The world’s oldest book?

Routine work on fragments of a Ptolemaic Period papyrus at the University of Graz Library in Austria has revealed traces of stitching, suggesting the text was once part of a book, rather than a scroll. Found at el-Hiba necropolis in 1902, the papyrus was once part of tax accounts for beer and oil, but had later been reused in the cartonnage of a mummy case. Dating to about 260 BC, the papyrus is at least 400 years older than the earliest known books (two codices dating to AD 150-250 held by the British Library and the Chester Beatty museum in Dublin), making it the world’s oldest book.

The ‘Graz Mummy Book’: researchers have found traces of binding, suggesting this was part of a book at least 400 years older than its earliest known rivals.
Text: Sarah Griffiths / Image: University of Graz/Kernasenko