Herculaneum papyri - "great seal of antiquity" - Howard Townsend, 1863

Steven Avery


The Howard Townsend (1823-1867) talk of 1863 (which is helpful for some timeline components) brings up some interesting points and adds to the timeline.

The Sinai Bible Or Bibliorum Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus: Read Before the Albany Institute, December 15, 1863
Howard Townsend


One note is how the CFA is still not connected to the Sinaiticus ms. Even when the mss are together in Leipzig. Why?

The answer is colourful and clear. The colours don't match, so Tischendorf made a conscious decision to try to avoid the connection, even though he privately acknowledged it back in 1859 in the von Falkenstein letter, and the scholars could figure it all out.


"Herculaneum papyri"

is used as the script example for Sinaiticus. One wonders if this connection came from Tischendorf, and whether it might have been used as a script exemplar. It would be an interesting study to do some comparisons with the 1st century Herculaneum, the later papyri, the underwriting of Vaticanus (which is visible in limited spots, ie. no overwriting), and Sinaiticus.

The antiquity of the Codex Vaticanus is shown by its paleographic peculiarities, the letters resembling, in many respects, those found in the Herculaneum rolls. p. 12
Sinaiticus ...which closely resemble those of the Egyptian papyri found at Herculaneum p.8
Although Townsend in 1863 was comparing the Herculaneum papyri, this study in 1907 downplays the ability to work with the Herculaneum letter forms.



The first great seal of antiquity borne by the manuscript, not to speak of the texture and appearance of the vellum of which it consists, is the character of its writing. It is written in Greek uncials or capitals, which at once takes us back over a long train of centuries. Then these uncials are uot such as are found upon parchments of the later or even middle periods of uncial writing, but such as are known to be the very oldest which have come down to us. Deciding by the forms and styles of the uncials, which closely resemble those of the Egyptian papyri found at Herculaneum, an experienced paleographer would pronounce the Sinai manuscript to belong to the same cycle with the Alexandrian and Vatican Codices. p. 8-9
However, the texture and appearance of the vellum is that of a manuscript in "phenomenally good condition". So was Townsend simply winging it here? Accepting a direct Tischendorf fabrication or simply assuming in ignorance? Scrivener was similarly duped.

From what we have seen of the Tischendorf Latin so far, other than ignoring the issue totally on the CFA, you have sufflava, light yellow, guote on the St. Petersburg part. Virtually nothing is ever said about the texture and appearance of the vellum.