Some of the oldest Biblical manuscripts in the world are on display in Dublin as part of The Papyrus Collection at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle,
writes CATHAL COYLE
The Chester Beatty Library is one of Ireland’s unique cultural institutions. A library and art museum, it is located in the secluded gardens of Dublin Castle and houses an impressive collection of rare and valuable artefacts collected by its founder, Alfred Chester Beatty.
Organised around exhibition galleries and reading rooms, the collections are displayed in two permanent exhibitions – ‘Sacred Traditions’ and ‘Artistic Traditions’. The ‘Artistic Traditions’ Gallery on the first floor exhibits primarily works of art on paper, techniques of print-making, binding and papermaking and the art of miniature painting.
Arts of the Book is a permanent exhibition of almost 600 objects from the Library’s collections that displays books from the ancient world, including the world famous Love Poems (c.1160 BC), Egyptian Books of the Dead and beautifully illuminated European manuscripts.
The Sacred Traditions Gallery on the second floor of the library exhibits the sacred texts, illuminated manuscripts and miniature paintings from the great religions and systems of belief represented in the collections – Christianity, Islam and Buddhism with smaller displays on Confucianism, Daoism, Sikhism and Jainism.
The Islamic Collection includes more than 260 illuminated copies of the Qur’an and manuscript fragments dating from the 9th to the 19th century AD. This collection marks the library as one of the main centres for the study of Islamic culture and the arts in the western hemisphere.
The Chester Beatty Library was in the news recently as some of the oldest surviving biblical manuscripts were put on display in the Sacred Traditions Gallery, just prior to Easter. The ‘Papyrus Collection’ includes some of the oldest and most important biblical manuscripts in the world.
The texts contain both Old and New Testament books and date from 200 to 400AD.
They were written in Greek on papyri in Egypt, and were said to have been found on the banks of the Nile in 1929. Among them is The Book of Numbers, which was the oldest surviving book of the Bible until the Dead Sea Scrolls were unearthed in the mid-20th century.
The Book of Numbers is the earliest manuscript within the Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri collection.