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The London Magical Papyrus

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (series)

    • The London Magical Papyrus
  • Description

    P Leiden/London, recto cols. 4-7, verso cols. 28vo-30vo. Papyrus written with black ink; demotic text recto and verso: spells and recipes; Old Coptic glosses and Greek recitation.
    On the recto are a series of spells and recipes arranged in twenty-nine columns written between ruled lines. These include spells for divination, love spells, poisons and spells of healing. On the verso are apparently discontinuous memoranda, prescriptions and short invocations.

    Column 4 contains a spell for a revelation, including a recitation written in Greek that is to be read in the opposite direction to the demotic (4/9-19). This is followed by two further spells for visions. Column 5 contains a spell for 'a tested god's arrival', that is, for a vision in a dream. There follows a recitation in which the magician identifies himself with various magical names.
    The remainder of the spells in this section of the papyrus is another 'inquiry of the lamp'.

    PDM xiv. 93-114 (col. 4/1-22): A Casting for Inspection (Horoscope).
    PDM xiv. 115 (col. 4/23): Spell for Vision(?).
    PDM xiv. 116 (col. 4/24): (Another) Spell for Vision(?).
    PDM xiv. 117-149 (col. 5/1-33): A Tested 'God's Arrival'.
    PDM xiv. 150-219 (cols. 6/1-7/34): An Inquiry of the Lamp (NB: this spell concludes on 10070/3, col. 8/11).

    PDM xiv. 1180-81 (col. 28vo/1-2): Fragment from Invocation.
    PDM xiv. 1182-87 (col. 29vo/1-6): Spell to Cause Madness.
    PDM xiv. 1188-89 (col. 30vo/1-2): Love Spell(?).
    PDM xiv. 1190-93 (col. 30vo/3-6): Another Love Spell.
    PDM xiv. 1194-95 (col. 30vo/7-8): Another Love Spell.
    PDM xiv. 1196-98 (col. 30vo/9-11): Another Love Spell.

    The spells are typical products of the syncretistic culture of Late Antiquity.
    This very late demotic papyrus was sold in two parts in Thebes, the first part going to London and the second to Leiden, where it proved important in deciphering the demotic script, since the text contains glosses in a mixture of Greek and demotic characters now known as Old Coptic. The entire roll measured some 5 m.

    Thompson's MS Catalogue: "Writing on both sides. recto (horiz. fibres) 10 cols. averaging 8 1/2 x 8 in. verso (vert. fibres) 9 small cols." [regarding all London fragments, 10070/1-3].


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 3rdC
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 91.6 centimetres (frame)
    • Width: 28.5 centimetres (frame)
    • Length: 85.4 centimetres (papyrus)
    • Width: 23.9 centimetres (papyrus)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

        demotic and Old Coptic
      • Inscription Position

        recto and verso
      • Inscription Translation

        Extract from 5/6-9:
        If you put frankincense up in front of the lamp and look at the lamp, you see the god near the lamp; you sleep on a reed mat without having spoken to anyone on earth, and he tells you the answer in a dream, here is its invocation: formulae: Here are the writings which you should write on the wick of the lamp: Bakhukhsikhukh [this last word is written in Old Coptic signs, and means 'Soul of darkness, son of darkness'; then come some untranslatable hieroglyphic signs to be written on the wick]. Hail, I am Myrai Myyribi Babel Baoth Bamyi, the great Agathodaimon [many of these words are written phonetically in demotic characters, but with a gloss above them in Old Coptic letters].
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

  • Curator's comments

    F.LI. Griffith and H.Thompson, 'The Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden' (London, 1904);
    translation: J.Johnson in H.D. Betz (ed.), 'The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, Including the Demotic Spells' (Chicago and London, 1986), 195-251 (= PDM XIV; spells on this section = PDM XIV, 93-219); pp. 200-1 (PDM xiv. 93-114); 201 (PDM xiv. 115, 116); 201-3 (PDM xiv. 117-49); 204-8 (PDM xiv. 150-231);
    J.Tait, 'Theban magic', in S.P.Vleeming (ed.), 'Hundred-Gated Thebes: Acts of a Colloquium on Thebes and the Theban Area in the Graeco-Roman Period', Papyrologica Luduno-Batatva 27 (Leiden, 1995), 169-82.

    Recto: PDM xiv. 93-219 (cols. IV/1-VII/34):

    J. Dieleman, 'Priests, Tongues, and Rites' (Leiden, 2005), 16, 32, 36, 41, 103, 123, 262, 297, 313 (PDM xiv. 93-114); 254 (PDM xiv. 115); 100, 297 (PDM xiv. 117-149); 39, 100, 119, 276 (PDM xiv. 127-137); 39, 53, 55, 68, 76, 101, 295, 297 (PDM xiv. 150-231).

    Verso: PDM xiv. 1180-98 (cols. xxviii/1-xxx/11):

    Johnson, in Betz. pp. 249 (PDM xiv. 1182-87, 1188-89); 250 (PDM xiv. 1190-93, 1194-95, 1196-98).

    J. Dieleman, 'Priests, Tongues, and Rites' (Leiden, 2005). 92 (PDM xiv. 1184).

    Cf. entry in www.trismegistos.org - DAHT.

    Being worked on by Joachim Friedrich Quack (Heidelberg)


  • Bibliography

    • Parkinson 1999 25 bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history


    2010/11 Oct-Mar, Leiden, National Museum Of Antiquities, Egyptian Magic

  • Condition

    Papyrus Survey: Condition Details: Papyrus Black ink Checked for loan to Munich 2006 Mount Details: Sandwich: glass Binding: magic tape Binding: copydex self adhesive carpet tape Object Priority: A Mount Priority: A Overall Condition: A Curatorial condition comment: fair

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    15 September 1987

    Reason for treatment


    Treatment proposal

    Backing removal (?)


    Papyrus adhered to brown wove paper with window on verso. Material fragile and embrittled. Dimensions: 235 x 855 mm. Slide transparencies [PAP 839 to 845] in WAP studio.

    Treatment details

    Consolidated top edge, verso & recto local areas with pieces of eltoline tissue and HMG Paraloid B72 (methyl ethyl methacrlylate) in Acetone (propan-1-one/dimethyl ketone) 10%. Applied Industrial methylated spirits (ethanol,methanol) and water 1:1 and Laponite RD (sodium magnesium lithium silicate) swelling agent to top edge of paper backing and removed it by scraping with a scalpel. Same method applied to rest of backing. Not very successful - off-setting of ink. Applied vertical strips of eltoline tissue as a facing, using Paraloid B72 (methyl ethyl methacrlylate) in Acetone (propan-1-one/dimethyl ketone) 10%. Allowed to dry. Immersed face down in Industrial methylated spirits (ethanol,methanol) and water 1:3 for several hours and backing with removed with tweezers while wet. Pressed. Papyrus repaired with Sekushu-shi Japanese paper tabs and wheat starch paste. Re-attached detached fragments with Japanese paper tabs as above. Facing removed using acetone soaked blotting paper poultice,followed by local application of acetone with a brush. Pressed. Mounted between glass bound with Scotch magic Tape No 810.

    About these records 

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Ancient Egypt & Sudan

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • Anastasi 1072
    • P Leiden/London
    • Sheet.2


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Object reference number: YCA66452

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