I wonder how many of us know the name of Archduke Rainer? Very few, I would imagine. Yet he played an important part in the history of Egyptology.
Archduke Rainer (1827-1913) was an Austrian nobleman, some time Prime Minister of Austria. He is notable for his collection of Egyptological items. In particular his collection of papyri is supposedly the largest known. He donated it to the national collection in Vienna in 1899. It includes Arabic papyri, and shows the process of transition in documents in Egypt from papyrus to paper.
In 1877 thousands of papyri were discovered in the Fayyum, at the site of ancient Arsinoe. There were also substantial discoveries at Heracleopolis and Hermopolis, near by. These items were recognised by those who found them as precious, and so worth preserving, and went on to the art market. They came into the hands of a Cairo dealer named Theodor Graf (1840-1903), who sold them in lots, first to the Louvre and the Berlin Museum and then, from 1883-4 on, to Archduke Rainer. Graf also owned some of the Fayyum portraits.
- S. Adshead, China in World History, p.97: “The Archduke Rainer collection illustrates the change from papyrus to paper in Egypt. All thirty-six manuscripts from 719 to 815 are papyrus, between 816 and 912, there are ninety-six papyrus to twenty-four paper, one document apologising …“↩
- John Muir, Life and Letters in the Ancient Greek World, 2008, p.25.↩
- Georg Ebers, Theodor Graf, The Hellenic portraits from the Fayum at present in the collection of Herr Graf, 1893, p.4-5.↩