Shortly after our arrival at Cambridge, we contacted Christopher de Hamel, Fellow Librarian at Corpus Christi College. He happens to own a personal collection of manuscripts which he has purchased in recent years; he even allowed us take them home to Tyndale House, our residence here. Since we normally photograph in libraries and monasteries, we considered it a great honor (and responsibility!) as we carried documents from the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. carefully down the streets of Cambridge.
The four of us had already set up a photography station in our four-bedroom suite at Tyndale House, and we were ready to go. Several features of the manuscripts led us to take more time than usual with the shoot. For example, some of them were encased in glass for protection; in addition, since some of the fragments had to be assembled like puzzle pieces, assembling them correctly took some time as we aligned everything properly. We spent three days shooting the collection, and we are deeply grateful to Dr de Hamel for lending us these treasures for digital preservation.
As it turned out, the photography was quite the sensation at Tyndale House! It is not every day that fourth and fifth century manuscripts show up here, and our small workroom was a buzz of activity for a couple of days as residents and fellows came upstairs to view the manuscripts and our photographic workstation.
Even though these were small fragments, their early dates are significant for understanding the early transmission of the text of the New Testament. An eight-piece “jigsaw puzzle” was actually a part of a leaf of Romans, while most of the other manuscripts consisted of text from the gospels. One manuscript was a Greek fragment of Jeremiah, while one very small fragment is still unidentified.
With the return of the manuscripts and copies of the digital images to Dr de Hamel, our first session of photographing New Testament manuscripts in Cambridge came to an end. The professor kindly gave us permission to post the images on-line; they are manuscripts 0311, 0312, 0313, 0314, 0315. You can view them here.
In sum, we had shot some of the oldest parchment fragments of the New Testament in existence—a fitting start to our work in Cambridge!