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World's oldest Christian book set to fetch eye-watering sum at auction

by Lydia Davies

The Crosby-Schoyen Codex, a historic Christian manuscript, could be sold for up to £3m at an auction this month. 

The book is part of the Bodmer Papyri, a collection of texts discovered in the 1950s that includes Christian writings, Biblical excerpts, and pagan literature.

“All of the oldest books in the world are roughly dated and have now been re-dated to the third or fourth century... This could be the earliest, but you can’t say with absolute certainty,” Eugenio Donadoni, a senior specialist at Christie’s auction house, told BBC News.

Donadoni continued: “It’s a cornerstone of early faith and a witness to the earliest spread of Christianity around the Mediterranean... It’s one of the three major discoveries of the 20th century that revolutionised the study of Christianity.”

The Codex features essential texts from early Christian history and was preserved thanks to Egypt's arid climate before being found after remaining undiscovered for approximately 1,500 years.

It is currently held in Dr Martin Schoyen's private collection which comprises over 20,000 texts,  including 400 related to the Bible, and stands as an important piece of religious heritage.

Dr Schoyen plans to auction 61 manuscripts from his collection at Christie's in London.

The text was initially bought by the University of Mississippi where it stayed until 1981, BBC News reports, before changing hands multiple times.

It was ultimately acquired by Dr Martin Schoyen, a Norwegian manuscript collector, in 1988, making it the oldest known book in private hands.

The auction is scheduled for 11th June. 

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