Oldest Christian book sells for more than £3million at London auction

The Crosby-Schoyen Codex which recently sold at auction for more than £3 million (REUTERS)
The Crosby-Schoyen Codex which recently sold at auction for more than £3 million (REUTERS)

One of the oldest books in existence - believed to date from the 3rd century - has sold for more than £3million.

The Crosby-Schøyen Codex, written in Coptic script on papyrus in Egypt between 250 to 350AD, is the earliest book written for Christian public worship and the earliest complete version of two books of the Bible, 1 Peter and Jonah.

The historic title sold for £3,065,000 at Christie’s in London on Tuesday.

Written in a monastery in Egypt, it was part of a haul found in the 1950s which had preserved for centuries by the dry desert sands.

It is now protected between double-sided plexiglass plates.

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Christie’s senior specialist in books and manuscripts, Eugenio Donadoni told the BBC the book was “witness to the earliest spread of Christianity around the Mediterranean".

He said: “The earliest monks in Upper Egypt in the earliest Christian monastery were using this very book to celebrate the earliest Easter celebrations, only a few hundred years after Christ and only a hundred or so years after the last Gospel was written."

Its previous owners include an American university before it was bought by Norwegian manuscript collector Dr Martin Schøyen in 1988.

It was among 60 lots to be auctioned from Dr Schøyen's collection with more than £7.5 million being raised by the sale.

The lots also included ancient legal texts, decorated religious manuscripts and historical chronicles.

Christies said Dr Schøyen, who started collecting books as a teenager in the 1950s, deserved to be “remembered among the pantheon of great bibliophiles”.