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Papyri Storage Cabinets


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Between 1890 and 2021, 761 glazed frames of papyri within the collection of Western Manuscripts were stored in twenty-eight wooden cabinets arranged to hold papyri within the seven size categories (a-g) introduced by E. W. B. Nicholson in 1887: Papyri (W.MSS.) cases a. 1-3, b. 1-2, c. 1-4, d. 1-5, e. 1-4, f. 1-5, g. 1-5.

The specially constructed cabinets are of a standard and sturdy design, constructed from a mixture of hard and softwoods with dovetailed joints and a lockable door. Within the cabinets wooden vertical dividers allowed the frames to be shelved without risk of falling or touching other frames, and all frames were locked in place by a removable brass bar to ensure that they would not move by accident. The cabinets have sturdy brass handles to the top and sides and have the look of rugged campaign furniture. Some of the cabinets have painted inscriptions to their doors, either related to content or in some cases to a possible earlier use of the cabinets. A number of the smaller cabinets have a painted inscription ‘Negatives’, which probably relates to photographic glass plate negatives stored in similar cabinets and may relate to the introduction of photography at the Bodleian in 1890. One of the cabinets (JL 1054e; formerly Papyri (W.MSS.) case g. 4) is a much later twentieth-century addition, though it is constructed to match the earlier examples.

The arrangement of the papyri, glazing and the introduction of the cabinets is described in the ‘Annual report of the Curators of the Bodleian Library for 1890’, Oxford University Gazette, 708 (5 May 1891), p. 445.

“Each fragment or groups of fragments was placed between two sheets of glass (the edges of which were bound with cloth) so as to leave both sides visible … The frames thus made were sized, referenced, and handlisted as ordinary MSS., except that the reference is followed by (P); but they are stored in specially constructed cabinets. The number of frames finished in 1890 was about 80.”

In 2021 the cabinets ceased to be used and each of the glazed papyri frames was boxed individually in standard boxes for each Nicholson size category and with protective layers and a well of Plastazote (an archival type of Nitrogen blown foam) within each box.


  • Creation: 1890


1.7 Linear metres (5 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, JL 1054a].

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Full range of shelfmarks:

JL 1054a-e

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 22342


Five representative wooden cabinets used to store frames of glazed papyri from the Bodleian's collection of Western Manuscripts between 1890 and 2021.

Biographical / Historical

Biographical details unknown.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Commissioned by the Bodleian Library in 1890.

Catalogue of Papyri Storage Cabinets
Andrew Honey
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
First edition.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom