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Duke Databank of Papyri

Duke Databank of Papyri
Papyrology Room, 344 Perkins Library
Box 90199 Duke University
Durham, NC 27708, USA


The Duke Data Bank of Documentary Papyri is a continuing project conducted under contract with the Packard Humanities Institute, which provides its financial support and publishes the data bank in its series of CD ROMs, which may be ordered directly from the Institute (300 Second Street, Suite 201, Los Altos, California 94022, U.S.A.).

Following a suggestion proposed in 1982 by Dr David W. Packard and enabled by a grant from the Packard Foundation, in January 1983 Professors W. H. Willis and J. F. Oates began a twelve-year project at Duke University to construct a machine-readable data bank to comprise all published Greek and Latin documentary papyri. 'Documentary papyri' is defined broadly to include all original documents (as distinguished from literary and subliterary texts) written on papyrus, parchment, ostraca, wooden or waxed tablets during a period extending from the IV century B.C. to the VIII century of our era. Though independent, the project is conducted in communication with the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae at the University of California, Irvine, as a complement to the TLG's comprehensive data bank of Greek literature. While some equipment was provided by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, its financial support has been provided by the Packard Foundation, the Packard Humanities Institute, and Duke University.

The purpose of the Duke Data Bank is to make instantly accessible and searchable the corpus of Greek and Latin papyri. It is not intended to substitute for printed editions but solely to provide texts in machine-readable form for searching and concordancing. No use of the Data Bank for commercial gain is permissible.

Since the beginning of papyrology more than a century ago, scholars have increasingly recognized the need for a word and name index that ideally would grow progressively as new texts were published. For proper names the need was first met in 1922 by Friedrich Preisigke's Namenbuch and for vocabulary with the posthumous publication in 1925-31 of his Wörterbuch der griechischen Papyrusurkunden, which under- took both to define the usages of documentary vocabulary and to cite every occurrence. A supplement to the Namenbuch, Daniele Foraboschi's Onomasticum alterum papyrologicum, appeared in 1969, and none since. Such was the voluminous publication of papyri in the decades after 1925 that supplements to the Wörterbuch could hardly keep pace: Emil Kiessling's valiant attempt to continue it on the same scale led to five fascicules of a volume IV (1944, 1958, 1966, 1971, reaching zeta in 1993). In 1969 he published a less ambitious Supplement 1 without without definitions covering the years 1940-66, further supplemented by Sergio Daris' Spoglio lessicale papirologico in 1968; and in 1991 appeared H.-A. Rupprecht's Supplement 2 for 1967-76.

Realizing the urgent need, Herbert Youtie constructed for use at the University of Michigan a comprehensive card index which he maintained until his death in 1980. It is to satisfy this need for a complete and ongoing index by the easier means now available that we have undertaken to construct by computer a data bank of all published Greek and Latin documentary papyri, ostraca and tablets. In this effort we are following the pioneering project of Peter J. Parsons at Oxford to computerize the documentary texts in 22 volumes of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, continued later by J. David Thomas and Traianos Gagos at Durham, who entered 16 more. Both these projects were funded by the British Academy. Thanks to their cooperation, all their files are now incorporated in the Duke Data Bank.

Since publication of the first in 1788, some 48,500 documents have been published thus far in 483 volumes, including 50 volumes of ostraca and counting the 43 fascicules of the Chartae Latinae Antiquiores as one. We enter texts published in journals only after they are reprinted in the most recent volume of the Sammelbuch Griechischer Urkunden aus Ägypten. (The term 'volume' is here used to include a volume in a series and a discretely designated collection of texts within a volume containing two or more such collections.) These volumes, proceeding in reverse order from the most recent back to the earliest, we have entered at Duke in three phases: our Phase I comprises volumes published between the present and 1966; Phase II embraces volumes from 1966 back to 1923, when the first volume of the Preisigke Wörterbuch was closed; and Phase III comprises the remainder back to the beginning.

We have now completed entry of 220* volumes of Phase I published thus far, to which we are adding others as soon as we receive them; and of the 163 volumes in Phase II and 100 volumes in Phase III.

Our data files must of course be proofread and corrected before final distribution. The proofs are read at the University of Michigan under the supervision of Professor Ludwig Koenen and his current assistant Dr Ariel Loftus. Thus far, 459* volumes have been proofread in Michigan and corrected at Duke.

Having now completed Phase I insofar as volumes have appeared and all of the volumes of Phases II and III, we are ready to distribute the Duke Data Bank in its current state to scholars who desire it, at the cost of the blank tapes and postage. We can now send the datafiles in the form of 9-track 1600-bpi magnetic tape recorded in fixed-record fixed-block or variable-record variable-block format in either ASCII or EBCDIC. The 483* volumes presently available require three 2400-foot reels of tape; 275 of them (along with the revised Electronic Edition A of the Checklist of Editions of Greek and Latin Papyri, Ostraca and Tablets) were recorded on CD ROM no. 2 issued by the Packard Humanities Institute. The data bank as it stood on 5 April 1991 comprising 375 volumes, together with the further revised and enlarged Electronic Edition B of the Checklist, was recorded on PHI CD ROM no. 6. The entire Duke Data Bank as it currently stands, together with Electronic Edition C of the Checklist, is to be recorded on PHI CD ROM no. 7.

Equipped with an Ibycus System, we enter our data in Greek, which Ibycus programs convert for storage, searching and dissemination to Beta Format (the standardized transliteration of Greek used by TLG) that is automatically convertible to Greek font on any Ibycus computer and is amenable to conversion by local programs in other kinds of computers. Search programs are of course indigenous to each make of computer and are not transferable. The conventions by which we have encoded the texts are listed in a file near the start of the first tape and at the end of the CD ROM, entitled ADVICE TO USERS.

We wish to acknowledge here our great indebtedness to all who have contributed to producing the Data Bank, above all to David W. Packard, who not only developed the system but initially suggested this project; to William A. Johnson, Stephen Waite and Wilkins Poe for their expert help in programming; to Theodore F. Brunner, our TLG counterpart; to Ludwig Koenen, Traianos Gagos and Peter van Minnen for their expert counsel and collaboration; and to the meticulous and unflagging members of our staff at Duke University, especially to Dr Louise P. Smith, the project coordinator, and Catherine Rine, the assistant coordinator.