An extremely interesting article on the Brice C. Jones blog about a piece of papyrus, found inside a leather binding, which is blank except for “Gospel according to Matthew” in Greek on the recto. Simon Gathercole has written about it. The suggestion is that this is the “cover-leaf” for a papyrus codex, and that the title was written on the outside.
Jones rightly queries one element in this: the suggestion that the first page of the codex had the title on the recto, and a blank verso, before the text began.
Now I have seen quite a few parchment codices where folio 1 recto is blank, and the text begins on the verso. Indeed this is the case in British Library Addit. 12150, which the colophon dates to 411 A.D. The reason for it is undoubtedly to protect the text.
All the same, the title of ancient works was often placed outside the work altogether, on a sittybos, or slip of parchment hung from one of the wooden ends on which the roll was wound. So it seems possible that someone got creative here. If this is not a fly-leaf, then what is it?
- Simon Gathercole, “The Earliest Manuscript Title of Matthew’s Gospel (BnF Suppl. gr. 1120 ii 3/P4),” Novum Testamentum.↩