Herculaneum Papyri in the National Library in Naples

A look back (this was first published on 30 March 2015): I’m new to papyrology but I’ve never seen anything as brain-crackingly slow or detailed as the work being done by these academics.

The Phraser

Herculaneum papyrus Naples A papyrus scroll – not quite destroyed by Vesuvius

The photograph above is of a papyrus scroll from a private library buried by Vesuvius in AD 79.

There are hundreds of scrolls like it, all scarred keepers of ancient thought.  So far it has taken almost two thousand years to unpick a fraction of their secrets.

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Burned, buried and brought back to life

A look back (first published 17 February 2015): discovering the secrets of the papyrus scrolls of Herculaneum, now in the National Library in Naples, Italy.

The Phraser

Library of Naples Library of Naples
Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli

It’s never a good idea to judge anything by appearances.  Here’s an example.

Mid-autumn of last year I was new in Naples.  The language was a challenge and I still didn’t know my way around.  The city seemed hectic and disheveled.

Then, on a wet Wednesday in November, I was invited on a trip to the Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli.

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In search of a book in Naples, Italy

Books and Naples, Italy are old friends

Books and Napoli are old friends

Step in amongst the books in this ancient city and it’s hard to avoid the big names on almost every corner. My search for just one novel was busy enough.

Start on the Lungomare and there’s the castle known, thanks to Virgil, as the Castel dell’Ovo (Castle of the Egg).

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The Royal Palace at Portici, Naples

Royal hideaway in Portici, near Naples

Royal hideaway in Portici, near Naples

It was a warm day and we were on an old road in a corner of what used to be a royal park.  It is now university grounds but still has that swish of palaces, intrigue and celebrity at play.

In front of us a smallish red building curved its face to catch views of Vesuvius and the sea. This, we were told, was where the king entertained his mistresses. Instantly the Italian guide had our attention.

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Herculaneum Papyri in the National Library in Naples

Herculaneum papyrus Naples

A papyrus scroll – not quite destroyed by Vesuvius

The photograph above is of a papyrus scroll from a private library buried by Vesuvius in AD 79.

There are hundreds of scrolls like it, all scarred keepers of ancient thought.  So far it has taken almost two thousand years to unpick a fraction of their secrets.

Continue reading

Burned, buried and brought back to life

Library of Naples

Library of Naples
Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli

It’s never a good idea to judge anything by appearances.  Here’s an example.

Mid-autumn of last year I was new in Naples.  The language was a challenge and I still didn’t know my way around.  The city seemed hectic and disheveled.

Then, on a wet Wednesday in November, I was invited on a trip to the Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli.

Continue reading