icelandic horses are rather unusual, they have an extra gait, called tilting, between trotting and cantering, and they are only bred in Iceland, to ensure that the traits of the breed don’t get watered down. Ask, is the ‘Adam’ of Adam and Eve in nordic myths (Embla is Eve). So the horse my daughter rides, Askur, is Ask, plus the ending for Icelandic stallions’ names: -ur. Mares’s names end either in -a or have no additional ending.
    WARNING: there may be mistakes in my explanation, but I think it’s roughly correct. Maybe Magnus knows more about this…

  19. Crown, A. J. P. says:

    I’ve been learning about Icelandic horse names from my daughter. Icelandic horses are rather unusual, they have an extra gait, called tilting, between trotting and cantering, and they are only bred in Iceland, to ensure that the traits of the breed don’t get watered down. Ask, is the ‘Adam’ of Adam and Eve in nordic myths (Embla is Eve). So the horse my daughter rides, Askur, is Ask, plus the ending for Icelandic stallions’ names: -ur. Mares’s names end either in -a or have no additional ending.
    WARNING: there may be mistakes in my explanation, but I think it’s roughly correct. Maybe Magnus knows more about this…

  20. Sili and all the others who pointed out that C14 dating wouldn’t work in this case, that was … ummm…. why I said the “cynic” in me. Normally Language Hat readers get sarcasm…

  21. Mine apologies. I’m a bit thick.

  22. Don’t know if anyone checks the old comments, but to A.J.P Crown: yeah, you’re mostly correct. But -ur is for all males, not just stallions. So Ask and Embla is Askur and Embla in Icelandic.
    Funny thing: Icenaldic Wikipedia has a (short) article on Ask and Embla, but none on Adam and Eve…http://is.wikipedia.org/wiki/Askur_og_Embla

  23. I think I just confused it further. But -ur is not just for stallions.

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