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Walters Ms. W.739, Fragment of the book of Exodus

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Fragment of the book of Exodus

Text title
Fragment of the Book of Exodus


This fragment from the Book of Exodus is a bifolium presenting the text of Exodus 21:16-35a on fol. 1 and 23:5b-21a on fol. 2. The missing text in between these two folios would have constituted another bifolium. Written in Sahidic Coptic script, the biblical manuscript to which the bifolium once belonged was produced in Egypt in the eighth century, probably by a monastic scribe and perhaps in the Fayum or Wadi al-Natrun, where monasteries continued to thrive during the early Islamic conquest. It is difficult to determine the full extent of the manuscript, but a combined volume of Genesis and Exodus as part of a multivolume set of the Bible is certainly possible, if not likely, on the evidence of the Coptic numerals inscribed at the top of each folio side.


8th century CE








The primary language in this manuscript is Coptic.

Support material


Probably goatskin, originally ivory-colored but now stained medium- to deep-brown with significant damage to fore-edges and evidence of trimming along the upper edges


Foliation: None

Text on the first folio represents Exodus 21:16-35a, and the second folio shows Exodus 23:5b-21a; therefore, a bifolium with Exodus 21:35b-23:5a is missing from the quire; foliated with pencil in upper-right corner of each recto side


Formula: Bifolium

Comments: Nonconsecutive pages with at least one gathering missing in between the extant bifolium; Coptic numerals at the top of each folio side (which are very faint) indicate that the folio pages corresponded to either 19, 20, 25, and 26 or 99, 100, 105, and 106, the latter making more sense for a codex containing the books of Genesis and Exodus


26.0 cm wide by 31.5 cm high

Written surface

18.25 cm wide by 23.5 cm high

  1. Columns: 2
  2. Ruled lines: 33

fols. 1r - 2v:
  1. Title: Fragment of the Book of Exodus
  2. Hand note: Sahidic Coptic script
  3. Decoration note: Small bird outlined in brown ink at the top of the first column on fol. 1r; abstract vegetal motifs in brown and red ink attached to larger letters at the beginning of verses; large vinescroll motif in the left margin of fols. 1v and 2v, outlined in brown and red ink and filled with yellow pigment; monochromatic black crosses appear beside the text on fols. 1v and 2v; text in dark-brown ink; larger initials for the beginning of verses set out into margins


fol. 1r:

  1. W.739, fol. 1r
  2. Title: Text page
  3. Form: Text
  4. Text: Exodus 21:16-35a


Produced in the eighth century, most likely by a Coptic monk at an Egyptian monastery

Frank Tano of Cairo sold the bifolium to Joseph Brummer on September 14, 1945 (account no. 6440)

Joseph Brummer sold the bifolium through Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York (no. 97) to the Walters Art Museum on May 23, 1949


Museum purchase, 1949


Bellet, Paulinus. "Analecta Coptica." Catholic Biblical Quarterly 40 (1978): pp. 37-52.


Catalogers: Dennis, Nathan S; Walters Art Museum curatorial staff and researchers since 1934

Editor: Herbert, Lynley

Copy editor: Dibble, Charles

Conservators: Evers, Jennifer; Quandt, Abigail

Contributors: Bockrath, Diane; Bucca, Lauren; Emery, Doug; Noel, William; Tabritha, Ariel; Toth, Michael B.


The Walters Art Museum


Licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Access Rights, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/legalcode. It is requested that copies of any published articles based on the information in this data set be sent to the curator of manuscripts, The Walters Art Museum, 600 North Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21201.