Leyden papyrus X

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The Leyden papyrus X (P. Leyden X) is a papyrus codex written in Greek at about the end of the 3rd century A.D.[1] or perhaps around 250 A.D. and buried with its owner,[2] and today preserved at Leiden in the Netherlands.


The Leiden papyrus was discovered at Thebes in Egypt, together with the Stockholm Papyrus, which was probably written by the same scribe,[3] and many Greek magical papyri, in the early 19th century by an adventurer calling himself Jean d'Anastasi, holding the office of Swedish vice-consul in Alexandria. In 1828 he sold a number of papyri to the Dutch government, which were lodged at the Leiden University Library, and labelled as "papyrus A", "papyrus B", etc. The first publication of information was in 1843, and the texts were published with Latin translation in 1885 by Leemans as Papyri Graeci Musei antiquarii publici Lugduni Batavii.[1] Papyrus X is the most interesting of these.[4] There is some relationship to the Greek magical papyri,[5] and to the Mappae clavicula.


The papyrus consists of 10 leaves, 30 x 34 cm in size, folded lengthwise and making 20 pages, of which 16 contain writing. Each page has 28-47 lines. The text contains one hundred and eleven recipes for extracting precious metals, or counterfeiting such metals, or precious stones and purple dye. It also contains details of the manufacture of textiles, and making gold and silver inks. The recipes are not detailed, and probably served as an aide-memoire for those already familiar with the process. The presentation is exclusively practical, and does not include the usual alchemical or philosophical elements. The last eleven recipes are simply short extracts from the Materia Medica of Pedanius Dioscorides. They are chiefly descriptions of certain minerals. It is of interest to note that the extracts in the papyrus are very close to the present editions of this Greek writer compiled from quite different sources.[4]


  1. ^ a b E.R.Caley, The Leyden Paprus X: An English Translation with Brief Notes, p.1149: "These two papyri have, however, upon the basis of unquestioned philological and paleographic evidence, been ascertained to have been written at about the end of the third century A.D. so that they are by far the earliest original historical evidence that we have in our possession concerning the nature and the extent of ancient chemical knowledge."
  2. ^ Georgia Lynette Irby-Massie, Paul Turquand Keyser, Greek science of the Hellenistic era: a sourcebook, p.251
  3. ^ Stanton J. Linden, The alchemy reader: from Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton, p.46.
  4. ^ a b E.R.Caley, The Leyden Paprus X: An English Translation with Brief Notes, p.1150: "From the chemical point of view the most interesting of the papyri then translated into Latin was the one now known as the Leyden Papyrus X..."
  5. ^ Pamela O. Long, Openness, secrecy, authorship: technical arts and the culture of knowledge, p.262: "For the relationships between the chemical papyri and the Greek Magical Papyri see Fowden, Egyptian Hermes, 168-72."


  • Robert Halleux: Papyrus de Leyden papyrus de Stockholm, fragments de recettes. Texte établi et traduction. Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1981 (= Les alchimistes grecs, 1), ISBN 2-251-00003-8.
  • Conrad Leemans: Papyri graeci Musei antiquarii publici Lugduni-Batavi, vol. 2, Leiden 1885, p. 199 f.
  • Earle Radcliffe Caley: The Leyden papyrus X: an English translation with brief notes. In: Journal of Chemical Education Vol. 3, No. 10 (October 1926), p. 1149-1166.
  • Leslie Bernard Hunt: The Oldest Metallurgical Handbook: Recipes of a Fourth Century Goldsmith. In: Gold Bulletin 9 (1976), S. 24-31
  • C. Raub: How to coat objects with gold - Pliny, Leyden Papyrus X, Mappae Clavicula and Theophilus seen with a modern chemist's eyes. In: Christiane Eluère (Hrsg.), Outils et ateliers d'orfèvres des temps ancien, Société des Amis du Musée des Antiquités Nationales et du Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Saint-Germain-en-Laye 1993 (= Antiquités nationales mémoire, 2), S. 101-110
  • Arie Wallert: Alchemy and medieval art technology. In: Zweder R. von Martels (Hrsg.), Alchemy Revisited: Proceedings of the International Conference on the History of Alchemy at the University of Groningen 17–19 April 1989, Brill, Leiden [u.a.] 1990 (= Collection de travaux de l'Académie Internationale d'Histoire des Sciences, 33), ISBN 90-04-09287-0, S. 154-161

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