Conserving and imaging LV 3804-5

The papyrus was unrolled (don't ask how) by Dr Shelagh Jameson in 1981. It turned out to be nearly complete: twenty-two joined papyrus sheets, each 13-14 cm wide. The accounts documents on both sides were published in 1988, in a volume (LV) of documentary papyri edited by John Rea.

Published papyri are routinely conserved between sheets of glass, taped at the edges, but glass was never going to work for a ten-foot monster like 3804-5. The solution turned out to be perspex, which flexes — although, unfortunately, it also scratches very easily. Revel Coles recalls that the long perspex sheets were tricky to get hold of, and cost almost 100, a lot of money at the time. Ever since publication, the perspex-encased papyrus has gathered dust on the central table in the papyrology workroom.

Even with our excellent new camera stand — vibration-free, and tall enough to serve as a gallows — a papyrus over ten feet long was always going to be tricky. Before the papyrus could even be moved, the twenty-year-old tape that held the perspex frame together had to be replaced:

Then we wrestled the ten-foot frame around to the other side of the worktable, lowered it to the floor, and swung the camera round over it. The lighting rig straddled the papyrus...as did the photographer.
Given how Heath-Robinson it all was, we’re pretty pleased with the initial results. But we didn’t have it all our own way...
How it turned out / Back to first page / Return to main menu