What Is This Project?

Thanks to the climatic conditions and scribal practices of Greco-Roman Egypt, a number of handbooks from that region (and from no other in the ancient Greco-Roman world) have reached us. These handbooks are precious witnesses to practices and processes of cultural transmission: i.e. the creation, communication, transformation, and preservation of knowledge (both in text and images) across history. One of the largest subgroups of these handbooks concerns magical knowledge, a field of extraordinary diffusion and interest from Mesopotamia to the present.  These ancient magical handbooks provide a unique point of entry into a corpus of knowledge at a particular period in a very long history that is otherwise lightly documented, and to the practices by which that field of knowledge was taught and transmitted.  More than forty such handbooks survive, some of them in a fragmentary state.  We propose to re-edit and re-translate these handbooks, as well as to carry out their first large-scale study as material objects and media of cultural transmission.

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