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The New Papyrological Primer.

Of all the separate disciplines that serve as pathways for research into ancient Egypt, it is now papyrology that serves its English-speaking neophytes best. They will find in Pestman's new version of an old standby a reliable and even entertaining way to become engaged in the vast labyrinth of periods, styles, and resources confronting the papyrologist. Dealing exclusively with Greek documents, this sampler, like its model, spans 1000 years of the Egyptian experience, beginning with the marriage contract from Elephantine of 310 B.C.E., going through the Ptolemaic, Roman and Byzantine eras, and even ending with one (a tax statement) from the early Arab period.

Pestman incorporates in his collection of 81 documents - 58 out of the 96 found in the fourth edition (1965) of David and van Groningen - and restores one that had been omitted from it (the sympotic elegy, B. K. T 5.2 62), so he gives us 22 that are new. But even those carried over from before are treated to a much fuller commentary; for example, P. Cornell 9, the hiring of a dancing girl, had 10 lines of notes in David and van Groningen, but 20 lines here. Similarly, the older editors annotated P. Lugd Bat. 6.33, an application for a child-allowance, with 25 lines, while Pestman gives it 45 plus a 9-line note on Antinooupolis, where it was written and where the citizens were granted this privilege of a child-allowance by Hadrian to bolster the population of his new city. As well as helping to interpret social, juridical, and economic implications, the notes give far more aid in translating the Greek terms than had the earlier versions. References to the scholarly literature, too, are frequent and up to date; the formal bibliography is minimal, as is more appropriate for a primer, especially in view of the full and highly organized one available in Orsolina Montevecchi's La [papirologia.sup.2] (Milano, 1988), 535-613. Documents with complicated family relationships are accompanied by a genealogical tree. The 14 plates, though not as sharp as the six of the earlier editions, are good enough for illustrative purposes, and the whole is printed on finer paper with a sturdier binding.

The introductory material is quite wonderful. We have 65 pages on the history of the discipline, the techniques of creating papyrus rolls, the changes in Greek palaeography and orthography, government administration (divided into the three periods), religions, calendars, types of documents, Egyptian language and names, money, and measures. Throughout, there are eye-catching boxes containing exempla or amusing sidelights.

David and van Groningen claimed that the ordering of their texts was systematic, but their system was inconsistent, hence confusing to the beginner. Pestman's arrangement is chronological, and this makes for a more coherent presentation, especially since it is supplemented by a two-page list of subjects. A glossary of Greek words greatly increases the utility of this marvelous addition to the armory of the papyrologist who seeks to draw new acolytes to the field.
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Author:Farber, J. Joel
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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